Isaiah 64:1-9 (New International Version)
(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)
Advent, generally meaning the four Sundays leading up to Christmas, is still more than a month away! But the word ‘advent’ also means, according to Webster’s New World Dictionary, “a coming or arrival”, especially as it relates to Christ’s first and second coming.
I preached a sermon on this aspect of ‘advent’ several years ago. It is the record of a revival that took place in the Outer Hebrides Islands, off the coast of Scotland. It began on the Island of Saint Lewis starting in 1949, and lasting for about four years. The story of this modern day revival is amazing, and somewhat typical of all true revivals through the ages!
In the last Gem, based on II Chronicles 7:12 through 15, we learned that the answer to our current problems in this country and around the world, aggravated by the Coronaviruse pandemic, is for Christians to turn to the Lord, heart, soul, strength, and mind, pleading with Him to forgive our personal sins and the sins of our nation!
Although it is a long Scripture, I have here reproduced Isaiah 64:1 through 9 (New International Version):
Oh, that You would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before You! As when fire sets twigs ablaze and causes water to boil, come down to make Your name known to your enemies and cause the nations to quake before You! For when You did awesome things that we did not expect, You came down, and the mountains trembled before You. Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides You, who acts on behalf of those who wait for Him. You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember Your ways. But when we continued to sin against them, You were angry. How then can we be saved? All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. No one calls on Your name or strives to lay hold of You; for you have hidden Your face from us and have given us over to our sins. Yet You, LORD, are our Father. We are the clay, You are the potter; we are all the work of Your hand. Do not be angry beyond measure, LORD; do not remember our sins forever. Oh, look on us, we pray, for we are all Your people.
The account of the Outer Hebrides Revival
The heart of the Christian message, of salvation in Jesus Christ alone, through faith alone, by God’s grace alone, is too often smothered by religious routines and forms. Within a generation, zealous Christian saints can be replaced by traditional church-going sinners. This was the situation on the Isle of Lewis in the late 1940’s. There were no conversions, the island youth were rebellious, and lost in sinful pastimes. They likened ‘becoming a Christian’ to ‘catching the plague!’ So the church leaders, led by the Reverend James Murray McKay, decided to do something about it. They issued a proclamation calling on the island’s Christian community to examine their spiritual state, and petition God to send repentance before it was too late.
Behind the scenes labored two elderly sisters: Peggy Smith, who was 84 years old and blind; and her sister, Christine Smith, 82 years old and almost doubled over with arthritis. They were unable to attend regular church services, but for months they prayed in their home for God to send revival to their little town of Barvas. These two relentless intercessors prayed by name for the people in each cottage along their village streets.
They reminded God of his word in Isaiah 44:3: “I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground.” They cried this prophetic promise to the Lord day and night. Across the village, independent of the Smith sisters, seven young men met three nights a week in a barn to pray for revival. They made a covenant with God and one another, according to Isaiah 62:6-7, that they would give him no rest until he sent revival their way. Month after month they prevailed in prayer.
Yet despite their prayers and efforts, especially to interest the Barvas youth in spiritual things, not a single young person attended church services.
One night in particular (November, 1949), as these dedicated seven prayed in the barn with intensity, a young deacon rose to his feet and read Psalm 24:3-5: “Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who shall stand in his holy place? He that has clean hands, and a pure heart… He shall receive the blessing…from the God of his salvation.” He closed his Bible, looked down at the group of kneeling men, and said, “Brethren, it seems to me just so much humbug to be waiting and praying as we are, if we ourselves are not rightly related to God.” And then he lifted his two hands and prayed, “God, are my hands clean? Is my heart pure? ”
But he got no further! That young man fell to his knees, and then into a trance and lay on the floor of the barn. At that moment the other six intercessors were gripped by a conviction that a God-sent revival must ever be related to holiness and Godliness! “Are my hands clean? Is my heart pure?” Instantly, it seemed, the barn was filled with the glory of God and the young praying men fell prostrate on the floor, and began to confess their own needs. An awesome awareness of God overcame them and they were drenched with supernatural power they had never known before. And the Lord gave His assurance that He would certainly visit the Island of Lewis with revival!
At that very time, the Lord gave one of the Smith sisters a vision, Peggy Smith saw the churches crowded with people, young and old, and a minister, a stranger, standing in the pulpit. She saw hundreds being swept into the kingdom of God. They sent word to their pastor that they had “broken through” and that heaven was about to descend on earth! And so it did!
Reverend McKay was their minister in Barvas. He came to the Smith sisters’ cottage and Peggy Smith said to him, “I think you ought to invite someone to the parish. I cannot give you a name, but God must have someone specific in His mind, for I saw a strange man in the pulpit, and that man must be somewhere.”
Reverend Mckay went to a convention in Scotland, and was directed to write a letter to ask Reverend Duncan Campbell (preacher and evangelist) to come to Barvas to preach for ten days. Campbell was that “strange man” whom Peggy Smith had seen in her vision. Campbell relates in his book, The Lewis Awakening 1949 – 1953:
“I was at that time in the midst of a very gracious movement on the island of Skype….I received this invitation to go to Lewis for ten days, and I wrote back to say that it wasn’t possible for me to do that, because I was involved in a holiday convention on the Island of Skype….the speakers and accommoda-tion[s]…were arranged…for people who were coming from all over Britain. Rev. McKay received the letter, went to Peggy Smith, and read the letter to her….she said, ‘Mr McKay…he will be here within a fortnight.’ ”
“That convention had to be cancelled, largely because the tourist board took…over…the hotels for a special Skype week that they were going to have. So I had to cancel everything. I was on the Island of Lewis within ten days, to spend ten days among the people, (as I thought).”
Duncan Campbell was there for three years!
He arrived in Barvas on December 7th, 1949. He writes,
“I was met at the pier by the minister and two of his office bearers. Just as I stepped off the boat, an old elder came over to me, and faced me. ‘Mr. Campbell, can I ask you this question? Are you walking with God?’ I was glad to be able to say, ‘Well I can say this, that I fear God.’ The dear man looked at me and said, ‘Well, if you fear God, that will do.’
“I went to the church, and preached to a congregation of about three hundred, and I would say it was a good meeting…but nothing really happened.”
It was the same for the next three nights. Then on Sunday, December 11th, at the church in Shader, a few miles north of Barvas, Reverend Campbell preached at another service. But still no breakthrough had been made. “I pronounced the benediction,” said Campbell…
“…and I was walking down the aisle, when a young man, a deacon from the church…came to me, and said, ‘Don’t be discouraged. God is hovering over us, and He’ll break through any moment….’ He lifted his two hands, and started to pray, ‘God You made a promise to pour water on the thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground, and You’re not doing it!’ He prayed until he fell onto the floor in a trance. He lay there with me standing beside him for about five minutes. The congregation had left the church, but then the doors of the church opened, and John, the local blacksmith, came back in…and said, ‘Mr. Campbell, something wonderful has happened! We were praying that God would pour water on the thirsty and floods upon the dry ground, and listen, He’s done it! He’s done it! Will you come to the door, and see the crowd that’s here?’ ”
“I went to the door, and even though it was eleven o’clock at night, there must have been a crowd of between six and seven hundred people gathered around the church ….they were moved by a power that they could not explain, and the power was such as to make them realize that they were hell-deserving sinners! Of course the only place they could think of, where they might find help, was the church building. So there they were, between six and seven hundred of them! ”
This was the start of God’s mighty outpouring of the Outer Hebrides revival!
…to be continued in the next Gem.