The Revival Psalm

Bible Book: Psalms  85 : 1-13
Subject: Revival; Renewal; Awakening

What does it mean to have revival? Is revival simply a series of services scheduled to add another demand upon church people who are already busy? Some of you may think that. Is revival merely a meeting designed to tide us over till the next big event, a means of getting a spiritual battery charge? One preacher defined “revival” as being brought out of a state of spiritual comatose, and I think that’s a pretty good definition. However, as a pastor who is interested in revival and as a preacher who has preached a few revival meetings, I have continued to ask myself, “What is revival,” and “What does it mean to have revival?”

I have certainly heard of great Revivals in years gone by. Nearly 40 years ago, the well-known preacher Percy Ray came to the Turkey Creek Baptist Church in my hometown, Brevard, NC, for a revival meeting. Estus Pirkle says in his biography of Dr. Ray’s life that this was “probably the greatest revival that God allowed Bro. Ray to experience in his over fifty years of preaching.” This year (2004) marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Welsh Revival that began under the leading of a 26-year-old Evan Roberts at Moriah Chapel in Loughor, Wales. The Welsh Revival website states, “In asking one elderly Revival convert some years ago as to whether the Revival stopped in 1906, she answered – its still burning within my heart – it’s never been extinguished – it has burned for over 70 years.”[1] Over 100,000 people were reportedly saved as a result of this revival.

When we study the subject of revival, we learn that revival is more of an Old Testament concept. Out of the 16 times that the words “revive,” or “revived,” or “reviving” are used in the scripture, 14 of those occurrences are in the Old Testament. In each of those fourteen occurrences, the word is derived from the Hebrew word chayah, which means to live and to have life; to remain alive and to sustain life; to be quickened from sickness, discouragement, faintness, or death; to be restored to life or health, to cause to grow.[2] Revival then suggests the idea of living; it suggests the idea of lasting; and it suggests the idea of lifting.

As we think about this thing of revival, we might also consider some of the various scenes of revival in the word of God. A heartbroken Jacob experienced revival in Genesis 45:27, as the Bible says, “And they told him all the words of Joseph, which he had said unto them: and when he saw the wagons which Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of Jacob their father revived.” A Helpless Samson experienced revival in Judges 15:19 when “God clave an hollow place that was in the jaw, and there came water thereout; and when he had drunk, his spirit came again, and he revived.” A hapless, unfortunate son experienced revival in 1 Kings 17:22 when “the LORD heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived.” A hopeless soldier experienced revival in 2 Kings 13:21 where the Bible says, “it came to pass, as they were burying a man, that, behold, they spied a band of men; and they cast the man into the sepulchre of Elisha: and when the man was let down, and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood up on his feet.”

This evening, I’m interested in Psalm 85, which I’m calling “The Revival Psalm.” As I have studied this psalm, revival seems to be the theme. It is in this psalm, in verse 6, where we find the memorable prayer of the psalmist, “Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?” The request indicates that revival was what they needed during this time. It would be helpful then to know when this psalm was written. According to John Gill, “This psalm is generally thought to have been composed after the return of the Jews from their captivity in Babylon; and yet when they were in some distress from their neighbours, either in the times of Ezra and Nehemiah, or in the times of Antiochus.” Matthew Henry also wrote, “Interpreters are generally of the opinion that this Psalm was penned after the return of the Jews out of their captivity in Babylon, when they still remained under some token of God’s displeasure, which they here pray for the removal of.”[3]

You’ll notice that the inscription of the psalm reads, “To the chief Musician, A Psalm for the sons of Korah.” This simply indicates that it was presented to the chief musician as a song or psalm to be sung, and it was presented to the sons of Korah “as a treasure to be kept by them, who were of the number of the Levites.”[4] I’m not going to attempt to sing this psalm tonight, but it is on my heart to preach from Psalm 85 and deal with the subject of revival.

I. Let’s Notice The Season Of Revival In This Psalm (Psalm 85:1-5)

A. The Season Of Revival Is When the Lord Magnifies His Favor Psalm 85:1

The Bible says that the Lord has “been favourable” (Psalms 85:1). This word “favourable” means to be pleased with, to satisfy a debt, be accepted or acceptable, to accomplish, to set affection, to approve and pardon, to delight and enjoy, to take pleasure in, to reconcile. Thus...

1. The Lord Is Showing His Acceptance Of His People

2. The Lord Is Showing His Affection Toward His People

B. The Season Of Revival Is When the Lord Manifests His Forgiveness Psalm 85:2

(Psalms 85:2) Thou hast forgiven the iniquity of thy people, thou hast covered all their sin. Selah.

1. This Verse Manifests The Covering Associated With Forgiveness

The word “covered” is the Hebrew word kacah, which means to fill up the hollows. Sin had left them empty. God can fill those void and empty places.

2. This Verse Manifests The Consideration Associated With Forgiveness

The use of the word “selah” means that as this song was sung, they would have a suspension of the music here. There would be a pause for effect, allowing the hearer to consider and meditate on what they had just heard.

C. The Season Of Revival Is When the Lord Moves from His Fierceness Psalm 85:3-5

(Psalms 85:3) Thou hast taken away all thy wrath: thou hast turned thyself from the fierceness of thine anger.

This word “fierceness” suggests a sore displeasure and the burning of anger. Therefore...

