There have been many reformations in the history of the world, which were urgently needed at the time. For over and over again, after a certain period of time, spiritual apostasy occurred. Is a reformation also necessary in our time? Who can be used by God for this purpose?
To reform means to renew, to transform, to improve, to create a revival. Hezekiah, the king of Judah, was used for such a very difficult work. His name means “the Lord is my strength.” According to biblical accounts, he was an able and therefore suitable man. At the age of 25, he ascended the royal throne in Judah. The Bible characterizes him as a godly man “who did what was right in the sight of the Lord” (see 2 Kings 18:3). His testimony sounds very impressive: “He trusted in the Lord God of Israel, so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor who were before him. For he held fast to the Lord; he did not depart from following Him but kept His commandments, which the Lord had commanded Moses. The Lord was with him; he prospered wherever he went” (verses 5-7). This was certainly the reason for and the secret of his successful reformational activity.
His reign began with the cleansing of the temple, the restoration of the order of worship, and the reinstatement of the long-neglected Passover celebration. He ordered the service of the priests, tore down all the pagan altars, and destroyed the sun pillars, the idols, and other pagan shrines in the land.
Even in times of distress and enemy raids, Hezekiah maintained a firm trust in God. When he was seriously ill, he prayed to his God with tears: “Remember now, O Lord, I pray, how I have walked before You in truth and with a loyal heart, and have done what was good in Your sight” (2 Kings 20:3). His prayer was answered, as we read in the following verses (4-6): “The word of the Lord came to him [Isaiah], saying … I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; surely I will heal you… I will add to your days fifteen years. I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria.” In Isaiah 38:17 we read Hezekiah’s response: “Indeed it was for my own peace that I had great bitterness; But You have lovingly delivered my soul from the pit of corruption.” These and other experiences clearly show that the Lord was with him and gave him good success in his reformational activity.
Reforms of this kind were necessary again and again in the history of God’s people. God used various people for this purpose, such as the young Samuel. In 1 Samuel 3:19-20 we read, “So Samuel grew and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel had been established as a prophet of the Lord.” He worked under the blessing of God and had rendered great service to his people and the land of his fathers. He saw his responsibility and said: “Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you; but I will teach you the good and the right way” (1 Samuel 12:23). His responsibility and conviction did not allow for anything else.
Young Josiah was another man used by God. It is reported of him in 2 Chronicles 34 that he destroyed all the soothsayers, the diviners, the idols and all the abominations in the land and restored the commandments and the words of the law. He had given himself to this work with all his heart and with all his strength. His reformational effectiveness had a decisive effect against the inner confusion and desolation, against the spiritual apostasy and the ensuing chaos of inner ruin.
In this sense, we also think of the Reformation of the 16th century. It, too, had become highly necessary. It had come out of God’s mercy and was the answer to people’s searching and questioning about God. Luther declared it to be “a legacy to all Christendom on earth.” It served the purpose of providing much-needed light in the darkness and restored to the people, initially in Germany, an inner direction and a Bible-based foundation of faith. The cost of this work was high, but so were the profits! It was a work willed and directed by God, and a visible blessing rested upon it. Considering the high costs, we are indebted to all who gave their strength, their abilities and even their lives for this so valuable work.
The Reformation around the time of 1880 also served the purpose of revealing to people the perfect truth of the gospel. Here it was essentially about providing the truth about leading a godly holy life, about the experience of sanctification and about the one biblical church. The Lord raised up servants whom He could bless with this deeper, biblical knowledge and who would decisively proclaim the full New Testament truth. Many people joyfully and gratefully accepted this message and gained more biblical light.
We have now shown that reformational action was necessary again and again and had its blessed consequences. Now the question remains whether we also have the courage to have a reformational effect on others. We see a worrying, inner disinterest spreading in our time. Do we want to simply accept this development, or do we want to consciously counteract it? We want to recognize our responsibility and ask God for grace, courage, and wisdom for a reformational effectiveness that has become necessary again!