“For He is Good; For His Loving Mercy Endures Forever.”
13 and it was the duty of the trumpeters and singers to make themselves heard in unison in praise and thanksgiving to the Lord), and when the song was raised, with trumpets and cymbals and other musical instruments, in praise to the Lord,
“For he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever,”
the house, the house of the Lord, was filled with a cloud, 14 so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God. 2 Chronicles 5:13, 14
If you think for one second that the particular singing or sound of the congregation was what brought down the glory clouds of God’s presence, then you have spent a second too long in misunderstanding. If the music and performance had been so divinely approved, He might have preserved them to this day. But He did not. God preserved only their words, which meant so much to Him. And now, we rightly call them His words.
There was a reason God’s people decided that day to sing and play in complete unity, despite the probability that many of them (like all humans) might not have been getting on well with one other weeks before. They meant to be in one accord, praising and thanking the Lord. What is more, they meant the particular meaning of their song to be heard by God as a testimony to Him that they “finally had gotten it.” The Children of Israel had found such a freeing truth that it brought unity among them and evoked their ultimate worship to God. Yet, do we understand why these words are so important and pleasing to God and Israel?
The little phrase, “For the Lord [He] is good; for his mercy endures forever,” is perhaps the greatest song of praise found in the Bible. Its combination of words is repeated 140 times in passages gathered from 1st and 2nd Chronicles, Ezra, the Psalms, and even from the weeping prophet Jeremiah. The witness of the Scriptures is that when God’s people hold this phrase as their theme song (with hearts having experienced its truth), then God abundantly blesses with His Glorious Presence. I think God is trying to tell us something.
Some will say that this manifestation of the LORD was simply a special occasion in the History of Israel whereby the Temple was consecrated. And so, these same skeptics will explain away the coming of God’s presence as a show of ceremony, which “had to happen” at the consecrating of the Temple. To those dear folks, I can only reply that it was not very ceremonially fit for God to have kept the Levites from ministering in the Temple, if indeed God was only worried with the pomp and circumstance of those proceedings. No. Far from it! This Holy visitation was not in response to ceremony or liturgy or well skilled instrumentalists and choirs. Though the consecration of the Solomon’s Temple was a long time in coming, the pillar of cloud was the response of a covenant keeping God, the LORD, to a people whose hearts were humbled and yet thankful all at the same time. What could have caused this thankful shame?
Well, no doubting it, Solomon had prepared his thoughts aforetime, as to what he wanted to request of God that day. And, being the wisest of all men, Solomon thought on the mercies of God and how needful they would be to the people of Israel. His prayer is saturated with asking God for assurance that the people might be forgiven should they sin. Remember, when the nation was still young, it was said by Moses to Joshua that the people would not be able to keep their Covenant (Deut 31:14-29). Hundreds of years later, the same case was true. Solomon’s solution to this dilemma was God’s mercy. And, the people clutched onto that promise of hope with all their hearts. It gave them joy and thankfulness, despite the fact it revealed their weakness and sinfulness. They knew that God’s mercy flowed out of His goodness. Because of that promise of ever enduring mercy, the people loved God. They saw that God did not have to forgive their sinful inability to keep a covenant with Him, but He did. He promised to do so, because He is good. His mercy endures forever. And, they loved Him for it. “He that is forgiven little, the same loveth little.”
If any of us were to really want revival, then we should start praying for it the way Solomon did – with a focus on how much we need God’s mercy. If any of us were to really expect revival, then we should start singing the same theme song as the Israelites – that it is His goodness to be merciful to us at every turn. Solomon did not pray as if He and the people of Israel were able to build themselves up to God’s blessing. He prayed as one who knew the only hope of blessing was God’s being merciful out of His goodness.
Many people want revival, and many people are praying for it these days. Many leaders are calling us back to a normal Christian life, which would itself be a revival of genuine love and effective service for Jesus. This would ultimately result in the awakening of the lost masses to salvation in Christ. “The revival road” or a personal pursuit of the Lord Jesus Christ (with the expected result of an infusion of His purity and power for life and service) is also a common way of expressing one’s desire for revival blessing. By “back to power,” you and I would be saying we want bodies of believers everywhere to know and exercise the saving power of Jesus–his healing, restoring Life applied to one’s own life, including eternal pardon. This saving power, which sets free from particular sin’s power in the life, ought to be experienced by believers everywhere. And they would not only tell about Him by their words, but others would see Him by their lives.
However, Christians may not be exercising that saving influence for two reasons. One, no one can do it on his own. It is Jesus’ powerful Person of genuine love and truth which energizes the believer beyond himself and into zeal and compassion, until he is used in order to let Christ’s words (gospel) and loving actions come shining through. Thus, he draws all men to Jesus and not himself. Secondly, and directly tied to the first, there is an enduement for victory in spiritual matters/realms, which causes God’s people’s effectiveness to match the grandeur of the truth, glory, and greatness of Jesus who is above all names that are named. We all should believe in these enduements. Whereas the first may be called an enduement for lifestyle, the second might be called an enduement for service.
