The Spread of Revival

The following is an excerpt from my book “Carrying the Torch for Revival.” God never intends for revival to be localized or stationary, but for it to spread beyond a starting point. From the story of Josiah leading Israel in 2 Chronicles 34 we find some insight into how God desires for revival to spread.

In the cities of Manasseh, Ephraim, Simeon, even as far as Naphtali, in their surrounding ruins, he also tore down the altars and beat the Asherim and the carved images into powder, and chopped down all the incense altars throughout the land of Israel. Then he returned to Jerusalem. 2 Chronicles 34:6-7

“In the towns of Manasseh, Ephraim and Simeon, as far as Naphtali, and in the ruins around them” God’s fire spread. Let us consider the significance of the spread of revival as well as the areas to which revival spread.

1. Manasseh

Manasseh means “causing to forget.” Manasseh was the first born son of Joseph and was named such as Joseph declared “It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household” (Genesis 41:51). A large part of revival is erasing your past and giving you a fresh start. I find it significant that the first place revival spread was Manasseh. I hear God saying, “Not only am I pouring out My Spirit, I am also making all things new for my people. No longer will you be held captive by where you have been.” Consider the promise recorded by the Prophet Joel:

“Then I will make up to you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the creeping locust, the stripping locust and the gnawing locust, My great army which I sent among you. “You will have plenty to eat and be satisfied and praise the name of the LORD your God, Who has dealt wondrously with you; then My people will never be put to shame. “Thus you will know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the LORD your God, and there is no other; and My people will never be put to shame. Joel 2:25-27

God’s promise is for the return of what has been stolen and the erasing of what has taken place. By spreading revival to Manasseh, God was once again reminding His people of this truth. The first thing revival is going to do is give you a fresh start. As we allow God’s Spirit to work in our lives and erase the past and the effects of the past, we will see fresh opportunities laid out before us.

Oftentimes many of us never progress into our destiny for today because we find ourselves anchored in our yesterday. Whether through the deception of the enemy or the unfriendly statements by others, we can feel trapped and hopeless before God. That is simply not true. By revival spreading to Manasseh first, it was God’s way of declaring that He is able to give a fresh start and to wipe the slate clean.

Manasseh screams of salvation. Nobody is a lost cause, nobody is beyond the reach of God. It does not matter where you have been, God sees and knows where He desires to take you. Allow God’s Spirit to break the hold of yesterday and bring you into today’s destiny.

2. Ephraim

Ephraim means “I shall be doubly fruitful.” Joseph’s second son he named Ephraim and said, “It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering” (Genesis 41:52). It is significant to note that before Ephraim was Manasseh. It is not possible to be fruitful when your past has you trapped.

Revival increases fruitfulness. As God is working in your life, intimacy and connection between you and Him will increase and cause more fruit to be produced through you. By spreading to Manasseh and clearing the hurdle of the past, revival was able to spread to Ephraim and bring increased fruit. Recall again that Jesus desires for us to bear fruit that lasts (see John 15). This is accomplished in revival. Revival is a blessing for you and in you, and also a blessing through you as it spreads to others.

One thing we cannot afford to forget about fruit, however, is that fruit takes time to develop. Many times in our lives, or in the lives of others, we would like to see things happening more quickly. By action more than words I have often prayed, “God give me patience, but do it now.” We are so quick to forget that God’s process is perfect, but God’s ways and timing are not like our own.

While Manasseh speaks of salvation, Ephraim speaks of a continued walk with the Lord. In the natural, fruit can only be produced when the seed is fertilized and ultimately when the seed dies. By spending time with the Lord, in His presence – in revival, we are allowing the seed of salvation He planted in our hearts to become fertilized by His Spirit. At the same time, we also are allowing our own motives and agendas to die in order that God’s fruit may be produced. Consider what the prophet Hosea says concerning Ephraim:

O Ephraim, what more have I to do with idols? It is I who answer and look after you. I am like a luxuriant cypress; from Me comes your fruit. Hosea 14:8

The fruit that is produced comes from God. We must learn to allow the fruit producing process to play out in our own lives and in the lives of those around us. The fruit that we allow to be produced in the right manner will be more tasty and appealing than fruit we may produce in unnatural ways.

