As Christians, one of the more mystifying accounts in the Bible is the story of Jonah. We long to see people come to faith in Christ. No Christian in his or her right mind would get angry if God poured out his saving Spirit in abundance. Yet that was Jonah’s precise response.

We long for revival. We pray for revival. Some Christian traditions hold revival meetings, as if a well-orchestrated order of service will guarantee God’s saving grace. If we understand the Bible, it becomes clear that revival is God’s responsibility. He freely gives salvation to those he chooses, whether an isolated pensioner in a regular Lord’s Day worship service or thousands at a revival crusade. We may be able to sway emotions and even manufacture a profession of faith but God alone bestows saving grace.

That being the case, it cannot be denied that God uses means to achieve his ends. As a rule, this has proven itself to be true in historic revivals. Micah 4 emphasises this truth.

In this chapter, we read of revival. Micah sees “the mountain of the house of the LORD” being “established as the highest of the mountains” and being “lifted up above the hills” as peoples and nations flow to it and declare, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths” (vv. 1–2).

Who among us would not want to witness such revival? Who would not want to see the church of Jesus Christ exalted as people flow to it, longing to walk in obedience to the Lord? It sounds like a dream revival. But, as you read the chapter, you discover that there are some key elements that God uses in producing such revival. We can identify at least three. And while the presence of these three things in God’s people is by no means a magical formula for revival, neither can we expect revival without them.

First, the revival prophesied here flows on the heels of faithful preaching. “For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem” (v. 2).

Revival will not happen where God’s word is not preached. Even the highly unusual revival in Nineveh came on the heels of Jonah’s preaching. If there is any hope of seeing revival, God’s people must take seriously their responsibility to preach God’s word. It has often be noted that reformation is our responsibility while revival is God’s. Rather than manufacturing revival, our passion should be to reform according to God’s word and trust him to work as we faithfully preach his word and share his gospel.

Second, the revival prophesied here flows on the heels of consistent obedience to God’s truth. “For all the peoples walk each in the name of its god, but we will walk in the name of the LORD our God forever and ever” (v. 5).

Faithful gospel preaching is most powerful when it is attended by consistent gospel living. While the gospel cannot be preached without words, our preaching usually rings truest when our lives are consistent with the gospel we preach.

The New Testament emphasises the need for Christians to live lives consistent with the gospel. Our lights should shine in such a way that people see Christ in us and therefore give glory to our Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16). While God may choose to save people despite the inconsistency of our lives, he frequently uses the holiness of his people to open people’s ears to the gospel they preach.

Third, the revival prophesied here flows on the heels of hopeful suffering for the cause of the gospel. The latter half of the chapter talks about the suffering of God’s people. “Writhe and groan, O daughter of Zion, like a woman in labour, for now you shall go out from the city and dwell in the open country; you shall go to Babylon” (v. 10). While the suffering of God’s people in this context is a consequence of sin, God nevertheless used the hopeful suffering of his remnant as a powerful witness to the truth. Consider, for example, how the faithful witness of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego bore witness to the truth of God before Nebuchadnezzar.

Christianity is not a triumphalistic faith. We do not imagine that our words and lives will guarantee favour with the unbelieving world without suffering. If the Bible teaches us anything it is that God’s most faithful people usually experience the greatest opposition. We have no reason to think that God will not require our suffering before pouring out his Spirit in revival.

As I have said, these keys are not a magical formula for revival, but they are frequently means that God uses to pour out his saving grace.

As you meditate on Micah 5 this morning, ask for grace to be faithful in your witness, fruitful in your testimony, and hopeful in your suffering.