Restore Our Fortunes Like The Streams Of Negev
Rev. Lily Lim | On 17, Nov 2015
Psalm 126:4 (NIV)- Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like streams in the Negev.
We all go through dry-spells at one season or another in our lives.
Many weather experts are forecasting an El-Nino (a long dry-spell season) to hit Philippines this last quarter of the year and they say that it will drag till early next year.
Our dry spells can come in many forms. For the children of Israel in our Key Text, their dry spell is their captivity in Babylon for 70 years.
Psalm 126 records a PIVOTAL TIME in the Old Testament when the LORD brought back the captives to Zion. This represents the past hour of divine intervention when God restored his people to their land. The psalmist describes the restoration of God’s people like a dream, too good to be true. He further describes how the laments of the people were turned into laughter by their return. After their return to their land, the psalmist earnestly prayed to God to restore their fortunes like the streams in the Negev. This was a request that God would replenish the nation’s blessing. The people, who had returned to Jerusalem, needed God’s prosperity in their new home. Only God could truly replenish what had been lost in the past 70 years because of their sin.
And that is the title of my message this morning – ‘RESTORE OUR FORTUNES LIKE THE STREAMS OF NEGEV!’
Why did the Psalmist pray to God to restore the fortunes of Israel like the streams of Negev? Why didn’t he use other geographical streams of Israel?
This is because Negev best depicts the DRY CONDITION of the children of Israel and their RESTORATION really resonates with the way Negev has been restored by the rain and flood to become raging watercourses that overflow its bank to the desert.
(I) THE GEOGRPAHICAL NEGEV
The Negev (or Negeb) takes its name from the Hebrew word “neghev”, meaning DRY.
It is located south of Jerusalem and Judea, from which Negev has also taken on the meaning SOUTH. KJV records our key text as, “Turn again our captivity, O LORD, as the streams in the south.” Both names are quite appropriate – the Negev is the southernmost area of Israel, and it is most definitely one of the most ARID Bible places.
What are the characteristics of Negev?
• It is a dry wadi during the dry summer season.
Wadis are dry river beds, like dry valleys. These river beds have no water at all during summer.
• It is surrounded by desert mountains.
• It is changed from dry wadis to streams in the springtime, the rainy season.
During the rainy season, the wadis collect waters from various areas. The situation is also aggravated by floods from the desert mountains and southern Judah.
• Its streams can turn swiftly into dangerous torrents within a short while of torrential rain.
For a day or two, or more frequently, for a few hours, the wadis turn into dangerous torrents or FLASH FLOOD, with its dry riverbank overflowing with floodwaters in the desert.
(II) OUR ‘NEGEV’
The usage of Negev by the Psalmist in his prayer for restoration carries a few spiritual lessons that we can apply to our Christian life by studying its implications of its physical and geographical qualities:
• BELIEVERS WILL GO THROUGH DRY SEASONS IN THEIR LIVES
In the road map of our Christian journey, God has included a ‘Negev’ in our experience.
The children of Israel had been removed from their land in the Babylonian captivity for over 70 years. It had been seven long decades of SLAVERY, EXILE, DEFEAT, HUMILIATION AND DEVASTATION. That is their Negev experience – their captivity.
How about you? What is your Negev today? What is your wadi? What is your dry season?
Could it be……..
a) Captivity to sin (Bondage to sin)
b) Captivity to oppression (Bondage to a bully in your life)
c) Dryness in your spiritual life (Your heart is hard, your eyes are dry and your faith is old)
d) Wasted and wearied spirit
e) Dryness in your marriage
f) Dryness in your finance
g) Depression of spirit
h) Miserable backsliding
i) Grievous doubts
j) Unsuccessful undertaking
k) Barren circumstances
l) Dryness in your bones
• DRY SEASON WILL COME AFTER A TIME OF PAST BLESSINGS
The children of Israel had experienced a glorious period of past blessings by Yahweh – the Great Red Sea Parting, the Great River Jordan Crossing, The Great Conquest of the Land of Canaan, The Glorious era under the King David and King Solomon and then came the 70 years of dry season in the form of slavery and captivity to a foreign king.
That is how it is going to be like for us too. Dry season will come after a time of past blessings.
If you do not recognize this fact, then you will be filled with condemnation each time you go through a season of dryness in your life. Whenever your finance runs low, or the attendance of your ministry drops, you will succumb to the lies of the Satan that God has left you. Then there is this “elder-brother” spirit from members of the church who will point out that there is something wrong with your life. These are all not true. Even when we are serving and walking well with God, Negev is a season all true believers will encounter, especially after a great season of blessing for there is no land where the rain would fall continuously 24/7 for 365 days. The climatic cycle definitely has to be interspersed with rainy season, dry season, warm or even cold season and the same goes for our journey of life with God. We can’t expect constant blessings from God. We will meet our Negev at one point or another. Accept the different seasons of our life as from God. And let the Lord have his way even in our Negev.
