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I want to say to you a little bit about what I'm going to speak on in the four sessions that I will be preaching, because I'm going to speak on the same theme. Now that doesn't mean that if you come to tonight, you don't need to come to the rest, because the theme will be taken from various different portions of Scripture. Now I want to emphasise, before I go on any further, that this was not originally my choice. The Faith Mission has not told me what to preach on, but I have to tell you tonight that God has. I know that should be the case all the time, and in a roundabout way it really is - but I have felt compelled, I would have to say by certain supernatural indicators (and I don't want to go into that in any detail), but in a very unusual way and set of circumstances God has brought these messages upon my heart. They are more than mere sermons, I believe they are messages from God for you.
I want to speak to you on 'Solemn Assemblies' - do you know what that is? I told my wife what I was preaching on, and she said: 'Is that depressing churches?'. Now I have been to a few solemn assemblies in my time, but that's not what I have to preach on. It's a biblical practice that is largely unheard of and unknown to the modern church. As we study the word of God, particularly the Old Testament, it appears that solemn assemblies have been an integral part of biblical revivals. Indeed, they are a vital preparation for God to move in and renew His people.
Let me just say a few things about solemn assemblies before we read the Scriptures. Now there's a bit of debate goes about as to whether we should call all the reformation movements, particularly in the Old Testament, true, genuine, spiritual revival with lasting effect - but for the sake of simplicity, let's consider them all under this term 'revival'. Though biblical revivals are very different from one another, there is one common preceding factor in each, and that is the solemn assembly. Richard Owen Roberts highlights four factors concerning this occurrence, this activity of a solemn assembly. Listen to the four: one, first of all there is a tragic declension. Every revival in the Old Testament is preceded by a period of moral and spiritual decline among God's people. I'm not talking about the world or the Gentile nations, we're talking about Israel, God's chosen elect - there is a tragic declension. The second factor is: there is a righteous judgement from God. Without exception, Old Testament revivals have always been preceded by some kind of righteous judgement from God. Now, while some of these judgements are immediate and final, actually resulting in the deaths among the wicked among the congregation of Israel, other of these judgements are gracious, they are remedial, corrective, resulting in a brokenness amongst God's people, prayer, repentance, and an extraordinary seeking of God's face.
So, first of all there is a tragic declension, then there is a righteous judgement from God, and thirdly: there is always a raising up of an immensely burdened leader or leaders. Now I intend to consider solemn assemblies in the four sessions that I have under four godly men. Then fourthly, after someone is burdened, or people are burdened by God, God's people engage in some extraordinary action. Now, while this action varies from revival to revival, the most common action taken was that of a solemn assembly. Now maybe you're sitting here, and you're asking yourself: 'What is a solemn assembly?'. Well, let me put it very, very simply: it was when God, by His Spirit, said: 'Gather My saints together unto Me', and God's people began to confess their sin, they repented of their sin, they changed their mind, they changed their heart, they changed their direction, they renounced their sin, they forsook their sin - and then, positively, they renewed their faith and obedient walk toward God. That, very, very simply, is a solemn assembly.
Now some believers, particularly those who feel they know their Bible better than everybody else, immediately object and tell us that a solemn assembly is an Old Testament concept - and so immediately they are unenthusiastic about engaging in something that is 'old covenant'. I want to say to you tonight that the principles behind the solemn assembly, these principles are carried right into the New Testament, and indeed, I believe, probably seen in every revival in church history, and in revivals that are yet to be in the will of God. If you are here and in doubt about this practice, thinking that it's not New Testament, I want you to consider just very briefly the birth of the church. Go to the Acts of the Apostles, and I ask you: what were the disciples engaged in during those ten days of prayerful preparation in the Upper Room before Pentecost? It was probably the greatest solemn assembly that ever took place in the New Testament era!
Now let me give a caveat of caution before I proceed any further. We should not think of a solemn assembly as a mere ingredient in a formula of revival. God is never about technique. We've got to realise this! We cannot manipulate the Almighty. Now, yes, we can, I believe, make preparation to invite God and welcome God to meet us - but solemn assemblies, if they are truly that in a biblical sense, must be motivated by the Holy Spirit. This is not merely cause and effect - if you do this, that will happen - solemn assembly will only bear lasting fruit if it is initiated by the Spirit, and if it is not it will be a form of godliness denying the power. Can I say to you, whilst I believe it is in the heart of God - and I wouldn't be bringing this message otherwise - for a true solemn assembly of God's people to happen in our land, God detests and despises false solemn assemblies!
