Biblical Revival

I Samuel 7

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
March 2020

We come today to I Samuel 7.  It is a short chapter, but it is profound.  This chapter is deep.  Three things happen in this chapter.  First, Israel has a big revival.  One of the greatest revivals in the Bible is the revival under Samuel at Mitzpah.  Samuel is a revivalist in this chapter.  He leads a whole nation in revival.  This chapter tells us what a biblical revival looks like.

Second, Israel wins a military victory against their enemy.  The Philistines were their big enemy.  They had beaten them in battle numerous times.  They had controlled the country for twenty years.  They finally lose in battle, territory was regained (I Samuel 7:14) and we are told that “there was peace between Israel and the Amorites” (I Samuel 7:14 NIV).  The chapter ends with peace.

Third, the Israelites commemorate and memorialize this victory with a pile of rocks and they name these stones “Ebenezer” (I Samuel 7:12). Ebenezer was the place where Israel lost the battle with the Philistines (I Samuel 4:1).  The very place of defeat and judgement becomes place of victory.

When we think of Ebenezer today, we think of Ebenezer Scrooge.  We may think of Charles Dickens. There have been a lot of churches names after Ebenezer, especially in the African American community.  Ebenezer Baptist Church where Martin Luther King was the pastor. The word means “stone of help.”

I Samuel 7 is a chapter that is all about revival. Revival is important.  We need a revival.  The church today needs a revival. One of the greatest needs of the church in America is for a real revival.

Revivals in American History

We have had several revivals.  Historians have identified five revivals major revivals in American History.  The list is not exhaustive but below is a list of some famous revivals.

1. The First Great Awakening (1730s-1740s) led by John Wesley, George Whitfield and Jonathon Edwards.

2. The Second Great Awakening (1795-1835) led by Peter Cartwright and Charles Finney.

3. The Third Great Awakening (1857-1920) led by men William Booth and D.L. Moody and Jeremy Lanphier (the Prayer Revival).

4. The Azusa Street and Welsh Revival (1904-1906) led by Evan Roberts and William Seymore.  Seymore was a holiness preacher and was the child of emancipated slaves.

5. The Fourth Great Awakening (1960s-1970s) led by Billy Graham.

How do the revivals in the history books compare to revivals in the Bible?  What does a biblical revival look like?  There are a lot of myths about revivals.

When many people think of revival today, they think of a big sweaty preacher in a suit hollering at people.  We think of a lot of emotionalism.  We think of a lot of people crying and screaming.

When we think of a revival, we think of a good old-fashioned Baptist revival in some tent meeting.  This was not a Baptist revival with the song “Just as I Am”.  It was a Jewish revival with animal sacrifices.

When we think of a revival, we think of people coming to the altar to get saved.  We think of unbelievers getting converted and coming to faith.  Revival is not the same thing as evangelism.  Revival is for BELIEVERS, not unbelievers.  The people getting revived in this chapter were not the Philistines but the people of God, the Israelites.

The word “revival” means to live again.  It comes from a Latin word.  Unbelievers are spiritually dead.  They have never been alive in the first place.  The dead do NOT need revival.  They need resurrection.

What we see in I Samuel 7 is not the revival of a person or the revival of a church but the revival of a nation.  This revival did not happen to just a few people in the country but to the whole nation.  Then all the people of Israel turned back to the Lord (I Samuel 7:2 NIV).

How did that happen?  What can we learn from it?  Why don’t we see revivals today?  Why are so many churches spiritually dead?  Let’s look at six important revival truths.

Six Important Revival Truths

1) A revival is an extraordinary work of God

Revivals do not happen every day.  They are rare, exceptional.  They are supernatural.  They are works of God, not works of people.  They are a special movement of God’s Spirit. There had not been one like this in years.

Then all the people of Israel turned back to the Lord (I Samuel 7:2 NIV).  Something was different in the people.  There was a softness and an openness to spiritual things.  Samuel didn’t do it.  God it.  It takes a work of God to start a real revival.  It is not just something that you can put on the church calendar and plan for the Fall.

The ark had come back to Israel, but Israel had not come back to God.  Idolatry was practiced by the nation.  God’s people were worshipping false gods.  This went on for years.  It went on for twenty years.

