Leading Question: If reformation is the outgrowth of revival, what are the marks of that
The official Study Guide focuses on three examples of “reformation” that followed a revival. Each one deserved a closer look:
1. Jehoshaphat’s Reformation and Victory: 2 Chron. 20. Several points are worth nothing about this experience:
a) The revival was triggered by a threatening attack from Judah’s enemies. It was not spontaneous. Question: How would one evaluate the effectiveness of a revival that is triggered by an urgent threat?
b) The king himself led out in the revival, inviting the whole nature to join him in fasting and prayer. The people came as he had commanded. Question: Is a top-down revival, called by the king, of more value than a grassroots effort? Are there any grassroots revivals in the Old Testament? Anywhere in Scripture? Is there always a “leader”?
c) The king quoted a “forever” promise to Abraham (vs. 7), that ended up being something less than “forever.” Question: Should the actual usage of the word forever in the Old Testament determine its meaning rather than what we take the word in mean in English? In this instance, one of the best examples of the real meaning of “forever” is found in the prophetic judgment on the house of Eli. The promise of the priesthood had been given to Eli’s family “forever” (1 Sam. 2:30); but God was taking away the promise because of the evil deeds of Eli’s sons. The new priest would serve Yahweh “forever” (1 Sam. 2:35). It is that kind of history that fed into Ellen White’s comment about “conditional prophecy.” The idea of conditionalism is volatile, but significant:
The angels of God in their messages to men represent time as very short. Thus it has always been presented to me. It is true that time has continued longer than we expected in the early days of this message. Our Saviour did not appear as soon as we hoped. But has the Word of the Lord failed? Never! It should be remembered that the promises and the threatenings of God are alike conditional. – MS 4, 1883, unpublished until Evangelism, 695 , and then more completely in 1 SM 67 . The original response was apparently never sent to anyone.
d) Prophetic inspiration and a choral “attack.” A prophet announced to the people that the 39
Lord would fight for them. This was a pacifist’s dream. After king and people had prostrated themselves before the LORD, all they had to do in the end was sing and the enemy self-destructed. Question: Can one think of an Old Testament example that would compare with Jesus’ healing of the Gerasene demoniac? In the account in Mark 5, the healed demoniac pleads with Jesus to allow him to go with him:
19 But Jesus refused, and said to him, “Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you.” 20 And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed. (NRSV)
Connected with this event is 1 of only 2 violent miracles performed by Jesus (the pigs and the figs). Here, except for the pigs, the enemy wasn’t wiped out as in Jehoshaphat’s day. The enemy was converted. Is that kind of revival “better” than the one in Jehoshaphat’s day?
e) Lots of plunder and great fear among the nations. The plunder was so great that it took king and people three days to cart it all away. Then there was extended peace.
f) The great revival/victory was not followed by a thorough-going reformation. At the end of his record of Jehoshaphat’s life, the Chronicler noted that the high places had not been taken away and that “the people had not yet set their hearts upon the God of their ancestors” (vs. 33). The king himself departed from the good in allying himself with the wicked northern king Amaziah in an ill-fated ship building project, the end of which was announced by another prophetic messenger (vss. 35-37). Question: With such a poor record of reformation following revival, is this the best we can do?
2 Chron. 20:1 After this the Moabites and Ammonites, and with them some of the Meunites,came against Jehoshaphat for battle. 2 Messengers came and told Jehoshaphat, “A great multitude is coming against you from Edom, from beyond the sea; already they are at Hazazon-tamar” (that is, En-gedi). 3 Jehoshaphat was afraid; he set himself to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. 4 Judah assembled to seek help from the Lord; from all the towns of Judah they came to seek the Lord.
Jehoshaphat’s Prayer and Victory
5 Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the Lord, before the new court, 6 and said, “O Lord, God of our ancestors, are you not God in heaven? Do you not rule over all the kingdoms of the nations? In your hand are power and might, so that no one is able to withstand you. 7 Did you not, O our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel, and give it forever to the descendants of your friend Abraham? 8 They have lived in it, and in it have built you a sanctuary for your name, saying, 9 ‘If disaster comes upon us, the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house, and before you, for your name is in this house, and cry to you in our distress, and you will hear and save.’ 10 See now, the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, whom you would not let Israel invade when they came from the land of Egypt, and whom they avoided and did not destroy – 11 they reward us by coming to drive us out of your possession that you have given s to inherit. 12 O our God, will you not execute judgment upon them? For we are powerless against this great multitude that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”
13 Meanwhile all Judah stood before the Lord, with their little ones, their wives, and their children. 14 Then the spirit of the Lord came upon Jahaziel son of Zechariah, son of Benaiah, son of Jeiel, son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, in the middle of the assembly. 15 He said, “Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the Lord to you: ‘Do not fear or be dismayed at this great multitude; for the battle is not yours but God’s. 16 Tomorrow go down against them; they will come up by the ascent of Ziz; you will find them at the end of the valley, before the wilderness of Jeruel. 17 This battle is not for you to fight; take your position, stand still, and see the victory of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, and the Lord will be with you.”
