The Psalm of the Word (Part 5): Revival

The Psalm of the Word

Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes,
And I shall observe it to the end.

Give me understanding, that I may observe Your law
And keep it with all my heart.

Make me walk in the path of Your commandments,
For I delight in it.

Incline my heart to Your testimonies
And not to dishonest gain.

Turn away my eyes from looking at vanity,
And revive me in Your ways.

Establish Your word to Your servant,
As that which produces reverence for You.

Turn away my reproach which I dread,
For Your ordinances are good.

Behold, I long for Your precepts;
revive me through Your righteousness.

(Psalm 119:33-40)

“Revivals” are common in the religious world – assemblies conducted for the purpose of bringing people to Christ or leading a Christian to rededicate his life to the Lord. They are similar in some ways to “Gospel Meetings” that are more common among brethren, but notably different. The difference is rooted in how we understand this revival to be happening. The verses we will consider here are helpful in understanding how we can be revived.

Revival Comes by Following the Way of Righteousness

Turn away my eyes from looking at vanity, and revive me in Your ways” (Psalm 119:37).

Behold, I long for Your precepts; revive me through Your righteousness” (Psalm 119:40).

To be revived means to be quickened (KJV) or made alive. There are three basic facts about revival. Let us briefly notice the difference between what the Bible says and what many people in the religious world believe about these facts.

  1. God has made revival possible – I believe all who claim to be Christians will agree on this point. Without the grace of God, we are “dead in our transgressions” (Ephesians 2:5).
  2. God has given the means by which we can be revived – There is only general agreement on this point between sound brethren and the religious world as a whole. If we say the means by which we can be revived is the Holy Spirit, we will all agree. The difference is whether this involves the direct or indirect operation of the Spirit. Many believe the Spirit revives us directly, though the only “proof” they have is how they feel. Yet the Scriptures teach that the Holy Spirit works indirectly through the word. Jesus said, “It is the Spirit who gives life…the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life” (John 6:63).
  3. We must take advantage of the opportunity to be revived – This is where we will find disagreement. Calvinistic thinking has so saturated the denominational world that many cannot accept that man has any part to play in his salvation (being made alive). We are saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8), but not by grace alone. God has given “good works” for us to perform (Ephesians 2:10) and He saves those who obey Him (Hebrews 5:9; James 2:24).

As we consider these points, we must understand that as God has done His part in reviving us (making revival possible and giving the means by which we can be revived), we must do our part. The psalmist indicated that we are revived through God’s word as we follow it. He appealed to God to revive him in His ways and through His righteousness. God’s ways and righteousness are found in His statutes, law, commandments, testimonies, word, ordinances, and precepts (Psalm 119:33-36, 38-40).

The way of righteousness is revealed to us today in the gospel (Romans 1:16-17). In it we see the same three facts about revival that we considered earlier.

  1. Revival possible in the gospel – “It is the power of God for salvation” (Romans 1:16).
  2. God has given the gospel so that we can be revived – It has been “revealed…through the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:10). The word is the instrument that the Spirit continues to use today (Ephesians 6:17).
  3. We must obey the gospel in order to be revived – Even though we are “under grace,” we must be “obedient from the heart to that form of teaching” – the “form of teaching” is the gospel – and become “slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:15-18).

David said, “Behold, I long for your precepts” (Psalm 119:40). For the same reasons, we must long for the gospel.

We Must Learn the Way of God’s Statutes

Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes, and I shall observe it to the end. Give me understanding, that I may observe Your law and keep it with all my heart” (Psalm 119:33-34).

Remember the verses we considered in the first point. “Revive me in Your ways” (Psalm 119:37). We cannot know God’s ways except through His word (1 Corinthians 2:11). “Revive me through Your righteousness” (Psalm 119:40). We cannot know what is right (righteous) but through His word which is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). So we must learn God’s word. David made two appeals on this point.

First, he said, “Teach me, O Lord” (Psalm 119:33). To learn what is right, we must go to God. Obviously we can learn from others (preachers, teachers, elders, etc.). The Hebrew writer said, “Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you…” (Hebrews 13:7). Yet he quickly added this warning: “Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings” (Hebrews 13:9). We must learn by going to the word of God. We can benefit from the teachings of others, but we must always examine the Scriptures (Acts 17:11) to make sure a message is true before accepting it as being from God.

