The writer of Psalm 85, speaking 2600 years ago, still speaks for us today when he asks: “Will You not revive us again so that Your people may rejoice in You?”

Once again God’s people are waiting, hoping, praying for a revival. We want to see a mighty work of God in our churches and our world.

The problem is we’re not always clear about what a revival really is or what it takes to bring one about. For years we’ve confused revival with an event that we schedule in the fall and the spring. We’ve acted as though we can whip up a good old-fashioned revival just because it’s on our calendar. We’ve assumed that God works according to our plans.

That’s not revival. That’s a revival meeting.

A biblical revival is something entirely different. What is it? Presbyterian pastor J. Edwin Orr described a biblical revival as a work of God that “rejuvenates the family of God.”

Is he right?

Consider, for a moment a text that clearly describes a revival: 2 Chronicles 7:14. There we find what Old Testament scholar Walter Kaiser calls the “greatest text on the subject.” This text follows on the heels of the dedication of the Temple, the place where the people are to enjoy the presence and blessings of God. There, God attaches blessing to obedience. Knowing that they will stumble God tells them what He expects and what He will do for them. God graciously offers the promise of restoration - revival - to an unworthy people on the condition that they respond to that offer in the manner He sovereignly sets forth.

Who are these people that God can and will revive in due time? They are His people who are called by His name. They are His chosen people (Dt. 7:7). They have enjoyed the past blessings of God. He has graciously saved them from their slavery in Egypt. Yet, because of the hardness of their hearts, they have returned to their wickedness like a dog to his vomit or a pig to his slop.

We, too, are guilty of this great sin. We have been wondrously saved by God’s grace from our slavery to sin. He has purchased us, as a prized possession, with the very life of His Son. Yet, our response, though once passionate, has grown cold. We look on our salvation as a right rather than a gift. We snub our nose at God’s word and we deny God’s Lordship over our lives. And, we return to our sins like long-lost lovers, panting after the joys of forbidden flesh. We reject our God and embrace our wickedness.

Biblically speaking, a revival is not the calling in of the lost. That’s an awakening. A revival is the bringing back of God’s people. It is a restoration of spiritual vigor, holiness, and love for God. Revival is for the church. Revival is what we need today.

While the road to recovery is long and fraught with painful discoveries as we search our souls, it is a journey that we must take. We cannot remain where we are and go with God. To stay is to perish. To follow is to live. The first step on this journey to restoration is often the hardest. We must recognize that we are God’s people and not our own. Once we recognize God’s gracious sovereignty, we’re finally on the road to recovery.

May we, with the hymn writer, acknowledge God’s greatness as well as His grace.

Revive us again; fill each heart with thy love;
May each soul be rekindled with fire from above.
Hallelujah! thine the glory, Hallelujah! amen;
Hallelujah! thine the glory, Revive us again.