Revive Us Again!

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  • The church needs a revival. I am not referring to a series of services with an evangelistic emphasis. I am talking about a sovereign and supernatural move of God that causes us to fall in love with Jesus again. Unbelievers need evangelism; believers need revival. 

    • The church is a body, not a building.
    • The church is a people, not a place. 
    • The church is an organism, not an organization. 

     The church needs a revival because we who make up the church need a revival.

    The church today is preoccupied with reaching the culture. Much of our outreach and evangelism is unfruitful. We are ineffective because when the world looks at the church, they see the world. Worse, when the Lord looks at the church, he sees the world. 1 Peter 4:17 says, “It is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” We need a heaven-sent, Christ-exalting, Spirit-led, gospel-saturated, truth-driven, life-changing, God-glorifying revival.

    Psalm 85 is a prayer for revival. The ascription reads: To the choirmaster. A Psalm of the sons of Korah. The song is a communal lament. Many think this psalm was written after the Babylonian Captivity. In 538 B.C., Cyrus of Persia set the Israelites free and sent them home to rebuild Jerusalem. It was the Lord’s doing. Once the people arrived, the initial fervor of their return waned, and there was much work to do. They needed the Lord to revive them again. That’s a likely scenario. But there is no evidence for it in the psalm. The psalm may address different or multiple situations in which the people of God needed him to revive them again. 

    A critic claimed revivals do not work because they do not last. Billy Sunday replied that baths don’t last either. Throughout church history, the church has needed to be revived, renewed, and restored. It also happens in local churches. Congregations go through life cycles – from a man to a ministry to a movementto a museum to a mausoleum. Yesterday’s success becomes today’s complacency and leads to tomorrow’s failure. The Church of Jesus Christ is eternally secure. Local churches do not. Dying, distracted, and divided churches need a revival. 

    Psalm 85 is a national lament with personal implications. What happens to the church can happen to you. William Cowper asked, “Where is the blessedness I knew when first I saw the Lord?” Have you ever felt that way? Do you feel that way now? If so, you need a revival. Revival is the result of believing prayer. Revival is not preached up; it’s prayed down. That’s the message of Psalm 85: Pray for revival with confidence God will answer. How should we pray for revival? 

    Affirm God’s Goodness. 

    Psalm 85 begins with praise, not petition. This is a model manner of prayer. Richard Phillips wrote: “The way to be encouraged about God’s grace in the future is to remember how gracious he has been in the past.” Have you forgotten what the Lord has done?

    The Lord’s Favor. Verse 1 begins by invoking the name of the “Lord.” Verses 1-3 then report six things the Lord had done for his people. The first is a summary of them all: “You were favorable to your land.” “Favorable” is an affectionate verb. Proverbs 3:12 uses the term for a son in whom a father “delights.” Favor is the undeserved and unexplainable delight God takes in his people. Psalm 30:5 says, “For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” 

    The Lord was favorable “to your land.” God made the ground fruitful to bless his people. Verse 1b says: “You restored the fortunes of Jacob.” The verb translated “restored” is the theme of the psalm – also used in verses 4, 6, and 8. It means “to turn around.” The Lord changed the circumstances of his people. It was not a pure act of divine favor. He restored the fortunes of “Jacob.” The reference to Jacob – not Israel – reminds the people of their weakness. Has the Lord ever restored you when you were weak?

    The Lord’s Forgiveness. Verses 2-3 are an exposition of verse 1. Divine favor starts with divine forgiveness.

    The Gift of Forgiveness. Verse 2 says, “You forgave the iniquity of your people.” “Iniquity” is moral perversion. That is our sinful condition. But the Lord forgave our iniquity. “Forgave” means “to lift up.” Guilt is a crushing, debilitating, and immovable burden. The forgiveness of God lifts the burden of guilt.

    Verse 3 also says: “You covered all their sin.” “Covered” refers to the blood of atonement. It is what Jesus did for us at the cross. He covered “all” our sins – past, present, and future. Charles Spurgeon said, “All of it, every spot, and wrinkle, the veil of love has covered all. Sin has been divinely put out of sight.”

    The Grace of forgiveness. Verse 3 says, “You withdrew all your wrath; you turned from your hot anger.” Wrath is God’s righteous response to unrighteousness. The verse rightly calls it “hot anger.” But God’s wrath is not like a sinful person flying into a rage. Hot anger is holy anger. 

    The people’s problem was the holiness of God. It is every person’s dilemma. God is holy, and we are not. Holiness demands punishment for sin. But our problem is our solution. The Lord withdrew his wrath and turned from his hot anger through Christ. Isaiah 53:5 says, “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.”

    Pursue God’s Mercy.

    • Verses 1-3 state what the Lord has done. 
    • Verses 4-7 ask the Lord to do it again. 

    Saved people never need to be saved again. But there will be many times we need to ask the Lord to restore and revive us again. 

    Restore Us Again. Verse 4 says, “Restore us again.” The people had strayed away. They could not bring themselves back. They asked the Lord to restore them. They prayed with confidence in the character of God: “O God of our salvation.” God is a saving God! He is able and willing to rescue and deliver you. Ask him to “put away your indignation from us” for the sake of Christ.

    Verse 5 asks, “Will you be angry with us forever? Will you prolong your anger to all generations?” These rhetorical questions assume a negative answer.

    • God will not be angry with us forever. 
    • God will not prolong his anger to all generations. 