Now this is not our text tonight, but I want us to look at it in introduction. I want you to turn with me to Isaiah chapter 1 verse 10, this is a description of an empty solemn assembly: 'Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom; give ear to the law of our God, you people of Gomorrah: To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me?'. Now let me just pause in case you missed that: God was talking to the leaders of His congregation in Israel as the rulers of Sodom and the people of Gomorrah. Let that sink in: ''To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me?', says the LORD. 'I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed cattle. I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs or goats. When you come to appear before Me, who has required this from your hand, to trample My courts? Bring no more futile sacrifices; incense is an abomination to Me. The New Moons, the Sabbaths'', watch this, ''the calling of assemblies; I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting. Your New Moons and your appointed feasts My soul hates; they are a trouble to Me, I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood''.
What I want us to consider over these next days in these sessions is light years away from that. It certainly is far removed from this concept: 'Oh, we've got a problem in our church, or we've got a problem in the Faith Mission, or we've got a problem in the land and we need to have a big meeting, or we need to have a big series of meetings, or a mission, or a Convention, or we need to form a committee and then all of a sudden this will be blessed and God will come in and do something!'. If this is not God-arranged it will come to nothing, it will be God-despised. It must be God-inspired. The last thing I want to do is for some of you to hear my preaching over these next sessions and get the idea into your head: 'Let's arrange a solemn assembly, and then there will be revival' - no! Solemn assembly must be birthed of God, or it is worthless.
Now I want us to consider tonight 'The Solemn Assembly Under Jehoshaphat', so we're turning to our text tonight - 2 Chronicles chapter 20. In each session I will consider another solemn assembly under a man of God, tonight we're considering Jehoshaphat. Second Chronicles 20 verse 1, and we're reading down to verse 23: "It happened after this that the people of Moab with the people of Ammon, and others with them besides the Ammonites, came to battle against Jehoshaphat. Then some came and told Jehoshaphat, saying, 'A great multitude is coming against you from beyond the sea, from Syria; and they are in Hazazon Tamar' (which is En Gedi). And Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. So Judah gathered together to ask help from the LORD; and from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the LORD. Then Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the LORD, before the new court, and said: 'O LORD God of our fathers, are You not God in heaven, and do You not rule over all the kingdoms of the nations, and in Your hand is there not power and might, so that no one is able to withstand You? Are You not our God, who drove out the inhabitants of this land before Your people Israel, and gave it to the descendants of Abraham Your friend forever? And they dwell in it, and have built You a sanctuary in it for Your name, saying, 'If disaster comes upon us; sword, judgment, pestilence, or famine; we will stand before this temple and in Your presence (for Your name is in this temple), and cry out to You in our affliction, and You will hear and save'. And now, here are the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir; whom You would not let Israel invade when they came out of the land of Egypt, but they turned from them and did not destroy them; here they are, rewarding us by coming to throw us out of Your possession which You have given us to inherit. O our God, will You not judge them? For we have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You'. Now all Judah, with their little ones, their wives, and their children, stood before the LORD. Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, in the midst of the assembly. And he said, 'Listen, all you of Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem, and you, King Jehoshaphat! Thus says the LORD to you: 'Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God's. Tomorrow go down against them. They will surely come up by the Ascent of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the brook before the Wilderness of Jeruel. You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the LORD, who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem!'. Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the LORD is with you'. And Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem bowed before the LORD, worshiping the LORD. Then the Levites of the children of the Kohathites and of the children of the Korahites stood up to praise the LORD God of Israel with voices loud and high. So they rose early in the morning and went out into the Wilderness of Tekoa; and as they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, 'Hear me, O Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem: Believe in the LORD your God, and you shall be established; believe His prophets, and you shall prosper'. And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed those who should sing to the LORD, and who should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army and were saying: 'Praise the LORD, For His mercy endures forever'. Now when they began to sing and to praise, the LORD set ambushes against the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; and they were defeated. For the people of Ammon and Moab stood up against the inhabitants of Mount Seir to utterly kill and destroy them. And when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, they helped to destroy one another".
