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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Evening, July 24, 2016

“Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down” (Isaiah 64:1).

This is the fourth sermon on revival I’ve preached this summer. The first one was “A Vision of Revival.” I told what happened in a classical revival. But many of you thought, “Those things couldn’t happen here!” You thought of unpleasant things like confessing sins, long hours in a service, long, boring prayers. Some of you thought, “Who wants that? It sounds hard and awful!” The next Sunday night I preached on “The Joy of Revival.” I said people seldom speak of this because you have to have been in a revival to know that joy. There is a sweetness in it that most Christians never experience. They live and die without ever realizing that there is a sweetness they never knew. You can’t explain it to them with words. It’s like trying to explain what it’s like to fall in love, to a man who has never loved a woman. Percy Sledge got it right in his iconic song, “When a man loves a woman, Can’t keep his mind on nothin’ else.” The bitter-sweet feeling cannot be explained. Neither can the bitter-sweet feeling of revival. When I speak to you about it you look at me with a blank stare! It is a sweetness that can be found nowhere else. Only in revival. It’s like the subtle sweetness of a tree-ripened apricot – which you cannot find anywhere now. In organic food stores there’s a tinge of it. But never the same as one picked in full ripeness from a tree. It is a sweetness you can’t find anywhere now. I can’t imagine a child today longing for an apricot as I did when I was small – alone in my grandmother’s back yard. I remember it, but I never find it now. Now it is only a distant memory. It fades with time, but never really goes away. It would be wonderful to taste it again. If not, it lingers in the back of your mind forever. Just a faded memory – no longer a real taste, no longer what it was before. No longer what it was in the summer of 1969. No longer what it was in San Francisco in 1972. No longer what it was in Virginia Beach in 1992. Just a lingering thought in the mind of an old man. An old man who wishes he could taste it one more time. But now it’s only a dream. A dream like Hemingway’s old man had of lions on the beach in Africa long ago. A dream that came back to him almsot every night. A dream he could not forget. 

And that is what Isaiah felt when he said,

“Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down” (Isaiah 64:1).

Can you taste the sweetness in that verse? Can you feel a little of what Isaiah felt? Can I make you feel it a little? I pray it will be so. You may feel it in the “Oh” with which he begins his prayer. “Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens and come down.”

Dr. Lloyd-Jones knew what Isaiah meant – because he had experienced revival himself. The Doctor said, “True praying is always characterized by the use of that word, ‘Oh,’ – ‘Oh, that thou wouldest rend the heavens.’ There is no word that is more expressive of longing than that word "Oh." It expresses the thirst of deep desire, it is the cry of a man at the end of his resources and waiting and looking for, and longing for God...he is taking hold of God... It is an extraordinary expression and yet how true it is. That is true prayer [for revival] – not just a casual expression of our desire, not something [careless] and half-hearted [but] the special, peculiar, urgent prayer for a visitation of God’s Spirit in revival” (Martyn Lloyd-Jones, M.D., Revival, Crossway Books, 1994, p. 305).

Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down” (Isaiah 64:1).

The “Oh” shows that Isaiah longed for God to come down. He longed for it like a man longs for a woman he has lost. He longed for it as I longed for Ileana when she turned down my first proposal and I thought I had lost her forever. “Oh that thou wouldest... come down.” He longed for it as I longed for my mother when I lost her at twelve years old, and couldn’t live with her any more. “Oh, that thou wouldest...come down.” He longed for it as I longed for my mother when she died. I could think of little else. I longed for her when I woke up in the morning. I longed for her when I walked through her room. I longed for her deep into the night. Week after week, month after month, year after year – I longed to hear my mother’s voice and see her face again. A longing that sometimes made me burst into tears and have to pull off of the freeway. That is how the prophet longed for God to “come down.” And if you and I can be made to long for God to come down, like I longed for my mother, it could be a harbinger, a sign, that we may see revival come down to our church in these evil days in which we live.

Can you long for something you have never seen? Can you thirst for something you have never drunk? Can you hunger for something you have never tasted? My father left when I was two. I never remember having a home like other kids. I never had a home, but I longed for one. I never experienced a home of my own, but I longed for one just the same. I yearned for a family I never had. That is the way it is when we yearn, and crave, and hunger for revival. Long ago, in the first camp I went to at the Chinese church, we sang a chorus over and over. I have never heard it since then – nearly sixty years ago. But it went through my mind as I wrote this sermon.

