Many people have been watching the events at Asbury University in Wilmore, KY. After a chapel meeting on February 8, students stayed in the Hughes Auditorium and continued praying, singing, testifying, and reading Scripture. Their gathering became an extended time of worship that lasted for days and attracted large numbers of people. Attendees report a special sense of God’s Spirit moving among them.
Surprisingly, almost exactly the same events in the same location took place fifty-three years ago in 1970 (also in February!). In the months following the 1970 meeting, groups from Asbury visited other colleges and churches from New York to California and even into South America. Revival broke out in more than 130 locations by the summer of that year.
The history of God’s people is filled with spiritual ups and downs, times of wandering away or fading away from the Lord, sometimes over years or even decades, then times of returning to the Lord. This has been the case among Christians for the past two thousand years, and it was true in the Old Testament with God’s chosen people Israel.
Once, when Israel was experiencing a dark time spiritually, they suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Philistines. They foolishly took the ark of the covenant into battle. It was captured by the Philistines, who returned it after several months of suffering God’s wrath. Instead of placing the ark in the temple, where it belonged, the Israelites took it to Abinadab’s house.
The ark of the covenant was the special container made to hold the tablets with the Ten Commandments written on them. The commandments were a reminder of the unique relationship Israel enjoyed with God, and a reminder of their responsibility to worship and serve him only.
The ark of the covenant was at Abinadab’s house for twenty years, a constant reminder to the people that things were not right between them and God. Finally, they began to long for the Lord. They lamented the current state of things. They wanted to return to the Lord.
God raised up a spiritual leader for the people: Samuel. When Samuel saw that the people were ready for positive change, he called on them to put away their foreign gods, their idols, and to worship God only.
Samuel called the people to gather for prayer at Mizpah. When they came together, they drew water and poured it out before the Lord. This act is unexplained in Scripture, but it is associated with fasting. Abstaining from food for a time was an established practice often observed during times of prayer and seeking God. By combining these two actions, the people seemed to be expressing a desire for God that was even greater than their need for food and water.
In addition to fasting, the people confessed. They admitted sinning against the Lord. Confession implies a willingness to repent, to turn away from sin. Returning to God requires turning away from sin. Confession can also be positive. God’s people confess their faith in God, expressing their desire to trust him by obeying his commands and following his ways.
When the Philistines saw what was happening at Mizpah, they attacked Israel. The people were afraid, but they continued to follow the leadership of Samuel and to trust the Lord. As a result, God gave them a decisive victory over their enemies and brought peace to their land.
Samuel set up a stone to memorialize the Lord’s work in their hearts and with their hands. He named it Ebenezer, saying that the Lord had helped them to that point.
So, Mizpah led to Ebenezer. In other words, Israel’s meeting at Mizpah inspired them to trust God for victory. Their faith and God’s power resulted in blessings memorialized by the Ebenezer stone.
People are asking if the events at Asbury in Kentucky signal a true revival, an authentic move of God’s Holy Spirit. If it is a true Mizpah meeting that inspires God’s people to trust the Lord for a great spiritual victory, then we will see an Ebenezer stone set up in the future. In 1970, the results were clear. In 2023, we hope and pray to see the same.
Israel’s revival began with a longing for the Lord, a dissatisfaction with the status quo. The next step was putting away the things of the world and worshiping God only. They gathered for prayer, commitment, and confession. And when the enemy responded by attacking them, they trusted the Lord.
There is no guarantee that God’s Spirit will move in a mighty way if we follow certain predetermined steps. God is sovereign. Nevertheless, Samuel’s advice is good. We should gather and pray, commit ourselves to the Lord, and confess our sin and our faith. Only then will we be ready to follow God’s Spirit to victory when he chooses to visit us in an extraordinary manner.
Let’s pray that we are seeing an authentic move of God’s Spirit, one that will result in victories that cannot be explained by the planning and performance of people, but only by the presence and power of the Living God!
May God inspire us and enable us to return to him with all our hearts,