Let us pray for a moment please. I want us all to bow in prayer, and I want you to pray please now, all of you pray now that God might speak. Have you come here tonight to hear from God? Will you lift your heart now and say: 'Lord, speak to me'? Whatever your situation is - you mightn't even be converted, or you might be a backslider, or you might be thinking that you're walking with God - but you need to hear from God, I need to hear from God as I'm standing here before you tonight. So let's pray for one another, you pray for me, and I'll pray for you: Holy Abba Father, we come to You in that Name that is above every name, Lord Jesus Christ. Lord, we need You, we need You now. We don't need You yesterday, we don't need You 50 years ago, we need You now, Lord! If You don't come and help me, and if You don't come and meet us, Lord, we will be unchanged, and we will be no better, Lord, and no more use to Your kingdom and Your cause if You don't meet with us tonight, Lord. There is a real need tonight, Lord, we feel the burden, we feel the Holy Spirit crying with in us: 'Is there not a cause?'. O God, come and meet with us by the power of Your Spirit, and have Your way. For Jesus' sake, Amen.
The reason why Jehoshaphat needed to gather God's people together for a solemn assembly is found in verse 2: 'Some came and told Jehoshaphat, saying, 'A great multitude is coming against you from beyond''. The reason why it is on God's heart that there should be a solemn assembly now, I believe, among God's people, yes, in our land, is because there is a great multitude that is coming against us. You might say: 'What's he talking about?'. Well, if you're spiritually in tune at all, you will understand exactly what I'm talking about. Now, of course, the trinity of evil that has always been against God's people is the world, the flesh, and the devil. There's no doubt about it that they are ratcheting up their influence in the church and, of course, in the society in which we live. Take the first, the world, and the allure of wealth has a great draw: fame and fortune. We only have to turn on our televisions tonight, if we were at home, and see the cult of celebrity and how our young people in particular are totally and utterly intoxicated by the thought of being famous. Jarvis Cocker, the 90s pop star, recently said - it was reported, I think, in The Independent newspaper - 'Fame has taken the place of going to heaven'. That's profound. You can have heaven now, if you're famous - everything that you could ever want, that is the concept that the world has sold particularly to young people, and they have fallen hook, line and sinker for it.
Then there is the flesh - we could take a whole series on that one, lust in particular. The new gods of the age are Baal and Ashteroth, no doubt about it, in our land and in the whole global society. The Internet has brought this to epidemic proportions, and the biggest threat upon families today, most likely, is Internet pornography - and it's wrecking the church! We're afraid to mention it, we're afraid to deal with it. Then there is the devil, and he hasn't gone away you know. I heard a Roman Catholic exorcist say recently that it's not that the devil has upped his game, it's the fact that people are more willing to play the game that is the problem. Whatever you think of his theology is irrelevant, he was speaking in relation to one of these new possession films that has come out recently, 'The Devil Inside'. Now I actually disagree with him, I think the devil has upped his game, and as we come closer to the return of our Lord Jesus he will up his game - but he is correct in saying that more people are willing to play his game, and because of that they're coming into bondage and all sorts of oppression.
We in the church have to realise, if we haven't already, that there is a great multitude coming against us. These three are more bold than ever in living memory, perhaps in modern-day memory: the world, the flesh, and the devil. Consider the proposals of our present government to make marriage no longer between a man and a woman, but between a man and a man, a woman and a woman. The audacity and the arrogance to redefine a God-given institution! The church is under attack! I read in The Times on the 13th of last month regarding this gay marriage debate, a quote from Dr Jeffrey Johns, the openly homosexual Dean of St Albans - listen, this was the headline: 'The Church Is the Last Bastion of Prejudice'. Is it any wonder Paul said: 'We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places'. There is a great multitude that is coming against us, and it is fearful!
