At the end of a particularly long, arduous day I might just desire a little 'me time'. The transition from the hectic pace of the day into the quietness of an evening relaxing and a little slumber later into the night is a promised reward for a long day's work. There are times when we desire renewal, whether it be by 'me time' or some type of 'retreat' from something, but it seems hard to find. The opportunity just doesn't seem to come and we are finding ourselves getting tireder by the minute. There are times we don't understand the reason for our endless work, but we know we are called to engage in it. We might question the continuation of the efforts, not always seeing much return on our investment, but growing more weary each day. Remember this - we don't always have to see the immediate return on our investment - we just need to continue making it.
He continued, "Go home and prepare a feast, holiday food and drink; and share it with those who don't have anything: This day is holy to God. Don't feel bad. The joy of God is your strength!" The Levites calmed the people, "Quiet now. This is a holy day. Don't be upset." So the people went off to feast, eating and drinking and including the poor in a great celebration. Now they got it; they understood the reading that had been given to them. (Nehemiah 8:10-12)
Revival brings a response of heart that cannot but help bring praise to God. The people of Israel had been listening intently to the Word of God as Ezra, the priest, brought it forward to them - something they had missed for so very long. They were moved by the Word - as are we so many times - and they were brought to a place of awareness about just how far they had drifted from what God had intended for their lives. There are times we just need a fresh look into God's Word in order to 're-enter' what engaged our hearts in the first place. That is what a fresh look into the Word can do for us - it can bring us to a place of recognition, repentance, and re-engagement.
Ezra is a wise leader - he knew the passion of their hearts, but he also recognized the struggles they were having - their extreme need to re-engage with their Lord and Savior. He saw the older members of the congregation and understood their deep sorrow over the loss of their former ways of worship - those experiences were only memories now. The "old ways" of worship were destroyed when they were taken into exile as a nation. The temple was destroyed, the walls of the city brought down, and even the "instruments" of worship were carried off into foreign lands. The old was gone - that brought deep sorrow to those that remembered the "former glory" of the old ways. It is quite possible for us to be 'exiled' from what it is that is capable of bringing us the greatest of joy and not even realize we have missed it so very much!
God gives us times of refreshing in order that we will connect with the freshness of worship that God has prepared for us in this season of growth. The nation of Israel was allowed to "return" from exile in a foreign land, but they would never be fully restored until they also returned their hearts to their God. There is something that happens within us when there is a renewed awareness that God is with us - it is the beginning of revival in the spirit of a man. When this awareness begins to dawn, there is a corresponding awareness that the worship God desires stems from a heart that is free of compromise - free of distraction and the fatigue of the recent arduous activities that have kept us so distant from him.
There was weeping that day in Israel - some out of sorrow because of all that had been lost, some out of joy for what lay ahead. Perspective often determines our response to the offered sanctuary of re-engagement. When we hold fast to what is lost, we are rarely able to grasp what lays ahead. There is something so powerful that happens within us when we let go of the past and embrace the freshness of the present. The Word of God will impact our hearts - it will ring true in our minds, affecting us in the depths of our souls and refreshing our spirits. The hunger of our souls brings us to the place of exploring the Word. As is true with all times of revival, God honors the hunger of souls willing to be "real" with him. The dryness of our spirits is refreshed in the newness of his grace - whenever we are willing to truly be "naked" before God.
The true, unencumbered celebration of God is the outcome of a seeking and transparent heart. We often worship out of a sense of obligation - God desires worship that is given out of a sense of awareness and hope. The beginning of revival is hunger - the awareness we need to re-engage in order to be filled anew. The means to revival is repentance. The response of revival is worship from a pure, unmasked heart. The result of revival is re-engagement. Just sayin!