• DESPERATE CRY FOR RESTORATION
As much as Negev is a normal part and season of our Christian experience, there still must be the desperation in us to call upon Yahweh to restore our fortunes like the streams in the Negev.
In the KJV, the Psalmist cries to God, “TO TURN AGAIN OUR CAPTIVITY.”
The word “turn again” shows us that when we pray for the turning of our captivity, it is wise to recall former instance where God had restored us and delivered us. Nothing strengthens faith more effectually than the memory of previous experience.
“Turn again” shows us how wise it is to resort anew to the Lord, who in former times has been so good to us. Where else should we go but to Him who has done such great things for us? Who can turn again our captivity but He who turned it before? Like the streams of Negev!
In modern version, the prayer of the psalmist for restoration is ‘RESTORE OUR FORTUNES, O LORD….’
The word “restore” (shub) means “to return, to turn around, to come back, and to be brought back.” Shub is the twelfth most used verb in the Old Testament, appearing 1060 times, and is used 71 times in the Psalms. Shub is best understood to mean repentance, a turning away from evil to God. According to the context, the meaning of shub may be properly used to describe our SPIRITUAL RESTORATION.
A few days ago, I picked up my little diary which I wrote in 2006-2007 and there I was amazed at how God pulled me through in one of my worst Negev – terrible persecution and financial crisis. It was also during that period that I wrote many good sermons that have blessed people until today such as the SEVENFOLD PAYBACK. But I also recorded in my diary many pages after how God miraculously restored my financial fortune and even restored my wounded soul. But the Negev experience lasted from 2006-2007 – a season of financial dryness, emotional and mental distress for 2 years. After reading how God turned my Negev around in the past, I suddenly have more faith to believe for my present Negev to be turned around by God.
If you are in Negev now, pray desperately to God to turn around, to restore, and to turn again to bless you.
(III) OUR RESTORATION
The Psalmist wants the restoration of the fortunes of Israel to be in the same way the dry Negev is restored into a flowing stream. If the restoration is to be the same as that of the streams of Negev, then the restoration of our fortunes by the Lord will carry the same characteristics of the streams of Negev. Our restoration will be……….
V4 (Amp)- Turn to freedom our captivity and restore our fortunes, O LORD as the streams in the South (the Negeb) [are restored by the torrents].
The dry wadis become streams of water due to the TORRENTIAL RAIN which brings about a FLASH FLOOD.
Flash flood means that in a flash, in a matter of minutes, flood will inundate the place- in our case – the wadis.
Can you remember the flash flood during Typhoon Frank that hit Iloilo City years ago? Within a span of 2 hours, the whole Jaro district after Tabuc Suba became a swift flowing river and the flood rose up to be as high as the roof of a house.
For Negev, in a blink of an eye, the whole topography changes from an arid wadi to a flowing stream.
When God restores, it is TORRENTIAL and not trickles.
When He blesses, He blesses us EXCEEDING ABUNDANTLY and SWIFTLY like a flash flood.
The restoration will be swift.
It takes only 2 hours of torrential downpour or a maximum of 2 days of rain to cause the wadis to suddenly be flooded. Flash flood carries the element of SUDDENNESS. First there was a long drought and then suddenly, FLASH FLOOD. The restoration is SUDDEN.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones, famed preacher of Westminster Chapel, London, once preached a series of sermons on the subject of revival. In those messages, Lloyd-Jones stated, “The history of religion is the history of revivals.” By that he meant that redemptive history is marked by peak seasons of the Spirit’s power which raises God’s work among his people to a higher level. But eventually, the Spirit withdraws his power and the people of God descend to a lower level. Revival times are high times in God’s kingdom, divinely appointed seasons when God intervenes in the affairs of history, reviving and restoring his work. It is after the darkest times in history that God has made the pure light of his truth to shine the brightest. These seasons of revival among his people, though relatively few in number and brief in duration, are nevertheless, pivotal times of “heaven and earth” when God dramatically advances his kingdom. Regarding those seasons of revival, Martyn Lloyd-Jones has said, “God does more in five minutes than man did in the previous ten years.”
You may languish for ten years [like the prolonged dry season of wadis], but when God comes in to restore, He does it in 5 minutes.
2 Chronicle 29:36- And Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced because of what God had done for the people; for the thing came about SUDDENLY.
God revived the people during Hezekiah’s reign SUDDENLY.
Acts 2:1-2 –When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And SUDDENLY a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.
The Day of Pentecost came upon the 120 suddenly too.
Be prepared for the suddenness of that restoration.
For 17 years, we bore the heat of persecution for buying this 4000 sq meter land. There was no way to build this church. Our financial riverbed for building, like the wadis of Negev was dry. Worse was, like the Negev, we were surrounded by mountains – obstacles and opposition. But when it was God’s time to restore our building project, God took 5 months to give us this building. 17 years of waiting and weeping and in a matter of 5 months, the miracle happened! Suddenly there is a landmark here in Tabuc Suba. Glory be to God!
