There are many preachers speaking about revival, and many evangelists hold revival meetings. In this post, I’d like to look at one very well known passage on revival. I am not right now addressing what revival is. I may get to my thoughts about that or maybe Kent or Dave will Today, just some thoughts from the Old Testament psalm that gives us the title to the popular song.
In my limited study, I notice many parallels between salvation and revival. First, both are miracles of God. Man doesn’t save himself and neither does he revive himself. Salvation gives life to the dead; revival gives life again to the dead. In salvation we are born again; in revival, we have life again. In salvation we are made sons; when the prodigal son returns, there is revival.
LORD, thou hast been favorable unto thy land: thou hast brought back the captivity of Jacob. Thou hast forgiven the iniquity of thy people, thou hast covered all their sin. Selah. Thou hast taken away all thy wrath: thou hast turned thyself from the fierceness of thine anger. Turn us, O God of our salvation, and cause thine anger toward us to cease. Wilt thou be angry with us for ever? wilt thou draw out thine anger to all generations? Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee? Shew us thy mercy, O LORD, and grant us thy salvation. (Psalm 85:1-7)
In this passage I see many helps to understanding revival.
- The plea of revival – when the psalmist uses the word “wilt,” he is not doubting the Lord’s ability. He is confident that God will do this thing. God has been favorable. He has forgiven their iniquity. He has taken away all wrath, and He will revive us again. It is a word that shows desire. God pours blessings on those that are thirsty.
- The person of revival – the pronouns “thou” and “thy” refer specifically to the LORD. He is the one that gives revival. Many preachers acknowledge this in their preaching and then go on to exhort us to think that we have some control over the “process.” They preach like there are some “laws” of nature that if simply followed will give us revival. They forget that God is the laws of nature, and all things work the way they do because He continuously maintains them. There are no formulas for revival. There is only God.
- The people of revival – revival is not for unsaved people. The plea is that God would revive “us.” These are God’s people already. They are saved people. I’m reminded of the church in Revelation 3:1 which had a name, but was dead. They needed revival.
- The pattern of revival – this is found in the word “again.” Some people have the idea that people get saved and then the get revived and then they go to heaven….that revival is a one time occurrence in a believer’s life. But as it stands, the word revival means life again already. So the psalmist is asking for life again again. The pattern is that believers need life again and again and again. It’s like the wisdom that we’re told to ask for over and over and over again (James 1:5). It’s like springtime that brings life back to the ground. This happens over and over and over again.
- Finally, and most helpful, the purpose of revival – we want revival so that we can rejoice in God. This is foundational and I believe missing from most Christians’ understanding. Pastors want revival so that their congregations will live in harmony and so that they will bring more people into their services. People want revival so that they can attain some mystical feeling of super spirituality and have the lost tremble in their presence at work. But the purpose of revival is so that we can truly rejoice in God. How simple. Yet how difficult. I don’t want to rejoice in God. I want to rejoice in my own attainments even if (or especially because) they are spiritual or religious attainments. I would rather be discouraged because God isn’t treating me like I think I deserve. I’d rather be happy with myself than rejoice in my God.
We really do need revival. There is so little rejoicing in God. Who He is. What He does. We need a fresh realization of Who He is and what He does and then we need revival so that we can rejoice in that.