Friday, 21 September 2012

Lord Send Revival, Start with Me

We don't hear much about revival these days. Perhaps it's because we haven't had one in England for so long - probably since the Pentecostal awakening at the beginning of the 20th century, or the Wesleyan revival before that. Wales and Scotland have both had revivals more recently, but England has been left behind. Most of us agree that revivals can't be started by us, it is a work of the Holy Spirit. We can, however, prepare for revival. Here's how:
  1. Begin to expect revival, to look for it, wait for it. Spend time on our knees asking for revival to come.
  2. Get rid of any sin in our lives, and experience the cleansing power of the Holy Spirit. 
  3. Read about revivals in church history. Learn what the Bible teaches about revival.

Actually the scriptures mainly talk about restoration more than revival. One key phrase in the OT, 'restore the fortunes' [of God's people Isra'el] occurs again and again (Psalm 14:7; 126:4; Zeph 3:20...). The Old Testament context is one of exile - God's people were taken off to captivity in Babylon, and only slowly allowed to return to their land under the Persian king Cyrus, as a result of prophecies that God would restore His people. Ultimately Jesus the Messiah brought complete restoration to those from his people the Jews and from the nations (the gentiles) who follow him by bringing them into the kingdom. We should long for God's Kingdom to grow, and for us as God's people to be restored. God's Spirit will also create in us a desire to see His honour restored:

Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
bring an offering and come into his courts. 
Worship the Lord in the splendor of his a holiness;
tremble before him, all the earth.  (Psalm 96:8)

God's glory is His and His alone, and he will not give it to another (Isaiah 42:8; 48:11). Let's begin by repenting of all the ways we have taken His glory to ourselves...

David Gray

Wednesday, 5 September 2012


I just heard a sermon on beauty. The verse quote was Psalm 27:4, which goes like this:

One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple. ESV

The trouble is GNB has ‘goodness’, NET ‘spendour’, NLT ‘perfections’ and CEV ‘[see] how wonderful [he is]’. So the best question to ask is, ‘What is the root Hebrew word?’ It is no`am which means ‘kindness’ or ‘pleasantness’.
The only place where it might possibly mean ‘beautiful’ is in Song of Songs 7:6, where it is translated as ‘pleasant’, but is used in parallel with ‘beautiful’:

How beautiful and pleasant you are, O loved one, with all your delights! ESV

This could make them close synonyms, so we should then think of the word as meaning ‘gorgeous’ or something like that, especially in the context of the passage where it can be found:

How beautiful your sandalled feet, O prince's daughter! Your graceful legs are like jewels, the work of a craftsman's hands.  2 Your navel is a rounded goblet that never lacks blended wine. Your waist is a mound of wheat encircled by lilies.  3 Your breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle.  4 Your neck is like an ivory tower. Your eyes are the pools of Heshbon by the gate of Bath Rabbim. Your nose is like the tower of Lebanon looking towards Damascus.  5 Your head crowns you like Mount Carmel. Your hair is like royal tapestry; the king is held captive by its tresses.  6 How beautiful you are and how pleasing, O love, with your delights!  7 Your stature is like that of the palm, and your breasts like clusters of fruit.  8 I said, "I will climb the palm tree; I will take hold of its fruit." May your breasts be like the clusters of the vine, the fragrance of your breath like apples,  9 and your mouth like the best wine…

But in most cases the word does just mean ‘pleasant’ or ‘delightful’. We should therefore be careful about preaching long sermons on the beauty of the Lord. The word translated ‘beautiful’ in Song of Songs 7:6 is yafeh. This is found twice in the Psalms, once to describe the king (45:2), and once about mount Zion (48:2), which is the temple hill in Jerusalem. The king was originally an earthly king, but the Psalm is definitely Messianic, so we would be perfectly justified in understanding ‘Jesus Christ’ where we see ‘king’, but not God. This means that there basically isn’t a verse where the word ‘beautiful’ is used to describe God (true though it may be that God is beautiful).

So, it is probably not a good idea to read no`am as meaning ‘beautiful’ in Psalm 27:4, tempting though it may be. Sorry, preacher, it might be time to learn some Hebrew!