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Celebrating Revival and Propitiation (Psalm 85)

Psalm 85

TO THE CHOIRMASTER. A PSALM OF THE SONS OF KORAH.

    LORD, you were favorable to your land;

you restored the fortunes of Jacob.

    You forgave the iniquity of your people;

you covered all their sin. Selah

    You withdrew all your wrath;

you turned from your hot anger.

    Restore us again, O God of our salvation,

and put away your indignation toward us!

    Will you be angry with us forever?

Will you prolong your anger to all generations?

    Will you not revive us again,

that your people may rejoice in you?

    Show us your steadfast love, O LORD,

and grant us your salvation.

    Let me hear what God the LORD will speak,

for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints;

but let them not turn back to folly.

    Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him,

that glory may dwell in our land.

10     Steadfast love and faithfulness meet;

righteousness and peace kiss each other.

11     Faithfulness springs up from the ground,

and righteousness looks down from the sky.

12     Yes, the LORD will give what is good,

and our land will yield its increase.

13     Righteousness will go before him

and make his footsteps a way.

 

Before we get into the text, we need to find a key to understand how this text applies to us.

Do not misunderstand “our land” to the US.

Don’t apply to the nation we live but, by the land, we understand a symbol for God’s OC people and as we apply to ourselves we apply it to the Church.

It is there now that God’s people dwell.

NT Scriptures, promises of the land are fulfilled in Christ and His People and in the Kingdom of God and ultimately to the new heavens and the new earth.

That’s the key to our ability to apply that to ourselves.

In so many ways, the basic need of the Church today is that what we see today is not actually normal.

The high road to spiritual advance begins in our admission of barrenness.

We need to cry out to the Lord and give ourselves to the Lord.

The title of this Psalm is actually very important.

A Psalm of the Sons of Korah.

Who was Korah?

To find out we need to go back to Numbers 16:

Numbers 16

16 Now Korah the son of Izhar, son of Kohath, son of Levi, and Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, and On the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men. And they rose up before Moses, with a number of the people of Israel, 250 chiefs of the congregation, chosen from the assembly, well-known men. They assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron and said to them, “You have gone too far! For all in the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the LORD?” When Moses heard it, he fell on his face, and he said to Korah and all his company, “In the morning the LORD will show who is his, and who is holy, and will bring him near to him. The one whom he chooses he will bring near to him. Do this: take censers, Korah and all his company;put fire in them and put incense on them before the LORD tomorrow, and the man whom the LORD chooses shall be the holy one. You have gone too far, sons of Levi!” And Moses said to Korah, “Hear now, you sons of Levi: is it too small a thing for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to himself, to do service in the tabernacle of the LORD and to stand before the congregation to minister to them, 10 and that he has brought you near him, and all your brothers the sons of Levi with you? And would you seek the priesthood also? 11 Therefore it is against the LORD that you and all your company have gathered together. What is Aaron that you grumble against him?”

 

Korah was not satisfied with the role he had received in the service of the Lord and led a rebellion with the sons of Reuben.

The Lord put down the rebellion by literally opening up the ground and swallowing up Korah and 250 others.

Korah’s descendants became menial servants to things that surrounded the Tabernacle and Temple.

Out of that family disaster, the authors of this Psalm were descendants of a traitor.

They became something of a singing guild in connection with worship of God’s people.

This Psalm is a song for the congregation.

The authorship shows that God uses the foolish and weak things to confound the strong and the wise.

To many of our friends it would seem utter foolishness – why would you waste your time and energy to be thinking about the things of God on a Sunday morning – repentance, brokenness.

This Psalm is a marvelous story of how God brought out of this family line where to encourage us to pray for the revival of the Church.

The message of the Sons of Korah is this:  Bend the Church and save the People.

But here’s the question:  Will the Church bend?

Here, the Sons of Korah are teaching us what we will be brought through to learn to bend in order that there might be salvation.

Their keynote is to teach us about repentance and prayer and how God works through our brokenness for our salvation.

It’s a song pleading for a revival in the Church.

We need to understand a few things about revival and restoration.

First, have you ever seen signs outside of Churches announcing that a “Revival” is planned for a particular day?

That’s not what the Bible means by revival.

Revival comes down by the almighty Hand by God.

