Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Psalm 126, Day 3

Leslie Basham: Once you’ve humbled yourself and repented from sin, there is incredible joy. Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth says a lot of churches today focus on the joy while skipping the repentance.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: In fact, we don’t want to get to the brokenness and confession and repentance part at all! We just want to skip over that—that’s too down; that’s too narrow; that’s too negative; that’s no way to draw seekers to church!

I’ll tell you how to draw seekers to church: Let those who say they are the finders—the people who say they have found Christ—let them get right with God, and seekers will come.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth for Wednesday, May 25, 2016.

When is the last time you wept in church? You’ve probably sung a lot of joyful worship choruses, but have you cried out in repentance? If churches were to spend some time weeping and repenting, it would make the joyful times of singing even more deep and meaningful, according to Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. Here she is to explain. She's in part three of a ten-day series called "The Cry of the Captives."

NancyI love reading about revivals of the past—in case you can’t tell. I started reading some of those kinds of stories when I was probably in junior high school. I don’t know how I came across them, but they’ve always captured my heart.

I have found myself, over the years as I would read these accounts of what it was like when God moved in revival, I would just wonder, “Why isn’t it like that today?” In my heart, I knew that God hasn’t changed. In addition to my study of the Scripture on the subject, the historical accounts of revival have provoked my heart over the years to cry out, “Lord, would you do it again? Would you do it again?

We’re going to look at a great revival passage in the Scriptures, Psalm 126. Let me introduce it by reading to you a historical account of revival. In 1973 God sent revival to Borneo, Southeast Asia. An elder in one of the churches in Borneo wrote to some friends in England:

The services are so different from what I have ever experienced before. When the Holy Spirit comes down upon the congregation, people begin to cry out in loud wailing (sometimes twenty and thirty people at the same time) calling out to God for forgiveness of sins.

You can go to some churches today where you can hear a lot of noise, but this isn’t just noise. These are people who are repentant and broken. He said,

They’re calling out to God for forgiveness and some calling the names of people with whom they have been quarreling in a desperate desire to get reconciled.

Can you imagine being in that service as one of the people who is estranged when somebody stands up, praying and calling out your name, asking God for reconciliation? He went on to say,

Many pending court cases have been cancelled because the parties involved have been reconciled in a very dramatic manner with tears and embraces of godly love.

By the way, I’ve seen God do that in divorce cases. People who were hopelessly estranged—husbands and wives split apart—and God, by the power of His Spirit, brings them both to the cross and brings a reconciliation. Here’s what he goes on to say, and this is the point I want to make here. He says,

After the sin problems have been dealt with by the Lord and forgiveness granted, then the service goes on with loud singing of praises while tears of joy are still flowing down.1

Can you just picture that scene? First the brokenness, repentance, and confession; then the reconciliation, restoration, and forgiveness. Then the service goes on with loud singing of praises and tears of joy flowing down people's cheeks!

That is the progression of God’s ways. We want to reverse it. In fact, we don’t want to get to the brokenness and confession and repentance part at all! We just want to skip over that—that’s too down; that’s too narrow; that’s too negative; that’s no way to draw seekers to church!

I’ll tell you how to draw seekers to church: Let those who say they’re the finders—the people who say they have found Christ—let them get right with God, and seekers will come. John Wesley used to say, “You want to attract a crowd? Set yourself on fire, and men will come and watch you burn” (paraphrase). That’s what happens. But it’s what happens after the brokenness, repentance, and confession that draws seekers: the real, irrepressible joy and praise and gladness.

That’s what we’re seeing in Psalm 126—that progression. We began in verse one a couple of sessions back, with the Lord bringing back the captivity of Zion. “We were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing” (vv. 1–2).

We’re talking about the fact that the fruit of revival; the fruit of God’s people being set free from captivity is joy and gladness among God’s people. I want to expand on what we said along that line in the last session by focusing on that last phrase of verse 2. “Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing.”

Our tongue with singing—that word is actually used later in this passage. It’s translated “joy” or “gladness,” but in this particular verse in my translation, it’s translated “singing,” “our tongue was filled with singing” (paraphrase). The ESV says, “with shouts of joy.”

I looked up that word this morning in my quiet time. I was thinking about this, and the word in the original Greek language literally means, “a creaking (or a shrill sound); a shout of joy.” When I read that, I thought, That describes my singing! [Laughing] A creaking or a shrill sound. It comes from a verb that means “to creak, to emit a stridulous sound.”

I’m not sure what stridulous means exactly, but it’s a shrill sound—and this shrill sound comes out of your mouth—and it’s a reference to a shout of joy. A shrill is not particularly on pitch. That’s not the important thing. It just comes out as a shout of triumph; and it’s often translated, “a shout for joy” or “to sing aloud” or “to triumph.”