But, what I want to point out is that we often hear, “Purity precedes power.” I agree that a lifestyle of sin is not that upon which God can put His power for service. It is contrary to His nature. However, we need to be careful with the statement, “purity precedes power.” Why? Because, we might be defining purity in conjunction with power all wrong. God will never put blessing on a believer who thinks he might become pure enough to earn God’s blessing. While no one would voluntarily put himself in that latter category or use those terms outright, I see this mentality killing our prayers for revival. Let me explain the mentality a little more, because it is admittedly subtle.
First let me define what I mean by purity. Purity, in the context of this article, does not mean one’s having rid himself completely of everything which might be considered a semblance or trace of sin in its outward and inward forms. Neither is it the adding of good habits or “right” living. It is not a “doing away with” or an “adding to.” If this were the case, then no one is or can be completely pure, because our lives are tainted with the sin principle. No matter of scrubbing or dressing can change that. We all have a body of death to deal with.
While known sin is to be put away most definitely, there is also no sense in saying that the purity which accompanies God’s power is the result of one’s efforts. Neither is purity the result of abstinence from any sin of thought, motive, or deed. Revival is NOT not sinning, and not sinning cannot possibly earn revival. For purposes herein, purity is not those concepts. Rather, the purity which accompanies God’s power in service is the sort which comes by God’s declaration upon a contrite, repentant heart. We need God’s power to be pure in heart. We do not gain access to God’s power by our purity.
While one is in consciousness of his need for God’s mercy and is readily accepting it, God is showering pure righteousness on him. Conversely, in the moments we have no need of God’s mercy, God has no need of using us. He sees us as practically unrighteous through our pride, and consequently others see us as prideful as well. When we have consciousness of our need of mercy, we see ourselves on the whole as the only and greatest hindrance God’s power, and strangely enough that is when Jesus comes shining through–people are directed to Him instead of us. Then, God gives His own purity and accompanying power.
Think of this. When you have gotten “knocked down” by your own personal failure, you see yourself rightly – as a failure and as very weak, even incompetent as a Christian in the most basic aspects of Christian life. It is wrong for you to embrace the defeat and stay in self-pity and morbid introspection, but nevertheless you see yourself rightly. It is indeed a bitter reality, but I challenge you to ask God to keep your heart in that state where you know you have come face to face with the true state of yourself apart from His mercy and grace. I challenge you to ask God to keep you in that state of humility, in that state of brokenness, in that state where you are hungry for the mercy of God; so that, it is your constant frame of mind especially when you are tempted to feel “on top of your game” so-to-speak or in confidence, or while seeing the greatest aspect of personal victory.
Those who are constantly hungry for God’s mercy are those who are in constant awareness of their true condition without that mercy. They are also the most compassionate, non-irritable, patient, longsuffering, and loving people on the planet. Such folk are not stopped at concerns for their actions. Instead, they have seen the source of their sinful actions as inseparable from their own identity. Thus, they cling to that One who delivers them constantly from the body of their own death. They thank God through the Lord Jesus Christ! They find Joy in accepting God’s view of them “in Christ” above every other identity.
To them, God gives His own purity and its accompanying power. Why? Because God’s requirement is transparency and humility, to which not only He is drawn but also the rest of humanity. Someone who has embraced the depths of honesty concerning his self, and so, stays in the state of brokenness also comes to the heights of joy and happiness through his being fully righteous only in Jesus. And that one’s soul is full of life and loveliness and joy and peace and openness and love. Without this state of the heart, the person is seen sometimes by others as full of trying, sincere desire without release, understanding without peace, wisdom without joy, discernment without love, standards without compassion, passion for truth without long suffering, frustration from lack of patience with others. In short, they do not have the filling of the Spirit.
Let’s apply our need to be hungry for mercy a little deeper. In churches which have been praying for years for revival, there is an increasingly popular line of thought used to explain why God has not yet sent revival power/blessing. The churches believe revival blessing is coming; or rather, that God has been wanting and even has attempted to send it, but the leaders also believe that they (the people and leaders) somehow have forfeited that revival blessing by certain disobediences as a body or by certain slacking in “rising in faith-filled obedience” to the “faith step” which God set for them as a body. This is dangerous, because it is meritoriously working for revival power/blessing, when the power does not come without the mercy-born purity by its side!
Also, great tension occurs between the leadership and the people when the leadership says, “This is the faith step we must take…God cannot bless if this is missing from our hearts as a congregation.” Why? It is meritorious thinking. When the body takes that step sincerely (such as sacrificially giving themselves of time, money, resources, energies – or – giving up certain right pleasures or expressions of personality) they believe sincerely that they have done something which will make God pleased with them to the point that “hindrances to revival blessing are removed;” Then, they wonder why God is not blessing, and the striving goes deeper and deeper. Soon, the Pastor(s) is subtly turning against his people for “not meeting the mark,” and the people are subtly doubtful of the Pastor’s leadership because of his “brow beating” them for their lack of faith….and they are weary from heavy burdens.