Samuel spoke to the nation, prayed for the nation but nothing happened.  There was no change.  He must have been discouraged.  Twenty years have gone by with no change.  Then God did something amazing.

You may be in a difficult situation and have waited for a long time for a breakthrough.  You may have waited years.  You may have waited decades.  Don’t give up.  Prayers are not always answered immediately.  Sometimes, we need to wait for an answer.  After twenty long years, something happened.

After twenty years, the nation was finally ready for revival and this revival was real.  It wasn’t fake.  It was genuine.  It was sincere.  It was heartfelt.  They got right with God.

2) Revivals happen in times of great sin and darkness

We like at look at how bad things are.  Things may be bad in your family. Things are bad in the world and things are bad in the church.  and they have been that way for a long time.  Revivals happen when things are really bad.  When things get really bad and really dark is the time revivals usually take place.  They take place right after bad things have happened,

Often revivals are preceded by great tragedy.  Whenever there is a national tragedy (e.g., 911 or the assassination of a president), more people start going to church and have an interest in spiritual things.  When times get really bad and sin seems to be ruling in the country, when the church seems completely apostate, when it seems like a dark time is when a revival can take place.

Israel was in a dark place as well.  The nation had lost in battle.  There were mass casualties.  Thousands of people were killed.  Their religious leaders were completely corrupt.  Their high priest was killed.  The Ark of the Covenant was stolen by pagans and set up in the Temple of Dagon.  For seven months,  the ark was in one place and the Tabernacle was in another place. When it finally came back to the land, more Israelites dropped dead.  Twenty years later, deep revival broke out in the land.

3) Revivals are characterized by anointed preaching

Almost every revival has been characterized by fiery preaching.  God has to raise up a preacher for revival to take place.  He raised up Samuel.  Samuel was a preacher.  He was not just a preacher; he was a traveling preacher.  He was an itinerant preacher.

From year to year he went on a circuit from Bethel to Gilgal to Mizpah, judging Israel in all those places. (I Samuel 17:16 NIV).

Samuel has been called “the first circuit-rider.”  He was a circuit-riding JUDGE and a circuit-riding PREACHER.  The people came to Samuel and he had a word from the Lord for the message.  He gave a message to the people. God usually uses preachers during a great revival.

You have to hear the voice of God.  God has to speak to people.  His Word has to be preached.  This is where it gets interesting.  Not every pastor preaches the Word.  Our topic is biblical revival.  Not all revivals are biblical.  Some revivals are counterfeit.

Hank Hanegraaf wrote a book called Counterfeit Revivals.  To have a genuine revival it has to be biblical.  Worship must be in spirit and in truth.  A revival that is all spirit and NO truth is counterfeit.  A revival that is ALL emotionalism is not a biblical revival.  On the other hand, a biblical revival will show some emotions.  All the house of Israel lamented after the Lord (I Samuel 7:2 ESV).

4) Revivals begin with a deep sense of sin

Then Samuel said, “Assemble all Israel at Mizpah, and I will intercede with the Lord for you.” 6 When they had assembled at Mizpah, they drew water and poured it out before the Lord. On that day they fasted and there they confessed, “We have sinned against the Lord.” (I Samuel 7:5-6 NIV).

Why do we not see revivals today?  People have no sense of sin.  Karl Menninger  was a distinguished psychiatrist.  The American Psychiatric Association once called him “America’s great living psychiatrist.”  He wrote a number of influential books.  In 1973, he wrote the famous book entitled Whatever Became of Sin?

Menninger said this in his book: “The very word ’sin,’ which seems to have disappeared, was a proud word. It was once a strong word, an ominous and serious word. It described a central point in every civilized human being’s life plan and lifestyle. But the word went away. It has almost disappeared—the word, along with the notion. Why? Doesn’t anyone sin anymore? Doesn’t anyone believe in sin?”[1]

What he said is still true today.  Sin has disappeared from American society.  DRUNKENNESS is called substance abuse, not sin.  PREMARITAL SEX is called shacking up or cohabitation, not sexual immorality.  ADULTERY is just having an affair.  It is just a fling.  HOMOSEXUALITY is just an alternative lifestyle.  ABORTION is not murder, just a choice.  SWEARING even among Christians is not seen as sin.  Nowadays, profanity and vulgarity is just called “salty language.”  Sadly, this attitude has carried over into the church.