Christians don’t set the timetable for God to move among them.

The Sons of Korah are pleading for the experience and sense of God coming to His people.

Secondly, the Bible teaches us to pray for personal revival – personal spiritual refreshment as seen in other Psalms.

This Psalm is not only about personal revival but the reviving of the entire congregation.

This Psalm  is praying for God to do something unusual and corporate among His people so that a whole community is powerfully influenced by the people of God.

1 Corinthians speaks about outsiders coming in among such a people.

The outsider should feel himself pressed down to the ground to think that God is in this place and constrained by the sheer power of God’s presence to worship him.

Thirdly, this kind of restoration, revival, quickening, for which the sons of Korah are praying, is not given by much praying.

It is given sovereignly by God.

We sometimes talk about the power of prayer as if the power is in our work of prayer.

Prayer does not have power in itself but is a reaching upward to God to beg for His help.

But when God gives this outpouring of His presence He always moves the hands of His people in prayer to take hold of His right Hand and His holy arm and to pray that He will come in majesty and in power.

It’s like my little son, Christian, reaching out with his small hands for his father to pick him up.

He doesn’t have the power to be picked up.

His reaching up does not compel me to place him in my arms.

But his hands are stretched upward, helpless to a loving father, pleading to be picked up.

That’s the posture that we need before our heavenly Father.

God gives the increase and that is why prayer is so essential.

Prayer is saying that we cannot do it.

Prayer is saying that prayer cannot do it.

Prayer is saying that God alone can do it.

Which is why, as His people, we bend before Him as in this Psalm – a people being bent in weakness begging that God would move among them.

      LORD, you were favorable to your land;

you restored the fortunes of Jacob.

      You forgave the iniquity of your people;

you covered all their sin. Selah

      You withdrew all your wrath;

you turned from your hot anger.

 

There is recognition here of the difference between spiritual lethargy and spiritual vitality.

There is a recognition of the difference between where we are and where God wants us to be.

Every single verse in this section is in the past tense.

You were favorable…you once forgave…you once covered…

The whole thing breathes the feeling of saying:  “God, you did this in the past but we are not experiencing this in the present.”

They are praying for a restoration because they sense few signs of God’s pleasure.

There is little joy in worship.

I don’t mean foolish enthusiasm.

But a real, dense, deeply felt joy in worship.

Not noise.

Not unusual music.

Not body movement.

But real joy.

In this part of the Psalm it seems that God is not smiling but frowning – it’s as if God’s gaze is averted.

This was often the case in the Old Testament as the people lost their spiritual vitality and is true of many Churches .

No sense of pleasure in worship because there’s a loss of the sense of the pleasure of God in their lives.

There is no dense joy in their praise and there is a great sense of lethargy.

People want the service to begin exactly on time and end at an appropriate time.

People get concerned when the sermon runs too long.

But when there is a sense of the pleasure of God among us and that God is with us and communicating to us, time stands still.

There’s an almost physical sense of having been brought into fellowship with the infinite and eternal God.

He’s wrapped His arms around you and is speaking directly to us.

He’s counseling us.

He’s encouraging us.

He’s challenging us.

He’s directing us.

The Sons of Korah are confessing that they hadn’t known any of this for years.

The same symptoms are always true of the Church.

It doesn’t matter the century.

It doesn’t matter the Church.

There is spiritual sleep.

There is a degree of satisfaction with lukewarmness.

There is no burden among the people for others to be converted.

There’s little prayer in the Church that people would be converted to the Gospel.

We don’t pray with a sense that we’re taking hold of His hand.

We don’t expect God to really do anything.

No matter how good the preaching is, it makes little deep down, lasting impact.

There’s a whole take or leave it spirit about the whole thing.

 Restore us again, O God of our salvation,

and put away your indignation toward us!

      Will you be angry with us forever?

Will you prolong your anger to all generations?

      Will you not revive us again,

that your people may rejoice in you?

 

In Ezekiel 37, we read about the valley of the dry bones.

Ezekiel was told to preach to dead, dry, bleached bones.

He preached to the dry bones and the dry bones came together.

Life came out of death.

He was told not merely to preach to the bones but to preach to the wind – the Spirit of God.

It’s the difference between organization and praying for the power of God.

