Make Ready For Revival
By Richard Owen Roberts
The following is edited from a message given at the Heart-Cry for Revival Conference in April 2013 at The Cove, Asheville, North Carolina U.S.A. Used by permission.
We were asked earlier, “What are the prospects of the Congress calling the nation to a solemn assembly?” We do not really have any hope in the Congress or the Senate. But do you have any hope in yourself? I have been preaching for more than 65 years and have never yet succeeded in bringing a revival to pass. I surely have no hope in myself. I look at the other speakers, whom I respect and honor and admire, but I do not have any hope in them either. I do not have any hope in the church. But I remember well the words of the psalmist, “Turn us again, O God, and cause Thy face to shine and we shall be saved” (Psa. 80:3, KJV). The hope was never in us. It is crystal clear that God can do what we cannot. Oh we believe that, of course, but I doubt that we believe it to the level that we ought.
Let’s go directly to Psalm 80 and look at it with the great hope, “Turn us again, O God, and cause Thy face to shine and we shall be saved.”
The Opening Petition (vv. 1-3)
Now notice how this particular psalm begins: “Oh, give ear, Shepherd of Israel…” (v. 1). When would one ask God to listen? Well, clearly at the time when there is reason to think He is not doing so. Have you faced the reality that we are living at a time when God is by and large not listening? This is surely one of the reasons why revival is so desperately needed. So, “Oh, give ear, Shepherd of Israel….”
The psalm continues, “Thou who dost lead Joseph like a flock.” Do you have the impression the church is being led like a flock? These wild innovations that have appeared over the last several years do not in any way indicate any knowledge of God whatsoever, let alone divine leadership. Because God is not leading us, we have invented ways to lead ourselves that make it look as if He is. We have created lousy substitutes for the reality of a God who is with us, going before us, leading us like a flock.
Notice now these words: “Thou who art enthroned above the cherubim, shine forth!” (v. 1). Now again, when would you ask God to shine forth? Would it not be at the time when He was not doing so?
Consider the very language here about the Lord being enthroned above the cherubim. You remember that in those days when indeed God was in that tabernacle in the wilderness and then in the temple itself, the great high priest was to go into the holy of holies once a year to make sacrifice both for his sins and the sins of the people. It was a dangerous thing to do because in that holy place the presence of God shined so greatly no man could endure it. Therefore, they first put in a smudge pot in order to obscure the presence of God. And before the high priest entered to fulfill his duties, they put a cord around his ankle so that if he offended God and was struck down, they did not have to go in to pull his body out, but could draw his dead body out by the cord. “Thou who art enthroned above the cherubim, shine forth!” – this psalm was written at a time when God was turning a deaf ear to the prayer of His people and withholding His glory from His people’s midst.
The psalm goes on, “Stir up Thy power, and come to save us!” (v. 2). You would have to be literally out of your mind to think that God is doing His best for the American church. Indeed, what it looks like is God is saying to the American church, “Since you are not willing to do things My way, I will let you do things your way and see how you like it.” And we are very clever and immensely resourceful. We have been able to deceive the majority of the people into thinking that God is with us. We keep announcing that He is, even though we do not have any evidence of it, and the people believe us because we are so good at it. But when the church is as foul as the world, when the prayer meeting is all but gone, when true radical transformation is close to nonexistent, we have reason to think God is not stirring up His strength and coming to save.
So we have radical issues to consider: God’s inattention to our prayers; God’s unwillingness to lead us as a flock; God’s withholding of His glorious, shining presence that would so marvelously impact the lost; and the reality that God is not exercising His strength to come and to save.
And thus the prayer of verse 3 (repeated in verses 7 and 19): “Turn us again, O God, and cause Thy face to shine and we shall be saved.” Some modern translations use the expression “Restore us,” and that is what is meant. The reason we need restoration is because we have turned from God and God has turned from us. What a blessed thing to realize when we have sinned beyond the hope of personal repentance, when we cannot find our way to turn again to God, we can cry out, “O God, I have gone too far. I have made it impossible to turn back. But You can still turn me.” And He can and He will. And every great revival in history has come because God heard that radical cry, “Turn us again, O God.”
The Heartfelt Lament (vv. 4-7)
The psalmist then begins to lament, “O Lord God of hosts, how long wilt Thou be angry with the prayer of Thy people? Thou hast fed them with the bread of tears, and Thou hast made them to drink tears in large measure” (vv. 4-5). What kind of prayer do you think it is that would so greatly offend God that He would not listen? Indeed that He would go beyond not listening, and would send tears to drink in great measure? Just consider where we are as a nation. We are clearly a nation under righteous judgment from God. What if the prayer of the church is that God will reverse the judgment? Is that a prayer that would please God or a prayer that would anger God? If God places us under righteous judgment because we have sinned and not repented, and we ask Him to lift the judgment, but do not repent, our prayer will be an offense to Him. Is it right to ask God to lift the judgment before we have dealt with the sin?
