By Ps. Nelson Attwood
I was recently challenged to renew the practise of meditation on scripture as part of my daily disciplines for godliness. The Puritan method for meditation is to take a scripture passage; pray for God’s help to comprehend it, and then to think as deeply as possible about what it teaches regarding God and man. The text the Lord brought to my attention is Psalm 119:25-32, where the psalmist describes his experience of revival.
What is Revival; where does it start; how does it work? Having prayed often about revival for myself, our church and our community, I wanted to know what the Lord teach about it from this passage. The psalmist describes his situation before revival, his prayer for it and his response to it,
The Psalmist’s describes his situation as “My soul cleaves to the dust”, vs.25. Dust suggests dryness, death, that from which we’re created and that to which we will return. The context of his prayer for revival, with his soul cleaving to the dust, surely indicates the dry, distant, dissatisfied state of his soul before God. In vs.28, he further describes his soul, weeping for grief. Genuine revival is preceded by a deep sorrow over sin, that produces repentance, 2Cor.7:10. Whatever has left him desperate for revival, has also left his soul cleaving to dust, and grieving rather than rejoicing in the Lord. Dust in contrast to life-giving water is utterly unsatisfying. Yet, as long as we seek satisfaction in anything but God, our souls will grieve and cleave to dust. Sin is that which separates us from God and robs us of our joy in God. Revival can begin only after we clearly see by God’s unveiling that there is unconfessed, unforgiven sin in our lives. God’s work to reveal our distance from Him, draws us to cry out in prayer to him for revival.
The Psalmist’s prayers describe the work God must do in us to bring revival. First, he prays for revival according to God’s word. It is God alone who can infuse life and vitality into the soul of man, and he does so by the work of the Holy Spirit through the preached Word. Revival continues through instruction in Lord’s statutes, for which he prays in vs.26. We need to be taught again God’s Word so that we may think, live, and act righteously before Him. Thirdly he prays for understanding in the Lord’s precepts, vs.27. It’s not merely hearing God’s word; we also need the Holy Spirit’s enablement to understand it. His gained comprehension draws him to meditate further on God’s wonders, vs.27. Fourthly, he prays for the spiritual strength that comes only through God’s word, vs.28. Just as surely as sheep must be fed with the nourishment of the best grasses, so also the people of God require the spiritual strengthening that only He can bring, through His word. Fifth, he prays for the removal of the false way. Revival brings enduring reformation of life and practise. Such reformation is possible only as God “works in us both to will and to do for His good pleasure”, Phil.2:13. So, the psalmist prays for the removal of the false way, so that he might live the way of the righteous, Psa.1:1-6. Finally, he prays for the Lord to spare him the experience of shame. A guilty conscience testifies to its presence by grieving the soul with shame. Shame is the downcast face that cannot bring itself to look into the Lord’s face. Shame testifies to unconfessed sin and the need for repentance and forgiveness. Who but God can cleanse the conscience? Christ’s blood, alone can cleanse the conscience, Heb.9:14. Revival is a work of God in the soul of man, through the Spirit empowered preaching, teaching, and comprehension of His word, so that we grieve over our loss of joy in God and crying out to Him in prayer for revival.
Having heard and comprehended the word of God, and received God’s forgiveness, the Psalmist Responds to God in renewed commitment. First, he has chosen the faithful way in vs.30. Having experienced revival, we must not return to our former ungodly ways, but instead resolve to live in the faithful way of the Lord, Eph.4:17-32. Second, the psalmist has placed the ordinances of the Lord before him in vs.30b. They occupy a renewed priority in his life. God’s Word read, memorised, meditated on, and practised must take our highest priority. Steady feeding on God’s word will inform our prayers, fuel our faith, and instruct our thinking and practise. Finally, the psalmist states he will run in the way of the Lord’s commandments. The explanation is that the Lord will enlarge his heart. It suggests life lived with fresh zeal and vitality. The Lord’s enlarging of our heart is the result of His gift wisdom, 1Kin.4:29 and love poured out within our hearts, Rom.5:5. We will have the spiritual strength, wisdom and love to live according to God’s commands. It indicates the obedient life. The revived life is not one set free from sin to live any way we please, it is a life, set free to live in obedience to God and His Word.
Revival then is the work of God to enable us to see the dryness of our sin-tolerating souls and grieve over our fallen state before God. God brings revival through the ministry of His word, and in response to prayer for it. Revival produces: reformed life, renewed commitment to the Lord, and a life of renewed obedience to God’s commands.
May God bring revival through the preaching of His word and fervent prayer. May He bring it first in the leadership and membership of local churches and then spread it out into the communities around us.