After our captivity was turned back, then our mouth was filled with laughter and our tongue with singing—with shouts to joy (Ps. 126:1–2).

Now, if you turn to Psalm 137, just a few pages further into the Psalms, you’ll see a contrast, and I want you to notice this contrast. This is a passage about those who can’t sing; those who have no song. Notice why they can’t sing. It’s because they’re still in bondage. People who are still in bondage have no reason to sing; they have no heart to sing. They have no capacity to sing with this kind of shout of joy; this irrepressible joy of the Lord.

You see that described in the first part of Psalm 137: a picture of the captives who are still in Babylon. “By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion” (v. 1). We were captives; we weren’t in our homeland; we weren’t where we were supposed to be. Instead of laughter and singing and joy and gladness that we’ve been reading about in Psalm 126, they were in the far country; they were in the place of captivity, and they were weeping.

Verse 2, “On the willows there we hung up our lyres,” or our harps, our stringed instruments. We just put our instruments away, put the violins back in the case and said, “We can’t sing here. There’s no reason to sing. We don’t have anything to sing about.”

As I was reading that passage this morning, I was thinking, That is a picture of a lot of people in the church today, isn’t it? It’s not surprising that attitude should be a description of people who don’t know Christ. But doesn’t it strike you as something wrong with the picture: that the people of God, who claim to have been saved from sin and to know Christ, should have no capacity or reason to sing?

But so many people in the church today—so many believers, myself often—find themselves discouraged, despondent, depressed. Nothing to sing about, “Oh! Woe is me; overwhelmed with life, overwhelmed with problems.” I’m not saying that if you’ve been set free from captivity you have no problems anymore, but I’m saying if you’ve been set free from captivity, in spite of your problems, you have a lot to sing about.

Psalm 137 says, “We hung up our lyres,” our harps, our instruments. Verse 3, “For there our captors required of us songs, and our tormentors, mirth.” They said, “Be happy, have a party, celebrate, sing songs,”—that’s what the captors said. “They required of us songs, and our tormentors, mirth, saying, ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’” The captives said in verse 4, “How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land.” 

We’re captives! We can’t celebrate in song. We have nothing to celebrate; we have nothing to sing about. That’s such a picture of where so many Christians are—still with the grave clothes on of the self and sin and bondage to their past; bondage to themselves and bondage to sinful habits. Those who are still in bondage can’t sing.

Go back to Psalm 126, the passage we’re looking at in this series. “When the Lord brought back our captivity, when He set us free from our captivity, then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing” (vv. 1–2 paraphrase).

Now we have something to sing about—get those violins back out, get those harps out, get those lyres out, get the instruments out! Christians who are walking in the fullness of the power of God’s Spirit have a reason to sing. They have capacity to sing.

That kind of singing, those shouts of joy, that kind of singing flows out of hearts that have been revived. The repentance, the grieving, the mourning, the sorrow over sin, now gives way to singing. It’s the song of the heart set free.

That’s a characteristic of revival, as we said a few moments ago. In revival you’ll often have people who sing the same songs that they’ve been singing in church for years, but it’s a new song. It’s now a song—some of those hymns, some of those choruses, some of those praise songs—now they are filled with life. They’re sung with new freedom and expression and fullness, and it doesn’t have to be worked up.

One of the things (I’ll just tell you) that bothers me—this is Nancy giving you a little glimpse; I have a few pet peeves. One of them is when you go to church and there has to be loud instrumentation and amplified music from that platform in order for people to sing. Now, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with loud music. There are some illustrations in Scripture of loud music. But if it takes pumping up the sound in order to get people to sing, I’m saying there’s something wrong with that picture.

The people of God don’t have to have something up-front making them sing. There’s a desire and a passion and a heart for singing. So you can think of me when you go to church and hear that. I don’t want to make a big deal about that, but I think biblically, when the people of God have been redeemed; when they’ve been rescued; when they’ve been delivered, they actually sing!

You go to church so many times and you see that the people on the platform are doing all the music, but the people in the congregation, in the audience—some of them aren’t even moving their mouths. You could say, “Well, I’m not a singer.” Listen, I’m not a singer, but I’m telling you there is something very freeing and very releasing to express what God has done in our hearts when we actually open our mouths, open our lips, and sing to the Lord. Psalm 40:3a, “He has put a new song in my mouth—[a hymn of] Praise to our God.”

