The Shepherd of Hope blog is here to serve you, to help you know Jesus better and to find hope in Him. This blog relies on the Spirit of God using the word of God to build people of God. All material has been prayerfully submitted for your encouragement and spiritual edification. Your questions and comments are welcome.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Restore Us O God

Psalm 80 speaks of a time hardship in which the restoration of God is needed for His people. The difficulty apparently had led to depression and discouragement. They were beginning to realize they needed God’s restoration. They needed to be revived. They had lost their passion for God. Perhaps this loss of passion was the cause of their difficulties.

There is a lesson for all of us to learn from this psalm. Do you have a passion for God? Are you only so-so or lukewarm? Jesus finds such a state in His followers repulsive. He said as much to the church of Laodicea (cf. Rev. 3:14-22). And unfortunately the contemporary Church is much like the Laodiceans. One commentator states:

The New Testament Church did not depend on a moral majority, but rather on the holy minority. The Church right now has more fashion than passion, is more pathetic than prophetic, is more superficial than supernatural. The church the Apostles ministered in was a suffering church; today we have a sufficient church. Events in the Spirit-controlled Church were amazing; in this day the Church is often just amusing. The New Testament Church was identified with persecutions, prisons, and poverty; today many of us are identified with prosperity, popularity, and personalities.

Jesus rebuked the Laodicean church for being lukewarm, thinking they had need of nothing while in reality they were spiritually “wretched, miserable, poor, bling, and naked.” Jesus counsel to them was to “buy from Me gold refined in the fire.” The key is “from Me.” Jesus said to these people, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” The gold, the most valuable possession of Jesus, is our intimate relationship with Him; coming into His presence. “He who has an ear, let him her what the Spirit says to the churches.” Hear what Psalm 80 says about restoration and revival.

Psalm 80:1 - Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, You who lead Joseph like a flock; You who dwell between the cherubim, shine forth!

God is prayerfully appealed to as the Shepherd of Israel His flock. And this is no small thing. Someone has said

The self-satisfied do not want to pray.
The self-sufficient do not need to pray.
The self-righteous cannot pray.

God has been working on these people. Their circumstances and loses are percolating within them and has finally brought them back to their God.

As Shepherd, God directs us to green pastures of His word to graze in, protects us from predators, and keeps us close to His presence. This presence is alluded to in the words, “You who dwell between the cherubim.” This brings to mind the ark of the covenant whose lid had two gold cherubs with wings outstretched toward each other. This lid was “the mercy seat” (Exodus 25:17ff.). It was here where God’s glory, His presence manifested itself to His people (Exodus 40).

Here is a call for the glory of the Lord to “shine forth!” God’s glory or shinning forth is closely connected with the manifestation of His presence (e.g. Exodus 32 and 33). When we look at the Old Testament God led His people with a pillar of fire by night. The fire of the LORD provided warmth, light to see the way in the dark, and protection from enemies. As the Shepherd of Israel, God oversees Israel like a flock. The psalm starts off with a pronounced recognition of God’s Shepherding oversight and then cries out for it to be renewed in the lives of the people.

2 Before Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh, Stir up Your strength, And come and save us! 3 Restore us, O God; Cause Your face to shine, And we shall be saved!

Here is a call for revival. A revival is an extraordinary manifestation of the glory of God. The word “restore” can also be translated “Turn us again” and means to return or go back, bring back. The people had lost something and were crying out to God to restore what had been lost. That they cry out for God to shine forth implies they were missing the presence of the LORD in their lives. They rightly associated this with salvation and sought to be restored.

4 O LORD God of hosts, How long will You be angry Against the prayer of Your people?

The people of Israel sensed the displeasure of God. What might have incurred the anger of God toward His people? Sin causes God to turn a deaf ear to the sinner (cf. Psalm 66:18). God is holy and pure and finds sin and wicked practices repulsive (Hab. 1:13). Sin separates us from God who is Holy (Isaiah 59:2).

Now God’s people were coming around. They were coming to recognize their wrongs before God and wanting restoration were crying out to God for restoration. God waits to assure that the sinner recognizes the seriousness of their sin.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones in his book Revival states:

“If you do not see your hopelessness, and your utter despair, before this holy, righteous God, who hates sin with the whole of his being, you have no right to talk about revival, or to pray for it. What revival reveals above everything else is the sovereignty of God, and the iniquity, the helplessness, the hopelessness, of man in sin.” – p. 42

Without a humbling recognition of our sin and guilt, revival will not come.

5 You have fed them with the bread of tears, And given them tears to drink in great measure.

The first step to restoration is conviction for the sin that hinders. This involves repentance and that repentance involves a deep teary sense of regret and a desire for restoration with the Lord. It is not mere shedding of tears. It is a deep conviction for sin that results in a change of mind and heart toward that sin (2 Cor. 7:10). Repentance means we regret our sin, desire restoration and do not plan to repeat that sin. It is the Holy Spirit who convicts the sinner of their sin (John 16:8-11).