    The questions express genuine sorrow over sin. They also reflect urgent prayer. How long can you survive if the Lord is angry with you? This is not a selfish prayer. It is a prayer for future “generations.”We need revival today. We also need revival for our children and children’s children. Exodus 20:5-6 says, “For I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.”  

    Revive Us Again. Verses 5-6 reveal two characteristics of revival. 

    Revival enjoys God. Revival is not about things getting better for us. It is about getting closer to the Lord. Verse 6 asks, “Will you not revive again, that your people may rejoice in you?” Sin will steal your joy.Psalms 51:12 says, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation.” Verse 6 states the nature of true joy: “Rejoice in you.” Happiness is about things, people, and events. Joy is about God. Philippians 4:3 says: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.”

    Revival experiences God. Verse 7 says, “Show us your steadfast love, O Lord, and grant us your salvation.” “Steadfast love” is the covenant love of God. It is loyal love. Lamentations 3:22 says, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.” The psalmist asked the Lord to show his steadfast love by granting salvation. This is how the Lord displays his love. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” 

    Obey God’s Wisdom. 

    On July 8, 1741, Jonathan Edwards preached the famous sermon in American history: “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” He had preached the sermon before to his congregation. But when he preached it in Enfield, Connecticut, it launched “The First Great Awakening.” 

    True revival is marked by the proclamation of God’s word. There is no revival without the power and promise of God’s word. 

    The Power of God’s Word. Verses 1-7 is a corporate prayer. Verse 8 is a personal prayer: “Let me hear what God the Lord will speak.” God speaks through the written word and the living word. Are you willing to hear? Psalm 95:7-8says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” When we reject the voice of God, we rob ourselves. The Lord speaks peace to his people. “Peace” is wealth, wellbeing, and wholeness. But he only speaks peace to his saints – his faithful ones.

    Thus, verse 8 warns: “But let them not turn to folly.” Judgestells of twelve judges. God would send a judge to deliver his people. Then they would turn back to the folly of idolatry and immorality and need to be delivered again. Grace is not a license to sin. It is a means of sanctification. John 8:11 says to the woman taken in adultery: “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” 

    The Promise of God’s Word. Verse 9 is a word of assurance: “Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him, that glory may dwell in our land.” This is the third reference to “salvation” in this psalm. Here it tells us where it is located: “near to those who fear him.” Faith in God is fear of God. Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” “Fear” is the mixture of love and respect. To believe in God is to trust and obeyhim. The one who fears God need not fear anything else.

    His salvation is near to those who fear him “that glory may dwell in our land.” In Ezekiel 10, the glory of God left the temple. The manifested presence of God is no longer in the geographic location of the temple in Jerusalem. It is now in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. John 1:14 says, “And the word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

    Expect God’s Blessings.

    The final stanza of Psalm 85 is a sneak preview of coming attractions. The prayer is over. The palmist now speaks with great expectation that God will hear his people’s prayer for revival. 

    • If you pray for rain, bring an umbrella. 
    • If you pray for fire, don’t bring an extinguisher. 

    Expect God’s redemptive and righteous blessings. 

    God’s Redemptive Blessings. Verse 10 is the Golden Verse of Psalm 85: “Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other.” The verse highlights four attributes of God presented in two couplets. “Steadfast love and faithfulness meet.” The verb typically refers to a hostile meeting. Here love and truth meet harmoniously. 

    “Righteousness and peace kiss each other.” In Genesis 29:13, Laban kissed Jacob to welcome him. In Genesis 45:15, Jacob kissed his brothers to calm their fears. In an infinitely greater way, righteousness and peace kiss each other. This “kiss” ultimately took place at Calvary. On the cross, Jesus fulfilled the righteousness of God that sinners may have peace with God through him. 

    Verse 11 says, “Faithfulness springs up from the ground, and righteousness looks down from the sky.”Two divine attributes are mentioned here: faithfulness and righteousness. The emphasis is on where these attributes work. “Faithfulness springs up from the ground” like a great harvest. Here’s why you have what you have. God is faithful. “Righteousness looks down from the sky,” watching over us and working for us. This is the exhaustive sovereignty of God. The Lord is in control of everything below you and above you. 

    God’s Righteous Blessings. Verses 10-11 affirm present blessings. Verses 12-13 assure future blessings.

    Verse 12 says, “Yes, the Lord will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase.” God is good, gracious, and generous. James 1:17 says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” The Lord gives good gifts. These gifts are not just spiritual. He can make the land yield its increase. He can bless your family, career, finances, health, and goals. Psalm 84:11 says, “For the Lord is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.” 

    Verse 11 sees blessings above us. Verse 12 seeks blessings below us. Verse 13 sees blessings before us: “Righteousness will go before him and make his footsteps a way.”

    • Righteousness is like a soldier clearing out the path. 
    • Righteousness is like a herald announcing the king. 

    God’s righteousness goes before him and makes his footsteps a way. Psalm 23:3 says, “He leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”

    The Bohemian King, St. Wencelas, was a devout man who once walked through the snow in the bitter cold to attend church. His faithful servant Podavivious followed but struggled to keep up. The king ordered the servant to set his feet in the footprints he made, which enabled him to make the journey successfully. If you are weak and weary, walk in the Lord’s steps as he leads you.


    H.B. Charles Jr.

    Pastor-Teacher at the Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church of Jacksonville and Orange Park, Florida.