Psalm 23:1-4; John 21:15-17; Mark 3:1-5; Psalm 51:10-13, 19
I want to say a further word about revival. Revival implies that there has been the evidence of life, but that something has happened, so that life has become dulled or stifled. We all know what it is to droop and to flag. The need is to know the secret of being revived. We have all seen the plant in the house; after many days of neglect the flowers begin to droop. Once it is attended to and given food and water, it springs to life again – it revives. That is so like you and me as believers in Christ. If we stray from the source of our sustenance, we begin to droop. How important it is to get back to that source and to be revived!
In these Scriptures I have read, we have the personal service of the Lord Jesus seen in reviving and restoring the soul. Reviving, like the feeding, like the leading, like the anointing in this psalm, is the continuous service of the Shepherd towards His own. As believers, during our whole life, we need times of reviving, and times of restoring. The Shepherd is the key to that revival each day of our lives.
Think of the children of Israel of old – what was the purpose of the daily manna on the face of the wilderness? It was that each day, as it was gathered and partaken of, it would reinvigorate the person who ate it. You imagine the Israelite, waking up in the morning and wondering, ‘Will it be there today?’ He gets out of his tent, and sure enough, the faithfulness of God is in evidence yet again. “His compassions fail not; they are new every morning” (Lam 3:22 23). He gathers the manna, and he feeds on it, and he is set up for the day.
And so it is when the believer feeds on Christ. The “outward man is consumed, yet the inward is renewed day by day” (2 Cor 4:16). That involves the believer, on a daily basis, feeding on Christ, if he is to be revived and restored against the current of things around.
At the end of the Book of Ruth, when the child is born to Ruth, the women say to Naomi of him, “He shall be to thee a restorer of thy life, and a nourisher of thine old age” (ch 4:15). Revival is centred on Christ, and on no other!
At the Beginning of the book of Ruth, we find decline leading to death and sorrow; but what revival comes about when Naomi hears the glad tidings from Bethlehem that Jehovah has visited His people and given them bread! She sets off because she wants to have part in that. She and Ruth reach Bethlehem at harvest time, typifying Christ in resurrection. What a scene they meet, and they come into the benefit of that harvest! The full climax of the revival is reached when a son is born to Naomi, a worshipper (which is what the name Obed means). Revival has many effects on the believer’s life. Some of the effects are joy in the soul, and brightness in testimony, and, above all, an outgoing of the heart in praise and thankfulness to God!
In Psalm 23, the sheep is not exactly going astray. It is a sheep that is being led by the Shepherd, and thus comes into the blessing of where the Shepherd would lead it.
What psalms these are (22, 23, 24)! We have in them the Sufferer, the Shepherd, and the Sovereign – yesterday, today, and the ages to come. The same Person covers them all. In the psalm for today, I have read how attractive is the area that this Shepherd leads his sheep into. We find in this psalm all that the believer wants. Divine provision, it is there. Certainty of protection, it is there. Gentle leading, it is there. Tender revival, and tender restoring of the soul, they are there!
And how attractive the scenes are, as he leads the sheep into these green pastures and leads them beside still waters! Think of Mary of Bethany sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening to His word. During that time she had a look into some of these green pastures and still waters. He said that she had chosen the good part (Luke 10:42). What have you chosen, dear brother, dear sister?
Have you been revived as you have allowed the Shepherd to lead you into these pastures green, beside these still waters, and in the paths of righteousness as well? This is open to all; it is open to old and young to experience where the Shepherd would lead in view of reviving and restoring the soul.
To breathe the atmosphere of this psalm, which is probably one of the well-known passages of Scripture, is to walk with the Shepherd and to be assured that there is no want nor fear. Whatever the circumstances that arise, pleasing or painful, living or dying, as following the Shepherd the sheep of His flock can say, ‘Jehovah is my Shepherd.’
And so the gentle leading leads to a deeper and fuller acquaintance, not only with the blessings that He would seek to bring to the sheep and revive the sheep by, but it leads to a sweeter and a deeper knowledge and acquaintance with the Shepherd. And before that shaded valley is reached that we read of in verse 4, the psalmist mentions that the soul is restored, it is revived. And so the sheep faces the shaded valley with full confidence in the Shepherd.
Whether we see the shaded valley as the pilgrim pathway of the believer here below, whether we see it as some trying circumstance in that pathway, or whether we see it as facing the actual article of death itself, the sheep has the assurance of this one thing: “Thou art with me.” Lady Powerscourt described these words, “Thou art with me,” as the rainbow in the valley, the faithfulness of the Shepherd (Letters & Papers of Lady Powerscourt, page 191).