In leading people toward revival, we must not make any subtle emphasis of having our music just right, and then, God will bless us with revival as opposed to those who don’t. We must not say that God cannot bless us with revival blessing if we do not have faith promise missions. We must not make the issue our having the minutest of doctrine correct as opposed to those who don’t. We must not think that if we change our style, modes, and fashions to exude all manner of visible, outward “holiness” that God will bless us and not those who differ. He commands that we should not be fashioned like the world not as an outward fashion but as an inward one, because He is holy. He does not promise revival blessing because we have that “right.” Neither does He withhold revival blessing from those who do not. [The only time God promises to bless separation is when we separate ourselves from worshipping and serving together with heathen in the ways they worship and serve. (2 Cor. 6:17)] God shows mercy on whom He will show mercy, and that means only on those who count His mercy THE thing to be had.
Also, let’s be careful about teaching people what we mean by “purity” in the churches. Do we mean, “every person in the congregation has no sin issues?” Is that what we believe revival is… the absence of sin? Is that rational? Do we think that glorification can happen this side of eternity? Or yet, do we mean, “no outward trace that our members were once lost men, even though they might have been newly saved”? In the same vein, everyone knows that God must turn His face away from those children have given themselves over to wickedness. But, those prodigal brothers just may be revived before those who look down upon them.
Furthermore, God will not bless us for rejoining revival theology with fundamentalism. After way over 40 years of wandering – since new Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism were defined as distinct from one another – there is still only one set of reasons for God to bless people with Reviving/Awakening power: their heart attitude which clutches to His good mercy, their faith in the gospel’s power, and a restless compassion for the lost. The reason why God blessed in the 70s and early 80s is that we occupied ourselves with the Gospel, and we wanted to get it out any way that we could. While some of this was tricks and buffoonery, it was also faith about the gospel’s power and compassion for the lost. Our agenda was Christ’s on a basic level.
Then, men started making leaders and camps and looking at each other as the biggest and most successful. At that, God shut off the blessing. Instead of repenting for our carnality, we have kept on comparing ourselves among ourselves. We have gotten increasingly minute in our faith and practice until we have every jot refined. We define each other by how “strong” we stand. We feel proud to say, “This is the right way concerning this issue.” And, then we look down on others who do not hold it that way. We just love to fight it out. That is the reason God does not bless us with revival – His own purity and His own power.
May I remind us that fundamentalism is about the essential doctrines to Christianity – contending for the fundamentals of THE faith against Apostates and Contradictors. We must not fight against other believers who hold to these most basic tenants of the faith. We certainly must not call them “less than a fundamentalist,” if they differ on issues not related to those fundamentals. The fundamentals have nothing to do with dress, music, Bible translations, or how to find one’s mate. But, we seem to be making these issues the fundamental things over which we separate from one another into differing camps or call one another “disobedient” (or worse) when these issues are not the essential issues. Do they have great importance–with degrees? Yes. But they do not have supreme importance. I speak only of priority.
While many are busying themselves fighting these “camp” issues with an “I’m right and you’re not” attitude, God’s Spirit is grieved away from blessing Fundamentalism, because that spirit is contentious, proud, and evil. Furthermore, while we are busying ourselves with these fights among ourselves, the matters of the gospel are being neglected.
In conclusion, let’s not strain at gnats and swallow camels. We don’t need to wonder why God’s blessing is not upon us as persons or as a movement when so much carnality and meritorious thinking saturates our hearts. We should turn away from the carnal comparisons and circles and camps and labeling. Dear one’s, let’s realign ourselves with Christ’s agenda – getting His Good News to every soul. We need to throw ourselves upon God’s promise to forgive and stay there so that it becomes our only by-law for proceeding with ministry.
By now, we all know that we cannot earn the power of His saving influence for ourselves or for our churches or for our movement. We have tried to win back our influence for almost 30 years now. Like the Israelites who went against wicked Benjamin in Judges, we think that because we are right we should be winning; and we cannot understand why those who are clearly in the wrong are beating us down. We have sought God time and again for victory after our defeats. Yet, God will not grant the purity and power we are looking for until we see ourselves utterly in need of His mercy and do Him sacrifice – the sacrifice of the lips – a thankful heart for His goodness, His loving mercy which endures forever.
Whenever God comes down, He does it because He alone is good. If His Presence is going to be known, then it shall only be because His mercy endures forever, not because our holiness finally met His standard. God does not see movements. He sees men – humble men who hope only in His mercy as their happiness in service and sense of success. Only these men know what a glad thing it is to shout that message loud and clear so all the world may hear it. God is not withholding blessing from us or waiting for us to earn it. He wants us to be ready to receive all that He has. He counts us as not ready until we, like Solomon and the people of Israel, make our theme song, “For the LORD is good; for his mercy endures forever.”