It’s the difference between speaking to men and women to organize them in a certain way and speaking to God so that God can breathe life down to them.

When God comes in this way, that’s what happens.

So the Psalmist is speaking to the difference between lethargy and vitality.

The Psalmist wants the bones to come to life.

The sacrifices are still going on – everything is exactly as it is.

But it’s all so much going through the motions.

Islam swept through nations with Christian Churches where they found liturgy but no life.

Islam found Churches that had not been equipped to stand through persecution.

Through so many countries that we now think ofnas Muslim strongholds there were Churches but they were Churches of neatly organized bones.

Organization without life.

They had become so used to seeing organization it became almost impossible to see that something was lacking.

We live such busy lives.

We organize our work and our kids’ lives and have little time for worship and prayer.

But if I really desired to worship, I would find a way.

If I really desired to pray, I would find a way.

If I really believed I could come into the very presence of the living God in worship and prayer then nothing would keep me from it.

It’s so easy for us to bring the bones together but it takes God to breathe life.

We’re told as a nation that we can do anything we want.

But, beloved, this is not true.

We need to remember if we want spiritual renewal then we have to wait on the Lord.

We are weak and helpless and we need to reach out with hands of prayer on our tippy toes to beg our heavenly Father to send His Spirit down to renew us.

We must come to the end of ourselves and say:  Oh God, will you not work?

Will you not move?

Will you not convert our friends and our family and our Church that we may be energized by your Spirit Today?

Will you not bring our dead bones back to life?

For those who have turned away – will you not bring them back to you?

Lord, we are poor, weak, and needy.

Our Pastor is needy.

Our Elders are needy.

Our Deacons are needy.

Will you not revive us?

      Show us your steadfast love, O LORD,

and grant us your salvation.

      Let me hear what God the LORD will speak,

for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints;

but let them not turn back to folly.

      Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him,

that glory may dwell in our land.

 

Show us your steadfast love O Lord.

Grant us your salvation.

Suddenly, it becomes very personal and individual in verse 8.

Let ME hear what God the Lord will speak.

It then moves back to the Corporate.

This is because God purposes to move in each of us a desire to worship.

We pray that we would be hungry for God to feed us.

We pray with our children that God would give them spiritual thirst for Him.

We pray for the Pastor that God would speak through the foolishness of preaching.

We pray for a dense, real sense of God’s presence in worship that would press us down.

We pray for visitors that God’s glory would be manifest through His worship.

And then we come together, as the people of God, with arms that have been outstretched throughout the week – desperate – that God may feed us today.

That God might visit us Today.

It’s the worship of God’s people that will destroy the idols first in our own hearts and then in our own world.

But like the time of the Sons of Korah, we have trouble believing this can happen because we haven’t seen it in our own lives.

We start to think that this is normal.

But God has taught these men that it is dysfunctional.

And so they’ve gone to the Lord in desperate prayer.

And this produces a deep attentiveness to the Word:  Let me hear what God the Lord will speak…

Only when God speaks will there be a sense of shalom – a sense of peace that only God can give.

And a sense of seriousness:  Let them not turn back to folly…

Churches with a deep sense of the presence of God have a sense of seriousness about the things of God.

They don’t come to be amused or entertained by worship but come with a deep sense of hunger and thirst that only the living presence of God can fill.

One of the single greatest problems today is that we are serious about many things but not serious about God.

But when God moves, He moves the hearts of His people to become serious about Him.

The result of this in verse 9:  Surely, his salvation is near to those who fear Him, that glory may dwell in our land.

Again this is not about the land but the Church.

Salvation is not far away but near to those who fear Him.

That glory may dwell in the Church.

This produces a sense of awe.

People are driven to become serious and therefore able to approach God in prayer.

Have you never said to your children:  will you get serious?

Are we expecting a higher level of holiness for our children and not for ourselves?

God is saying to us:   My daughter, my son:  will you not be serious with me?

Do you not sense a desperate need for me?

10     Steadfast love and faithfulness meet;

righteousness and peace kiss each other.

11     Faithfulness springs up from the ground,

and righteousness looks down from the sky.

12     Yes, the LORD will give what is good,

and our land will yield its increase.

13     Righteousness will go before him

and make his footsteps a way.