The progression is: First, we get delivered from captivity, and then we sing. You read about this in revival history over and over again. Let me read to you just a few quotes from the old days. Jonathan Edwards, for example, writes about revival in New England in the 18th century. He said, “They [sang] with unusual elevation of heart and voice, which made the duty pleasant indeed.”2

Isn’t that a great way of saying that? It was a duty—this is kind of a quaint, old-fashioned way of speaking—but, it was a pleasant duty because of what God had done in the hearts of people, and it was with unusual elevation of heart and voice. They lifted their voices to the Lord when they had been set free.

Robert Murray M'Cheyne was a pastor in the early 1800s in Dundee, Scotland, and he said, “The psalm singing,” that’s what they said in those days were psalms, “was so tender and affecting, as if the people felt that they were praising a present God.”

The people actually felt that God was there. Now what a concept! Go to church and God is there? That’s something to sing about, and it affects your singing; it gives a tenderness and a sweetness. We’re not just going through the motions; we’re not just doing a formality; we are not just doing a duty. The people felt as if they were praising a present God. He is present, and when we’ve been delivered from our captivity and we’re walking in revival, then we recognize His presence.

In Ulster, Ireland, in 1859, another writer said, “The singing of the psalms was a perfect outburst of melodious sound.” Then in Wales, in the 1700s, one of the revivalists said, “Their singing and praying is indeed full of God” (Howel Harris, 1743).

Another writer said of the singing in Wales (and the Welch people were a singing people anyway), when revival came in the early 1900s again, to the principality of Wales, one of the writers said, “The singing was truly magnificent and stirring” (R.B. Jones, 1904). Magnificent and stirring!

One writer said, “In revival, singing is neither coldly formal nor thoughtlessly repetitious” (B. Edwards). There’s nothing wrong with singing the same phrase or words or chorus over and over again, as some churches like to do today—unless it’s thoughtlessly repetitious. He’s saying revival singing is neither coldly formal—nothing wrong with being that “high church” style, but it’s not cold in times of revival—it has life in it. It’s not thoughtlessly repetitious.

Do you remember that passage in Psalm 51 where David had committed that great sin of adultery with Bathsheba and then he had her husband killed to cover his sin? But then God got a hold of his heart. He was broken; he was repentant; he confessed his sin, and he wrote about his confession publicly for all of us to read in Psalm 51.

As he comes to the end of that prayer, he says, “[O Lord,] deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, Thou God of my salvation, and my tongue shall sing aloud of Thy righteousness” (v. 14 KJV). That’s the fruit of revival: joy and gladness that’s expressed in singing, when the captives have been set free—when they’ve been forgiven.

One of the most memorable experiences of my life . . .  I love reading about God moving in the past, but better than that, I love experiencing it. I love seeing it happen. I’ve been privileged to see glimpses of God’s glory in revival on a few occasions. One of the most memorable times was a number of years ago when I was participating in a group of full-time Christian workers (several thousands of them) who had gathered together for an annual conference to listen to the Lord and to seek Him.

I had been invited to speak at that conference. I’ve shared this story in times past on Revive Our Hearts. God moved in all of our hearts in an extraordinary way. Our hearts were pointed toward the subject of brokenness and repentance and humility and what that looks like and how it expresses itself.

There was a man at that conference (he was on the staff of this particular ministry), I’m going to call his name, “Jordan.” I’ve written about his story in my book on brokenness, and he’s given us freedom to share this story, but I’m just calling him Jordan here. He wrote a letter after the conference telling his friends what God had done in his heart during those days, and let me read you some excerpts from what he said.

I showed up at the beginning of the conference with a cold, weary heart.

This is a full-time Christian worker. It can happen to full-time Christian workers, and it can happen to people who are in all sorts of industries: secular vocations, moms, anyone can have a cold, weary heart. He said,

It was difficult for me to sing along with the various praise songs sung during the opening sessions. At times I didn’t even try.

Does that tell you maybe this man was still in captivity? He was still in bondage. He said,

I just listened to everyone else.

But during those next days, God brought this young man to a place of deep repentance and brokenness over some serious sin issues in his life.

I would just say, if there’s any sin issue that’s keeping you in captivity, it’s serious. But God just began to peel away the layers of this man’s heart and to show him moral issues, relational issues, baggage, that he had kept as a part of his life for years. As he responded to God in brokenness and confession and repentance, along came this fresh, new sense of release and joy in his spirit. So as he went on to describe what God had done in his life, he said,

Later that evening [and this is after he had actually publicly confessed his sin], we sang many of the same songs that were sung the first night of the conference. This time, however, I was singing! And not just singing, but with a joy in my heart that I haven’t felt for years. As we sang one song entitled "White as Snow," I couldn’t help weeping as I experienced the joy of sins forgiven. Much like the sinner woman who couldn’t stop weeping at the feet of Jesus, I, too, had been touched by His cleansing love.

