Lockdown to revival, Bible examples and a call to today’s church
By Olufemi Emmanuel PhD
So much have been said and written on or in relation to the Covid 19 Pandemic especially as it relates to the Church. But it appears certain things are still waiting either to be said or to be further emphasized. One of such is how the Church could experience a spiritual awakening going through this challenging period.
This piece is being presented as a biblical perspective of how the current situation that has come upon the world, particularly the Church, can translate to revival that will not just be confined to the Church but to the society at large.
There are historical perspectives to the subject under consideration, perhaps such will be analyzed in the nearest future. But it suffices to first see from the scripture how the Church can leverage on the present situation to draw the attention of heaven for revival.
Does the Bible record any kind of pandemic outbreak during the period, and in the world of the people of whose history and theology it presents? There is no affirmative answer to this question. But similar situations in the Bible to the restriction being experienced today as a result of the current pandemic are recorded in scriptures. And amidst these restrictions, spiritual awakening took place.
The Prophet Isaiah in the 32nd chapter of his book seemed to be alluding to this as he addressed the women of Jerusalem in the 8th Century BC to wake up from their complacency and sense of false security because the harvest of fruits, of grapes and vines will fail; the pleasant fields they cherished so much would vanish and turn to desert places and will be overgrown with thorns and weeds.
Isaiah said the noisy city will be abandoned, watchtowers and citadels will become desolate; fortresses will become uninhabited and wastelands. This brings to mind the realities that the Covid -19 has brought upon the Church today.
The worship environments that used to be flourishing and bubbling with activities have now been forsaken; the functions that characterize corporate worship of church people have been laid aside. The tempo and hypes that use to typify religion have been seriously toned down and mostly laid to rest.
But in Isaiah’s prophecy, the desolations would not be the ultimate end. The situation will only last until there is an outpouring of the Spirit and then will the wilderness turn around to become a fruitful field. That is implying that the state of abandonment is only meant to serve as a basis for an outpouring of the Spirit which is the hallmark of revival.
A number of examples can be cited from the Bible to show how restrictions and difficulties which are similar to what Covid-19 has brought led to spiritual awakening in which the presence and power of God is brought alive again among his people and those who did not know him.
In the days of Elijah, when Jezebel was ravaging like Coronavirus against the prophets in Israel, Obadiah, Ahab’s chamberlain ‘quarantined’ one hundred prophets in a group of fifty in two caves; he was feeding them with bread and water despite the severity of the prevailing famine ( 1Kings 18). Another example is the case of the disciples of Jesus who due to their fear of the Jews after the resurrection of the Lord Jesus restricted themselves behind closed doors just as churches today now have their doors closed (Jn. 20)
It is not unreasonable to imagine that the prophets in the two caves were not just eating bread , drinking water, sleeping and waking up to steer at each other’s faces; as prophets. They must have been connecting to the heavens and praying.
Their prayers which ascended to the heavens must have been what precipitated as fire and rain in answer to Elijah’s prayers. Most often, Elijah’s ministry is credited with the heaven’s release of fire and rains, that is alright, after all James mentions that in his fifth chapter, but the likely unknown prayer efforts of those Prophets in the caves and the seven thousand in Israel that the Lord left for himself, whose knees did not bow to Baal and whose lips did not kiss him, must not be overlooked. (1Kings 19:18)
It is also important to note that the disciples of Jesus behind the closed doors were not just sitting down, idling by or regretting their situation. The Lord’s appearance to them a couple of times must have spurred them to deep reflections and prayers which prepared the ground for the awakening that birthed the Church.
What could have led to the breaking of the lockdown for the Prophets in the caves and the disciples behind the closed doors? It was nothing but the outpouring that took place. The fire and the rains that descended must have changed the game for those Prophets. The release of the Spirit upon the disciples on the day of Pentecost actually threw them out of the closed doors to change their world.
It is important to ask what the Church is doing now in the caves to which she has been restricted due to the ravaging Pandemic. What is the Church doing behind the closed doors? It is good to explore modern technology to find the way round the restrictions.
There is nothing wrong in negotiating the release and opening of church doors with the government. But is the Church seeing this situation in scriptural light as an opportunity to witness another revival? Must the doors be removed by the government or by the Spirit outpouring? Perhaps God is pointing the Church to return to its knees and seek his face for another awakening that no restriction or doors could hold back.