There was once an ancient reservoir in the hills that supplied a village community with water. It was fed by a mountain stream, and the overflow from the reservoir continued down the streambed to the valley below.
There was nothing remarkable about this stream. It flowed on its quiet way without even disturbing the boulders that lay in its path or the foot-bridges that crossed it at various points. It seldom overflowed its steep banks, or gave the villagers any trouble.
One day, however, some large cracks appeared in one of the walls of the old reservoir, and soon afterwards the wall collapsed, and the waters burst forth down the hillside. They rooted up great trees; they carried along boulders like playthings; they destroyed houses and bridges and all that lay in their path. The stream-bed could not now contain the volume of water, which therefore flowed over the countryside, even inundating distant dwellings.
What had before been ignored or taken for granted now became an object of awe and wonder and fear. From far and near people who in the usual way never went near the stream, hastened to see this great sight.
In picture language this is revival.
The village represents both the church and the institutions of society – social structures built and maintained through man’s efforts. The stream represents the flow of the Holy Spirit through the village (through the church, and in society). The stream is present, but being just a trickle there is nothing remarkable about it. In fact, its flow can be redirected and even contained however the villagers wish.
The water of the reservoir represents the power of the Spirit of God. The deluge represents the Spirit and power of God poured out upon the land. Its power and flow cannot be contained. It overwhelms man’s attempts to control it. It uproots immovable objects, and wipes out the structures man has built by his own efforts. Its effects are powerful and clearly seen by all. It creates a sense of awe, wonder, and even terror. As Wallis comments in the above excerpt, “What had before been ignored or taken for granted (the Spirit of God) now became an object of awe…”
We live in a day where the Spirit is a unremarkable stream flowing through the western church and society. We’ve tamed the stream, restricting it, directing it, and controlling its flow, not allowing it to work beyond what we desire. Consequently, we live in a day of dryness. In response to the constricting of the Spirit, the church has followed other means to impact the world – politics, tinkering with worship styles, establishing programs mimicking secular organizations, becoming more “world-friendly” in order to find a place of relevance.
All the ills we see in our society, our nation, the world, in others, in ourselves, can be remedied with a powerful outpouring of the Spirit of God in revival – something that topples our own constructs, our false assumptions, our excuses.
Future entries will develop this topic.