What does revival look like?
Psalm 85:6 (ESV) Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?
Some believe this Psalm was written shortly after Israel’s return from exile. They had been commissioned to rebuild Jerusalem and their Temple but the process was hard and they met several obstacles along the way. One of which was their walls being burned shortly after having rebuilt them.
The task seemed impossible. How could they once again be the glorious nation of the past if they couldn’t build a wall?
The answer was prayer.
When we think about the Church in America, the task seems impossible. To stop the secularization of our nation and bring Christianity to bear in the public square once more seems like an improbability. More churches close per year than open and thousands of Pastors leave vocational ministry every month.
Will you not revive us again?
What is revival? Revival is three things:
1. When God’s Word is preached with absolute conviction.
Every move of God in the Bible and in the history of the Church started when God’s word was found, proclaimed and heard. From Hilkiah finding the record of Moses in the Temple under Josiah’s reign to Paul’s reasoning every Sabbath in the Synagogue to the Great Awakening preaching of Edwards, Whitfield and Wesley, you do not see God move without God’s Word proclaimed.
Social agendas are wonderful, let’s help the poor, but God’s WORD preached is the pathway to Revival.
2. When Sleepy Christians wake up.
Revival happens when people who though they were Christians because they went to church actually realize they aren’t Christians and come to faith! It sounds strange, but most times, this is how Revival happens. God’s people hear God’s voice and awake to their lost condition, repent and turn wholeheartedly to Him.
The Psalmist wrote:
Psalm 85:8 (ESV) 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.
3. When those newborn Christians live out their faith and the world takes notice and wonders why.
This is revival’s greatest blessing. The pagans start seeing the good works of Christians now captured by the heart of God and turn to inquire why and what happened.
We need revival.
But it’s not going to happen without confident courageous preaching, new birth experiences from those within the Church, and transformed lives out side of it.
Will you not revive us again?
God’s house is a place for the worthless and the restless.
Psalm 84 was written by the sons of Korah. One of the specific Levite families which were considered the janitors at the temple. In that light this Psalm becomes incredibly beautiful. For the janitors of God’s house are not doing what they do out of resentment or frustration, but are thoroughly in love with being in the presence of God doing the work of God.
What have they found?
How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of Heaven’s Armies. I long, yes, I faint with longing to enter the courts of the LORD. With my whole being, body and soul, I will shout joyfully to the living God. (Psalms 84:1-2 NLT)
I have learned that every church has people who would be there whether you paid them or not, whether you needed them or not, or asked them to be there or not. They just love to be in God’s house with God’s people. They have learned through experience the blessing of being in the presence of the Lord.
The sons of Korah are case in point.
Then this phrase:
Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow builds her nest and raises her young at a place near your altar, O LORD of Heaven’s Armies, my King and my God! (Psalms 84:3 NLT)
The two birds that are mentioned are interesting.
The Bible teaches us that the sparrow is a worthless bird. It’s incredibly cheap. It was known to be sold - four for a penny, as Jesus mentions.
God’s house in God’s presence are for those who feel worthless. The owner and creator of the universe wants to do well with those who feel unworthy. And the invitation is open, for Jesus said “come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.”
The second bird is the swallow. Swallow is known for its restlessness. It was a bird that had weak feet which were unfit to walk or stand on for long periods of time. Therefore it learned to stay in the air constantly and flutter about. What a beautiful picture of God’s house – a place for those who can’t find comfort anywhere else. But more than comfort, the swallow finds a family. That’s the beauty of this faith, people who can’t find family anywhere else, find it in the house of God.
Are you restless? Do you feel worthless? God’s house is open to you.
But don’t for one minute think that it’s all about coming to church. The Psalmist has much more in mind, and the Psalm has a larger picture beyond some building where Christians gather on the weekends. It’s looking forward to heaven, the eternal city for God’s presence will do well with man in perfection forever.
That’s who heaven is open for… You, me, the janitors… And everyone in between.
Psalm 83 reminds us that enemies of God’s people always abound. The opening verses mention 10 nations gathered around Israel to attack and destory them. These are their enemies.
Child of God, we will always have enemies…
1 John 3:13 (ESV) Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.
The world throughout history has hated this ancient family of the Jews. God’s chosen people have been the rejected ones in society down through the ages, from Egypt to Nazi Germany. Yet God’s blessing has been upon them to this day.
For Christians it will be no different. Men will hate us. Yet we are to regard this as blessing!
Luke 6:22–23 (ESV) “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! 23 Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.
The Psalmist readily acknowledges the adversary. He then prays for their downfall. He recounts the enemies of Israel in the time of the Judges and how often God took them out, saving His people. If you know your Bible, you know the time of the Judges was not a stellar time of obedience and faithfulness in Israel’s history! No! It was a time of distress, disorientation and disobedience for Israel. Yet no matter how many times their sin brought them to the brink of destruction, God raised up a deliverer like Barak, Samson, Gideon etc…
I grew up in the Charismatic Church. We were really into worship. It was everything. And by worship, we meant the singing and emotional feel of the service before the preaching. In fact, on some occasions, if we “felt the Spirit” just right, the preaching would be sidelined for more singing and emotion. It was very feeling oriented. And I read Psalm 81 thinking about how often the feeling of worship and the form of worship can be a shady cover for hearts that aren’t actually listening to God or doing what He says.
The Psalmist opens:
Psalm 81:1–3 (ESV) 1 Sing aloud to God our strength; shout for joy to the God of Jacob! 2 Raise a song; sound the tambourine, the sweet lyre with the harp. 3 Blow the trumpet at the new moon, at the full moon, on our feast day.
