HISTORICALLY, REVIVAL REFERRED TO a time of God-sent blessing beyond the ordinary. Ministers of the Word went about their work, praying, preaching, catechizing, counseling, whether in times of persecution, or in times of relative quiet and steady growth. But if the Lord God visited his people with revival, it was immediately evident in an extraordinary sense of the presence of God, in deep-seated repentance and a renewed passion for holiness, and ultimately in the sound and indisputable conversion of many people. It could be relatively disciplined, or it might be mixed with the spurious.
Although “revival” still has this sense in some circles, in others it refers to a meeting or series of meetings where preachers speak on personal holiness or give evangelistic messages. It is assumed that if the preacher is gifted there will be obvious fruit. In some circles in the southern part of the United States, one hears expressions like “holding a revival” or “preaching a revival.” It would aid clarity of thought if instead they spoke of “holding a Bible conference” or “preaching an evangelistic series.”
Psalm 107 lists a diverse array of circumstances in which people find themselves in great danger or under horrible oppression, usually because of their own sin. In each case, God comes to the rescue. Those who wandered in desert wastelands cried to the Lord, and were delivered from their thirst and hunger (Ps. 107:4-9). Others sat in chains, prisoners, “for they had rebelled against the words of God” (Ps. 107:11), and the Lord freed them (Ps. 107:13-14). Still others became so corroded by their folly that they loathed life. But when they cried to the Lord, “he sent forth his word and healed them” (Ps. 107:20). Others found themselves in mortal peril on the seas, and here, too, the Lord responded to their cries and saved them (Ps. 107:23-32). Indeed, this God humbles the haughty, and for the sake of the needy and afflicted he turns the desert into fertile fields (Ps. 107:33-42).
Lest we misunderstand the psalmist’s point, he makes it clear for us in two ways. First, in most of the sections, when he describes those who have been saved, he prescribes, “Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men” (Ps. 107:8, 15, 21, 31). Second, the opening of the psalm reminds us that God is good, and his love endures forever (Ps. 107:1), while the closing insists, “Whoever is wise, let him heed these things and consider the great love of the LORD” (Ps. 107:43). This, and this alone, is the ultimate source of God’s blessings — not the least being revival. And the last verse goes further, and provides the sanction for studying revivals among the blessings of God.