Most of us have learned that God’s judgments are not unrighteous. That is why we depict them as righteous judgments. Scripture shows us that the judgments of God fall into two general categories – remedial and final. God is in no hurry to kill and destroy. He is full of lovingkindness and incredible mercy. He would much prefer to send a kind, gracious, remedial judgment that leads to repentance instead of a judgment that leads directly to hell. He graciously sends remedial judgments to help us to catch up to be where we are supposed to be instead of what we have become because of sin in our lives.
Now if God sends a remedial judgment to correct us of error in which we live, and then we ask Him to lift the judgment without correcting the error, are we not obviously praying distinctly against His will and His purpose? And ought we to be surprised when He is angry with our prayers? But much of the church has still to face the reality that such prayer can and does anger God. God delights in the prayer of the righteous man, but He despises the prayer of those who are seeking short cuts and avoiding responsibilities of holiness. Therefore, a remedial judgment delivered by God to turn us back to Himself is not to be prayed against but to be heeded.
Let me put to you a very distinct question. Do you have any cause of tears in your extended family? I do not know a single family that does not have tears to drink in great measure in the extended family. The Lord is giving tears to drink in large measure. When God is grieved with His wayward and His indifferent people, He loves them enough to send remedial judgment. He withdraws His manifest presence and gives them tears to eat and tears to drink in large measure.
Most of us who have dealt with this at all are aware of the fact that a remedial judgment left unheeded will become in God’s time a final judgment. And a final judgment when there is neither time nor opportunity for repentance (such as the example of Ananias and Sapphira).
Now friends, there is an immense consequence in what I just said. We are not living in the final judgment. If we were we would not be here. We are living, both individually and as a nation, under the remedial judgment of God. Therefore, there is incredible hope. Now obviously things are bad and growing worse very rapidly. But God can turn us again and can cause His face to shine and we can truly be saved. It is not too late!
The psalm continues, “Thou dost make us an object of contention to our neighbors; and our enemies laugh among themselves”(v. 6). It does not seem all that long ago that people knew the difference between right and wrong. But now, even many people within the church do not seem to have any idea of what is acceptable and what is unacceptable. He has judged us righteously by causing our enemies to laugh at us.
Just think of the reality of this. Although Moses knew the vital importance of God’s presence among His people – “If Thy presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here” (Ex. 33:15) – that truth somehow has not gripped us. We think we can witness to a lost and dying world effectively when there is no evidence of the presence of God in our midst. We need to repent of the wrong thinking that we can multiply our evangelistic labors and be successful when there is no true evidence that God is with us. In reality, that which arrests the world and turns multitudes to righteousness is the presence of God in the midst of His people! Personal witness is made powerful by God’s presence in the person that is bearing witness. But we have lost the manifest presence of the Lord, and so have become the laughingstock, the subject of contention among those who know us. They are amused and delight in our increasing failure.
The Contrast Between the Way It Was and the Way It Is (vv. 8-13)
The psalmist now begins to offer a contrast between the way it was for God’s people, and the way it is. “Thou didst remove a vine from Egypt; Thou didst drive out the nations, and didst plant it. Thou didst clear the ground before it, and it took deep root and filled the land. The mountains were covered with its shadow; and the cedars of God with its boughs. It was sending out its branches to the sea, and its shoots to the River” (vv. 8-11). We are told plainly that God went down into Egypt and He dug up a vine. He transported that vine from Egypt to the Land of Promise, Canaan itself, and He planted it where it sent down deep roots and where its branches spread until the whole of the region had the vine in it.
But then the day came for Israel when God Himself broke down that hedge. “Why hast Thou broken down its hedges, so that all who pass that way pick its fruit? A boar from the forest eats it away, and whatever moves in the field feeds on it” (vv. 12-13). Strangers and hostile people came and plucked the grapes. Wild boars of the fields broke in and devoured the vine. The land was stripped of its glory and was no longer productive because God’s people had forsaken Him and He had forsaken them.
