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, January 12, 2012

Restore Us O God - Part 1

Psalm 80 speaks of a time of 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. Leonard Ravenhillin his book Revival God's Way (page 57)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, blind, 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. Ravenhill comments:

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.

It is time for us to humble ourselves before God. Look around you. The state of our nation and this world has happened on our watch. The apostle Peter said judgment begins in the house of God (1 Peter 4:17). It is time for us to do some self- assessment, some self-judgment. We need to humbly come before God and ask Him to search us to identify sin (Psalm 139:23-24). Then we need to humbly confess our sin and seek God’s cleansing of it by the blood of Jesus (1 John 1:7, 9). In Part 2 of this study we will look at the steps to restoration with God. Keep it all in prayer. Pray for a heaven sent revival. God bless you all.

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