He does not take the sheep to the edge of the valley, to the edge of the exercise that is ahead, and say, ‘Well, it is all yours.’ He says, ‘I will go with you.’ That is the revived soul proving the tenderness of the presence of Christ as he faces the greatest difficulty of the pathway.
And so the path leads on; the One Who has the rod and the staff will never let the sheep down, He will see him through the valley of the shadow of death. We can say, ‘I will fear no evil.’ Let us be revived as we partake of these green pastures, as we drink into the still waters that suggest the restfulness of the area that belongs to the presence of Christ, the presence of the Shepherd. And be assured that whatever the circumstances that arise, the revived soul will prove that His presence will go with him.
This leads him on, of course, to partaking of the table that has been prepared in the presence of his enemies. But my suggestion here was simply that restoration, revival of soul, comes as the believer lives in nearness to the Shepherd.
I move on to Peter – the revival, the restoration, of Peter. Is it not wonderful that John includes this in his Gospel? All the Gospels give us the denials that Peter made, but only John gives us this lovely picture of how Peter was revived and restored. What a lovely brotherly touch! This incident, of course, is during the forty days that Christ was here after He had risen from the dead.
During these forty days, what do we find Him doing? We find Him still serving His own. How well He had served them when He was here in His days of public service – waiting on them, serving them, teaching them, admonishing them, washing their feet, protecting them! And now, in resurrection, He is still serving them in view of revival, just as we see when we read of those two on their way to Emmaus. Think of the patience of the Man out of death, this same Jesus, but now a Man out of death, and serving His own so that they would not be discouraged, but would be revived in affection for Himself.
But let us just reflect a little on how much the Lord Jesus put in to Peter’s soul. Let us reflect just from that period before the Cross to this period we read of, and discover how well the Lord Jesus served Peter. Remember, during these forty days, He came in and went out amongst them (Acts 1:21 22), and on one occasion He appeared to above five hundred brethren at once (1 Cor 15:6). It was a busy time, and yet His service towards Peter was so detailed that it ensured that Peter would be fully restored and revived.
But let us go back a little. He prayed for Peter, remember that. He told Peter, ‘Peter, I have prayed for you’ (Luke 22:32). I think that is wonderful! One Who is none less than the Lord of glory prayed for Peter. That was one thing He did for him.
He looked at Peter on that occasion that was so sorrowful in Peter’s history (Luke 22:61). The Lord looked at him, and that look conveyed a feeling to Peter, but it was also a look of love. Coming out of death, He sent a message to Peter, ‘Go, tell My disciples and Peter’ (see Mark 16:7). He remembered Peter. How interested the Lord was in Peter!
When we discuss Peter, we fasten onto his failings. The Lord sent a message to Peter. He also had a personal meeting with Peter. Go on to 1 Corinthians 15, “Appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve” (v5). That meeting seems to be distinct from His meeting with the twelve. He challenges Peter as to his love for Him. But it was a challenge that was seeking to bring out from Peter the fullness of his love and devotion to Christ.
He challenges him three times. He gives Peter his commission as to feeding His lambs, shepherding His sheep and feeding His sheep. This is all to do with Peter. And finally He puts a cross before Peter and He says, “Follow me” (v19). All this, I think, is connected with the full restoration and reviving of Peter. If He is prepared to put so much into Peter’s revival and restoration, He also is prepared to put so much into your revival and mine!
He has gone on high, but He is still serving His own. Let us be aware of His service towards us even today, and prove that as He serves us, that touch of revival, that touch of restoration, will come into our souls.
Earlier, He had watched these few men in their fishing trip. He had seen them from the shore. He had seen that they had a poor night, that they caught nothing. He gave them instructions as to where to cast the net. Having obeyed His word, they cast it, and what a catch they had! And when they come on shore, what do they find? They find a fire of coals and fish on it, and bread, and this blessed Person inviting them to come and dine. How beautiful is the service of the Lord Jesus!
If we had been in the Lord’s position, we would probably have said, ‘Now, Peter, I have something to say to you.’ But the Lord speaks to Peter after they have dined – “When therefore they had dined.” We would have had it all out with Peter before he got fed. But, “When therefore they had dined.” What love, what affection! Just picture the scene – these men, and a Man out of death with them, and He turns to Peter and He says, “Peter … lovest thou Me more than these?” I want to put that challenge before every one of us tonight, including myself. “Lovest thou Me?” Dear brother, dear sister, you are confronted with this challenge as to your love for Christ. How are you going to answer it? I do not expect anyone in the hall to say they do not love Him. But this word is the love of devotion, it is the love of commitment. In fact, I understand that the first two times the Lord Jesus asks the question, the word that He uses for “love” is a higher word than Peter responds with. But when He tests Peter the third time, He comes down to Peter’s level. It is as if Peter is saying in his own soul, ‘I cannot really answer at the level at which He is asking me, because I have failed Him so often.’ But then the Lord comes down to Peter’s level, and He is saying to you and me tonight, ‘Do you love Me? Are you so devoted to Me that you love Me?’