Now the vine imagery is not foreign to those of us who know something of American history. In 1861, when the Congress adjourned and went together to Christ Church to seek the face of God, a pastor by the name of Benjamin Dorr preached a sermon entitled, “The American Vine.” Using this very passage of scripture he demonstrated that we parallel Israel in many, many consequential ways. And indeed, the parallel is obvious. As Israel was in bondage in Egypt so our forefathers were in bondage in that old country under the reign of a king who thought himself superior to God Almighty. They sought relief and in prayer they discovered a vision to move to North America and plant a colony. That little colony there in Massachusetts Bay sent down its roots into the depths of the soil and began to flourish. And soon that vine spread across the land and for a very long time that vine had the hedge of God’s protection about it. America became great not because of our natural resources, not because of our human ability, but because the grace of God was upon us and we were alert to the fact that we were one nation under God. But this nation has also turned from God, and the hedge of God’s protection is broken down.
The Heart of the Prayer Unveiled (vv. 14-19)
And so the prayer, “Turn us again, O God, and cause Thy face to shine and we shall be saved.” Has not the time come for us to stop the foolishness and return to the reality that our only hope has always been the same as it is right now – that God Himself will do what we cannot!
“O God of hosts, turn again now, we beseech Thee; look down from heaven and see, and take care of this vine” (v. 14). If we make that our cry, will God turn a deaf ear?
I believe with all my heart that everybody here who is praying for revival was prompted by the Spirit of God to do so. And across this nation many others are praying for revival. God has not prompted us to pray so that He could taunt us. He has stirred us up because He wants to come again in great power and transform this nation!
But we are taught in this passage matters of great consequence concerning this type of praying. We are asking God to return, to look down from heaven, to behold and visit this vine. God is asked to remember the branch that He made strong for Himself (v. 15). It is burned with fire, cut down, and withers at the look of God’s displeasure (v. 16). Get hold of that! Nothing is wrong with America that is not first wrong in the church. And when God turned His back upon the church He turned His back upon the nation. And when God hears the cry, the desperate, heartfelt cry, “Turn us again, O God,” we will see true revival – for true revival is expressed in this prayer. True revival is the church being turned back to God and God Himself being turned back to the church. No one has ever defined revival more explicitly than when it was said revival is God in the midst of His people!
But now we come to the urgent issue. Do you personally believe that God can do it again? I have discovered in my own life that there can be a huge gap between believing what God can do and believing what He will do. So we need to face another question. Do you really believe He will send revival? Is not the nature of true prayer confidence that God will do the very thing that we are asking for? Is it not a sham to ask God for something when you are doubtful that indeed He will? So be honest with yourself. Do you believe that God will turn America back to Himself? Do you really believe that?
If we believe, why are we not ready? Why have we not prepared? Why are we not living in expectation?
Many of us have learned that revival is a very fragile blessing. If it is true what I just said, that revival is Christ in the midst of His people, then it is necessary to make preparation to see that all eyes remain on Christ. Every revival in history that has been broken has been broken by eyes being turned from Christ to something of an indifferent nature. So when we pray, “Turn us again, O God, and cause Thy face to shine,” we ought to get ready for being saturated with the presence of God. We have to learn how to keep the focus on Christ. And we ought to learn how to turn aside everything that will violate that glorious principle of all eyes on Jesus.
Now the prayer itself, being repeated three times and referred to a fourth time, is obviously a prayer of true entreaty. This is indeed the kind of a prayer that God longs for. But it is more than that. It is a prayer of absolutely wonderful simplicity. It is simply saying to God, “I cannot, You can. And I am expecting You to do it.” The importunity is clear. It is clearly a prayer within the will of God. It is certainly a prayer of deepening significance.
People often ask me how long I have been doing this. I report as accurately as I can, and they ask if I get discouraged. I was not appointed by God to bring revival to pass, but simply to report what I know to be true. I know God can. I believe He will. I am making ready.
Richard Owen Roberts is the president and a founding director of International Awakening Ministries.
Please consider preparing your hearts for the Greatest Awakening in the History of Mankind! How? By prayerfully following the guidelines for what each post reveals… Kingdom Blessings to you all, always in Christ ~Santos
- “The Harbinger… The Ancient Mystery”
- Praying for The Healing of America
- Arthur Burt’s Word: “Greatest Move of GOD the Earth Has Seen!“
- The Joy of Fasting: Discipline, Deliverance, and Delight
- An Incentive To Pray Fervently For Israel
- “America On a Collision Course with GOD (YHVH)”
For deeper insight into how GOD the Father sees His children; to better understand the elementary principles of Christ (Hebrews 6:1-3); the ‘mysteries’ of Christ’s Kingdom; and our individual and corporate calling, commission, and empowerment- please review my first published book and the Table of Contents on the Amazon website linked here via Book Title: “Thy Kingdom Come- Here and Now!”
“The Anthem” – Jesus Culture (featuring Jake Hamilton)
“Magnified” – Christine D’Clario