One of the best-known Bible verses about revival is found in Psalm 85:

Will You be angry with us forever? Will You prolong Your anger to all generations? Will You not revive us again, That Your people may rejoice in You? Show us Your mercy, Lord, And grant us Your salvation. Psalm 85:5-7

Many Bible scholars believe one or more of the sons of Korah wrote Psalm 85 sometime after a remnant of Jews returned to Judea following the Babylonian captivity. That fits with other thoughts expressed in the Psalm;

  • Lord, You have been favorable to Your land
  • You have brought back the captivity of Jacob
  • You have forgiven the iniquity of Your people
  • You have covered all their sin
  • You have taken away all Your wrath
  • You have turned from the fierceness of Your anger
  • I will hear what God the Lord will speak, For He will speak peace To His people and to His saints
  • But let them not turn back to folly
  • Surely His salvation is near to those who fear Him, That glory may dwell in our land

Notice that the sons of Korah asked God to “revive” them – “Will You not revive us again…” The Hebrew word חָיָה (chayah) in verse 6, which translates as “revive” in some English Bibles. Other translations use “quicken,” “bring back to life,” “give us fresh life,” “give us new life,” and “restore our lives.” Hebrew scholars Keil and Delitzsch wrote that the word carries the idea of God turning again to His people.

The poet prays that God would manifest Himself anew to His people as He has done in former days. Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament

The Hebrew word chayah is used more than 260 times in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament). You will find it used for how long a person lived in ancient times, as well as eating food to live, and being saved from death, among other uses.

Since chayah is such a common Hebrew word, why would the sons of Korah choose to use it when calling on God to “revive” them again? That seems like such a specific request. What does “revival” have to do with “to live again”?

I think the word choice is perfect for the occasion. The life of Judaism was in its Temple and Holy City. God removed His glory from the Temple because of the wickedness of His people (Ezekiel 10). The Babylonians besieged Jerusalem, destroyed the Temple, killed thousands of Jews, and took thousands more into captivity. What better desire than for Jews to ask God to give them “life again” upon returning to their land from decades of captivity? God returned a remnant of His people to Judea to rebuild the Temple and the City of Jerusalem. The sons of Korah knew that what the people needed was for God to “revive” them again.

As we launch into this new series about revival, keep in mind the last part of verse 6 – “Will You not revive us again, That Your people may rejoice in You?” Revival has a specific goal and that goal is always focused on rejoicing in God and what pleases Him.


I remember hearing the word “revival” many times as a child. The church I attended scheduled a couple of “revivals” every year: usually a revival in Spring and another in Autumn. The revivals were usually scheduled for Sunday thru Wednesday, but I do remember some that went from Sunday to Sunday. We usually had an evangelist as special speaker for the week. The emphasis was on people getting saved and Christians getting right with God. I wasn’t interested in either, but attended because it was what my family did. I stopped going to revival meetings sometime in high school, which is when I stopped attending church.

The idea of “revival” took on a new meaning for me after I became a Christian. One of the men God used to answer my many questions as an atheist was involved in a “revival” ministry. It wasn’t long before I was also involved. I recorded the revival services, then edited them for radio programs that ran on stations in the United States and other English-speaking countries.

The Earliest Revivals?

My friend and other revivalists in the ministry often shared the history of revivals in their sermons. They shared stories of how God blessed His people as they confessed their sin to God and to each other, promised to obey and rejoice in God, and prayed that the lost would come to Christ for salvation. Much of the history of revival that I heard preached was focused on Great Awakenings in America and Europe in previous centuries.

However, God’s work in “reviving” His people goes back thousands of years before those events. The Bible records several revivals for us to study and consider. We’ll look at several of them in this series, but where I’m going to begin may surprise you. It’s not what we might think of as “revival.”

Revival is always the work of God. God does the reviving. He is Sovereign and decides how He will rule His people. That rule often includes judgment. The words of the Apostle Peter continue to ring in my ears:

For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? Now If the righteous one is scarcely saved, Where will the ungodly and the sinner appear? 1 Peter 4:17-18

Be sure to check out the context of 1 Peter 4 because it deals specifically with suffering as a follower of Christ “according to the will of God.”

Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator. 1 Peter 4:19

I’ve been around “revivals” and the idea of revival since I became a Christian more than 50 years ago. I don’t believe humans can manufacture or manipulate revival. God does the reviving. Revival is always according to the will of God. So, when did God will that “revival” would begin with humanity?

Seth’s Revival

Adam and Eve, the first humans, sinned against God. God cursed them and banished them from the Garden of Eden. God also promised that He would send salvation through the “Seed” of the woman. Eve thought her first son, Cain, would be that man. However, Cain murdered his younger brother Abel. God then cursed and banished Cain. So, what would happen to God’s promise of a “Seed” to defeat Satan? How would God accomplish His will for the salvation of humans? Eve became pregnant and gave birth to another son. His name was Seth. As we see in Luke’s genealogy of Jesus Christ, Seth is mentioned following Adam.

