The first revival in the recorded revelation of God occurs in Genesis 35. It is there where after a tragic sequence of events involving the rape of one of his daughters and the murderous revenge of his sons against the perpetrator Shechem (as well as the innocents of the city where he lived), that God moved upon Jacob to lead his family in revival. Revivals are often preceded by some tragedy, trial or spiritual low point. When we look at the world nationally and internationally we see a great deal of tragedy. When we look not only globally, but locally and personally we can find tragedy, pain and hardship that threatens to push us down and away from God. It is just during such times of fear, trepidation, uncertainty, and despair that we need a revival from God that will give us the faith and courage in Him to get us through it all.
There is a literary principle of first mention at work here. The first mention in the Bible of a word or subject serves to lay a foundation or pattern for future reoccurrences of that same word or subject. Such is the case in Genesis 35; it lays the groundwork and sets the pattern for personal revival. Below are some things that we need to realize to experience personal revival. There are some questions to help us assess where we are with the Lord. There are also related scriptures in parenthesis we should prayerfully consider. We need revival and God desires revival for us. Let’s turn to Genesis 35 and after prayerfully reading the chapter join together in seeking a personal revival by considering the following questions.
First, realize God initiates revival. Genesis 35 begins with the words, “then God said to Jacob” (35:1a; see Acts 15:8-9; 1 Corinthians 15:10; Philippians 2:12-13). God saw the need and spoke to Jacob. Do I believe God can revive me, that He wants to and can change me? Are you fully trusting in Him to speak to you, to change you, or are you relying on yourself or something or someone other than God?
Second, realize revival involves God reminding us of where we once were (35:1b; see also Revelation 2:1-7). God directed Jacob to a place where he had been close to and in the presence of God (Genesis 28). Are you closer to the Lord now than you were when you first accepted Jesus as Savior? Are you closer to the Lord now than you were a year ago, six months ago, a month ago? If you aren’t steadily growing closer to the Lord, you are probably backsliding (Jeremiah 3:6-15; Hosea 14:4).
When you were saved you proclaimed Jesus as your Lord (Romans 10:8-10). Is He still your Lord? Have you slowly or rebelliously taken back some of the things you once gave Him control of? Maybe you need to go to Him in prayer and return that which you’ve taken back. And maybe you need to ask Him to search you deeper for areas that need to be surrendered to His Lordship. Is He your “King of Kings and Lord of Lords”? (See Philippians 2:9-11; Revelation 19:16). ). If you’re not closer today than you were in the past, why do you think that is? Ask the Lord to show you.
Third, realize revivals often work through a person chosen by God who acts on God’s word (35:2a). The account goes on to say, “And Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, . . .” The Lord started this revival by speaking individually to Jacob. What is God saying to you? God moved on Jacob’s heart and he passed on to others what the Lord had put on his heart. Revivals can be quenched by those who keep what God conveys to them to themselves. If God gives a word, he desires us to share it! (Jeremiah 20:9; Galatians 6:2; 1 Peter 3:15). It may be a testimony of what God has done, is doing or has promised to do in your life. It may be a scripture He has put on your heart. It may be answered prayer. It may be something the Lord has convicted you about and that you obediently intend to change. God can use such things to spark a revival. Caution: don’t feel like you have to say something; don’t use such a time to voice a pet peeve or gripe; listen to the Lord and only speak if He directs you to do so (Acts 4:8f., 31; 13:9f.; James 1:19-20; 1 Peter 4:11).
Fourth, realize revivals involve holiness, a willingness to forsake anything and everything that is not pleasing to God (35:2b; Psalm 66:18; 139:23-24;Jeremiah 4:3-4; Romans 12:1-2; Galatians 2:20; 1 Thessalonians 5:22-25). Is there a sin in your life that you have been allowing? Have you been rationalizing or overlooking some clear contradiction of God’s word in your life? Remember, God is either Lord of all or He is not Lord at all in your life. The missionary Jonathan Goforth stated:
If revival is being withheld from us it is because some idol remains still enthroned; because we still insist in placing our reliance in human schemes; because we still refuse to face the unchangeable truth that, 'It is not by might, but by My Spirit.'
Fifth, realize revivals involve taking action on God’s word (35:3-4). Jacob and his family took action; they obeyed the word of the Lord. Jesus said the one who truly loved Him was the one who was obedient to Him (John 14:21, 23). Do you love Jesus enough to obey Him? (Matthew 7:21-28; James 1:22-24).
Sixth, realize revivals result in God’s protection (35:5). Are you afraid of something or someone? Revivals come when we trust in God to protect us (Psalm 4:8; 11; 121; 124; 139:10; Isaiah 41:10; 54:17; 59:19; John 10:28-30; 2 Corinthians 12:9-10). God is better able to defend us against our enemies than we are or any other earthly person. John Wesley used to say:
Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not whether they be clergymen or laymen; they alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the kingdom of heaven upon earth.
Seventh, realize revivals result in a focus on God (35:6-7).Jacob moved from merely remembering that holy place named “Bethel” (“house of God”) to focusing on “El Bethel,” or the God of the house of God. When the Holy Spirit is working and bringing revival the focus is on Jesus (John 15:26). Focus on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2; 13:5).
Eighth, realize revivals may involve weeping (35:8). Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse died and the place where they lay her was then called “the oak of weeping.” Revivals sometimes come to prepare us for a loss (see Death of Rachel in 35:16-29). It could be the literal loss of an individual, or it could be the loss of a portion of our sinful “self” that we need to hold a funeral for (see Romans 6; Galatians 2:20; Colossians 3:1-11). Weeping shows a willingness to allow our emotions out. People are often reserved or embarrassed to let their emotions out. Sometimes the keeping in of emotions is a sign of pride. When was the last time you shed a tear before the Lord? In humility (not prideful show) we should let our emotions out before the Lord (See Psalm 30:4-5; Hebrews 12:12-17; James 4:7-10).
Ninth, realize revival leads to insight and greater perception of God and our relationship to Him (35:9-11; Psalm 42). We need to draw near to God (Psalm 73:28; James 4:8). Jacob the heel-catcher or selfish grabber was transformed to “Israel” or “one governed by God” one who served God as LORD. Revival brings us back to our best time with God and then brings us even deeper as God works in us a greater capacity to know Him on a deeper level (John 14:26; 1 Corinthians 2:9-14). Often a revival begins with the Lord bringing a portion of scripture to mind that He wants to use in your life. Is there a verse or passage the Lord is putting on your heart now? How can it be applied to your life? Is God speaking to you about some changes you need to make? Revivals start when people respect His revelation and take it to heart (e.g. Jeremiah 15:16; 1 Thessalonians 2:13). Is there a verse God used to speak to you in the past that perhaps He wants you to return to and reapply?
Tenth, realize revival leads to memorable fruitfulness and blessing (35:11b-14). God revived Jacob and sent him out to be “fruitful and multiply.” And after God left him, he erected a stone pillar, a lasting symbol to remind him of this special time. Jacob then poured out a drink offering and “poured oil on it. “ Oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit in scripture (Zechariah 4). Are you spiritually fruitful? Are you growing in your relationship with Jesus? Are you being used by Him in some way? Are you involved in His ministry, in His church? We are fruitful when we abide in Jesus (John 15). When the Holy Spirit is at work He bears fruit in us (Galatians 5:22-25) and through us (Colossians 1:9-12).
We need revival, in the world, as a nation and personally. Pray for and receive God’s work of revival in your heart and life. “He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:24).