I have a longing in my heart for Jesus,
I have a longing in my heart for Him.
Just to be near Him, to feel His presence,
I have a longing in my heart for Him.
   (“Longing For Jesus” by Richard D. Baker).

When we begin to feel some of that, our prayers will change. Because God is already changing us, and melting our cold hearts! Then our prayers won’t just be words. They will be filled with the longing Isaiah felt.

Oh, that thou wouldest come down.”
   “Oh, that thou wouldest come down!”
      “Oh, that thou wouldest come down!"

That is real prayer! That is a sign that we long for, and yearn for, and beg for God to come down among us! It is not a prayer to be shouted at God. It is a thoughtful, tear-filled prayer for Him to come down. You say, “I can’t pray like that!” Of course you can’t pray like that now! Whoever said you could? But when God begins a work in our church, He will enable you to pray like that. When God enables you to pray like that it is a sign that He is already moving us into revival. The Bible says, “Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power” (Psalm 110:3). It is God who puts tears in our hearts and in our eyes. When we long and yearn for Him to come down, it is a sign that God is melting our hearts, changing our prayers, and moving us toward revival. In fact we are already moving into revival when God causes us to pray thoughtful, tear filled prayers for Him to come down and make us live again in His sight! As long as our prayers remain as they are now, we can be sure that God is not moving us. Our prayers will remain cold and mechanical, as they are now, until God melts our hearts and fills our eyes with tears for Him to come down among us, until He makes us realize how hopeless we are without His presence. When we realize our helplessness we will cry to Him and beg Him to come down and change us and our church.

When I was nine years old I got lost in a big department store. I ran up and down the aisles looking for my mother. I was afraid. I was drenched in sweat. I was lost! I cried and prayed and begged God to help me find her. That is the way we pray for God’s presence in revival. It is something we feel in the depths of our souls, because God puts that feeling in us. We feel bereaved – like a man whose wife has died and left him alone in a cold and lonely house. We feel that our church is cold and lonely because we do not have God among us. We want Him desperately! We have to have Him!

Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down.”

If you pray like that, with tears in your hearts and in your eyes, it is a sign that God is moving us. It may be a harbinger of revival. I long to see men and women yearning for God, yearning for His presence, yearning for Him to come dow! Weeping in prayer for Him to come down among us. That is often a harbinger, a sign of God’s grace. When He enables us to pray with tears for His presence it may mean He is going to rend the heavens and come down in a new and living way.

My people were farmers in Canada and farmers in Nebraska and in Missouri. In my dreams I can hear them talking about olden times. My mother’s memory went clear back to the middle of the 19th century through her father and through Grandpa O’Neill. It feels like I can remember way back to Lincoln and the Civil War. And in those days there were no hospitals as we have them now. And there was no penicillin, and no drug stores and no medicines. They would take some coal oil out of the lamp and mix it with a little sugar and a little whiskey. That was the only medicine they had. My grandmother was her own physician. When the doctor arrived he was drunk. She put him to bed, and delivered her own baby, and cut the umbilical cord with a pair of scissors. Over a third of all women died of childbirth. Half of the babies died before they were a year old. It was tough to live, and it was tough to die. When a man died they put him in a pine coffin and kept the body in the living room for a day and a night before he was buried behind the house, under a tree. Death was so common that they thought a lot about Heaven.

We are so clean and so smart now that we never think of it. Heaven seems strange to us today. But then it was very real –because there was only a step between life and death – in those early days on the Great Plains and the in Southwest deserts of America. And my people thought about Heaven. They sang about it. They talked about it. They preached about it. Heaven was always on their minds. And their songs come sweetly to my mind tonight.

When we all get to Heaven,
   What a day of rejoicing that will be!
When we all see Jesus,
   We’ll sing and shout the victory!
(“When We All Get to Heaven” by Eliza E. Hewitt).

When the roll is called up yonder,
   When the roll is called up yonder,
When the roll is called up yonder,
   When the roll is called up yonder
I’ll be there!
    (“When the Roll is Called up Yonder” by James M. Black).

In the sweet by and by
   We shall meet on that beautiful shore;
In the sweet by and by
   We shall meet on that beautiful shore.
(“In the Sweet By and By” by Sanford F. Bennett).

In that bright city,
   Pearly white city,
I have a mansion,
   A robe, and a crown;
Now I am watching,
   Waiting and longing
For the white city
   That’s soon coming down.
(“The Pearly White City” by Arthur F. Ingler).