Seth had a son and named him Enosh (אֱנוֹשׁ – man). What followed might be the first “revival.”

Then men began to call on the name of the Lord. Genesis 4:26b

The Hebrew word for “call” is קָרָא and means “proclaim, call, read.” People began to “proclaim, call” on the name of the Lord. God was at work in accomplishing His will to bring forth the promised Seed. God gave new life to His promise. Even after several generations from Seth and Enosh, we see God’s people continuing to please Him:

And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him. Genesis 5:24

By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, ‘and was not found, because God had taken him’; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God. Hebrews 11:5

Enoch was the great-grandfather of Noah.

Noah’s Revival

We could even consider the salvation of Noah and his family through the Flood as a type of “revival” considering that God was going to destroy all life on Earth, but chose instead to give it “new life”.

And the Lord said, ‘My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years … But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. Genesis 6:3, 8

The humans who came from the lineage of Adam through Cain and Seth were full of wickedness and violence by the time we get to Genesis 6. “The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.” However, God did not destroy every living thing on earth because “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (Genesis 6:8).

Noah is called “a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God” (Genesis 6:9). The Apostle Peter referred to Noah as a “preacher of righteousness” in 2 Peter 2:5. The Greek reads – δικαιοσυνης κηρυκα. Noah was “a herald, a proclaimer, a preacher” of “righteousness, justice.” It carries the idea of a judicial decree that is just and right. What God planned to do to life on Earth was His absolute right as Creator and Judge. Noah acted as the human “proclaimer” of God’s Word concerning His judicial decree.

Genesis 6:3 says that the days of humans “shall be one hundred and twenty years.” That was most likely a countdown to the destructive Flood. God gave people one hundred and twenty years. To do what? That may be where Noah’s being a “preacher of righteousness” came into play. Noah may have preached repentance from sin and turning to God during much of that time, even as he and his sons built the Ark.

What did other people do? They continued to live their lives as if Noah’s preaching was not true or didn’t matter. Jesus told His disciples that in the days before the Flood people “were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark” (Matthew 24:38). Jesus said people would be doing the same thing when He returned to Earth to judge the nations and establish His world-wide Kingdom. Most people who hear God’s Word proclaimed today either don’t believe it’s true or don’t care. They live their lives as if God does not matter.

Noah built an Ark to God’s specifications and entered it with his family and a specific number of animals, birds, and creeping things at God’s command. Once they were all onboard the Ark, “the Lord shut him in” (Genesis 7:16). “Noah was six hundred years old when the floodwaters were on the earth” (Genesis 7:6).

The details about the Flood waters in Genesis 7 are difficult for people today to comprehend. I covered floods as a reporter and saw the devastation that flood waters can have on people and property. I’ve seen video of tsunamis that outstripped anything I had personally witnessed. But none of that compares with a Flood that covered the Earth.

The waters prevailed and greatly increased on the earth, and the ark moved about on the surface of the waters. And the waters prevailed exceedingly on the earth, and all the high hills under the whole heaven were covered. The waters prevailed fifteen cubits upward, and the mountains were covered. And all flesh died that moved on the earth: birds and cattle and beasts and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, and every man. All in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life, all that was on the dry land, died. So He destroyed all living things which were on the face of the ground: both man and cattle, creeping thing and bird of the air. They were destroyed from the earth. Only Noah and those who were with him in the ark remained alive. And the waters prevailed on the earth one hundred and fifty days. Genesis 7:18-24

God’s righteous judgment was on full display during the Flood, but where’s the revival?

Then God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the animals that were with him in the ark. Genesis 8:1

God “remembered.” This is the first time we see the Hebrew word זָכַר (zakar) used in the Bible. It means to “be mindful of, bring to mind.” God did not forget Noah. God did not forget His promise to bring forth the Seed who would destroy the enemy of God and humanity. God had an Eternal Plan and He was working out His Plan. He started the physical process that led to Noah, his family, and all living beings on the Ark being able to leave the Ark and step on dry ground. Revival was underway.

Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And the Lord smelled a soothing aroma. Then the Lord said in His heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake, although the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done. ‘While the earth remains, Seedtime and harvest, Cold and heat, Winter and summer, And day and night Shall not cease.’ Genesis 8:20-22

Humans again rejoiced in their Creator and God was pleased.


One observation I’d like to make is that in each of these events, God’s Word was “proclaimed.” People began to call on the name of the Lord (proclaim His Name) in the time of Seth and Enosh. Noah proclaimed God’s word in the days leading up to the Flood. The proclamation of God’s Word precedes both God’s judgment and revival. God does not leave people in the dark about what He’s doing. He has been clear throughout history about what He expects from people and what will happen if they do not obey Him.

Next Time

The Bible has many examples of “revivals” for us to study and consider. We’ll look at some of them in the next part of our new series, Revival – To Live Again.

© Faith and Self Defense, 2023

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.