What is Revival? Revival is a period of restoration. The root word means to restore something back to the fullness of life. Revival is also a rekindling of spiritual life in individual Christians and local churches which have fallen on sluggish times. True revival brings a fresh emphasis on the holiness and righteousness of God, the total depravity of man and the wickedness of sin, which brings about true repentance and genuine conversion to Christ. Such revival is always a sovereign work of God brought about in response to the prayers of His people.
The central thrust of Psalm 85 is how revival and restoration are for the people of God. The Psalmist offers a prayer to God in difficult days, begging Him to revive them in days of spiritual apathy. This Psalm is relevant for the people of God today. We have seen the Church slip into spiritual apathy, lukewarmness, spiritual decline, and is in great need of the people of God joining their hearts with the Psalmist crying out, “Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?” (Psalm 85:6)
It is believed that this Psalm was written after Israel returned to her land after her seventy-year captivity in Babylon. At first, the people rejoiced at being able to go to their homeland. But when the rebuilding project became still, the holy city fell onto difficult times. This Psalm is a prayer that God would revive their work and restore the city to its former glory. And so, by remembering God’s favor and divine mercy in the past, the Psalmist calls for God to restore and revive His people! Psalm 85 can be split into three parts:
- A Grateful Remembrance of God’s Past (v1-3)
- A Humble Admission of Our Present Need (v4-7)
- A Godward Anticipation of Our Future Hope (v8-13)
Psalm 85, “1 Lord, you were favorable to your land; you restored the fortunes of Jacob.2 You forgave the iniquity of your people; you covered all their sin. 3 You withdrew all your wrath; you turned from your hot anger. 4 Restore us again, O God of our salvation, and put away your indignation toward us! 5 Will you be angry with us forever? Will you prolong your anger to all generations? 6 Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? 7 Show us your steadfast love, O Lord, and grant us your salvation. 8 Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints; but let them not turn back to folly. 9 Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him, that glory may dwell in our land. 10 Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other. 11 Faithfulness springs up from the ground, and righteousness looks down from the sky. 12 Yes, the Lord will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase. 13 Righteousness will go before him and make his footsteps a way.”
A Grateful Remembrance of God’s Past (Psalm 85:1-3)
In verses 1-3, the Psalmist recalls God’s past blessings toward His people. The thoughts expressed here by the Psalmist are marked by God’s favor, restoration, and His forgiveness. Through the death of Christ, Jesus has graciously made an atonement for His people’s sin. The Lord turning from His fierce anger was a remarkable display of His divine mercy and grace toward a disobedient people. The Psalmist shows us, even urges us, to remember the faithfulness of the Lord in our past. By constantly reflecting on the Lord’s mighty work in the past, the Christian has confidence for the future.
How often do you recall your former days? Do you remember God’s favor and divine mercy in the past? Do you remember that there was absolutely nothing in you that could ever earn you God’s favor? But God, being rich in mercy and grace sent forth His Son, pouring out His hot anger and wrath against sin on Christ. Our perfect substitute, the Lord Jesus, drank our cup of wrath! Now the cup is empty because of the death of Jesus on the cross! Do you rejoice in God’s saving work in the past? Does it humble you? When we look at verse 1-3 may we glory in the Cross! May we stop and meditate on the divine mercy and grace of the Lord in our salvation! “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:21). By remembering God’s mighty working in the past, the Christian has confidence for the future.
Having Reviewed God’s past mercies (Psalm 85:1-3), the Psalmist then urges that this same divine mercy be granted to their present troubles (Psalm 85:4-7).
A Humble Admission of Our Present Need (Psalm 85:4-7)
Next, the Psalmist asks God to stop his anger and grant salvation, bringing about their revival and restoration for the people of God.