You know, generally – and I think I would be honest in saying this – we organise our own lives, make our own plans and then think, ‘Now, what can I do for Christ?’ Maybe I am making a false statement there, but that is the reading of my own situation. But this question demands honesty from us. How are you and I going to answer this? Remember, this question is gauged not to trouble Peter, but to bring Peter to a point of full restoration and revival. And let us just answer the challenge and face up to the fact that our love for Christ falls so far short of His love for us. His devotion led Him to the Cross, led Him to giving all.
Where does your devotion to Christ lead you? Does it lead you to make Him first in everything? You know, I wonder as I read this – He says, “Feed My lambs … Shepherd My sheep … Feed My sheep.” Why did the Lord Jesus not say to Peter, ‘Do you love My sheep, do you love My lambs?’ He said, ‘Do you love Me?’ Dear brethren, if you and I are going to serve the Lord Jesus in any matter, small or large, it can only spring from love for Christ. He does not ask Peter if he loves the sheep or the lambs, He says, ‘Peter, what is the standard of your devotion to Me?’ That is the standard that He is raising with us tonight, that if we are going to have the experience of entering into the revival and restoration that Peter had, we must respond honestly to this question.
He looks ahead in Peter’s history. He looks down the years, and He tells Peter what will befall him. I think also that He looked ahead to just a few days later, when Peter, in power and strengthened by the Spirit, would stand up in that day of Pentecost and present the glorious news that Christ, Who had been crucified, was now exalted in heaven.
There is no cowardice with Peter in the Book of the Acts. He had shown cowardice as he had sat by that fire, the fire built by the enemies of Christ. How many fires, built by the enemies of Christ, are around us today? Let us stay near the fire that He builds, and prove the sweetness and warmth of His love, able to restore us to full revival.
And so the Lord looks ahead, and we see Peter standing up in Acts 2, and two chapters further on standing up boldly (ch 4:19), not a trace of cowardice about him in front of that Sanhedrim – maybe the same Sanhedrim that had accused the Lord Jesus Himself. And he is saying to them, “God must be obeyed rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Here is a revived, a fully restored Peter! Let us be encouraged, and let us be searched in the honesty of our heart as to how much we love and are devoted to Christ.
I move on to Mark now: restoration here is in view of service. That is what we have here, in the man with the dried-up hand, the withered hand – he cannot use it. Mark, in telling these incidents, is really telling the story of his own revival, his own restoration. Mark had gone astray, and every one of us at times has gone astray. Mark uses this Gospel that he writes, a concise Gospel, to tell incidents that convey the character of his own restoration.
In this one, the man with the dried-up hand, Mark is saying that that was himself. But oh, he is restored, he is fully recovered, and he breaks out in his Gospel, he bursts out in the start of it, “Beginning of the glad tidings of Jesus Christ” (ch 1:1). No preamble! And how does he finish it? “Go into all the world, and preach the glad tidings to all the creation” (ch 16:15). Such is the character of Mark’s full restoration.
In the section before where I read here, they had gone through the cornfields plucking the ears in the company of Christ; this man in Chapter 3 could not have done that. He could not have enjoyed the fresh ears of corn and fed on them. His hand was withered, it was dried up. He could not lift up that hand in praise to God; it was dried up. What limitations he had! But here he is confronted with One Who can bring in total restoration.
Mark paints a lovely picture in his Gospel of the one Servant Who was perfect. The perfection of the Lord Jesus in His service here! Think of His hands – His hands as He touched the leper, as He put His fingers into the ears of the deaf man, as He took the children in His arms and blessed them. How well, how perfectly these hands served God and men! And then you think of His hands as pierced by those nails at Calvary’s Cross – the measure of His devotion, the measure of His commitment!
As I said earlier, these hands are still serving His own, whether it is in the sheep being led by the Shepherd or whether it is in the sheep going astray; these hands are untiring in their devotion in service to you and to me.