18 Then Jehoshaphat bowed down with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell down before the Lord, worshiping the Lord. 19 And the Levites, of the Kohathites and the Korahites, stood up to praise the Lord, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice.
20 They rose early in the morning and went out into the wilderness of Tekoa; and as they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Listen to me, O Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem! Believe in the Lord your God and you will be established; believe his prophets.” 21 When he had taken counsel with the people, he appointed those who were to sing to the Lord and praise him in holy splendor, as they went before the army, saying,
“Give thanks to the Lord,
for his steadfast love endures forever.”
22 As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set an ambush against the Ammonites, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so that they were routed. 23 For the Ammonites and Moab attacked the inhabitants of Mount Seir, destroying them utterly; and when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, they all helped to destroy one another.
24 When Judah came to the watchtower of the wilderness, they looked toward the multitude; they were corpses lying on the ground; no one had escaped. 25 When Jehoshaphat and his people came to take the booty from them, they found livestock in great numbers, goods, clothing, and precious things, which they took for themselves until they could carry no more. They spent three days taking the booty, because of its abundance. 26 On the fourth day they assembled in the Valley of Beracah, for there they blessed the Lord; therefore that place has been called the Valley of Beracah [praise] to this day. 27 Then all the people of Judah and Jerusalem, with Jehoshaphat at their head, returned to Jerusalem with joy, for the Lord had enabled them to rejoice over their enemies. 28 They came to Jerusalem, with harps and lyres and trumpets, to the house of the Lord. 29 The fear of God came on all the kingdoms of the countries when they heard that the Lord had fought against the enemies of Israel. 30 And the realm of Jehoshaphat was quiet, for his God gave him rest all around.
The End of Jehoshaphat’s Reign
31 So Jehoshaphat reigned over Judah. He was thirty-five years old when he began to reign; he reigned twenty-five years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Azubah daughter of Shilhi. 32 He walked in the way of his father Asa and did not turn aside from it, doing what was right in the sight of the Lord. 33 Yet the high places were not removed; the people had not yet set their hearts upon the God of their ancestors.
34 Now the rest of the acts of Jehoshaphat, from first to last, are written in the Annals of Jehu son of Hanani, which are recorded in the Book of the Kings of Israel.
35 After this King Jehoshaphat of Judah joined with King Ahaziah of Israel, who did wickedly. 36 He joined him in building ships to go to Tarshish; they built the ships in Ezion-geber. 37 Then Eliezer son of Dodavahu of Mareshah prophesied against Jehoshaphat, saying, “Because you have joined with Ahaziah, the Lord will destroy what you have made.” And the ships were wrecked and were not able to go to Tarshish.
2. The Church at Ephesus: Rev. 2:1-7. The record of the church at Ephesus was very much a mixed bag. They were good in the attack mode: a) they didn’t tolerate evildoers; b) they exposed false apostles; they hated the work of the Nicolaitans. But they were at risk of losing their candlestick because they had lost their first love. Question: Where can we find a “pure” reformation that follows revival?
Rev. 2:1 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands:
2 “I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance. I know that you cannot tolerate evildoers; you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them to be false. 3 I also know that you are enduring patiently and bearing up for the sake of my name, and that you have not grown weary. 4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 5 Remember then from what you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. 6 Yet this is to your credit: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. To everyone who conquers, I will give permission to eat from the tree of life that is in the paradise of God.
3. Paul’s Most Challenging Church: Corinth. The two letters to the church at Corinth that have come down to us are full of extremes. In chapter 1, Paul pointedly notes that the church is being torn apart by conflict with the believers choosing up sides behind their favorite preachers. In 1 Cor. 13, by contrast, the beautiful love chapter leaves everything in peace and light. But the most strident piece in the first letter is his rebuke of a specific instance of immorality: The church was tolerating a man who was living with his mother’s wife. Paul delivers a blistering attack on the issue. But what is so remarkable is the apparent reference to restoration of the arrogant brother in 2 Cor. 2:5-11. The Corinthians had apparently followed Paul’s advice and disfellowshipped the erring brother. Their action had resulted in his repentance and reformation. Paul was arguing that the man had suffered long enough. Now he should be restored:
2 Cor. 2:5 But if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but to some extent—not to exaggerate it—to all of you. 6 This punishment by the majority is enough for such a person; 7 so now instead you should forgive and console him, so that he may not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8 So I urge you to reaffirm your love for him. 9 I wrote for this reason: to test you and to know whether you are obedient in everything. 10 Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. What I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ. 11 And we do this so that we may not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.
To sum up, all the examples of revival fall short of the mark when it comes to reformation. The ideal is clear, but God’s people so often fall short of the ideal. In a strange sort of way, however, that can give courage to us when we fall short of the ideal, as we so often do.