That was Jehoshaphat's experience, if you look at verse 3: 'Jehoshaphat feared'. Now what is our reaction to this multitude that is coming against us in our day and age? Well, we ought to be somewhat afraid - but you know that Jehoshaphat didn't stop there, he didn't give in to fear, in verse 3 we see that his fear drove him to God, and he 'set himself to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah'. Now, we have a choice, in the face of such a multitude that is against us, we have a choice to capitulate - and many of God's people are just giving in, they're just rolling over. 'We can't change it!', and many of them do it theologically, and they say, 'Well, the Lord's coming soon, things are going to get worse and worse, so let's hold the fort for He is coming', and they don't fight at all. They capitulate, effectively, with the enemy; or they conform, and they allow worldliness to enter into the church, and into their lives, and into their lifestyle practices. But there is a small remnant of God's people, and I believe God is infusing, by His Spirit, into their spirit in our day and age this: 'Confront this multitude! Do not capitulate! Do not conform, but confront!'. Let's do something about it!
Now many of those folk don't know what to do, but they know something needs to be done. So how do you confront? Well, Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 10:4-5, listen: 'For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Jesus Christ'. Now those are profound verses, and we don't have time to expound them, but what we need to do is use our God-given weapons to bring the influence of the world, the flesh, and the devil among God's congregation into the obedience of Jesus Christ, to bring captivity captive in other words!
I'm sure I don't need to remind you that the blessed Lamb of God shed His blood, every drop, that we might have these weapons. He, on the cross, spoilt principalities and powers, and made a show of them openly, triumphing over them through His cross. He led captivity captive and gave gifts to men, and He has given the church weapons through the victory of the cross. Listen: they are not political! They never were, and they never will be! They are not organisational, you can't organise this. They're not ecclesiastical, they will not come through a denomination. They're not legal, you can't go to court to bring the kingdom of God. Neither are they intellectual. They are not even, dare I say it from a pulpit, doctrinal. You can fill your head with all the doctrine you like, but you will not pull down these strongholds with mere doctrine. Now I'm not suggesting that we don't revere these things, or seek to influence them even in society, but the weapons of our warfare are spiritual. 'It is not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit', says the Lord of Hosts. We as the church need to take up these spiritual weapons again.
Now let's look at this man Jehoshaphat, and how he used these weapons. I want you to see, before we look at the solemn assembly as such, that Jehoshaphat sought the Lord himself first. Now that's vital, I feel, because it would be easier for me here at the convention to preach, or to stand up and say: 'You all need to get your act together, and this is what you need to do', but I as the preacher refuse to humble myself to seek the Lord. Now I have to say this to you, and I feel convicted in even saying it myself, but much modern pulpit ministry is doing that: they are telling people from expounding the word of God what the church needs to do, but it's pharisaical in essence - because, as Jesus said about the Pharisees, 'Do what they teach, but not what they do'. So often that can be said of us as preachers, and it's a great danger of expository preaching of God's word, where we can comfortably preach things with a complete absence of experience in our lives, and consequently with no authority!
Am I suggesting we stop preaching Bible exposition? No, I'm suggesting that we radically start living it! We need men, including this man, to preach what he already practices, to walk the talk - and that's the first place that Jehoshaphat started. He didn't call the solemn assembly, he sought the Lord himself, he dealt with himself first. But note what happened: this one man's burden moved out into something corporate among God's people, verses 3 and 4: 'Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. So Judah gathered together to ask help from the LORD; and from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the LORD'. One man's burden, as he broke before the Lord and got himself right with God, God's people started to gather around him - do not underestimate the impact of putting your own life right! It's like throwing the pebble into the pond, and the rings; it's like the billiard ball, you knock one and there is a knock-on effect. In the spiritual realm this is what can happen when one man or one woman comes and realises the great need that there is, and the multitude that is against God's people, and they endeavour to seek the Lord.
But note: they didn't get together to have a prayer meeting to tell God what He needed to do. They didn't ask God to bless what they were about to do. No, see their simple petition, look at it, look at the petition: 'Lord, help' - that's it, two words, 'Lord, help'. Do you know that's what we need? We need the Lord's help. We don't need more church growth gurus to tell us how to fill our pews, or to boost our finances. The church doesn't need recruitment of business consultants, or PR executives. We need men and women who know that they are bankrupt without divine aid, without the help of God. This brokenness, and this collective sense of need was communicated to God as they gathered, and they fasted and they prayed to God. Fasting, of course, is the abstinence from food - but what's the significance of it? Well, there are many aspects of significance, but one is that to eat is the natural process of sustaining the body, but when they were fasting they were communicating to God that there was a spiritual urgency that momentarily suspended the natural concerns of everyday life. In other words, the spiritual was taking precedence over the natural!