Second, he said, “Give me understanding” (Psalm 119:34). We can understand what God has revealed. Paul told the Ephesians, “When you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ” (Ephesians 3:4). Later he commanded, “So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17). If we could not understand the will of God, then God would not have commanded us to do so.

We Must Learn with the Intention to Obey

Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes, and I shall observe it to the end. Give me understanding, that I may observe Your law and keep it with all my heart. Make me walk in the path of Your commandments, for I delight in it” (Psalm 119:33-35).

Learning “the way of [God’s] statutes” (Psalm 119:33) is not merely for academic purposes. Many people – particularly scholars, theologians, professors, etc. – know a lot about the Bible, but it is useless to them. They are like those that Paul mentioned: “Always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7). Even the devil showed a knowledge of Scripture, but he misapplied it when he tried to use it to tempt Jesus to sin (Matthew 4:5-6).

There are certainly things we must know (Hosea 4:6; 1 Timothy 2:4) and believe (John 8:24; Romans 1:16) in order to be saved. However, at the same time, the judgment day is not going to consist of a written exam that, as long as we can give the right answers to pass the test, will serve as our entrance requirement into heaven. We will be judged for our “deeds in the body…whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10).

We must learn the word in order to “observe” and “keep” the word (Psalm 119:33-34). This is what Paul discussed in his letter to Rome. He said, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). His mission as an apostle of Christ was to “bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles” (Romans 1:5). We must hear, believe, and obey the word. This is what David expressed a desire to do.

The psalmist then wrote, “Make me walk in the path of Your commandments” (Psalm 119:35). We must obey the word of God. In a discussion about the return of Christ, Paul said the Lord would punish “those who do not know God and…those who do not obey the gospel” (2 Thessalonians 1:8). Without knowledge and obedience, we are lost.

We Must Value God’s Word Over Temporal Things

Incline my heart to Your testimonies and not to dishonest gain. Turn away my eyes from looking at vanity, and revive me in Your ways” (Psalm 119:36-37).

To be revived, we need to go about it the right way – an obedient response to God’s word, not emotionalism. But in avoiding false “spirituality,” we must also avoid carnality. Paul wrote, “For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God” (Romans 8:6-7).

We must choose the way of God’s word over “dishonest gain” (Psalm 119:36). This is covetousness, which is equated with idolatry (Colossians 3:5).

We must choose the to follow the path of righteousness over “vanity” (Psalm 119:37). Everything “under the sun” is “vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2-3). No matter what success we have in life, it is only temporary. One day our spirits “will return to God” (Ecclesiastes 12:7). Then, the only thing that will matter is whether or not we have fulfilled our purpose in life: “Fear God and keep His commandments” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). This is the path to true revival as it results in eternal life. John said, “The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:17).

We Must Choose Reverence Over Reproach

Establish Your word to Your servant, as that which produces reverence for You. Turn away my reproach which I dread, for Your ordinances are good” (Psalm 119:38-39).

We must choose between two paths in life. We often think of the choices in the way that Jesus described them – the “broad [way] that leads to destruction” and the “narrow [way] that leads to life” (Matthew 7:13-14). Yet David presented another way of looking at the same choices – the way of reverence and the way of reproach.

Choose the path of reverence for God (Psalm 119:38). When determining what course to take, first consider what will honor God. Of course, such considerations must be made in light of God’s word and Christ’s authority (Matthew 15:6-9; 7:21-23), rather than what we think will honor God.

Avoid the path of reproach (Psalm 119:39). This refers to that which is shameful. If we would be embarrassed for some secret in our lives to be discovered, it is very likely that it is sinful and should be avoided – assuming our conscience is trained properly (Hebrews 5:14; 1 Timothy 4:2). But even if we can keep secrets from others, we cannot hide them from God. “There is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do” (Hebrews 4:13). Therefore, we should avoid those things which are shameful and instead practice those things which honor God.

Conclusion

God has the power to revive us today, but it will not be done through emotionalism falsely attributed to the Spirit. It will be done through His word as we obey it so that we are revived through righteousness.


This entire series is available in paperback. Click on the link for more information – The Psalm of the Word: A Study of Psalm 119.


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