There is no sense of sin in most churches.  Many pastors no longer preach against sin.  They are more like cheerleaders today.  They do not preach negative hellfire and brimstone messages.  They preach soothing, positive, uplifting, and encouraging sermons.  Many pastors today are like the High Priest Eli.  Eli was too nice and too weak to preach against sin or stake a stand against it.

As a result, believers today have no sense of sin.  They have no sense of shame.  They have no sense of guilt.  There is no mourning or weeping before God.  Without a deep sense of sin, there can be no revival.  In this revival, there was a genuine sense of sin.

Then Samuel said, “Assemble all Israel at Mizpah, and I will intercede with the Lord for you.” 6 When they had assembled at Mizpah, they drew water and poured it out before the Lord. On that day they fasted and there they confessed, “We have sinned against the Lord.” (I Samuel 7:5-6 NIV).

5) Periods of revival are followed by genuine repentance

This is repentance among saints, not just repentance among sinners. If there is no repentance, there is no revival.  It is not enough just to have confession of sin.  Confession has to be followed genuine repentance.  It is not enough for a person to say the words “I have sinned.”  Judas said those words.  King Saul said those words but neither one genuinely repented.

The book Whatever Became of Sin? Should have been followed up by a sequel called Whatever Became of Repentance?  Repentance is a word we NEVER hear preached in the church but that is strange because it is all through the Bible.

It is in the OT.  It is in the NT. Jesus preached repentance.  John the Baptist preached repentance.  Jesus preached repentance.  They both said, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2; 4:17).

Peter preached repentance.  Paul preached repentance. The OT prophets preached repentance and yet you can go from church after church and never once hear that word.

When Peter preached to the Jews in Acts 2 and accused them of crucifying their Messiah and they were pricked in their heart, they asked him what they needed to do and he said to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus.

Repentance has been removed from the gospel.  People today a gospel without repentance.  It is the free grace gospel or the hyper grace gospel.  It turns the grace of God into lasciviousness. You cannot get into the kingdom unless you repent.  Jesus said, “Repent or perish”.  Ezekiel preached the same thing to his people.  He said, “Why will you die? Turn and live.  Repent and turn away from all of your offenses” (Ezekiel 18:31, 32, 30).

Notice what Samuel says here.  People came to Samuel and said that they wanted to turn to the Lord and follow Him.  Samuel did not immediately praise God.  He did not immediately rejoice and thank God that his prayers were answered.

He was skeptical at first.  He did not believe it.  Twenty years had gone by and they had not followed the Lord.  When people today make a profession of faith, we usually accept it.  Samuel told them to repent.  He told them to prove it with actions.

Repentance can involve sorrow.  It can involve tears but repentance is more than sorrow, regret and tears.  It involves ACTIONS.

So Samuel said to all the Israelites, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your hearts, THEN rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” (I Samuel 7:3 NIV).

This is interesting.  Samuel did NOT say to the Israelites.  You have been believing in false gods.  You have been putting your faith in Baal and Ashtoreth.  Instead, you need to start believing in Yahweh.  Samuel does not just tell them to stop believing in these false gods.

He tells them to put them away.  He tells them to get rid of them.  He tells them to throw them away.  Burn all of your idols you have been worshipping.  That sounds a little harsh.  It sounds intolerant.  It was not very ecumenical of Samuel.  It was not politically correct.  It sounded a bit extreme.

It may not have been easy.  They may have been attached to some of these idols.  These were fertility gods.  Pagans believed that they helped with fertility and they helped your crops to grow.  These gods were popular in that time.  Everyone else was worshipping in the ancient world.  Their shrines covered the land.

Samuel says to put them away.  He tells them to DO something.  Words were not enough.  Commitment was not enough.  Sincerity was not enough.  Profession of faith was not enough.  Concrete actions were needed.  Faith without works was dead, as James says in the NT (James 2:17, 20, 26). 

What three things did Samuel tell them to do?  “If you are returning to the Lord with all your hearts, THEN rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” (I Samuel 7:3 NIV).

He told them first to get rid of the idols.  That involved repentance.  Second, He told them to commit themselves to the Lord.  That involved a personal commitment.  Third, he told them to serve the Lord alone.  That involved worship.  It involved exclusive worship.  They were the worship the Lord ALONE.  The interesting thing is that they did it.

