As I grew up in an evangelical setting, specifically in a Southern Baptist Church, I would hear the preaching of pastors and evangelists thundering the need for revival. I can remember when the liberals had overtaken the SBC and infiltrated many other evangelical denominations. I have also heard many patriotic messages centered on the need for a revival in America. While revival is certainly needed today, the main emphasis must be centered primarily upon God’s church. How must the church be revived?
The Message of Ezra
While the Old Testament book known as Ezra is fairly short (only 10 chapters), it was originally combined with Nehemiah and separated into two individual books based on the focal point of the main characters in those two sections.
The book of Ezra contains a focus of revival and renewal of God’s people. Following a horrible scene of destruction, captivity, exile, and ruin—the people return home and begin the process of rebuilding their lives, their temple, and eventually—their wall.
The entire process would necessitate the sovereign will of God to complete it. The focus of the miraculous is typically fixed on the wall’s rebuilding in Nehemiah, but we must not look past the building of the temple too quickly. With all of the opposition and hardship faced by the people—it was nothing short of God’s sovereign power that brought the project to completion.
However, the means by which all of this took place was clearly based on the preaching of Ezra and his commitment to the Word of God. Ezra was no slouch. He was a man who had given himself to the Law of the LORD and was determined to obey the Word, practice the Word, and teach the Word to God’s people. It was this catalyst that caused the blessings of God to shine upon God’s people.
Ezra was not a politician. He was a preacher of God’s Word. His lineage can be traced back as far as Aaron (Ezra 7:5). In the very next verse, Ezra is described as “a teacher well versed in the Law of Moses” (7:6). Ezra was a wise man—fixed on one primary thing—the preaching of God’s Word. The success and satisfaction of God’s people was directly connected to the preaching of God’s Word. When the preaching is weak, superficial, and mixed with worldly ideologies you can expect the people to suffer. When the preaching is strong, courageous, and clearly delivered to the people—you can expect the people to be strong in the power of the Lord.
So it was in the days of Ezra. Preaching brought conviction of sin, repentance, and renewal. This is the cycle of real revival. There are no short cuts to true God initiated revival.
The church today lacks a full commitment to God’s Word. While the church and her leaders (pastors in local churches) today often talk about marketing, programs, and other ideologies as opposed to the need for true revival. The clear commitment to God’s Word has been abandoned. The principle of sola Scriptura has been replaced with a commitment to the culture. Denominations like the SBC, once saturated with liberal theology and rescued by God’s providence through a fierce commitment to the inerrancy of Scripture, are adopting worldly ideologies like critical race theory and intersectionality.
When you visit local churches across denominational lines, you will often see various gimmicks employed as vehicles of ministry in order to reach specific measurable marks of success. In some cases, there is a hyper-focus on music as the catalyst to growth and success. In other cases, it’s a false piety—often resulting in dead worship services and lifeless membership. Nevertheless, the church today needs to return to God’s Word. When the Word is central and thundered properly as it was in the days of Ezra—the people can expect to be confronted with sin and God’s work in the hearts of people will be accomplished—resulting in genuine repentance. This is the only way forward, but sadly, it’s the least popular.
Why is Ezra’s Message Needed Today?
The message of Ezra serves as a reminder of how God blesses his people through the right preaching of the Word. Hard preaching produces soft hearts and soft preaching produces hard hearts. Ezra’s preaching was hard—in the sense that it was not a shallow and politically savvy message.
We must never underestimate the power of the Word of God. True revival in individual hearts, whole churches, denominations, and revival that impacts whole nations comes through a firm commitment to the preaching of God’s Word. The answer is not in singing songs, holding concerts, designing programs, political strategies, or marketing schemes. The hope for God’s church today is centered on his authoritative and sufficient Word. Sometimes the work of the Word brings about slow and steady growth, however, at the end of the day when our success is examined by the Lord, we would rather have the fruit of God’s Word on that day—than the fruit of pragmatism or some worldly scheme.
May God raise up men like Ezra who refuse to compromise the pulpit with worldly ideologies. May their message thunder on today for the glory of God.