The Need for Revival (4)
Arise, O God, plead Your own cause;
Remember how the foolish man reproaches You daily.
Do not forget the voice of Your enemies;
The tumult of those who rise up against You increases continually. Psalm 74.22, 23
Asaph and his times
It’s quite possible that Asaph was not the most popular worship leader of his day.
Asaph was appointed by David to lead musicians, singers, and the worship of God’s people in the temple that was shortly to be built (cf. 1 Chron. 25. 1-6). His calling was to “prophesy with harps, stringed instruments, and cymbals,” “according to the order of the king.” Asaph was thus expected to teach the people of Israel, and to do so with the authority of a prophet.
His twelve psalms (50, 73-83) give us a flavor of the kind of teaching he brought, once the temple had been built and he began to serve under the oversight of Solomon. His themes are dire, harsh, threatening, and filled with images of corruption, dissolution, and the downfall of the nation. At the time he served, Israel was experiencing the high-water mark of her existence, ruling over all the surrounding nations, awash in riches, and sporting a temple and system of worship that was a wonder of the world in its day. On every hand, it seemed the blessings of God just kept coming (cf. 1 Kgs. 10). And indeed, God was very good to His people during the days in which Asaph led them in worship.
But Asaph was a prophet, and prophets often see things that elude the notice of the rest of us. Asaph saw in himself an easy tendency to want to rebel against God, to be done with Him and His Law, and join the bands of rich and carefree people who were everywhere to be seen in the city of Jerusalem (cf. Ps. 73). But God had His hand on Asaph, and He enabled him to recognize and confess his covetous tendencies, and to return to the Lord, seeking and delighting in Him as his highest objective and hope.
It may be, as Asaph pondered how easy it was for him, a prophet and worship leader, to drift from the Lord and His salvation, that he began to notice indications that people around him were giving in to their fleshly desires and material lusts, all the while they continued worshiping God and putting up a good front before their neighbors. After all, had not even King Solomon taken many wives and concubines, and set up kiosks to honor their false deities, even on the grounds of the temple?
The more he observed and thought about this, the more he could see where these compromises would lead. The nation had opened its doors to worldly ways, and it would not be long before God acted in judgment against them. The people of Israel needed revival, and Asaph determined to put that need before them, front and center.
The sanctuary compromised
We’re going to look at two of Asaph’s psalms – 74 and 79 – as we continue working to understand the need for revival. Then, in the final part of this study, we’ll consider Psalm 80, another of Asaph’s psalms, and how it can help us in laying hold on the promise of revival for our day.
Psalm 74 begins with a question. Asaph wanted to know why God had cast His people off, why He was angry with them, and seemed to have turned His back on them. The evidence of this, to Asaph’s prophetic eye, could be seen in the compromised state of Israel’s worship. Granted, they were doing all the right things in worship (cf. Ps. 50.8); however, their worship lacked sincerity, gratitude, devotion, and daily obedience (again, Ps. 50.14-22). To Asaph, it was as if an enemy had come into the temple, hoisted his own pagan banners, defaced the worship God prescribed, and torched the sanctuary (Ps. 74.4-7). And the damage had spread throughout the land, so that every local gathering of worshipers was equally invaded and compromised (v. 8). True preachers of the Word were no longer in evidence, and no one could tell how long this tragic situation would continue (vv. 9, 10). If this process of compromise and corruption were to be arrested, God Himself would have to do it (v. 11).
And Asaph knew that God was capable of doing so. He recalled the greatness and power of God – Creator, Savior, sovereign Lord, Deliverer of His people, Ruler of all things (vv. 12-17). He was certainly capable of reviving the people, should He choose to rise up and do so.
As Asaph looked into the souls of God’s people – beginning with the king and his court (1 Kgs. 11.1ff) – he could see that they were embracing pagan ways, giving in to worldly desires, and flooding the sanctuary of God with darkness, rather than light (vv. 18-21). He called on God to arise, to plead His case against His people, rebuke and destroy those who were in rebellion against Him, and restore His people in His ways (vv. 22, 23).
In Asaph’s mind, God’s people were giving in to all the wrong desires. They were bringing the ways of the world into the worship of God. And in so doing, they brought the rebellion of lawlessness into the sanctuary of the Lord. The people were no longer seeking God; they were seeking their own pleasure and convenience.
Praying Psalm 74 for revival
As we pray this psalm for revival, we need to allow Asaph’s insights to search our souls. Are we compromising our Kingdom-and-glory calling (1 Thess. 2.12) by harboring worldly desires? Do we delight more in material things, entertainment, and ease than in the Lord and His calling? Have we so changed the face of worship in our churches as to have abandoned all that God’s Word teaches us? Have our Christian life and services of worship become arenas for worldly, materialist, self-seeking ways to strut our stuff (Ps. 12.8)?
We need to look to God, to renew our vision of God – of His greatness, beauty, majesty, wisdom, glory, might, and power, as well as of His wrath and threat of judgment for all who rebel against Him and His ways (vv. 12-17, 1-3). God is more to be desired that the things of this world (Ps. 73.25-28). His Kingdom is more beautiful and more enduring than all the regimes of men. His Son rules over the earth and its peoples, and He is in the business of making all things new, not of accommodating holy practices to worldly agendas.
And then we must call on God to arise, and plead His own cause. Plead with God to arise in your soul, to revive you day by day, and to fix your gaze on Christ and His Kingdom in everything you do. Pray for God to arise and revive all His people, to renew our churches, so that we return to God’s ways of worshiping, making disciples, and taking the Good News to the world. Pray that God will arise and strike shame and terror in the hearts of His enemies, that, as we proclaim His message to the world, many of them would kiss the Son of God and submit themselves entirely to Him (Ps. 2.12).
Asaph saw things that most people chose not to see. In our day, we need more people with the vision of Asaph to come to the Lord to revive them, and to intercede for their churches and the world, that revival, renewal, and awakening might once again spread throughout the earth. At a time when revival was needed in the history of ancient Israel, King Hezekiah instructed the people to pray and sing the psalms of Asaph and David (2 Chron. 29.30). This is good advice for our own day as well.
1. How can you know if your soul is being compromised with worldliness?
2. How can we tell when our churches are turning from God’s ways to the ways of the world?
3. Do you agree that the Church today is captive to the spirit of the times, rather than the Spirit of Christ? Explain.
Next steps – Transformation: Spend the next few days praying Psalm 74 at various times during the day.
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.