So the Israelites put away their Baals and Ashtoreths, and served the Lord only. (I Samuel 7:4 NIV)

The Philistines got rid of the ark but they did not get rid of their false god.  They did not get rid of Dagon.  They may have thought that Yahweh was a stronger god than Dagon but they still worshipped Dagon, even though they had to glue him together.

Samuel tells the Israelites to get rid of their idols.  That raises the question.  Do we have any idols in our life that we need to get rid of?  Idols come in all kinds of shapes and sizes.  There are many different kinds of idols.

The NT tells Christians to keep themselves from idols (I John 5:21).  An idol is anything that comes before God or takes the place of God in our life.  An idol can be a person.  They can be a thing.  They can physical, but they can also be mental.

None of us are dumb enough to bow down to a statute of some pagan deity.  We would never worship a golden calf but there are some modern forms of idolatry.  Ezekiel 14:3 also speaks of idols of the heart.  The NT says that covetousness or greed is idolatry.  Do we have any idols we need to get rid of?

6) Revivals are followed by God’s presence, power and blessing

Samuel was a great revivalist but he was not all negative.  He was not just a hellfire and brimstone preacher.  He has some good news in this chapter.  Samuel gave the nation a promise.

Samuel said to all the Israelites, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the Lord and serve him only, and HE WILL DELIVER YOU OUT OF THE HAND OF THE PHILISTINES.” (I Samuel 7:3 NIV).

Every time they fought the Philistines, they lost and now they won.  It is the first time in their history that they beat the Philistines in battle, and it was not because they had better weapons or a stronger military.  The Philistines were not defeated by a sword.  They were defeated by repentance and by prayer.  Revival led to victory.  It led to victory for the Israelites and it can lead to victory in our own lives.

The whole nation gathered in one spot for revival (I Samuel 7:5-6).  The Philistines thought they were going to attack them.  They thought a revolt was taking place and went up against them (I Samuel 7:7).  What was the reaction of the people?

And when the people of Israel heard of it, they were afraid of the Philistines. 8 And the people of Israel said to Samuel, “Do not cease to cry out to the Lord our God for us, that he may save us from the hand of the Philistines.” 9 So Samuel took a nursing lamb and offered it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord. And Samuel cried out to the Lord for Israel, and the Lord answered him. (I Samuel 7:7-9 ESV)

This is interesting.  Twenty years before Israel fought the Philistines and lost but they approached that battle very different.  They took the ark into battle and were led by wicked priests.  They were exciting.  They were shouting.  They believe they were going to win and they lost miserably.  They were massacred.

This time they were not confident.  They were terrified.  They asked Samuel to pray for them.  Samuel was a prayer warrior, just like his mom Hannah.  It was a biblical prayer.  Samuel was a prophet.  He told them that if they repented, God would deliver them and now Samuel prayed for God to deliver them.  He did not just pray; he cried out to the Lord (I Samuel 7:9).  When was the last time you cried out to the Lord and poured out your heart to God.  Samuel prayed and God answered him.

But the Lord thundered with a mighty sound that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion, and they were defeated before Israel. (I Samuel 7:10 ESV)

The Philistines thought that their god was the storm god.  They thought he was in charge of the storms but they found out the one in control of the weather was the God of Israel.

What have we learned about revival?  What are the steps to revival from this chapter?  How can revival occur when days are dark morally and spiritually?  What does it take for God to do an extra ordinary work among a church or among a nation?

God has to raise up a special man who is anointed by the Spirit to preach the Word of God.  People have to respond in genuine confession and repentance.  They have to come before God based on the sacrifice of the blood of Christ.  They have to go to God and cry out to him with all of their heart in order to have a genuine revival and the result will be spiritual victory in different areas of your life.  That is what biblical revival looks like, based on I Samuel 7.

[1] Karl Menninger, Whatever Became of Sin, p. 14.

2 Responses to Biblical Revival

  1. Charles Harper says:

    I think this is the website that my google search hit while researching something. I went on to investigate TLC. My wife and I have been watching their videos on YT ever since. I just wanted to find out more about this site and ministry. Thanks.

    • admin says:

      I teach a Sunday School class in the church at the Burlington Campus. We go through different books of the Bible. Do you go to a local church in the area or just watch videos online?

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