It is also significant that after Joseph was reunited with his father Jacob, he brought his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, to him to receive a blessing. The custom was for the patriarch (Jacob) to lay his right hand on the oldest or first born son, indicating he was receiving the greater blessing. When Joseph presented his sons to his father, however, Jacob crossed his arms and placed his right hand on the head of Ephraim, giving him the blessing of the first born. When Joseph tried to correct him on this apparent mistake, Jacob said,

But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know; he also will become a people and he also will be great. However, his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his descendants shall become a multitude of nations. He blessed them that day, saying, “By you Israel will pronounce blessing, saying, ‘May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh!’” Thus he put Ephraim before Manasseh. Genesis 48:19-20

When the blessing was bestowed, Ephraim received the double portion or first born blessing. Manasseh is comparable to our experience of salvation, when our past is cleared; Ephraim is comparable to our ongoing relationship with God – a relationship that is fruitful and blessed. God desires that your days of fruitfulness be greater than your past failures. I once told our church that no matter how fruitless your past may have been, God desires your fruitfulness to be even greater through Him. This is a sign of revival spreading in your life as you continue to grow and move forward into greater places of blessing.

One more thing that I feel must be pointed out here is considering the birthright or the first born. In terms of the sons of Jacob, Reuben was the first born and the rightful heir in terms of lineage and importance within the family tree. Consider, however, this statement from 1 Chronicles:

Now the sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel (for he was the firstborn, but because he defiled his father’s bed, his birthright was given to the sons of Joseph the son of Israel; so that he is not enrolled in the genealogy according to the birthright. Though Judah prevailed over his brothers, and from him came the leader, yet the birthright belonged to Joseph). 1 Chronicles 5:1-2

As a result of sin and various circumstances, the right of the firstborn was taken from Reuben and given instead to Joseph’s sons. And, with what we considered earlier, Jacob placed Ephraim ahead of Manasseh. So what we find is that of the tribes of Israel, Ephraim has been moved into the slot or place of the firstborn. God has placed fruitfulness at the top of importance. God desires fruitfulness; He desires that we be fruitful in our relationship with Him and that we be fruitful for Him because of that relationship. Revival brings emphasis and importance to fruitfulness.

3. Simeon

Simeon means “heard.” Simeon was the second son of Jacob, and when Leah bore him she declared, “Because the LORD heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one too.” So she named him Simeon (Genesis 29:33). Jacob had labored seven years to earn Rachel as his wife. At the end of that time, he was given her older sister Leah instead. From that time Leah felt unloved by Jacob in comparison to Rachel. She felt as though she was second class. The birth of Simeon caused her to declare that God had heard her even in her perceived lowly condition.

Some reading this may have the feeling that they are second class or like Leah, they may even feel as though they are part of a package deal. “I am only around because he really wanted her.” Did Leah ever feel that? Have you ever felt that? How about the pastor’s spouse who is reading this book? Do you feel that you are only around the church and the things of God because you are married to the pastor? Trust me when I say this: that is not true.

Revival spreading to Simeon shows us that God is looking to those who feel unloved or forgotten. God is listening to their cries and their disappointment, and He is going to bring revival in their lives. For those that feel forgotten or unimportant take note that God is listening and paying attention to you. God loves to move and pour out His Spirit in places and among people that may feel or appear to be less important.

When Israel was blessing his sons, he said about Simeon, “I will scatter them in Jacob and disperse them in Israel” (Genesis 49:7). As a people they were to become scattered, disconnected, and seemingly forgotten. Yet, when God sent revival during the reign of Josiah, Simeon is specifically mentioned as a place where revival spread. God is listening, God is paying attention, and God sees where you are whether you realize it or not. When revival spreads to Simeon it is God’s way of letting us know that the condition you find yourself in or have been in is not necessarily the condition in which God intends for you to stay. God is looking for an opportunity to come and bring His Kingdom to you and bless you.

