Lam. 5:21—Restore us to yourself, O LORD, that we may be restored! Renew our days as of old—
Jeremiah wrote the book of Lamentations as Jerusalem was being destroyed at the hands of the Babylonians. The prophet knew such destruction was the result of God’s judgment upon the nation for her idolatry and rampant wickedness (Jer. 25:1-14). And yet still, it broke his heart to see the Temple demolished and his people slaughtered. The sins and suffering of Israel led Jeremiah to cry out for renewal as in the days of old. What days might Jeremiah have had in mind?
Perhaps 1 Kings 22-23, and the revival Judah experienced during the days of King Josiah. The Law of Moses had all been but forgotten in Judah, thanks to Manasseh and Amon’s reigns. However, when Hilkiah the high priest found the Book of the Law everything changed. People were cut to the heart over their sins, which lead them to plead for mercy, repent of their iniquity, praise God for his grace, and reform their ways according to Scripture. That’s what is at the heart of true revival.
We see the same thing happen among the returned exiles in Ezra 10, in the early church (Acts 2), and with Samaritans (Acts 8) and Gentiles (Acts 19). In each situation, guilt, grace, gratitude, a going after godliness, and faithful Gospel proclamation characterized the people. Throughout our nation’s history similar revivals have occurred. No doubt, some have tried to manufacture them—Charles Finney and much of the 2nd Great Awakening. Others have used sloppy language to talk about them claiming, “Revival services this Tuesday, 6pm.” Even when God has worked in a remarkable manner to revive biblical religion among a large number of people, still it has been hijacked for evil purposes and used to introduce unscriptural practices.
And yet, these abuses aside, we should still pray with Jeremiah, “Restore us to yourself, O LORD, that we may be restored!” (Lam. 5:21) We should ask the LORD, “Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down!” (Is. 64:1) We should heed Christ’s word, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (John 12:32) We should lift up our crucified King and cry out for the Spirit’s saving and sanctifying mercies to be poured out.
Perhaps some of you have heard about what has happened at Asbury University over the past week with alleged revival occurring. Here is a discerning and measured article helping us to test the spirits (1 John 4:1). Here’s another giving some historical perspective, calling us to trust God in this work. (Prov. 3:5-6) You can also read Iain Murray’s excellent work Revival and Revivalism for a helpful perspective on the topic. Nonetheless, our petition should always be “Renew our days as of old.” “And LORD, start with me!”