Here they were fasting and praying, and seeking God's face, to know why they were experiencing divine displeasure, why God was allowing the enemy to overcome them. Now it's all right for us, and I understand what I'm saying and the seriousness of it tonight, believe you me, it's all right us pointing the finger at the government, pointing the finger at various political parties, and various influences and institutions in our society - but we as the church need to take a hard look at ourselves, and we need to turn to God and say: 'Lord, why? Why has all this befallen us? What are our sins for Your divine displeasure upon us?'. Whatever else fasting does, it is a way of humbling ourselves before the Lord. It is a way of communicating our hunger and thirst after righteousness, our desperate need for God.
You look at Jehoshaphat's prayer, and like every true intercessor - and I've studied a great number of intercessors recently in the Bible, and I see that this is a trait in their prayers - they appeal two-foldly. First to the character of God, they touch the heart of God's attributes; and then they appeal to the covenant of God - His character and His covenant. That's what Jehoshaphat does, look at it in verse 6 and verse 7: 'O LORD God of our fathers, are You not God in heaven, and do You not rule over all the kingdoms of the nations, and in Your hand is there not power and might, so that no one is able to withstand You?' - that's God's character! He was acknowledging God as God, and then verse 7, notice the change in emphasis: 'Are You not our God?', our covenant God! The essence of Jehoshaphat's prayer was this: 'God, it is Your faithful name that is at stake. God, it is Your covenant promises that are at stake'. Verse 11, 'Here they are', the enemy, 'rewarding us by coming to throw us out of Your possession which You have given us to inherit'.
It's amazing, isn't it: God's name was at stake. Someone in the prayer meeting behind tonight was praying about how God has set His Word above His Name, and He has. His name is great, His name is high, but that's just an expression to show how important God takes His word, His covenant, His agreement, His promise. All that I'm talking about tonight of this great multitude coming against us, and the need for God's people to have a true Spirit-led solemn assembly, it is for one reason and one reason alone: God's name is at stake! It's not the Faith Mission that's at stake, it's not your denomination that's at stake, it's not even your local church: we need to be a people who are jealous for God's name, God's reputation, God's word! Now, we as the church, of course, are the bearers of His testimony. The heathen around us are saying: 'Where is your God?'. Have you not heard them? On the factory floor, in the workplace, down the main street, 'Where is your God? Where is He now?'. Our children and our grandchildren are questioning, like Gideon did: 'If the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, 'Did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt?' But now the LORD has forsaken us and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites'. You know, we need revival, but we need a revival of a passion for the glory of God, His name and His claim.
This prayer of Jehoshaphat's was a prayer for God's glory, and that's why it moved heaven. It appealed to God's character, it appealed to God's covenant, and in verse 9 we see him actually quoting: ''If disaster comes upon us; sword, judgment, pestilence, or famine; we will stand before this temple and in Your presence (for Your name is in this temple), and cry out to You in our affliction, and You will hear and save us'. If you go back a few chapters to 2 Chronicles chapter 6 you will find that covenant reiterated in the dedication. He was standing upon God's word, claiming God's character and His covenant. Now this reminded me, and I know many of you don't need reminding here in the Faith Mission, but we have to be aware that some folk have not heard these stories - particularly some of our young people have not heard the stories of revival, such as Lewis and the other Hebrides. This reminded me of Duncan Campbell, as he gathered to prayer about 30 people around him to pray, and he says, and I'm quoting him: 'While the hours were passing by, I found myself fighting and not getting anywhere' - have you ever been there? Put your hand up if you've ever been there! Fighting and not getting anywhere! There's a lot of liars in the building tonight, or very sheepish people! I've been there, and he was there. 'After midnight', he said, 'I turned to a young man and said, 'I feel led by God to ask you to pray''. He recounts that: 'This dear man got up and said', and this is his prayer, ''O God, You made a promise to pour water upon him that is thirsty and floods upon the dry ground, and, Lord, it's not happening''. Could you be honest with God like that? He paused for a moment, and then he continued, 'Lord, I don't know how the others here stand in Your presence; I don't know how the ministers stand, but, Lord, if I know anything about my own heart I stand before You as an empty vessel, thirsting for You and for a manifestation of Your power'. He halted again, and then after a moment of tense silence he cried, 'O God, Your honour is at stake, and I now challenge You to fulfil Your covenant engagement and do what You have promised to do'. Duncan Campbell records that, 'Believe it or not - and you can check it if you want', he said, 'the house was shaking like a leaf, the dishes were clappering on the sideboard'. An elder who was standing next to him remarked, 'Mr. Campbell, an earthquake'. He said, 'Yes' and gave the blessing right away. They went outside and found the community awake with an awareness of the presence of God. Men and women were carrying chairs and stools and asked: 'Is there any room for us in the church?'.
