Shabbat, June 14, 2014
Though it may appear that a little spark suddenly causes a surge of flames, there are conditions for starting and sustaining the fire of revival. Some of the conditions are awe of God’s word, persevering, expectant prayer, radical commitment to a community of believers, and eagerness to expand the kingdom by telling others about Yeshua.
Times of revival have been crucial in the life of God’s people—surges of faith and Holy Spirit power that restore hope and holiness to the faithful, preparing them to bring in fresh harvests of souls. The Bible records bursts of revival during the times of Hezekiah, Josiah and Nehemiah. History records many other surges, e.g., the Moravian revival that started with Herrnhut Germany, spread all over the world, including Bethlehem, PA, the Great Awakenings of the 18th & 19th centuries, the Azusa Street revival, the Charismatic Renewal/Jesus People/Messianic movement of the 1970’s, and many others happening all around the world to this day.
For a generation or more, intercessors in Bethlehem & the Lehigh Valley have been praying for revival. I think of Joe Kricks, Larry Burd, Jack Groblewski, Nancy Hahn, Barbara Sitler & many others. How many of you are longing for revival here? This thirst for revival has prompted the One Voice pastors to start a study of revival, starting with what was surely the greatest, world-changing revival—recorded in the book Acts.
In Acts 3:21, Peter told fellows Jews that Messiah Yeshua has to remain in heaven “until the time of the restoration of all the things that God spoke about long ago through the mouth of His holy prophets.” I gave a message about this verse recently…. I came back to this theme at Vikki’s church last week. Shavuot was last weekend—many of us had strong experiences of the Ruach Kodesh How many of you want more of God’s love, more of His power?
Stop and think about Peter was declaring: Now that Yeshua has accomplished His work on the cross, “He is now sitting at the right hand of God in heaven, where He will remain …” and has remained… How long, Yeshua, will you remain in heaven? When will you come are restore all things? Or as it says in the K’doosha prayer of the Amidah, “When will you reign in Zion?” Or as Jews pray in every synagogue in the Torah service, “when will the Torah go forth from Zion and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem?” When will you establish the Messianic Kingdom of God on earth?
So Peter tells us: “until the time of the restoration of all the things God spoke about long ago through the prophets.” Restoration and revival is something the Ruach Elohim (Spirit of God) does—it’s not something any of us—including your leaders—can manufacture. Amen?
Nevertheless, we can prepare the conditions for revival.
One is studying God’s word with reverence and awe. For example, the Josiah revival started with the discovery and reading of a missing Torah scroll. So 2 Kings 23: 24-25 records, “Josiah got rid of the necromancers and the mediums, teraphim and idols, and all the detestable things that were seen in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem—in order to confirm the words of the Torah that were written in the scroll that Hilkiah the kohen found in the House of ADONAI. Before him there had never been a king like him, who turned to ADONAI with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the Torah of Moses.”
The Ezra/Nehemiah revival featured a public reading of the Torah, which produced strong conviction and weeping among the people, so that the leaders had to encourage them (Nehemiah 8:10): “Do not grieve, for the joy of ADONAI is your strength.”
Yeshua prepared his disciples for revival with three years of proclaiming the kingdom of God and then, after He rose from the dead, forty more days of teaching about the kingdom of God.
So shall we study—with reverence and awe?
Let’s look at what happened in Acts, starting in chapter 1:3 “To them He showed Himself to be alive after His suffering through many convincing proofs, appearing to them for forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.” Our risen Lord was with his disciples for 40 days… They were counting the days…10 more till Shavuot! What was Yeshua teaching them about? The kingdom of God: Now that Messiah King has come, what do we do? How many of you would like to have been in that classroom? I’ll bet there were lessons about being totally, radically submitted to the King of kings. Amen?
4 Now while staying with them, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father promised—which, He said, “you heard from Me.” So apparently, part of what Yeshua taught them about the kingdom was about Jerusalem—because the prophets had foretold that Jerusalem would be the launching pad for the Kingdom. As it is written in Isaiah 2 (and also Micah 4): 2 It will come to pass in the last days that the mountain of ADONAI‘s House will stand firm as head of the mountains and will be exalted above the hills. So all nations will flow to it. 3 Then many peoples will go and say: “Come, let us go unto the mountain of ADONAI, to the House of the God of Jacob! Then He will teach us His ways, and we will walk in His paths.” For Torah will go forth from Zion and the word of ADONAI from Jerusalem.”
