The Promise of Revival (5)
Return, we beseech You, O God of hosts;
Look down from heaven and see,
And visit this vine
And the vineyard which Your right hand has planted,
And the branch that You made strong for Yourself.
It is burned with fire, it is cut down;
They perish at the rebuke of Your countenance.
Let Your hand be upon the man of Your right hand,
Upon the son of man whom You made strong for Yourself.
Then we will not turn back from You;
Revive us, and we will call upon Your name.
Restore us, O LORD God of hosts;
Cause Your face to shine,
And we shall be saved! Psalm 80.14-19
Exposing the darkness
Psalm 80 is a psalm of Asaph. Appointed director of music and choirs by David, we may assume that Asaph continued his ministry after the temple was constructed under Solomon. His twelve psalms – 50 and 73-83 – would have been composed at the height of Israel’s glory and prosperity.
Yet these psalms reveal a growing darkness in the soul of the nation, beginning in Asaph’s own tendency to allow his heart to go after the things of the world (cf. Ps. 73). In the psalms of Asaph, we discover a prophet who has perceived the growing accommodation of the Solomonic court with the ways of the unbelieving world. Although outwardly, everything was going great guns – all the numbers were good and everyone seemed to be happy – inwardly, Asaph perceived that the soul of the nation was becoming captive to the lusts of the eyes and the pride of life. He wrote his psalms to jar the people of Israel to their senses, expose the darkness within them, and lead them to repentance before disaster and complete capitulation overtook them.
So clear and necessary is the message of Asaph’s psalms that, many years later, when King Hezekiah recognized a need for revival, and resolved to lead the people out of their captivity to pagan ways, he gave specific instructions that the psalms of David and Asaph should be used to lead the people in worship (2 Chron. 29.30).
Since the psalms of Asaph were effective for King Hezekiah, as he led the nation to seek the Lord in a time when revival and renewal were greatly needed, we should expect them to be useful for us as well. And Psalm 80 brings together the burden and hope of all of Asaph’s psalms.
Psalm 80 contains everything we need to begin throwing off the cultural chains and overcoming the misguided affections that are keeping us from realizing our full potential as the Body of Christ and temple of the Lord.
The psalm builds in intensity, as we see by comparing the growing plea for restoration in verses 3, 7, and 19. By continuing to stretch out and add titles for God to this refrain, Asaph increases the sense of urgency he wants us to feel as we pray. He knows that only God can deliver His captive people, by causing His face to shine on them once again – an appeal for a return of God’s favor, strength, and unfailing Word and Spirit.
The psalm recalls the great work of God in the past in establishing His people as a fruitful vine. And it laments the broken-down hedges of the Lord’s garden, which have allowed the wild beasts of pagan ways to run roughshod over the vineyard of the Lord (vv. 8-11). Asaph led the people to long once again for the fruitful days, when the hand of God was upon His people, and they followed His leading in all things (v. 17). He understood that God had allowed the souls of His people to fall captive to their lusts (v. 12), and to render the vineyard of the Lord unfruitful and waste (vv. 14-16).
The City of God was overrun with beasts, marred by the fires of worldliness, and cut back from realizing its full flourishing (vv. 13, 16). Clearly, revival was the need of the hour.
Asaph knew that only the Lord could return His people from captivity, and he was encouraged, by providing the nation with this prayer, that their using it might be just the primer necessary for the waters of revival to gush and flow once again (v. 18). Praying this psalm might help the captive churches of our day realize the focus, strength, vigor, and fruit of the Lord once again.
Praying Psalm 80 for revival
Read and meditate on Psalm 80. Pray it daily. Lead your congregation, family, Bible study group, and friends in praying this psalm. Let the images of God’s vineyard translate to the state of our churches today, and weep for the comparisons. Let the Lord search your heart, for any ways you might be contributing to the Church’s failure to realize its full fruition in our day.
Pray the refrain with increasing passion and urgency (vv. 3, 7, 19). Let that recurring phrase, especially in its final version in verse 19, be a “breathing prayer” for you throughout the day. Take a deep breath: “Restore us, O LORD God of hosts…” Then exhale slowly: “Cause Your face to shine, and we shall be saved!” Pray this throughout the day. Share it with some friends, and encourage them to pray it with you.
If your church is in any way, or to any degree, captive to winds of doctrine and ways of working that are more of the world than of God’s Word, praying Psalm 80 can be a place to begin helping your church find its way to the freedom of Christ. And know that, when you pray, and as you enlist others to pray this psalm for revival, God is already at work toward that great issue: “Revive us, and we will call upon Your name.”
1. Asaph wrote this psalm during a time of outward flourishing in Israel. What was he trying to get his contemporaries to see?
2. What are we praying for when we pray, “Restore us”?
3. Why did the psalmist think that God was “angry against the prayer” of His people? Is it possible God could be angry against our prayers? Explain.
Next Steps – Transformation: Use Psalm 80.19 as a focusing prayer throughout 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.