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¬ďOh, that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence¬Ē (Isa. 64:1, KJV).
Despite the downward spiral in the spiritual condition of our nation, there is good reason for Christians to hope that God may grant a sovereign, widespread revival of grace and righteousness in our land. After all, God is still in absolute control of the affairs of this world. Time after time throughout history, usually when circumstances have been the darkest, God has burst upon the scene and caused gospel light to shine in gross darkness. Then multitudes are suddenly turned from the kingdom of Satan to the kingdom of God¬ís dear Son, and nations are born in a day.
However, if hope for a national revival is to be realized, we must face the fact that America is not too young to be destroyed. On the contrary, she could be too wicked to be spared without a divine invasion from heaven. Given an honest assessment of the spiritual condition of America, on what basis can the church genuinely hope for national revival?
God Is Still Gracious
One reason for hope is that God is still a gracious and merciful God. Where sin abounds, grace can still much more abound. Nothing of itself--national sin and scandal, political corruption, abortion, liberalism or lukewarmness in the church, compromise, prayerlessness, increasing pluralism, or doctrinal laxity--nothing can stand when God chooses to act in answer to the prayers of His people.
In Isaiah 63:15, the prophet is pleads for God¬ís mercy when he prays, ¬ďLook down from heaven, and behold from the habitation of thy holiness and thy glory: where is thy zeal and thy strength, the sounding of thy bowels and of thy mercies . . . are they restrained?¬Ē Clearly, mercy in this case was ill-deserved and unearned. Yet every revival is the result of God¬ís mercy and grace, not the result of the perfect obedience of God¬ís people.
The fact that revival is based on God¬ís sovereignty and merciful kindness does not make Him any less holy or righteous. God is perfectly balanced in all His attributes. Nevertheless, He particularly loves to show mercy.
In Exodus 33, Moses cried out for God to reveal His glory. God responded by saying, ¬ďI will make all my goodness pass before thee . . . ;and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy¬Ē (v. 19). In the next chapter, God reiterates His merciful character, ¬ďThe Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth¬Ē(34:6). God does not delight in the death of the wicked; it is His judgment, not His grace, that is called His ¬ďstrange work¬Ē (Isa. 28:21).
God¬ís grace has always been glorified by the powerful dispensing of saving power. It was grace that Jonah resisted when God purposed to save the entire city of Nineveh. Jonah hated the idea that God would have mercy on the enemies of Israel. Knowing the gracious character of God, Jonah suspected that God was sending him to the pagan Ninevites to do what he believed was a wasteful and wrong thing--to show grace to a group of people other than Israel. Not being able to stomach the broadness of God¬ís love, Jonah fled to Tarshish because he did not want Jehovah to have mercy on anyone except the Jews.
Think of all that Jonah experienced and saw of divine grace in less than a week¬ís time! He resisted all the way into the whale¬ís belly, and he tasted undeserved deliverance himself when the whale became God¬ís means of grace in his own life. He then preached God¬ís message begrudgingly to Nineveh and saw God save the whole city through one simple sermon. It is almost unbelievable that it is said of Jonah, ¬ďBut it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry¬Ē (Jonah 4:1).
Jonah knew Nineveh deserved to be judged, and that is what he wanted. His sense of justice demanded that Nineveh not be given mercy. Yet God explained His actions to Jonah in the aftermath of Nineveh¬ís repentance in terms of His merciful character: ¬ďShould not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand?¬Ē (Jonah 4:11). The fact is the only thing either Nineveh or Jonah deserved was judgment, but the only thing God gave to both was His amazing grace.
It is important for us to remember that human affairs are never beyond hope until God brings final and irreversible judgment. Until that time, there is always hope. History proves that God has often set the stage with human helplessness, allowing circumstances to become so bad that the only solution is divine deliverance. Then He has moved with sudden and irresistible power.
Why does God send revival where and when it is most undeserved? The answer is simply because He is gracious, and, because He receives glory by pouring mercy out on the wicked. If God had not been ¬ďwastefully¬Ē and ¬ďoutrageously¬Ē gracious to each of us, where would we be?
The Doctrine of the Remnant
Another solid reason believers can have hope for national revival is based on the doctrine of the divine remnant. Many of the psalms address this truth, as do the Epistle to the Romans and many other portions of Scripture. Since the Garden of Eden, God has always preserved a redeemed people--true saints in every century who carry the torch of His testimony to every generation. The light of the gospel has never been completely extinguished, even during the so called ¬ďDark Ages¬Ē of the church.
At the dawning of the 21st century, the same principle holds true. God and His purposes are eternal and unchangeable. There are many godly believers in the land today, perhaps more than we might suppose. Have we been guilty of having an Elijah complex, presuming that we are the only God-fearing people in the land? Elijah had forgotten that God always reserves for Himself a remnant according to the election of grace (Rom. 9). Often our understanding is limited and our vision is blurred. We conceive that our life and perspective are so important and right when the truth is that we are really very small and insignificant in the larger scheme of eternal purposes.
In reality, what is our small sphere of acquaintance? Is it not probable that there are many true saints in our land, literally tens or hundreds of thousands whom we will never hear about in this life? They have not bowed the knee to the Baals of our time. They are God¬ís remnant, scattered in every nook and cranny of the land, who cry day and night for God to send national revival. In a moment, by a simple word from His mouth, God could answer for the sake of the people who bear His name. The reality of God¬ís remnant gives us hope that God may still grant a revival of such magnitude that judgment would be averted and America turned back to God.
God Is Still God
Ultimately, the reason that hope for national revival is legitimate is because God may be willing to again do what He has done in the past. Throughout history there have been numerous times when God has chosen to send new days of His power and seasons of refreshing from His presence even when they were not expected. Consider the revivals under Ezra, Nehemiah, and Jonah in the Old Testament era. Remember Pentecost, John the Baptist, the work of the Spirit in Acts 4, the Reformation, and the awakenings of the 18th and 19th centuries.
God¬ís ability to send revival is not the issue. Rather, the issue is this: will He do it in our day? All we can do is be obedient, faithful, holy men and women who evangelize, pray, and believe that a merciful God will once again say, ¬ďI see their longing for a national revival. I will glorify my Son. I will answer and pour out My Spirit again. I will revive My work and, in wrath, remember mercy.¬Ē
Let us hope to that end. Why should the children of such a great God do anything less?