6 You have made us a strife to our neighbors, And our enemies laugh among themselves.

Without God’s presence, we are impotent and helpless, a laughingstock before our enemies. When we stray from the Lord and His word our relationships with those around us often become adversarial and aggravated.

7 Restore us, O God of hosts; Cause Your face to shine, And we shall be saved!
Repentance then leads to a cry for God to shine forth; for His glory and power to come down again on His people.

8 You have brought a vine out of Egypt; You have cast out the nations, and planted it. 9 You prepared room for it, And caused it to take deep root, And it filled the land.

Israel is the vine God rescued from the world of Egypt and planted in a fruitful place where it could take root. The LORD is the Vinedresser who digs, plants, cares for and cultivates the vine of His people (Luke 13:6-9).

10 The hills were covered with its shadow, And the mighty cedars with its boughs. 11 She sent out her boughs to the Sea, And her branches to the River. 12 Why have You broken down her hedges, So that all who pass by the way pluck her fruit? 13 The boar out of the woods uproots it, And the wild beast of the field devours it.
Israel was growing and spreading until she lost God’s protective covering. She was lunging ahead of the Lord. Without God’s covering she was vulnerable to robbery and loss. She was in danger of being uprooted and devoured. Without God we are at the mercy of others. We need to guard against lunging ahead or lagging behind the Lord. We need to walk in step with Him; going where He wants us to go and staying where He wants us to stay. That is true of individuals. That is true also of nations.

In the book of Jeremiah we read:

Jeremiah 18:7-12 - 7 The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it, 8 if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it. 9 And the instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it, 10 if it does evil in My sight so that it does not obey My voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit it. 11 “Now therefore, speak to the men of Judah and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD: “Behold, I am fashioning a disaster and devising a plan against you. Return now everyone from his evil way, and make your ways and your doings good.” ’ ” 12 And they said, “That is hopeless! So we will walk according to our own plans, and we will every one obey the dictates of his evil heart.”

God always gives ample warning before He passes judgment. He is merciful in that if a nation repents He will relent of the disaster they deserve because of their sin. It that nation continues in sin, God will relent of doing good to that nation. God warned Judah about their sin and the consequences. They disregarded God’s call to repentance as “hopeless!” They saw no future in following God. That’s sad. They went into captivity and suffered greatly.

When we look at the United States today and view it through the lens of Jeremiah’s prophetic word I shouldn’t surprise us to see the many troubles our nation is experiencing. Our nation has been indoctrinated from within through education and the media to forsake God. We as a nation seem to see no future in following God. We too cry, “hopeless!” And if we as a nation persist in our rejection and resistance to God, that hopeless cry will apply to us in some very grave ways. What is the answer? What is the solution? Revival!

14 Return, we beseech You, O God of hosts; Look down from heaven and see, And visit this vine
We need to call out to God for His return, “Lord visit us again! We miss You! We need You!” It is only when we come to God as the only solitary and preeminent need for our lives, the indispensible and supreme Person in our lives, the King of kings and Lord of lords, only when we are willing and eager to have Him take His rightful position in our lives, then and only then will He bring revival to us.

The poem Revival – God’s Way by Estelle Gifford Jackson expresses what is needed for revival to come:

Revival – God’s Way

Where is the hope for Revival –
God’s Holy Spirit outpoured
Convicting of sin, and of judgment,
And righteousness of the Lord?

When nothing else is important –
Only God’s presence Divine,
When Christians quit worldly pleasures,
Then God, His ear will incline.

Desperate prayer for Revival
Will cleanse the Church by the Word.
Then clothed in spotless, white linen,
The Bride clears the way for her Lord.

Prayer is the key to Revival,
Prayer that is true Spirit-born,
Nights of compassionate weeping – Intercession for all the forlorn.

Then will the burdens be lifted,
Then all the sinners will cry,
Then all the chains will be loosened
And worldly passions will die.

The lost ones will yield to God’s Spirit
When Christians, cleanses, weep and pray;
God’s Living Water flows outward;
This is “Revival – God’s Way”!

15 And the vineyard which Your right hand has planted, And the branch that You made strong for Yourself.

We need to return to the root truth that we are what we are because of God and without Him we are lost! America has a godly Christian heritage. When need to get back to our roots.

16 It is burned with fire, it is cut down; They perish at the rebuke of Your countenance.

Without God we are lost! Ready to be burned in the fire! Perishing at His rebuke! Like Israel, God brought them into the world and God can and did take them out as a nation. He would eventually restore them, but only when they had paid their just due and been thoroughly disciplined by Him.

17 Let Your hand be upon the man of Your right hand, Upon the son of man whom You made strong for Yourself. 18 Then we will not turn back from You; Revive us, and we will call upon Your name.19 Restore us, O LORD God of hosts; Cause Your face to shine, And we shall be saved!
We need the touch of Lord. We need His strength. We need revival! We need God’s reviving power! Restore us O LORD and shine Your glory down on us! Without Your touch we are weak and wasted. We need revival. Then and only then, when revival comes, can we call upon God and experience the shine of His glorious presence in our lives. Then and only then will we experience His salvation life. Then and only then will we find restoration.

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