In verse 4, the Psalmist cries, “Restore Us Again, O God of our salvation.” This plea is a humble request that God would bestow His favor once more, like in the past, in this present hour of His people. The Psalmist knowing how the Lord restored them in the past asks Him to do it once more. After this urgent request, the Psalmist then adds, “put way your indignation towards us”! This indicates that their present crisis was a result of their sin. Do we realize that most of our present-day suffering is a result of our disobedience toward God? The habitual pursuit of sin will bring Christians under divine discipline (Hebrews 12:7-11). May we seek God by God’s grace to examine ourselves in light of Christ and return once again to Him (Lamentations 3:40) so Christ might be the greatest treasure we daily delight in.
The Psalmist then introduces three rhetorical questions, which are placed in the negative, to support his plea. Surely God will not be angry forever with His people, right? The Psalmist knows that God will not be forever angry with His covenant people! Seeing their present need was not enough for the Psalmist since his specific plea is for revival! In verse 6, the Psalmist states, “Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?” This was a plea for the spiritual awakening of God’s people, a petition that God would restore their hearts thus renewing their devotion towards Him. If God would again revive them, they would rejoice in Him! The Psalmist concludes this present plea with one final request. He asks God to show His steadfast love and grant salvation to His people. It was a request the Lord would make known His unfailing love in faithful devotion to them, even in spite of themselves, based on His everlasting covenant commitment to His people! And finally, that the Lord would deliver them from their present problems and spiritual apathy.
A Godward Anticipation of Our Future Hope (Psalm 85:8-13)
To solve the present need, God promises peace and salvation to those who fear Him!
Firstly, in verses 8-9, God promises to Manifest His glory by providing peace (v8) and salvation (v.9) to His people. The word “peace” was a general benediction. However, it ultimately finds fulfillment in the coming Messiah’s Kingdom (Luke 2:14). This peace signaled a wholeness or fullness of life that is only found in Christ alone! The Psalmist looked forward to the Day when the Messiah would come and bring eternal peace with God! But there is a warning for us here not to return to folly, which is living independently of God.
Salvation, which the Psalmist talks about, is reserved and near to those who fear the Lord. The deepest longing of the Psalmist’s heart is the manifestation of God’s presence in a restored people, who make known His supreme greatness and majesty to all!
Finally, in verse 10-13, God prepares to magnify His goodness. When God brings forth this new Day, many of His divine attributes will be revealed. All four of these spiritual qualities, steadfast love, faithfulness, righteousness, and peace are all expressions of the Lord’s abundant favor toward His people. Wherever God’s presence is manifested in the restoration of His people, these divine attributes will be seen in the lives of His people. By remembering God’s favor in the past, the Psalmist calls for the Lord to restore and revive His people.
Certain spirituals characteristics have always marked revivals and periods of restoration. We would do us well if we measured ourselves by biblical standards discussed above and the following:
- A Proclamation of Scripture: We must return to the Word of God and make sure it is central to our entire lives. In His Word, we see His grand plan of redemption. God’s Word tells us that we were once dead in our sins and trespasses and that God, but being rich in mercy raised us alive from spiritual death to spiritual life (Ephesians 2:1-5)! What grace! Please take the time to daily marvel in and glory in the grace of God!
- Prayer: We must examine our present state as the Psalmist did humbly admit our neediness for revival in our own souls. Our response to this need should be to humble ourselves and seek the Lord in prayer.
- Confession of sin: Every genuine revival is marked by a period of deep conviction, confession, and repentance of sin! We must ask the Lord to search our hearts and reveal by the Holy Spirit any sin(s) in our lives; then we should repent of them!
- Devotion to holiness: We must also seek the Lord for a greater desire and hunger to apply to our lives to the Word of God! Our prayer(s) should include that His Word would mold and shape absolutely everything, we do!
A final exhortation is that we must not glory in the past, but live Godward dependent lives in the present, even as we anticipate and look forward to the soon return of our Lord. May our prayer always be for the Lord revive His Church. In response to the lavishness of His grace, may we live recklessly abandoned lives for His praise and glory!