Page 2 28 May - 3 June 2001
|Yet a large
crowd gathered around him as he humbled himself before God. More than that,
the crowd wept with him, and joined with him in confessing sin. This was
no stage-managed event, but the working of the Holy Spirit. And so it must
always be when genuine revival takes place: you cannot manufacture a revival
by human means; you cannot dictate to God’s Spirit how, when and where
he is to work.
(2) In a genuine revival of God, there will be a deep conviction of
sin leading to a hunger to obey God’s word (vv. 2-4). Shecaniah represents
the people as he speaks to Ezra, and his words show a truly biblical balance:
on the one hand a frank confession of sin (v. 2, ‘we have been unfaithful’),
but on the other a confidence that God can restore his penitent people
(v. 2, ‘but… there is still hope’), and a determination to obey God’s word
(3) In a genuine revival of God, there will be a thorough effort to reform the people of God, leading to godly living (vv. 5-17). It is striking how thorough Ezra’s measures were: placing the priests and leaders under oath (v. 5); Ezra himself continued in fasting and prayer (v. 6); all the people were summoned to an assembly, confronted with their sins and told what they must do in response (vv. 7-11); and, after careful investigation (see vv. 18-44) the appropriate measures were taken. All who had married foreign women were required to separate themselves from them, and none, not even the high-priestly family, was spared. This is another mark of genuine revival: radical, far-reaching transformation of the lives of God’s people.
Singapore seems not to have experienced any revival of this sort since
the ministry of John Sung in the 1930s and 1940s. We might ask ourselves
why this is. Are God’s people harbouring unconfessed sin? But the main
point Rev. Chua concluded with is this: that genuine revival has certain
distinguishing marks, and that if these are not present, we have no right
to claim that God’s Spirit is at work.
What kind of house did our Lord Jesus grow up in? What was life like for him and his family in Nazareth? On one of my field trips we visited The Nazareth Village. It all began with a dream to help Christians understand life in the first century and the discovery of ruins of an ancient first century village in Nazareth some years ago led to a project that fulfilled this dream. We saw houses reconstructed according to the layout of the ruins. Extensive research on every possible detail was done by personnel at the University of Holy Land.
When you walk into the village, you may see children playing (balls made with skin), a shepherd leading his flock, women working at cleaning sheep’s wool, or weaving or cooking. A boy on a donkey may squeeze past you or a girl with her water jug. Life is much like that of New Testament times. The clothes worn are sewn by hand and you will see wheat and other plants mentioned in the Bible in the fields.
Our lecturer headed this research and it was a treat to hear Steve and Claire Pfann explain passages with this knowledge of what life was like. I learned much.
How was such research done? One way was to visit ruins. So to the ruins we went. Gamla was a town sitting on one side of a camel-shaped hill with steep cliffs on the other. The Romans destroyed Gamla in the first century after the time of Christ. Since then it had not been re-inhabited, a fact that was to archaeologists a God-granted boon. We went down one hill then up another to reach the ruins. The layout of the synagogue, houses and watch tower, the water system, baths, and cisterns have been excavated. Much was left behind when the people jumped from the cliffs to their death rather than be captured by the Romans. From these that have been excavated – olive presses, grinding millstones, kitchen utensils (all of stone), and others, we can grasp a little of what life was like for these Jews who lived in the time of our Lord. In the process, we also gained insight into some Biblical passages.
We visited Galilee too and learned a little more about the methods and equipment of fishing in the first century. Not that much has changed and fishermen today still use similar kinds of nets to bring in the fish. Just think of all those Bible passages that mention fishing and fishermen. A retired captain gave us his time and told us tales of fishermen’s life and what he had discovered. He was the one who helped to locate the ancient harbours along the shores of Lake Galilee. His tales span far in time and space. From him I heard about the railway that used to operate in Galilee. Each day, a man on his donkey would ride alongside the train and chat with the driver. Then one day, this man apologised and said that he had a busy day ahead and needed to hurry, so had no time to chat. With that he kicked his donkey and rode ahead.
Just three days, but what a wealth of information gained - worth all the trekking and walking!