Observe Look what God has done for Israel! Verses 1-3 recount His favour to Jacob, His deep love and faithfulness, restoring, forgiving, turning away His wrath. They ask: Will you restore us, Lord, and forgive our apostasy and unfaithfulness? Will you stay angry? Will you revive us yet again? Will you save us? (5-7)
Provided they don’t turn back to folly (8) ( = moral stupidity), His salvation which they asked for (7) is to those who fear him, that glory may dwell in our land. (9)
He will give them more than they ask: Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other (10-13) -- restoration, in complete harmony with Him. He gives them what is good (12), to prosper them in His righteous way.
Interpret Psalm 85 is a “community lament”, asking God to restore after their unfaithfulness. The restored ‘glory’ is God's Shekinah – His special presence dwelling among them as they enjoy Him.
In Ex.34:6-7, God proclaims His steadfast love and faithfulness, His utter reliability, which provide the background to this Psalm.
Apply The history of revivals is worth studying, from the first revival in the fledgling church in Acts 2-4, its amazing newness, community, sharing, generosity, worship – and then the snake shows up...
This seems to be a pattern in revivals through the millennia: repentance, excitement, heightened awareness of God’s goodness and mercy, new music, deepened relationships, glorious worship, caring and love and generosity, then – oh, oh. Something interrupts that flow of grace, pride or power hunger enters, forgetting happens, early euphoria vanishes, other than God takes precedence though vestiges remain as history. We have a constant need for repentance and renewed dependence by God’s Spirit, and we repent again. And again.
Psalm 85 speaks to us as we anticipate the Spirit’s breaking out amongst us in revival. The Psalm recounts God’s work among His people, the constant need to repent individually and communally.
So, we pray for revival. First, are we willing to look at ourselves as God reveals what needs repair, to repent from what displeases our God of love – and justice? This requires utter honesty and humility before God in our church family before He gives what we ask for. We cry to God to reveal Himself – then we wait, listening carefully to His word (7-9).
His faithfulness to forgive encourages us to ask again: Will you revive us, God? Give us the willingness, because it will change us, remove our reticence and stiffness, our apathy and indifference and reliance on old deadening customary ways and viewpoints. We may resist change at first, but He is irresistible; the Lord will give us what is good (12a). Strengthened and freed by His real love and goodness, we joyfully make Him known to others – a sign of real revival. And revival = transformation!
Ask Will you revive me so I may rejoice in You, O Lord, and see You afresh? Will You give me the grace to offer myself to You and others until, transformed, I am part of Your glorious Real Church Transformed?
Pray Lord, You created me to ‘enjoy You forever’, but I can’t see beyond present tense. Your salvation unites but I’m hardly giving myself to community. Lord, heal me of my fear of opening up to others and to You. Then revive and renew my life. Adapted from Tim and Kathy Keller, The Songs of Jesus.
Sing Psalm 85 Restore us, O God of our Salvation - Esther Mui
Bring Us Back - GraceChild 2012
Mercy and Truth - Jason Coghill
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.