Now, notice there was no arrogant tone in his prayer, it wasn't a know-it-all tone, rather it was what we find here in verse 12. Look at how Jehoshaphat prayed - after he pleaded God's character, he pleaded God's covenant, and then he cried: 'O our God, will You not judge them? For we have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You'. That was his prayer - not, 'Lord, this is now what You need to do'. From East Belfast, where I come from, we say 'I'm beat' - do you know what that means? 'I'm beat', 'I'm bankrupt', 'I'm done, Lord', 'I have no more answers, I have no more schemes, I have no more programs, I have no more tricks. Lord, we do not know what to do'. Is there any of us who will admit this? 'Lord, we don't know what to do! What we have done has tried and failed, we're at the end of ourselves!'. What a sense!
Look at this scene in verse 13, and then, when they had reached this awful point of bankruptcy: 'all Judah, with their little ones, their wives, and their children', what a picture, 'stood before the LORD'. Can I ask you tonight, and I'm far from finished, but: are you standing before the Lord this evening? If you don't know what that means, well, then it doesn't apply to you - but if you're completely emptied of yourself, standing before God empty, waiting for something to happen because you haven't got the answers, and you don't know what to do, and you don't know what the next step is - well, when you get to that place, this is the wonder of it all: then the revelation came! Look at it, when you've exhausted of your stores of resources that's where God wants you tonight - young people, that's where God wants you - when you're completely at an end of yourself, then the voice came from God, verse 14: 'Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jahaziel'.
Wait till I tell you: whether it's Lewis, whether it's 1859, whether it's Acts chapter 2, whether it's Jehoshaphat and every solemn assembly in the Old Testament, and whether it's the next move of God that is in the heart of God for this land of Ireland, it's only going to come from the Spirit of God falling. We need to return unto the Spirit of the Living God for our power. We need to, as our brother was sharing tonight in his testimony, forget about professions and get born-again believers! We need to get people that are filled, whatever terminology you want to use, in-filled, baptised, unctionised, perfect love, sealed in the Spirit - we need the Holy Spirit! We can't do without the Holy Spirit, we need to be guided by the Holy Spirit, we need to be led by the Holy Spirit, we need to have a revelation through the Holy Spirit - and this is what happened. When they came to an end of themselves, and said: 'Lord, we don't know what to do', the Spirit of God came down. Would it not be wonderful if the Spirit of God came down tonight because you didn't know what to do? God knows what to do, you know. God knows exactly what to do.
We need to be waiting on God to hear from Him, that's what the early church did. Acts 13:2: 'They ministered to the Lord and they fasted' - that's a solemn assembly - 'and the Holy Spirit said, 'Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them''. Now I don't know too much about the Faith Mission, I really don't. I have great respect for them, but I ask you: is that how you do your business? Because I'll tell you: most churches in our land don't do business that way. They don't wait on the Lord, and they certainly don't fast and pray and wait to hear what God says. They have a good idea in a committee meeting, and they pass round the minutes a couple of weeks later; and if the thing is done, well, it's done in human ingenuity. Please don't think I'm being unduly negative tonight, all I'm preaching is that Christ is the Head of the church and we need His direction. Now there's no doubt we cannot arrange a revival, I've said that. A.W. Tozer said you might as well try to plan a lightning strike as to plan a revival, no one has ever done it yet - but you can raise the lightning rod, you can. You can communicate to God the lack of power that you have personally in your life. You can lay hold of God's character, who is more willing to give the new are to receive. You can lay hold of His covenant to pour water upon him that is thirsty, that He may have mercy.