1. We See That The Burning Of God’s Anger Has Ceased

2. We See That The Burden Of God’s Anger Has Continued

Therefore, the psalmist prays, “Turn us, O God of our salvation, and cause thine anger toward us to cease. {5} Wilt thou be angry with us for ever? wilt thou draw out thine anger to all generations?” (Psalms 85:4-5). God, you have turned; now turn us and change our hearts and remove those things that ignited your anger to begin with!

II. Let’s Notice The Source Of Revival In This Psalm

(Psalms 85:6) Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?

This verse reveals a request, “Wilt Thou not revive us again.” A relationship is also set forth in the phrase, “thy people.” Then there is the prospect of rejoicing, “that thy people may rejoice in thee.” Is the psalmist asking some priest like Zerubbabel, or some leader like Nehemiah to revive the people? No, he is asking God to send revival. That makes sense because...

A. Revival Comes From The God Who Remembers Us Ezra 9:8-9

(Ezra 9:8) And now for a little space grace hath been showed from the LORD our God, to leave us a remnant to escape, and to give us a nail in his holy place, that our God may lighten our eyes, and give us a little reviving in our bondage.

1. We Know That God Has Remembered Because He Has Fastened Us (So That He Might Show Us Revival)

Regarding the “nail in His holy place,” the Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary says, “Edifices in ancient times, and in Eastern countries, were much more simple in construction than ours. Nor were they furnished with that variety of accommodation and furniture within of which ours can boast. Hence, one essential requisite was to fix spikes, or large pins, in the walls on which to hang moveables and utensils of common use. These immense nails were fastened in the walls of the apartment in the process of building, and placed in parts which were strong and durable.”

2. We Know That God Has Remembered Because He Has Furthered Us (Because He Has Shown Us Revival)

(Ezra 9:9) For we were bondmen; yet our God hath not forsaken us in our bondage, but hath extended mercy unto us in the sight of the kings of Persia, to give us a reviving, to set up the house of our God, and to repair the desolations thereof, and to give us a wall in Judah and in Jerusalem.

B. Revival Comes From The God Who Recovers Us

1. He Recovers Us Like The Revitalizing Of Spring

(Hosea 14:7) They that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine: the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon.

2. He Recovers Us Like The Renewing Of Strength

(Habakkuk 3:2) O LORD, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid: O LORD, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy.

C. Revival Comes From The God Who Responds To Us

1. God Responds To Our Humility With A Spirit Of Revival

(Isaiah 57:15) For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.

2. God Responds To Our Hardship With A Spirit Of Revival

(Psalms 138:7) Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me: thou shalt stretch forth thine hand against the wrath of mine enemies, and thy right hand shall save me.

III. Let’s Notice The Substance Of Revival In This Psalm (85:7-13)

A. Revival Involves The Listening Heart Psalm 85:7-9

The word “hear” in verse 8 is the Hebrew word shamah, meaning to hear intelligently, to hear attentively, to hear carefully, to hear certainly, to hear diligently, to hear surely, to listen. What are we listening for?

1. The Lord Has A Word Of Favor For His Righteous People

(Psalms 85:8) I will hear what God the LORD will speak: for he will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints: but let them not turn again to folly.

2. The Lord Has A Word Of Freedom For His Rejoicing People

(Psalms 85:9) Surely his salvation is nigh them that fear him; that glory may dwell in our land.

salvation – [Hebrew yesha'] liberty, deliverance, prosperity:--safety, salvation, saving.

glory – [Hebrew kabowd] prop. weight; but only fig. in a good sense, splendor or copiousness:--glorious (-ly), glory, honour (-able).

B. Revival Involves The Look Of Heaven Psalm 85:10-11

(Psalm 85:11) And righteousness shall look down from heaven

Shall descend from heaven; or shall come from above-as if the rain, and the sun looked down from heaven, and saw the needs of man. The original word here rendered “look down” (shaaqap - OT: 8259), means to lay upon, or over; then, to look forward; then, to overhang; and the idea here is that it bent over, or leaned forward to look at the necessities of man – as one does who is desirous of gazing at an object. As the rain and the sunbeams seem anxious to bestow their blessings on man, so God seems anxious to bestow on man the blessings of salvation. (Barnes’ Notes)

What is the righteousness of God looking for?

1. God Wants To See That Which Is Reconciled

(Psalms 85:10) Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

2. God Wants To See That Which Is Real

(Psalms 85:11) Truth shall spring out of the earth; and righteousness shall look down from heaven.

Dr. Hammond suggests ... “Truth shall spring out of the hearts of men.”

C. Revival Involves The Lord Of Help Psalm 85:12-13

1. The Lord Will Give According To That Which Is Good

(Psalms 85:12) Yea, the LORD shall give that which is good; and our land shall yield her increase.

2. The Lord Will Guide According To That Which Is Godly

(Psalms 85:13) Righteousness shall go before him; and shall set us in the way of his steps.


Newspapermen went down from London to report firsthand the marvelous happenings of the great Welsh Revival at the turn of the century. On their arrival in Wales one of them asked a policeman where the Welsh Revival was. Drawing himself to his full height he laid his hand over his heart and proudly proclaimed: “Gentlemen, the Welsh revival is inside this uniform!” (Paul Lee Tan #10587) I’m interested in revival taking place inside of me!

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[2] From The Online Bible Thayer’s Greek Lexicon and Brown Driver & Briggs Hebrew Lexicon, Copyright 1993, Woodside Bible Fellowship, Ontario, Canada. Licensed from the Institute for Creation Research.

[3] Matthew Henry, Commentary On The Whole Bible, Electronic Database (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1991).

[4] From Geneva Notes, PC Study Bible formatted electronic database Copyright 2003 Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.