August seems to be the hottest month of the year in Montgomery and sometimes driest. But it is also the last month of Summer vacation for many. It is also the month when we get back into our routines. School starts in August, people take their final vacation, the routines we let slide during the summer start up again. It is also a month where we begin to see visitors and people returning to church. The summer slump in church attendance is over and people get back to church. For whatever reason, summer is seen as the vacation months.
What if God took a vacation every summer and we only realized his presence after a break? Similarly, Israel experienced God’s increased presence after what was a season of divine inactivity. The Psalmist writes, “Then the Lord awoke as from sleep, like a strong man shouting because of wine.” (78:65 ESV).
This is a strong and daring image of the Lord. What the Psalmist metaphorically communicates is the Lord, who after a period of divine rest from aiding Israel, awakens like a warrior ready for battle and is emboldened by strong wine. We see this image in Isaiah, “The LORD goes out like a mighty man, like a man of war he stirs up his zeal; he cries out, he shouts aloud, he shows himself mighty against his foes. (Isaiah 42:13 ESV).
In some ways, the church in America is experiencing a period of divine inactivity. Attendance is down, bible reading is off, and beliefs lining up with the Christian Worldview have faded. Church members actually emulate the world when it comes to what they believe regarding fundamental Christian beliefs such as Christ died without ever sinning, God is supreme ruler of all creation, Satan is a real fallen angel (not just an evil force), there is an Absolute truth revealed by an all-knowing God, etc.
The First and Second Great Awakenings in America occurred first in 1730s-1740s and the second in 1820s-1830s. Church attendance rose, conversions occurred, belief in Christ was strengthened. These periods were spiritual highs in America. They helped unite the Colonies before the revolution and the second resulted in the growth of Methodism in America. The Methodist church in the South was the largest benefactor of the Second Great Awakening.
Many have prayed for a revival in America. Christians are crying out to God to do something. America’s ills are obvious with legalized abortions, high divorce rates, rampant sexual promiscuity, and easily accessible pornography. The state of the economy gets more attention than caring for the weaker, underprivileged and downtrodden in America. Something needs to give. However, God is the only one who can bring about the needed change.
When the Lord moves in the Church in America, and perhaps the Northern and Western hemispheres, it will be like a strong man awakening and shouting for wine as a warrior ready for the fight. For too long we have acted like God has taken a vacation or has fallen asleep. When he wakes, we need to be ready for him personally, spiritually, and corporately. Lucy, in the Chronicles of Narnia, asked if Aslan was safe or not, and Mr. Beaver replied, “Safe…Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
God is good and what he does is good. It may not always feel safe but we are safe with him in our salvation. Summer vacation is over for us and we return to our routine. But who knows when God will be ready to move again as he has in the past.