There is a principle here that you can be hungry after God, and if you are you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart. But there is another principle, listen to it carefully, jot it down even if you will, listen: you will never experience what you have not received - you understand that, don't you? You can never experience what you have never received, equally so: you will never receive what you do not expect. You will never receive what you do not expect. Did you come to this meeting tonight expecting, needing, utterly bankrupt and empty? You need faith to believe that God, in your emptiness, will meet you. The outcome is found in this chapter, look, first of all we see in verses 15 and 16 that there was a direct instruction given. You're here tonight, and you maybe don't know what to do, you may be in the Faith Mission and you don't know what to do. Maybe you've come into this meeting, and in your church situation you don't know what to do, in your marriage, in your job, in your ministry, you don't know what to do. Well, the instruction was given while they waited on God in verses 15 and 16: 'Do not be afraid, the battle is not yours, but God's', and then very specific things in verse 16, 'Tomorrow go down against them. They will surely come up by the Ascent of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the brook before the Wilderness of Jeruel'. Very, very intricate details given by revelation, but it didn't come through lifting a book down from the library, or watching cable television, it came by getting on their face before God in brokenness and fasting and prayer - it came through a solemn assembly!
Have you ever sought God like this? Have you? You want direction, sure who doesn't? We treat God like the proverbial satnav, turn right at the next junction, and we want God just to tell us everything - and we're not prepared to come before Him empty to receive instruction directly from Him. Then see the second thing, verse 17, they remained dependent upon the Lord. Sometimes we can get a word from God and, well, we just go off and do the thing that He has told us, and we cease to be dependent upon Him. Verse 17 says: 'You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the LORD, who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem! Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the LORD is with you', and they slew one another - but here, that took a lot of faith to stand and not fight and allow the Lord to fight for you! Is that a word from God to someone here tonight? You need to stand and allow the Lord to fight for you, and in fact they were to behave like spectators of what God was doing. Now listen: if any of you have even witnessed God moving in a small way, even in a very small way, you will know that that's the way you're made to feel: like an observer, a bystander, because He's doing it. Proverbs 23:26 says, listen to this: 'My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways'. What a verse! 'My son', or daughter, 'give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways'.
There was a direct instruction given, they remained dependent, and see finally: their only response when God moved, verses 18 and 19, was to worship - that's what they did! At the end of verse 18 they worshipped the Lord, verse 19 they praised the Lord. The only thing that they could give to God was their appreciation for what He did. One test of whether or not a movement is of God is: does it inspire worship? The outcome should be a greater appreciation of God and Christ.
Well, how does the story end? It ends in great victory. Verses 20-23, early the next morning - you read it - the people were to go out to see what the Lord had done. At dawn they marched to the battlefield as if they were going to a festival, the singers were leading the way - not their present SAS, no, the musicians! They led! God heard His people singing their song of faith, and the enemy was destroyed, they turned and destroyed one another! When Judah arrived, all they had to do was to collect the spoils of battle, and we read that it took them three days! With unbounded praise they went on their way home, returning to Jerusalem. Look at what happened to the nations roundabout, verses 29 and 30, look: 'The fear of God was on all the kingdoms of those countries when they heard that the LORD had fought against the enemies of Israel. Then the realm of Jehoshaphat was quiet, for his God gave him rest all around'.
The Lord's reputation was vindicated. I'm finished, but I want to be very personal as I close here tonight, and I want to ask you in this moment of stillness now: are you using your blood-bought spiritual weapons in the life of faith, or are you relying on the flesh? I believe probably most evangelical church-goers are living, or attempting to live, the Christian life by the power of the flesh. Are you born-again? Are you filled with the Holy Spirit? Have you had that crisis experience of being emptied so that He might fill you, a clean vessel in His hand - with no power, but as He gives graciously with each command? Many of our young people are growing up and they know nothing about this - you could be a worker in the Faith Mission and know nothing about this! Are you seeking God for revelation and direction? Are you concerned about your good name, or your organisation's good name, or are you concerned about God's reputation, God's glory? Maybe there is an army coming against you, a multitude against you personally, the world, the flesh, and the devil, some of the things we have touched on tonight - and you feel overwhelmed? Well, you can be an overcomer tonight if you come with your brokenness and your sin to Calvary, and know the cleansing power, and the liberation of the Holy Spirit.
Or corporately, am I speaking to this organisation, am I speaking to groups of people in this meeting tonight, and corporately there is a great multitude against you? Well, salvation is still of the Lord - hallelujah! But we must seek Him. My question as I close tonight to all of you is: who among us will wait for a word from heaven?