Beulah land, I’m longing for you,
   And some day on thee I’ll stand.
There my home shall be eternal,
   Beulah land, sweet Beulah land.
(“Sweet Beulah Land” by Squire Parsons).

Were they wrong? No, the old-timers were right. It is us who are wrong. We have become calloused, hardened, and materialistic. We never think about Beulah land. We never talk of the pearly white city, or the sweet by and by. But it isn’t because we are smarter. It’s because we are wrong, far more wrong than they were. They were like Abraham, who “looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:10). God bless Abraham! God bless the strong and sturdy pioneers who made America a great nation in the earth. They believed in Heaven. It was very real to them. They saw it, as Abraham saw it – with the eye of faith. They longed for it. They yearned for it. They thought about it every day. Even though they had never seen it, they hungered for Heaven to be with Jesus.

And that is the way God can make us be today. For, you see, revival is Heaven breaking through, from another dimension, into our lives on earth when God comes down. As John W. Peterson put it, “Heaven came down and glory filled my soul.”

That is revival! It is God breaking through, from that other dimension – into our church, into our lives, and into our hearts! God giving us a taste of eternal glory! God giving us a small taste of Heaven on earth! God giving us new life, new strength, and new hope! Don’t you want it? Don’t you long for it? Don’t you yearn for His presence, His love, and His joy to fill our church and our hearts? If you do, pray hard for it! Pray every day for it! Pray without ceasing for it! Pray until He comes. And then thank God for it. It will change your life forever. And you will never forget it as long as you live! Lay aside every sin that hides God’s face. Confess your faults one to another and pray for one another that we may be healed. Live and breathe for revival every day. Think about it every hour of the day. Long for it. Yearn for it. Beseech God for it. Ask, seek and knock for it. Jesus said, “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” (Luke 11:13). And pray Isaiah’s prayer every morning, every noon, and every night until the answer comes to our church and to our lives!

“Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down” (Isaiah 64:1).

Please stand and sing hymn number seven, “Fill All My Vision.”

Fill all my vision, Saviour, I pray,
   Let me see only Jesus today;
Though through the valley Thou leadest me,
   Thy fadeless glory encompasseth me.
Fill all my vision, Saviour divine,
   Till with Thy glory my spirit shall shine.
Fill all my vision, that all may see
   Thy holy Image reflected in me.

Fill all my vision, every desire
   Keep for Thy glory; my soul inspire,
With Thy perfection, Thy holy love,
   Flooding my pathway with light from above.
Fill all my vision, Saviour divine,
   Till with Thy glory my spirit shall shine.
Fill all my vision, that all may see
   Thy holy Image reflected in me.

Fill all my vision, let naught of sin
   Shadow the brightness shining within.
Let me see only Thy blessed face,
   Feasting my soul on Thy infinite grace.
Fill all my vision, Saviour divine,
   Till with Thy glory my spirit shall shine.
Fill all my vision, that all may see
   Thy holy Image reflected in me.
(“Fill All My Vision” by Avis Burgeson Christiansen, 1895-1985).

You may be seated. Noah Song, Aaron Yancy and John Cagan, please lead us in prayer, in that order (prayers).

And now I must speak to those of you who are not yet converted. Jesus died on the Cross to pay for your sin. Jesus shed His Blood on that Cross to cleanse you from all sin. He rose physically from the dead to give you eternal life. He is now in another dimension, up in the Third Heaven, at the right hand of God the Father. If you trust Jesus you will be saved from sin and judgment. When you repent and trust Jesus your sins will be washed away by His holy Blood.

If you would like to be counselled about trusting Jesus, you need to make an appointment with Dr. Cagan for him to counsel you. Or you can phone him at his home office during the week to make an appointment, or you can speak with him tonight about an appointment. Amen.

If this sermon blessed you Dr. Hymers would like to hear from you. WHEN YOU WRITE TO DR. HYMERS YOU MUST TELL HIM WHAT COUNTRY YOU ARE WRITING FROM OR HE CANNOT ANSWER YOUR E-MAIL. If these sermons bless you send an e-mail to Dr. Hymers and tell him, but always include what country you are writing from. Dr. Hymers’ e-mail is at (click here). You can write to Dr. Hymers in any language, but write in English if you can. If you want to write to Dr. Hymers by postal mail, his address is P.O. Box 15308, Los Angeles, CA 90015. You may telephone him at (818)352-0452.

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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme: Isaiah 64:1-4.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“O Breath of Life” (by Bessie P. Head, 1850-1936).