He says to this man, “Rise up and come into the midst.” This is in the midst of religious opposition. They are just ready to catch Him: what He does here is done on the sabbath. It brings out His anger. It is not often that you see an expression of the Lord’s anger, but it says here, “Looking round upon them with anger, distressed at the hardening of their heart, He says to the man, Stretch out thy hand.” That hand had not been stretched out for ages. I do not know how long Mark was set aside, but we do learn from Paul, in his last writings to Timothy, that he could say, “Take Mark, and bring him with thyself, for he is serviceable to me for ministry” (2 Tim 4:11). Mark was fully restored. His hands were strengthened – they could be stretched out, stretched out in service.
Have you been met by the grace and love of Christ? Are you engaged in the service of Christ? Service to Christ is not limited to this kind of service, platform service. Service to Christ is engaging in whatever your hand finds to do under His leadership, His guiding.
This man could have looked at his restored hand and said, ‘Well, I had better be careful how I use this hand: it may return to its dried-up condition; I had better wrap it up.’ Remember the man who was given the mina (Luke 19:13,20). What did he do with it? He wrapped it in a towel. This man could have taken that action. Is that what you have done?
How are you? Have you been revived and restored in such a way that you want to serve the Master in any little way that you can? That is why I have read this passage – restoration and revival in view of serving Christ!
We spoke this afternoon about the smallness of the day we are in. Indeed, if we are practical and honest, the smallness of our local meetings involves that every one is needed, taking on responsibility, putting their hand to the service of the Lord. There is no room for anyone to wrap up their hand and say, ‘I will preserve it.’ This man, as having his hand restored, would be revived to be here in the service of his Master.
Mark, now fully restored, gives us this beautiful, condensed Gospel. And what do we find in it? We find the perfection of Christ, yes, but we find the energy of the perfect Servant. Not a day goes past but He is serving, and serving, and serving again. Let us see to it that our hands are used, not for our own pleasure, but for the pleasure of the One Who has brought in revival!
I just want to touch briefly on Psalm 51. Again, it is a psalm of David. If I said that Psalm 23 was not exactly a sheep that had gone astray, there is little doubt that the sheep of Psalm 51 had gone astray, and he had gone astray badly.
This is a psalm of penitence. He has returned, as Peter proposes: “For ye were going astray as sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1 Pet 2:25). He has returned, and he is in true repentance in this psalm. Listen to him: “Cast me not away from Thy presence, and take not the spirit of Thy holiness from me. Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation.” David had lost that. The sadness and tragedy of the sin that he had committed was that in committing it he had lost the joy of his salvation.
Are you living, dear brother or sister, in the joy of your salvation? Think of that man we read of in the reading, Jacob, at the end of his life as he blesses his sons. There comes a point when he pauses and he says, “I wait for Thy salvation, O Jehovah” (Gen 49:18). He had seen so much in Joseph, but still God’s salvation was to be centred in Another, and that old man breathes that heartfelt prayer, “I wait for Thy salvation, O Jehovah.”
There is another old man at the beginning of Luke. He says, “Now Thou lettest thy bondman go in peace; for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation” (Luke 2:29 30). His hands were used in holding Christ. His arms were used in holding Christ, the Centre of God’s salvation.
“Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation.” Salvation that has been yours through the work and shed blood of Christ can never be taken away. It is there, and it is there for eternity. But the joy of it can be lost. The communion connected with that salvation can be lost, as it was lost in David’s experience. Now he is seeking a revival of that joy, a restoration of that joy. Nobody should be happier than the believer in Christ. As you reflect on the history, and how it has been met by the work and blood of Christ, this should create the joy of salvation ringing in the heart of the believer.
He says, “Let a willing spirit sustain me” (v12). But when he finishes this psalm, he says, “Then shalt Thou have sacrifices of righteousness, burnt-offering, and whole burnt-offering; then shall they offer up bullocks upon Thine altar” (v19). True revival involves that there is something for God; blessing for me, but something for God.
David has a vision here of burnt offering and whole burnt offering. He has a view of Christ in all His excellence to God. Let us finish this meeting with some view of the excellence of Christ to God. Look at Leviticus 1 and you see that burnt Offering: its head with its legs, with its inwards. Everything about that Offering was for God, and all was supremely perfect.
Let us see that out of any exercises we pass through, and any revivals under the hand of the good Shepherd, there is something for God, something of the burnt Offering that God can rest in. He rested in Christ when He was here, and He will rest in Christ eternally. How beautiful if He finds something, as a revived Christian offers to Him something of Christ, that He can rest in even now!
These were my few simple impressions. May we know truly what revival is, and may that revival spread out in testimony and result in more for the heart of God, for His name’s sake.
Portknockie, 16 August 2014
Psalm 23:1-4; John 21:15-17; Mark 3:1-5; Psalm 51:10-13, 19