So we chant, when we bring the scroll out of the ark. “Kee m’tzion, taytzay Torah, For out of Zion will go forth,” then “Oo-d’var Adonai m’Yerushalayim, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” As the prophets foretold, the word of the Lord, the kingdom of God, the Messianic hope of Israel, must and will go forth from Jerusalem. Amen? How many of think this prophecy still applies today? Well, have the nations hammered their swords into plowshares yet? That’s still part of the hope of the kingdom of God, when our Messiah will reign in Jerusalem. Amen?
OK, back to Acts 1:6. “So when they gathered together, they asked Him, ‘Lord, are You restoring the kingdom to Israel at this time?'” What were the disciples looking for? “Restoring the kingdom to Israel.” For these Jewish guys, the resurrection of Yeshua was awesome, but what about the rest of the story? First century Jews expected Messiah to restore the kingdom to Israel, which was lost to the Romans. Note that that they use the word “restoring”—the same as in Acts 3:21, “the restoration of all things.” In Hebrew, the word is tikkun—to this day, Jews are seeking tikkun olam—restoration (or repair) of the world—though for most Jews today it means working for civil rights or a protecting the environment. For us, Tikkun refers to our apostolic network, partnering for the restoration of Israel and the church.
Yeshua doesn’t directly answer their question: 7 He said to them, “It is not your place to know the times or seasons which the Father has placed under His own control.” Note that He doesn’t contradict their hope for the restoration of the kingdom to Israel. He simply doesn’t specify the time. Perhaps the reason is that He knew they weren’t ready for it. As 2 Peter 3:12 says, “what kind of people should you be? Live your lives in holiness and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God.” Apparently, God is looking for to hasten the coming the day of God, by living our lives in holiness. Or for that matter, to the extent that we are ready, we may experience the kingdom now. Amen?
I don’t know about you, but I need some help form above to live in holiness. So Yeshua continues: 8 “But you will receive power when the Ruach ha-Kodesh has come upon you; and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and through all Judah, and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Halleluyah! Yeshua doesn’t expect his disciples to live holy lives, let alone hasten the day of God, by our own efforts alone. He’s going to provide the power and presence of the Holy Spirit! Then Yeshua ascends to heaven, which “must receive Him until the time of the restoration.”
So the disciples wait in Jerusalem, counting the omer for ten more days, But I don’t think they were idling away. Their waiting was not passive, but active, in prayer. Psalm 27:12 says “Wait for Adonai; be strong and take heart and wait for Adonai.”When David says “be strong,” that’s expectant faith and prayer. Amen?
As Paul says in 1 Timothy 1:6, “I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.” Persevering, expectant prayer is another condition for preparing for revival fire. Amen?
It may seems like it’s taking a while (O Lord, when will you come?), yet the Spirit says, “Wait for Adonai, and take heart, and wait for Adonai. Then it comes with a whoosh! Acts 2.1-2 When the day of Shavuot had come, they were all together in one place. Suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.”
How many of you thought this sudden outpouring of Ruach ha-Kodesh took place in the “upper room”? Well, it that what these verses say? Nope. It says it was the day of Shavuot. Where would you expect first century Jews to be on the day of Shavuot? How about where God commanded them to be, in the Torah—the House on Mount Zion? As it says in verse 2, “the whole house”—in the Hebrew Bible, the Temple is called “the House” or “the House of the Lord.” Orthodox Jews call it Beit Hamikdash, “the Holy House.”
On Shavuot, the Ruach of God filled the whole Holy House. Awesome! Just like He had done when Solomon dedicated it!
2:3 “Now tongues like fire spreading out appeared to them and settled on each one of them. 4 They were all filled with the Ruach ha-Kodesh and began to speak in other tongues as the Ruach enabled them to speak out.” More awesome! Tongues of fire fell on them and they spoke supernaturally in tongues. Awesome all around!
Yet as awesome as it was for the disciples, it had another purpose… to impact a lot of other Jews. Revival starts with the household of the faithful, then spreads to others hanging around outside. 5 “Now Jewish people were staying in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 When this sound came, the crowd gathered. They were bewildered, because each was hearing them speaking in his own language.”
Let’s review…. Why were there Jewish people staying in Jerusalem from every nation under heaven? Because Shavuot was one of the three harvest festivals, when devout Jews obeyed the commandment to come to the place God had chosen. Got it? Obviously, these Jews from every nation under heaven were gathering in the Temple. So the Ruach Kodesh glorified Yeshua as Messiah where thousands of Jews could witness it!
On that very day, Peter proclaimed a powerful message of the Good News,3,000 Jews repented and put their faith in Yeshua as the Messiah, and then they were immersed in His name. It just so happens that there were dozens of immersion pools or mikvaot at the bottom of the steps leading up to the Temple Mount from the City of David…. Archeologists have uncovered them! That’s right, baptizing is Jewish…. Only we Jews don’t call in baptism, we call it t’vilah. Jews would immerse themselves before coming into the Holy House. On that day, 3000 Jews immersed in the waters of the mikvah and also in the Ruach Kodesh! That day, Shavuot was fulfilled in Messiah…In fact, we’re still in the season of the Shavuot harvest.
