Theme: Prayer for Restoration and Revival
In this week’s lessons we find encouragement from the knowledge of God’s past faithfulness, and the hope of future blessings because of who he is.
Scripture: Psalm 85:1-13
In yesterday’s reading we saw the need to reflect on past mercies. However, remembering the past does not always provide victory in the present. Therefore, in the second stanza of this gentle, perceptive psalm the writer moves to direct petition (vv. 4-7). That is, he moves to prayer. On the people’s behalf, he asks God to: 1) restore us again (v. 4); and 2) revive us again (v. 6).
1. Restore us again. There is some question as to how the Hebrew of this prayer should be translated, for the root word means “turn” and it can be thought of in at least three ways. First, it can refer to the people, which is what the New International Version suggests. That is, it can mean “turn us” or “turn us back,” with the idea of restoration. Second, it can refer to God in the sense that God is being asked to turn from his wrath, a repeat of what is said in verse 4. Third, it can refer to God with the sense that he is being asked to turn back to the people again, since he seems to have turned from them in his displeasure. That would mean that the idea gets repeated again almost exactly in the second half of the verse.
The best translation is probably what the NIV gives us, since the other two ideas are redundant and since the prayer “restore us again” is thereby matched by “revive us again” two verses later. It is what the people need. It is what we need whenever we seem to have lost the joy of our salvation. Fortunately God is the great restorer. He can restore what apart from him could never be made good.
We may think of the promise in the book of Joel in which God pledges himself to restore what the locusts have eaten. There had been a devastating locust invasion in Joel’s day, and Joel explained it as being God’s judgment for the people’s sins as well as a warning of a greater final judgment yet to come. Nevertheless, if the people will repent, says God, “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm—my great army that I sent among you. You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the LORD your God, who has worked wonders for you” (Joel 2:25, 26).
Sin causes us to lose many blessings. These cannot be recovered; they are gone. But God can give new opportunities and new blessings. If you are one whose life has been ruined by the locusts of sin, making it a spiritual desert, you need to return to the one who can make your life fruitful again. If you will turn to God, he will return to you and restore what “the locusts have eaten.”
2. Revive us again. The second prayer is that God would revive the people. “Revive” means to resurrect or to make alive. It implies that the people were alive once, have died in a spiritual sense and now need to be given spiritual life again. This is what the church almost always needs, and it is how revivals come. We think of revivals as being a movement of God in the world so that unchurched unbelievers come to Christ. But revivals do not start in the world. They start in the church since it is the church that needs to live again.
Historically, revivals have followed three stages. First, under strong biblical preaching by people like Martin Luther, Jonathan Edwards, Gilbert Tennent or George Whitfield, the members of the church, who beforehand had thought they were Christians and that all was well with their souls, wake up to the fact that they are not Christians at all. In the American revivals under Edwards and his contemporary preachers, this was called the Great Awakening. Second, there is the revival itself, which means that those who had thought they were alive but were actually spiritually dead are revived. That is, they repent of their sin and become Christians. The third stage is when these church-going people who are now converted begin to live for Christ so openly and consistently, with noticeable changes of conduct, that the world outside takes notice and begins to press into the church to see what is happening. This is revival. We have had them in the past, but we have not had one in this country for many years.
We need to notice one more thing about this stanza, and that is the reference to God’s “unfailing love” in verse 7, used as an argument for the two prayers. The psalmist does not plead the people’s goodness or even their intentions to reform. On the contrary, he acknowledges the justice of God’s displeasure. Nevertheless God is unfailing in his love, and it is to this, that is, to the mercy of God, that the writer pleads. Never plead your merits before God. Plead mercy. It is mercy we need. We need it from first to last, and we need it every single day.
After reflecting on past mercies, what does the psalmist do?
Give the best probable translation of the word “turn” as used here. Why is it the preferred translation?
What does God promise if you turn from sin?
Explain what “revival” means in this study. What is the implication when used here? Where does revival begin?
Reflection: In what way has God worked in your life as the great restorer?
Prayer: Ask God to repay the years the locusts of sin have eaten in your life.
Key Point: Sin causes us to lose many blessings. But God can give new opportunities and new blessings.