Do you see the progression there? When he was a captive, he couldn’t sing. His heart was cold; it was hard, and it was heavy. He couldn’t really participate. I mean, he could have sung, but he would have been going through the motions, so he didn’t even try. But as he agreed with God about his sin, as he confessed it, as he repented of it—God set him free.

What happened next? His mouth got opened—first in confession and then in singing and praise. It was interesting to see. He was just one person of many who met with God in an extraordinary way during that time. It was so beautiful to see over those several days how personal and corporate brokenness among those Christian workers resulted in a new capacity for love, worship, and praise.

Initially, in the early part, as the people began to mourn and to grieve over their sin, the atmosphere was heavy as God’s hand of conviction settled in over that auditorium. Nobody felt much like singing for a while. But over those next few days, as people began to get free and forgiven, they began to sing—spontaneously at times—not because the leader stood up and said it was time to sing, but just simply out of gratitude and devotion to the Lord Jesus.

I can’t remember many times when I have heard more beautiful or heartfelt music than that which flowed forth out of those freshly cleansed and revived hearts that had been set free. As the week progressed, that spirit of praise and worship began to intensify. You have to imagine, this was not something . . . You know how you can get somebody up front who makes it intensify—that’s not what was happening.

It was the people of God. It was this release, this outpouring, flowing out from these people. I don’t know by looking at your faces if I’m doing a very good job of describing this. Maybe you had to be there, but it was incredible to see the overflow and the outflow.

Then, on the final evening of that conference, oh, my goodness, the celebration was unforgettable! It is in a huge auditorium with several thousand people (actually, a huge stadium or gymnasium), and people singing, “Shout to the Lord all the Earth,” and you thought the roof was going to lift off! I mean, it was amazing!

Hearts that had been so set free—what had happened? The night of weeping had been turned to shouts of joy. The bones that God had broken began to rejoice, Psalm 51 (v. 8 paraphrase). Hearts that had been delivered from guilt were free to sing out loud of His righteousness! That spirit of heaviness was replaced with a garment of praise—and so it will be in all the lives of those who choose the pathway of brokenness.

The people of God who have been set free have something to sing about—a reason to sing. That’s why the revived church is always a singing church. A revived heart is a singing heart!

Leslie: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth will be right back to pray. She’s been inviting you to joyfully sing—not out of habit or duty, but out of sincere joy for what God’s done. She is in a series called "The Cry of the Captives." Her teaching has given you a picture of the freedom that comes during revival.

For a long time, Revive Our Hearts has been encouraging you to pray for revival. Well this year, we’re inviting you to cry out with us in a unique way. Here’s Nancy with your invitation.

Nancy: This series, "Cry of the Captives," expresses a burden that has been on my heart for many years to see God send revival and awakening to our land and our world. And as we look around and see great need, I am praying for God to raise up thousands of women to respond to the darkness of our day, not with despair but with hope. Now is the time to cry out to the Lord and watch Him work as only He can do.

On September 23, we are asking the Lord to bring together at least 100,000 women—gathering together in thousands of locations in a nationwide simulcast prayer event for women that we are calling Cry Out! In this three-hour prayer meeting we are going to join our hearts and hands together, asking the Lord to change the tide of our nation by changing the hearts of His people. As you can imagine, taking on a project of this scope and size is an expensive endeavor. We’re asking the Lord to provide the resources needed for that. At the same time, we need to see significant provision from the Lord here in the month of May. 

As we've been sharing the past few weeks, this is the end of our fiscal year, when we close our annual budget cycle and make plans for the upcoming year. In order to end the year in a healthy position, we’re asking the Lord to prompt listeners just like you to get involved and meet the half-million dollar need that we have during the month of May. We need that support to keep regular ministries going, like bringing Revive Our Hearts to you each weekday. Would you make a special fiscal year-end gift? You can call us  1–800–569–5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com. Thanks so much for the important part you play as together we call women to greater freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ!

Leslie: What’s the best way to let the world know what your church is doing? You could run radio and TV spots, hire a public relations firm, or do marketing research. But when God visits His people in revival, He doesn’t need any of those strategies to get the world’s attention. Nancy will explain tomorrow. And she’s here to pray with us now.

NancyThank You, Lord, that You have given us something to sing about. Thank You, for what You’re doing in so many hearts, even in this place and this day, to set us free from the bondage of sin and guilt and shame.

As You release us from captivity, our mouth is filled with laughter and our tongue is filled with singing shouts of joy. So we bless You and ask that You continue that process of setting captives free that Your Church might truly become once again a singing Church. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted.

1Brian Edwards. Revival! A People Saturated With God (England: Evangelical Press, 1990). 137-8.

2Ibid.

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