The idea in the first three verses is that of orderly, well structured, planned and perfected worship. Everything is going just as the Levitical prescription is laid out in the Pentateuch. But when the Word of the Lord comes, it is a strong word of warning.
Psalm 81:8–10 (ESV) Hear, O my people, while I admonish you! O Israel, if you would but listen to me! 9 There shall be no strange god among you; you shall not bow down to a foreign god. 10 I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.
God says listen and hear several times in the remaining verses. He doesn’t just want us singing to Him looking for that “feeling” of His presence. He IS with us whether we feel Him or not, therefore walk in His ways all the time.
It’s so easy and natural to segregate our lives. But this was never God’s intention. He made all things and gave us all things for His purposes and glory. We don’t do our “God stuff” on Sunday and business Monday through Saturday. We are always worshipping… it’s just not always the ONE LORD and ONE GOD.
It’s funny, the culture at large is perfectly fine with Christians who segregate themselves and cordon off their worship into a time slot on the weekend. What the world has a problem with is that Christian who carries their convictions from the church house into the public sector of life and lives according to a sure Word from God.
Notice the problem God has: It’s that His people will not listen… not the world:
Psalm 81:11 (ESV) “But my people did not listen to my voice; Israel would not submit to me.
God isn’t looking to the lost to shine the light and live right, He’s looking to those He chose and called. We are the people called to bear witness as to what life with the One True King is like. However many Churches look to the lost to listen to God and do what He says. That’s not their job! That’s ours. The goodness of the Lord is only experienced and seen when the people of the Lord are walking in the light of His truth day by day.
This is what God is looking for. People who worship Him in daily life! That’s the salt and light Jesus talked about. Radical commitment to Christ in everyday doings are the makings of true worship that others see, some hate, and many will appreciate.
I know this sounds harsh, but God doesn’t need us. We like to romanticize the Christian faith. We like to believe that God just wanted on big ole family and so He came to the idea to create us and form us… But we had to go and blow it and so God came and dealt with it. Why? Because He didn’t want anything taking us away from Him. He’s just that enamored with humanity.
To say such things is completely wrong.
God created us because God creates. He saves us because He saves. He redeems because He redeems. He does this because of Who He is, not because of who we are! If you don’t believe me, look at what He told His people several times:
Deuteronomy 7:7–8 (NLT) “The LORD did not set his heart on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other nations, for you were the smallest of all nations! 8 Rather, it was simply that the LORD loves you, and he was keeping the oath he had sworn to your ancestors. That is why the LORD rescued you with such a strong hand from your slavery and from the oppressive hand of Pharaoh, king of Egypt.
1 Corinthians 1:26–28 (ESV) For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are,
So why does God forgive us? The Psalmist got it right…
Psalm 77 is a Psalm that begins with distress and ends with praise. There is a specific movement in this Psalm from an inward focused groan to an outward focused praise of God.
In the first 2 verses the Psalmist mentions himself six times.
I cry out to God; yes, I shout. Oh, that God would listen to me! When I was in deep trouble, I searched for the Lord. All night long I prayed, with hands lifted toward heaven, but my soul was not comforted. (Psalms 77:1-2 NLT)
How often we do this when we are in distress. We focus on our feelings, on what we experience, on what is going on and happening to us. Many prayers begin this way. Talking all about what we need, what we think, what we lack.
Slowly the Psalm moves towards a focus on God. Albeit a wrongful thought toward God.
I think of God, and I moan, overwhelmed with longing for his help. Interlude… I think of the good old days, long since ended, when my nights were filled with joyful songs. I search my soul and ponder the difference now. Has the Lord rejected me forever? Will he never again be kind to me? Is his unfailing love gone forever? Have his promises permanently failed? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he slammed the door on his compassion? Interlude (Psalms 77:3, 5-9 NLT)
Notice how he is shifted his thoughts towards God only to blame or find accusation against him. This is our habit. It is been our habits is the garden of Eden in the fall. Adam and Eve both blamed God in a subtle way for how they now felt.
Many times are prayers do this as well. We start to blame God for how we feel, question where he is in our lives, wonder if he’ll ever help us out again.
A little more self pity…
And I said, “This is my fate; the Most High has turned his hand against me.” (Psalm 77:10 NLT)
How easy it is to fall into self-pity when we pray. To play the “woe is me” card. But let’s not stop there - just like the Psalmist didn’t stop there either…
But then I recall all you have done, O LORD; I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago. They are constantly in my thoughts. I cannot stop thinking about your mighty works. (Psalms 77:11-12 NLT)
He starts to think biblically. He starts to think about what God has done in the past. His thoughts are going to lead him away from self and toward the mighty Savior.
We can all do this. We can all spend time thinking about God’s good work for us in the past and His great works for His people in the scriptures. This will do two things… Get us to focus on something other than us, which is right because we are NOT the center of the world. And secondly, it will get us a wider perspective to remember we are a part of God’s greater plan for creation.
O God, your ways are holy. Is there any god as mighty as you? You are the God of great wonders! You demonstrate your awesome power among the nations. By your strong arm, you redeemed your people, the descendants of Jacob and Joseph. Interlude (Psalms 77:13-15 NLT)
This is how time with The Lord should end… On a praise note! No longer obsessed with how we feel… No longer focused on what we think we need right now. But rather thinking about the goodness of our God. Remember how Jesus ended the model prayer? “Yours is the kingdom (not mine), Yours is the power (not mine), Yours is the glory (not mine again) FOREVER!”
Prayer time that doesn’t move you from your self to Your Savior is just grumbling. Look up and give Him praise.