 

And then a transformation begins to take place that is the collision of God’s grace with the lives of believers in the Church.

Steadfast love and faithfulness meet.

Righteousness and peace kiss each other.

Faithfulness springs up from the ground.

Righteousness looks down from the sky and the Lord gives what is good.

We’re driven to prayer and worship.

But we’re driven to prayer and worship by God in order that His Hands would come down and bless us.

He causes us to reach out our tiny hands up to Him and, as a loving Father, He cannot refuse His children who desperately desire to be picked up.

Would it not be a blessing for such power to come down?

That such awe might descend upon us that would suffocate all the trivialities of our lives?

That awe would come down that would bow us down to worship?

You can’t work that up just by the power of your doing.

You see, Beloved, in the end, it’s up to God.

I’m not here to scold you.

I’m here recognizing my own weakness.

Think about these verses.

Steadfast love and faithfulness meet.

Only in God.

Only in Christ.

It’s not your work.

It’s not your faithfulness.

It’s not your steadfast love.

It’s the steadfast love of God who sent Christ because He was faithful to His promise.

Righteousness and peace kiss each other…

The righteousness of God would crush us in our own sin.

I know that sounds terribly depressing in a culture that tells us that we need to be encouraged to love ourselves as we are.

We’re told we need encouragement and not condemnation.

But the truth is that, in ourselves, we are rebels.

There was no peace with God but only enmity.

God did not give us what we deserve.

We were the objects of His wrath.

We had blasphemed God.

We had committed treason against Him.

Christ came into a world that was already condemned.

He came before the Sanhedrin accused of blasphemy against God.

And nobody could produce a witness against Him.

But He was condemned by His own people, the Church of His day, for blasphemy.

He was sent to Pilate, accused of treason.

Three times Pilate declared Him innocent of treason.

But the people of God, the Church of His day, called for His crucifixion.

Blasphemy.

Treason.

These were our sins.

Christ was innocent of both but died in the place of those who were guilty.

The wrath and penalty of sin that we deserved were placed on Christ.

J.I. Packer asks a probing question in his book Knowing God.  He asks:  “Is there any place in your Christianity for propitiation?”

Many people hate that word but it’s the heart of the Gospel.

There is no Gospel without it.

It’s the heart of the prayer of the Sons of Korah.

What is propitiation?

Here it is beloved:  God sent Christ into the world to the objects of His wrath and instead of judging the objects of His wrath, He judged Christ in their place.

Why?

So that He could make them His children.

Repentance is not a downer.

It’s not depressing.

It’s beautiful.

We see our sin that God hates and instead of judging us, He has condemned Christ in our place.

We then turn to Christ with outstretched arms and say:  I believe you are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

Righteousness and peace kiss each other.

God’s righteousness satisfied.

We are at peace with God!

When God comes like this in people’s hearts, people bow in thanks and praise and they’re never the same again.

Because we feel you’ve met with God and He fills the room with His majesty and we believe he could do anything.

Why?

Because if He could sacrifice so much to turn us from objects of wrath to His own beloved children, we believe He can do anything!

And we’re utterly amazed that He would come to us.

We want people to become Christians.

Because we realize that God is so infinitely gracious and so infinitely good.

Do you remember your wedding and how you looked forward to the words:  You may kiss the bride?

Time stood still.

Do you desire to have God come down in power that we might experience righteousness and peace kissing one another and know that reality in your heart?

When you’re in a state of spiritual malaise it’s like being at your own wedding and the minister never tells you that you may kiss the bride.

Bu when God comes, the Father says to His Son, you may now kiss your Bride.

That’s the point at which the Bride and the Bridegroom are given to each other in a glorious way.

May this happen to us.

If you’ve never known Christ in this way, will you today call out to Him today?

Will you reach up to him with your tiny hands?

Save me Lord!

If you feel like you once had that life but haven’t felt any sense of God’s presence for some time, will you cry out to Him again Today?

We’re going to wake up tomorrow and be back in our normal lives.

But tomorrow is another day to cry out to the Lord.

Tomorrow is another day to bring your children to the Word and pray with them in private worship.

Let us become children who are daily lifting up our hands to our Father.

Desperate.

Needy.

Lord, revive us again.

Let us pray.

 

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