Revival #3: Facing the costs of departure from God
Scripture: Ps 80:8-19
The Psalmist is in this Psalm calling on God for restoration to fellowship and the restored favour of God. He must therefore acknowledge the fact that departure has taken place. They have turned away from God and as a consequence God has turned away from them. He has hidden His face and left them to the consequences of their sin.
In these verses he particularly considers the heart-breaking scene of the once favoured land now scourged and terribly marked by the consequences to their sin.
I REMEMBERING THE DAYS OF BLESSING.
The present reality is brought into sharpest contrast by this consideration. It was not always like this. He is prompted to think of former days. What is stated here of Israel can be seen to apply to the work of God generally, and in a sense to the individual experience of the Christian.
- God’s power in redemption, v8. He remembers the exodus from Egypt and how God had worked in that time. That great act of redemption was the basis of all the blessing that had been enjoyed previously. Using the metaphor of a vine, the future purpose of God is indicated—He is going to plant the nation and make it fruitful in His ways. And yet there is a reminder of their unworthiness of that great mercy. Cp Ezek 15:1. How bleak the present appears against that great deliverance day!
- They had been established in their God-given inheritance, v8-9. The reference here is specially to those days of Joshua when God had made room for them as a result of the victories they enjoyed over the Canaanites. What days of power and victory they were. God had opened up the way for their establishment and growth.
- Growth and enlargement, v9-11. The nation had prospered and been enlarged. The days of David and Solomon especially saw such expansion and greatness.
II COUNTING THE COST OF DEPARTURE FROM GOD.
- Protection removed, v12. God is the protector of His people. Cp Job 1:10, Ps 34:7, Is 5:2, 5. By grieving Him they forfeited that protection to a degree. They were thus exposed to every harmful influence. The land was being eaten up by passers by. They felt it their right and privilege to take and use for themselves the good things of the land. The line of separation to holiness and to the Lord is a protective line.
- An illustration of savage plundering and ruin, v13. Like the beasts of the field, following savage instincts, Israel’s enemies had come in freely and at will. There was no fence left to keep them out! The wild boar roots up, the other beasts eat the leaves and branches. Root and branch they were being destroyed. The cause of God was being attacked and its present welfare and future viability was being destroyed.
- Burned and cut down, v16. Here is a very final act of destruction. Naturally, such acts make the case hopeless! N.B. they perish… The great cause of this death and destruction was the rebuke of God’s face. The frowning countenance of God was toward them.
- Realizing the cost forces the question, WHY…?, v12. Recognizing that all this is the work of God causes an investigation into why such a thing has occurred. It is apparent that the Psalmist is not protesting against the injustice of these actions. He has already acknowledged that departure has occurred. His question indicates a desire for a fuller knowledge/understanding of their sin. There are many aspects of our departure from God that we do not even recognize or see. Cp Ps 44:17ff, Rev 3:17. We must make it our business to learn more of how we grieve the Lord.
III THE REMEDY PROPOSED IN PRAYER.
The Psalmist knows what is needed. This is, in part, an evidence of the Lord working to answer his prayer for turning. In the increasing light of God’s favour he sees things more clearly—including the real state of affairs and what must be done to remedy them.
- Return, v14. God must come back among them. He who has been grieved and has left must return. This involves the several acts the Psalmist references, v14: Look, behold, visit. God returns to a people who intreat Him for mercy. The implication of his words is that God will see in this people now a reason to arise and act for them. He develops that reason in v17, but the only basis for God to look on an offending people is found in the work of Christ’s redemption.
- Dealing with the mediator, v17. These words set Christ before us. He is the man of God’s right hand. This title specially envisages His finished work, 110:1, Heb 10:12. God has ordained Christ to represent His people. His mediatorial power must be recognized as the only argument with God in prayer.
- Revival, v18. The working of spiritual deadness within must be reversed. The power of the flesh and of sin must be acted against by the very life of God. Cp Rom 7:23-25. Such revival comes to us through Christ—the true vine who supplies life and vigour to the branches.
- The results contemplated, v18. Two things are specially noted here:
- So will not we go back from thee… There is a preservative value seen here. The desire for revival is always mixed with a desire for the prevention of further sin and backsliding. Cp Ps 85:6-8. There is a constant need for such an experience by God’s people if they would not ‘flinch’ in the face of opposition and adversity.
- Prayer, v18. They are enabled to pray by this experience. Revival produces prayer in the Christian. A lack of prayer is one of the first evidences of a need for revival.
- A final repetition of the key petition in prayer, v19. He comes back to his basic desire to be turned to see the face of God. It is to be noted that each time he has repeated it there has been an enlarging view of God. Here is where he rests his hopes and desires. It is his final word on the matter. Ultimately, here is what it comes down to.