Every move of God is a sovereign exercise of his will. Let there be no doubt about that. There is nothing we can do to force him to bring the revival that we so desperately want and our culture so desperately needs.
But what we overlook is the significance of our response.
If we examine Isaiah 52 and 53, we see the great redemptive work of Christ, his suffering, his pain, his rejection. But when we look to the beginning of chapter 54, we find that suddenly a completely different note is sounded: “Shout for joy, O barren one... break forth into joyful shouting.”
Because of the work and the suffering of Christ, there is good news for us. He has bought us from sadness into joy. But that is not the end of the story, for Isaiah continues with these words: “Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch forth the curtains of your dwellings, spare not; lengthen your cords and strengthen your pegs. For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left. And your descendants will possess nations, and they will resettle the desolate cities.”
What we often miss is that these words are commands, commands which reflect the response God is calling us to make to a sovereign move of his Spirit.
No matter how significantly God has spoken or prophesied, he also requires a human response to put his word into operation. God had prophesied the coming of John the Baptist through the prophet Malachi, but Zechariah and Elizabeth were busy praying for a child. God sent an angel with the prophetic word concerning the birth of Jesus, but Mary made her response, “May it be done to me according to your will.” A prophetic word concerning a famine was given to the church at Antioch, but in response the believers took up an offering to meet the need they saw coming (Ac. 11:27-30). The prophetic word requires a response. God uses us in the fulfilment of prophecy.
Isaiah’s words show we can expect two things to happen when we respond to God in obedience. First, we will be stretched outwardly. As God begins to move, expect greatly increased demands on your time, your energy, your emotional resources and your finances. Second, we will be lengthened and strengthened inwardly. You will need to step outside of your resources and into his – or you will burn out. Your time with the Lord must increase and deepen. It’s the only well from which the living water comes. You will need to dig yourself deeper into your relationship with God. You’ll need to hear what he is saying and access the empowering of the Spirit you will need to perform the task ahead of you.
God is looking for a people who will follow Jesus through the suffering and refining of Isaiah 52 and 53. Those who do, sooner or later, will inherit the blessing of Isaiah 54.
And then what? Once the blessing comes, don’t make the mistake of the farmer in the parable who decided to build himself more barns and live off his abundance. Keep on giving away. Keep on sacrificing. And God will keep on giving. What if God were calling us to model church life which is more than a one-off time of revival? What if God had a people who were continually experiencing Isaiah 54? How amazing would that be?
Something to think about.