4. Naphtali

Naphtali means “wrestling.” When Rachel saw that she was not bearing any children for Jacob, she gave him her handmaid Bilhah. As Bilhah gave birth to a second son Rachel said, “With great wrestlings I have wrestled with my sister, and indeed I have prevailed.” So she called his name Naphtali.” (Genesis 30:8). Naphtali represents fruit produced by wrestling with flesh and blood. Rachel had made her barrenness a source of contention and competition. When we make things more about flesh and blood than we do about God, we are going to be unproductive and barren.

Jacob had toiled fourteen years to have Rachel as his wife. His love for her was not based upon what she produced. He simply loved her. She felt, however, that it was necessary to do something in order to gain or maintain Jacob’s love. She took it upon herself to wrestle her way to some type of supposed victory. She was wrestling to produce in the natural – Naphtali – what God desired to produce in the supernatural – Joseph. The danger we all face is getting ahead of God, getting in His way, or trying to do His job.

By spreading revival to Naphtali, God was bringing about victory and fruitfulness in the manner in which He intended. God’s intent is to bless His people, and for His people to walk in His favor. Choosing to wrestle and fight in our own strength will keep us from receiving God’s best. In Deuteronomy, when Moses pronounced a blessing over the tribes, he said this about Naphtali:

Of Naphtali he said, “O Naphtali, satisfied with favor, and full of the blessing of the LORD, take possession of the sea and the south.” Deuteronomy 33:23

As revival spread to Naphtali, God was making this declared blessing a present reality. It was God bringing man’s intentions in line with His own – a picture of revival. I also find it fascinating that God was pouring out his favor and blessing upon that which had been produced by human means. God is able in the midst of revival to even bless and use that which may not have started out in the right manner. God’s ability is greater than that of man and He can rewrite and rework any situation for His glory.

5. In the Ruins

Ruins means “a place laid waste, ruin, or desolation.” God was spreading revival and bringing life where there was no life. This is God’s plan for revival. Isaiah prophesied God’s intent toward His people’s waste places:

Indeed, the LORD will comfort Zion; He will comfort all her waste places. And her wilderness He will make like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the LORD; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and sound of a melody. Isaiah 51:3

It is not God’s plan for His people to live in ruin and desolation. Much of the church is living far below where God intends, and often settles for much less than what God has made available. Those who dwelt in the ruins in Josiah’s day must have believed they would always dwell in the ruins, but God had other plans. Revival spread to the ruined places as well. There is no situation, circumstance, or people beyond the reach of God. His promise in Isaiah is to bring comfort, fruitfulness and beauty, joy and gladness, thanksgiving and singing to the places in ruin. Revival may have started with Josiah in the palace but it spread to the desolate places; because God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34).

Let me reiterate that nobody is beyond the reach of God and nobody is a lost cause. God is not looking for heroes or superstars; He is looking for available people. And He is able to find those available people in the ruins as well as in Jerusalem.

Revival is a fire that cannot be contained but by its very nature must spread. Before we continue, consider this statement used to describe the Azusa Street Revival:

The revival reached out to the rest of the world with a rapidity that is hard to imagine. It was like a fire lit in dry tinder when nobody was looking. It exploded – billowing up and scattering its sparks in every direction. (Cecil Robeck, 2006, p. 187).

God is not finished when He sends revival. His intention is for the fire of revival to spread and reach beyond the borders of its beginning. It can be easy to assume that the move of God is going to begin, live, and remain in Jerusalem, in the midst of where God’s people are living. Yet, that is not realistic or desirable in the spiritual so why should it be in the natural?

Perhaps many of you who are reading this book find yourself in that Jerusalem place and with that it may be tough for you to understand what goes with living in the other regions. But for those who are in a Manasseh, Ephraim, Simeon, Naphtali, or a place of ruins, I want you to understand that God wants to reach you and bless you in revival as well.

God is not controlled by boundaries – neither geographical nor circumstantial. As we allow God to move in us and through us, we can see His presence and power spread beyond any human reach.