At Shavuot, the children of Israel brought the firstfruits of the wheat harvest as on offering. Then throughout the harvest they continued to bring in the wheat harvest, and left gleanings for the poor… until the Day of Blowing Shofar announces the final harvest. So we are in the season of Shavuot, bringing in a harvest of souls until Messiah returns. Amen?
Now a lot of people I know and appreciate call this day “the birth of the Church.” Ever hear of that? Honestly, where in Acts 2 or anywhere else in the Bible is this phrase, “the birth of the Church”? As a Jew, what I read here a Messianic Jewish revival… which eventually became a world revival!
Did God reject Israel and starting all over again with the Church? (Beware subtle supersessionism.) As Paul says in Romans 11, “By no means! I am an Israelite myself!”
(I mentioned this point to a pastor who is a friend of mine, and he said gently, “Well, you know where they get that from… they had come from every nation under heaven.” True enough! But let’s be clear that it was Jewish people from nation under heaven.
Another pastor insisted that the ecclesia (the Greek word translated church) was born then. But the Septuagint (a Jewish translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek) used ecclesia to translate the assembly of Israel—so, the original ecclesia was Israel, called out of Egypt. Gentiles got grafted in. Acts started with Jews from every nation… and Jews eventually spread the word with power to every other nation.
Could that order still be relevant to God’s plan to hasten His kingdom today?
The modern Messianic Jewish movement began in late 60’s/early 70’s with what seemed like a spontaneous fire of revival. Thousands of Jews suddenly came to faith in Jesus—who’d a thunk it? (Yet Christians don’t usually mark this movement as a revival.) Many of them had extraordinary visions of Yeshua? One of them was yours truly, when I was at Penn State around 1972….
Yes, it was a sovereign move of God, yet there were also preparations. In the wake of the Holocaust, many Christians found the blood on their hands, and some began to repent of Replacement Theology. Baruch HaShem! Moreover, people all around the world had been praying for the Holy Spirit to come…
How many of you are seeing these things happening in our day? How many of you want more? More, Lord! Come, Messiah Yeshua, come! Renew the face of the whole earth, pour out your Spirit! With the restoration of the land and the salvation of the people of Israel comes salvation for the world! As Romans 11:15 says, “For if their rejection [of Messiah] leads to the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance [of Him] be but life from the dead?” According to this verse, must precede the resurrection of the dead and the restoration of all things? The nation of Israel must trust in Yeshua as Messiah. Humanly, it sounds impossible. Yet with God, nothing is impossible. For He who keeps Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps.
We can prepare for it with reverent study of God’s word and by fanning in flames the gift of the Spirit. When the Lord pours out His Ruach on us, how do we sustain and strengthen His work among us? The flames of the Hezekiah and Josiah revivals burned down to embers pretty quickly, as have others. Yet the fire of the Acts revival intensified and spread from Jerusalem to Samaria & throughout the world.
A crucial difference of the Acts revival was a radical commitment to a community of believers. Acts 2:42-44 describes what happened next in the Jerusalem community, “They were devoting themselves to the teaching of the emissaries and to fellowship, to breaking bread and to prayers. Fear lay upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were happening through the emissaries. And all who believed were together, having everything in common.” Acts continues to describe the radical commitment of the early disciples to their community as well as the huge harvest of souls that it brought into the kingdom of God. The letters of the emissaries give much specific instruction about how to live in radically holy communities, as a demonstration of the presence and power of the Spirit of God. In Revelation chapters 2 & 3, the risen Lord sends messages to the angels of the communities in order to urge them continue to maintain their first love and remain hot for Him, overcoming the world.
The Moravians maintained their passion for revival and the lost with a radical commitment to the renewed brethren, many of whom were sent to reach the lost throughout the world. I believe such a radical commitment to Yeshua and His body is necessary to produce and keep producing a harvest for the kingdom of God? How many want some of that?
So what can we do about it? Can we prepare for revival or even hasten the day of God? Peter says so. We can live holy and godly lives as a community. We can study the word of God with awe. Check out our Tree of Life Bible study, Thursday evenings. We can commit to living more and more as community in our havurah meetings. We can pray for favor for our synagogue and community house—so that we may strengthen our commitment to living holy lives, study and prayer as community. We can commit to telling others about Yeshua and our community.
Let’s pray about these things….
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