Revival 101 (Part 4): A Look at Psalm 85

The blogging series this week has been on the subject of revival. We have defined it, described it, and learned about preparing for it.

In yesterday’s post, I suggested that Psalm 85 is a biblical example of asking God for revival. Let’s look at this psalm in its entirety.

Remembering Past Redemption (vs. 1-3) – “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.”

The psalmist has returned home and his home and land is in ruins – physically and spiritually. Notice the psalmist speaks in the past tense, which seems to tell us he is looking back into the past to pray for another restoration as they have experienced before. The psalmist says he can look back into history and see God’s favor and he wants it again. The psalmist is look backing on past mercies, which will breed confidence for the present.

The psalmist says, “You have forgiven … iniquity.” They would have never returned had they not confessed and repented of their sins. He adds “You have covered all their sin.” This speaks of atonement. God treats them as if they were righteous or as if they were not sinners; He atoned for their sin.

So, why would God remove His wrath? Answer: vs. 2. They had repented of their sin. His wrath of judgment came to an end because they were genuine in their repentance. God withdrew His anger as he saw them react in a godly way to their sin.

This is the type of behavior we see in real revival: an awareness of sin, a godly response to one’s sin, a moving of God on behalf of the sinner, an end to judgment. When we pray for revival, that is what we are praying for. We are praying to a God who has sparked revival before but done so with the correct holy criteria. Following his remembrance of past redemption, the psalmist now looks to

Requesting Present Restoration (vs. 4-7) – “Restore us, O God of our salvation, and cause Your anger toward us to cease. 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 mercy, LORD, and grant us Your salvation.”

What do we see here? The psalmist understood that revivals start where? They don’t start in the world; they start with God’s people. They start when God’s people see their sin for what it is and repent and begin to see God restrain His judgment and shower them with blessing instead. The great preacher Stephen Olford, who died in 2004 and was called by Billy Graham the man who most influenced his ministry, once said, “Revival restrains the righteous anger of God, restores the conscious awareness of God, and reveals the gracious activity of God. “

This is what the psalmist believes God would want for His people. Finally, the psalmist talks of …

Revealing Promised Righteousness (vs. 8-13) – “I will hear what God the LORD will speak, for He will speak peace to His people and 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. Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed. Truth shall spring out of the earth, and righteousness shall look down from heaven. Yes, the LORD will give what is good; and our land will yield its increase. Righteousness will go before Him, and shall make His footsteps our pathway.”

You can bet during the Great Awakening that people were not listening to Whitefield and then thinking, “Well that a decent sermon. I am going to have to think about his interpretation on that verse. I don’t know if that applies to me in any specific way.” On the contrary, people heard the Word and they did it!

Vs. 9 is the answer to prayer from vs. 8. He says He will listen to God and vs. 9 summarizes what God would say to the psalmist. God has said that those who find His blessing are those who renounce themselves and place their trust in God alone.


Oliver Cromwell was the Lord Protector of England right after the English Civil War in the 17th century. He helped defeat Charles I and led England until 1658. One day before the 2nd meeting of the Second Parliament on September 16, 1656, Cromwell was reading Psalm 85 and it inspired him. What he saw in Psalm 85 was what he wanted for England. He wanted them to be a righteous nation, experiencing peace and God’s abundant blessing. When Parliament met, Cromwell exposited Psalm 85 for the lawmakers. He exhorted them to live in conformance to the Word of God so they too would experience genuine revival.

That is the need of our generation. Our time is no different than Cromwell or Europe before the Reformation or Judah in captivity. Our desperation for change must be marked by the characteristics we find in Psalm 85.



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