Let us pray. Now, as every head is bowed tonight, I feel strongly - and I hope this is acceptable - but I feel strongly that I should make an appeal tonight. I'm going to ask you, remembering Good Friday, how the Lamb of God hung naked, bloodied, bruised unashamedly for you on the cross, confessed you before men, confesses you before His Father in heaven, will you not confess Him tonight in the meeting. I hardly know what I'm asking you to come for, but I suppose I would put it like this: if God has spoken to you tonight, and God has put His finger on your life - and it could be a myriad of things, it could be a sin that is crippling you, it could be the love of mammon and other things that is choking the seed of the word in your life, it could be something you need deliverance from that has bound you and shackled you - will you stand to your feet and walk to the front, if you're downstairs, and I suppose if you're upstairs you could come just to the sides here, as an acknowledgement of your need before God, of your emptiness, of your prayer, like Jehoshaphat, 'Help, Lord, we don't know what to do!'. That's the place we're in tonight, right? It's like Zacchaeus up the tree, dignity had to go: it's time to forget about who is in the meeting, what your position is in church or this organisation - we're past all that, folks, we're past it all. It's time for us to get real with God, whether you're a pastor or a minister, it doesn't matter. I'm up here at the front, I don't need to come down, I'm already here, and I know I need to be here, I need to be here.
Who will come to the front tonight, like Jehoshaphat did, to acknowledge the need. Maybe God is birthing within your heart a seed of revival, even the need for something new in our land that God, I believe, wants to do, and is even moving in, perhaps, to do already in embryo form in the hearts of those who He's sharing His heart with. Will you be moved and say: 'Well, I don't know what I can do, but I'll do something, I'm not going to do nothing'? Now, as every head is bowed, and I close, please come to the front, and I will pray with you and lead you in prayer if you come. It doesn't matter if one comes or 100 comes, but please, if God has spoken to you tonight, we're not interested in sermons, we're interested in God. If you have heard the voice of God just come, it doesn't matter who's peeking, just come. God sees you, God sees if you have a passion for His name - that's what we're looking for tonight. God sees if you're willing to wait for the Holy Ghost to fall upon you, God sees your need here tonight. It's time for courage, are there any more who will come before we will pray? Just stand if you're in the gallery, just stand where you are, just stand. If you can't come to the front, just stand. There are more coming, we're not going to rush here.
I'm just going to address the folk at the front, and I want you to pray for them. I don't know what your need is, but you know, just bring it to the Lord now. Maybe it's sin, and you need to repent, confess and repent and forsake. Maybe it's deliverance, there's a wee verse in Joel says: 'Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be delivered'. If you call on the name of Jesus, and plead the blood of Jesus, and believe, and you will receive things that you have asked of Him. There's power in the blood of the Lamb! Bring your need to the Lord. I'm not going to pray a prayer for you, you pray, you seek God - this is what we need, we need seeking God! Say: 'Lord, help!' - but you must break through now in faith, and you must receive, you must say: 'Lord, I believe in Your character, I believe in Your covenant. Lord, I haven't come out here to play games, I want to receive from You what I have longed for'. Deal with God tonight, and I'm going to pray for these folk at the front.
Abba Father, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I pray for these precious souls who have come to the front. Lord, I don't know what You're doing, but You're doing something. Lord, I pray in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and by the power of the blood, that You will meet them, that You will deliver those who need to be delivered from the enemy's oppression. We command the enemy to be bound and cast out in Jesus' name. If he is holding any here, we command him to go now, and the peace of Christ to come. Lord, for those who have come out for to be filled - hallelujah - we thank You that the Lord Jesus was filled without measure, and we pray that in His name You would fill them full of the Holy Spirit and power from on high, and witness it to them. We pray for those who are seeking more of You, to go on with You. We pray for those in the gallery here Lord, and those who are seated but in their hearts something is going on - Lord, You see! O God, that even from this night and from these meetings, that a collection of people drawn out would come to be a solemn assembly to seek Your face that times of refreshing might come from the presence of the Lord.
May God bless you.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at the Faith Mission Easter Convention in Bangor, Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the first recording in his 'The Solemn Assembly' series, entitled "Under Jehoshaphat" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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