The Promise of Revival (6)
LORD, You have been favorable to Your land;
You have brought back the captivity of Jacob.
You have forgiven the iniquity of Your people;
You have covered all their sin. Selah
You have taken away all Your wrath;
You have turned from the fierceness of Your anger.
Restore us, O God of our salvation,
And cause Your anger toward us to cease. Psalm 85.1-4
Chronic, but not permanent
The condition of becoming captive is chronic within the Christian movement, flaring up, disabling, distracting, and causing churches to lose sight of their calling as Kingdom signs and outposts for a season. At such times, blown off course by unfavorable winds of doctrine and practice, and drifting from the moorings of our great salvation, churches find their worship lagging, their zeal for evangelism dried up, their unity with all believers fractured, an unhealthy fixation on numbers predominating, and assorted other ills suggesting that the Body of Christ has become captive to views and ways that have caused it to lapse into a period of poor health.
But while the condition of captivity may be chronic, it is not permanent. Churches do not need to languish in captivity to the ways of the world, the demands of the flesh, or the deceptions of the devil. Church leaders at all times should maintain vigilance over their flocks, taking corrective action whenever it appears that the Lord’s vine is not yielding fruit, or that His vineyard is being overrun by worldly ways – as we saw Asaph doing in Psalm 80.
And the place to begin that seeking is in prayer, using psalms that have been especially provided for such situations. When we begin praying for revival – for deliverance from whatever may be our current captivity, whether mild or severe – we can know that it is God Who has moved us to prayer, and that His great work of deliverance and restoration has commenced: “Revive us, and we will call upon Your name” (Psalm 80.18).
As we seek the Lord to deliver us from our captivity and restore health and growth, we should be encouraged, as the sons of Korah were, to remember that God has oftentimes brought deliverance to His captive people. Great seasons of revival are as pronounced throughout Church history as seasons of captivity; and, indeed, the dawn of new Gospel surging and Kingdom advance seems always to follow dark times of setback and unfruitfulness.
Psalm 85 can guide and encourage us in calling on the Lord to remember such seasons of renewed favor.
Seeking deliverance from captivity
In Psalm 80, Asaph called on the Church in his day to look around at the condition of captivity into which they had drifted, and to seek the Lord urgently for deliverance. In Psalm 85, the sons of Korah look back at the faithfulness of God in times past, to see that, while we may in many ways deny Him, He will never deny Himself, His Word, or His promises, and is always ready to forgive, renew, and re-energize His people.
The sons of Korah – probably contemporaries and colleagues of Asaph – recalled the many seasons, from the book of Judges through David, Hezekiah, and Josiah, that God had visited His captive people to restore them to Himself. They knew that their present captivity had brought the anger of God against them, taking away their joy and depriving them of the fullness of His salvation (vv. 3-7).
They also understood that seeking restoration meant seeking it on the Lord’s terms, and not their own. They looked to the Lord, to hear what He would say about how the nation might be restored to His peace (v. 8). They led the people who prayed this psalm to renounce all the forms of folly that had caused them to lose their way and to become separated from the favor of God (v. 8). And they reminded them that restoration from captivity means getting back on track with the great salvation of the Lord, that He might be glorified in all the earth (v. 9).
But the sons of Korah went beyond a merely immediate restoration, and looked toward a glorious and fuller restoring of God’s people in the days to come (vv. 10-13). They cast a clear and compelling vision for a great restoration in which God’s people would know His mercy and truth, which would fuse righteousness and peace and bring the rule of heaven to bear throughout the earth (vv. 10, 11). They led the people to pray confidently that God would bring “what is good” to the land, so that the people might be fruitful in all their ways (v. 12). They set before the people a vision of righteousness increasing, and the people of God, free from false teachings and ways, walking those paths once again (v. 13).
Praying Psalm 85 for revival
The sons of Korah remembered such times of revival in the past, and they called on the Lord to remember them as well, that He might renew His promises and covenant, and come with power to humble, cleanse, reorient, redirect, and restore His people once again.
We can see Jesus in that vision of mercy and truth fused, righteousness and peace united, and the world being blessed with the advancing rule of His glory. From the days of the early Church, through the Celtic Revival, the Reformation, the First and Second Great Awakenings, and great periods of revival – local and worldwide – over the last century, God’s people have turned from their captive ways to seek the Lord Jesus, and the freedom that comes from knowing and serving Him.
And, precisely as the sons of Korah have taught us to pray, God has been faithful to break the chains of His people’s captivity and set them on a course of revival, renewal, and awakening once again. Call upon God to revive us. Plead with Him to prosper our witness, and to show more of Jesus to the world. Rejoice in His promises, and in the work of revival God has done in the past. Ask Him to lead us into paths of righteousness, that He might be glorified, and His goodness might abound throughout the earth once again.
As we recognize our captivity, confess our failings, repent of our sinful ways, and seek the Lord earnestly in prayer – then may we expect the Lord to remember mercy and grace and cause the winds of His pure Spirit to fill our sails for revival, renewal, and awakening.
1. Why is it important to know something about God’s works of revival in the past?
2. What evidence can you see that churches today may be captive to worldly ways?
3. How does Psalm 85 lead us to think about the revival God might bring to the world?
Next Steps – Preparation: Call on the Lord, using Psalm 85, to bring His salvation near, and to cause His goodness to abound, and to lead us to repent of our sins and break free of all captivities except to Jesus.
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.
 2 Timothy 2.13