The Psalmists Plea for Revival
“Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?” – Psalms 85:6
There is some debate among commentators as to when this Psalm was penned. Spurgeon believes David authored it. Others like Gill or even Matthew Henry believe it was written after the return of the remnant from Babylon. It’s not critical that we know precisely when it was written. However, it may give us more insight as to exactly what distress the Psalmist desires for his beloved nation to be delivered from. Whenever it was, it’s certain that some enemy was threatening and the land itself seemed to be rather unproductive.
The Psalmist realizes the state of Israel was the result of their sin. However, God had forgiven their sin and withdrawn His wrath before. The Psalmists petitions God that this may be repeated again. We read, “Restore us again, O God of our salvation, and put away your indignation toward us! Will you be angry with us forever? Will you prolong your anger to all generations? Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?” (Psalms 85:4-6). Having known God’s mercy…having experienced His forgiveness, the Psalmist longs for it again – not only for himself, but also for the land of Israel as a nation. “Restore us again”, he says. “Will you not revive us again”, he writes. The former glory of Israel is what the Psalmist longed for.
Clearly, the primary application of this Psalm is the restoration of God’s chosen earthly people. However, we do often use the word “revival” in a similar sense today. And certainly, a comparison can be made between the revival the Psalmist asks for and the revival we find ourselves praying for. They are certainly not absolutely equivalent. But, they have some similarities. It should be pointed out that when we speak of revival, we generally think of personal revival – that is, regaining that excitement we had as a newborn babe in Christ. Yet, sometimes we look back on a period of time and see that there was a more community-wide time of revival. We will quickly consider both.
God had certainly delivered Israel in the past. They could have looked back to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob for proof of this. They could have reflected on the Exodus. They could have considered the times of conquest under the leadership of Joshua. Throughout the period of the judges, God raised up deliverers for the people. The list goes on and on. Continually, God had seen the affliction of Israel and risen up as their Deliverer.
The same is true for us. “Even when we were dead in our trespasses, [God] made us alive together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:5). God delivered us from that state of hostility against Him and His kingdom. “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8). As we grow in Christ and age in the flesh, more and more we see God’s deliverance in our lives. More clearly than ever, we see that God said “no” oftentimes to our prayers that we felt we “needed” only to see that He knew best. As we reflect on God’s deliverance in our lives (from spiritual death and often physical ailments), we gain more confidence that He can deliver us in the future. We, like the Psalmist, pray based on God’s power that has been displayed time and time again to us.
God had been faithful to His promises to Israel all along. They had been unfaithful. One needs only read a few paragraphs following the miracles in Egypt to find this out. Israel’s history is one of unfaithfulness. But God has always been faithful to His promises to them. Let us remember, “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind” (Numbers 23:19). Certainly, the Psalmist here recognizes both the unfaithfulness of his own people and the faithfulness of God. His confidence for deliverance is founded upon God’s faithfulness to His promise.
Every child of God experiences times when we aren’t as faithful as others. This certainly includes pastors. When we arrive at church for worship, we all have the ability to “put on” a more godly appearance. Many look around the church house and are bothered greatly that they are seemingly the only ones struggling through life. In their minds, they are the only ones that ever find themselves broken inside. But that’s not the case. As a pastor, I can attest that there are weeks I struggle. This may be due to a busy schedule. This may be due to normal problems in life – compounded, at times. This may be due to my own lack of dedication. Whatever the reason, those weeks are harder to prepare a sermon for. The congregation often doesn’t see this. Even my wife may not. But those weeks happen. Yet, even during those times, God remains faithful. He is always faithful to do what He has promised. We must learn to lean on Him.
It appears Israel was submitting to God and resisting the devil as the Psalmist cries out for renewed revival – “Restore us again”…“Will you not revive us again”. It’s possible, I suspect, that the Psalmist alone felt this way. But the inclusive language seems to suggest that the people as a whole desired revival. They had sinned and they had confessed it. They had turned from their idols to the living God. Now, they are crying out to Him for revival.
Without question, we often miss revival because we merely pray for it without any move on our part towards it. I’ve often heard men in the pulpit say, “Only God can grant revival. We have no part in it whatsoever”. Now, I don’t necessarily disagree with this as long as we mean the larger community-wide revivals. But if we are speaking of personal restoration…personal revival, we are called upon to move in the right direction. Children of God aren’t going to be revived apart from God’s Word. Children of God aren’t going to be revived apart from meeting with God’s children in times of worship. Children of God aren’t going to be revived as long as we refuse to repent of our own sins and seek God’s will in our lives. We are plainly told to “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you” (James 4:7-10). There is a promise here that our relationship with God will be restored…will be revived if we draw near to Him.
Now, as I said earlier, sometimes when we refer to revival, we speak not so much of personal or even congregational revival. Sometimes we speak of revival in a larger community-wide revival – like a movement. This is different altogether. Without question, God’s churches can be more faithful in doing His commands. We can become more committed to carrying forth the Commission. Sadly, I see many churches dying all over our land. The congregation is often told it’s because people don’t want “the truth” anymore. Without question, that’s not entirely wrong. People certainly don’t want the truth anymore. But, man is no more depraved today than he was 2000 years ago. Some of the communities Paul worked in were horrendously evil. Yet God chose to bless his efforts. I fear one of the main reasons our churches are dying is self-inflicted. Simply, we do not carry forth the Commission. Our churches for the most part are not active whatsoever in community-wide outreach. We have little zeal for lost souls. Our zeal is only “for the truth”. But, we need to understand that truth (rightly understood) will be followed by action. Churches with true doctrine ought to be the most active in their communities. In periods of revival throughout church history, we see two things that led such revival – the Word of God preached thoroughly and faithfully, and the Gospel carried forth in the streets to the lost. Now, only God can open the heart of a lost sinner. But this was the case in revivals of the past as well. Our understanding of sovereign grace should drive us into the world to share the Gospel with the lost.
If ever our churches have needed revival, it is now. I fear tradition has trumped truth and proof-texting has replace sequential expository preaching. Individuals need to cry out to God in repentance as we seek revival through His Spirit. He has promised that He would draw near to us if we draw near to Him. Churches filled with such people should produce congregation that are Commission oriented. We cannot live vicariously through church history. The faithfulness of a church 900 years ago doesn’t affect our standing as a church today. The Commission looks forward. The Commission looks out. The Commission says, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Luke 10:2).
Revival ultimately is God’s Work. This is certainly why the Psalmist cried out to Him to grant revival to His people. That said, let us make sure we are doing what God’s Word demands of us. Let us, as individuals and congregations, stop comparing ourselves to others. It’s simply impossible to gauge our faithfulness by a faulty standard. Let us look to God’s Word and conform to it alone. Then, let us cry out to God for revival. Let us pray that He will “revive us again” personally…corporately…and ultimately that this would bleed over into the communities surrounding our churches. He is still in control. He is still able. He is still the God Who revives.
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Todd Bryant is the Lead Elder at Sovereign Grace Baptist Church in Northport, AL. He has pastored there since 1998. For more more information on the church and links to audio sermons and apps for electronic devices, visit www.sovereigngrace.net