It is going to be a swift and sudden restoration.
When the water flows from the surrounding mountains to the dry wadis, the water gushes forth to form streams of great DEPTH to the point of an OVERFLOW.
The restoration will deeply impact the church, denomination and ministry infrastructure for a long time to come. It will overflow to the centuries to come. The reformation that happened in the 16th century still has a rippling effect in our present century. The Azusa Revival, the Rodney Howard Browne Revival, the Toronto Blessing, the Pensacola Revival all had deep rippling impact on global scale. Hill song was birthed out of revival. Assemblies of God, Foursquare and Church of God were all birthed from the Azusa revival. When God revives and restores, He does it with great depth to the point of overflow.
The restoration will leave a DEEP impact on people around us for a long time to come.
Israel couldn’t return to Jerusalem before God’s appointed time. But when it was time for restoration, that which no power can perform on their behalf, God powerfully delivered Israel from Babylon and brought them home to Zion.
It is said that when the water flows from the surrounding mountains to the wadis of Negev after a torrential rain, the water flows down RAGINGLY. It flows with great force.
We are going to experience a POWERFUL restoration of God.
Israel did return from captivity in Babylon like a FLOOD of people hastening to Zion. Suddenly and plenteously the people filled again the temple courts of Jerusalem. In streams they shall also in the latter days return to their own land and replenish it yet again. Like mighty torrents shall the nations flow unto the Lord in the day of His grace.
I was very encouraged by the rhema God gave me on 4 November 2015. God promises me in Zechariah 10:8 (Amp) – “I will hiss for them [as the keeper does for his bees] and gather them in, for I have redeemed them, and they shall increase [again] as they have increased [before, in Egypt]. Our glorious days were in Quezon from 2000 to 2011. Our church was big and we increased by leaps and bounds. But looking at our ‘Negev’ attendance now, it seems quite hard to believe for days of former glory. But God promises here that He will restore the fortunes of our attendance by suddenly FLOODING our church with people. Like He promises in Zechariah 10:8, He will whistle for souls to come in, just like a bee keeper hisses to his bees. People will FLOOD into our church like the STREAMS of Negev. People will SWARM into our church like BEES. We will increase as before. We will grow as numerous as before. The restoration will be plenteous. Do you believe it?
The children of Israel desired a SUDDEN DISPLAY OF DIVINE FAVOR IN WHICH GOD WOULD OVERWHELM THEM WITH BLESSINGS.
The favor of God will come suddenly and swiftly with full raging force that will overwhelm all of us. That is the streams-of-Negev type of restoration that I am praying for.
This restoration of our fortunes will overwhelm us to the point we will be LAUGHING, SHOUTING AND PROCLAIMING, ‘THE LORD HAS DONE GREAT THINGS FOR US’ (verse 2).
But there are CONDITIONS to this stream-of-Negev like restoration.
Psalm 126: 5-6- May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy! He that goes forth weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.
The restoration will come to those who are WORKER, WEEPERS and WAITERS.
While you are in your Negev, in your dry season, continue to sow in the Kingdom of God – continue to work in the vineyard of God. Don’t give up your ministry and calling. Continue to be a WORKER.
While you are in your Negev, continue to weep for the pain and frustration of the dryness you are experiencing. Continue to be a WEEPER.
While you are in your Negev, continue to wait for the seeds of the promise that God has given you to grow and mature into a great harvest of blessings. Be a WAITER.
What are the fortunes you want God to restore swiftly, suddenly, overwhelmingly, powerfully and plenteously in your lives today?
The various translations of the prayer of Psalmist reveal the different areas of our lives needing that streams-of-Negev like restoration……
NIV- Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like streams in the Negev.
NET – “O LORD, restore our well-being, just as the streams in the arid south are.”
Common English version (CEV)- “LORD, change our circumstances for the better, like dry streams in the desert waste.”
Good News Translation (GNT) – “Lord, make us prosperous again, just as the rain brings water back to dry riverbed.”
5) Drought-stricken life
Message – “And now, God, do it again- bring rains to our drought-stricken lives.”
New International Readers Version (NIRV) – “Lord, bless us with great success again, as rain makes stream flow in the Negev Desert.”
7) Our captivity
Amplified – “Turn to freedom our captivity and restore our fortunes, O Lord, as the streams in the South (the Negeb) [are restored by the torrents].
The Bible in Basic English (BBE)- Let our fate be changed, O LORD, like the streams in the South.
9) Our exile
The Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)- Return our people from exile, ADONAI, as streams fill vadis in the Negev.
10) Our prisoners
Psalms 126:4 (NCV)- Lord, return our prisoners again, as you bring streams to the desert.
(IV) OUR THIRSTY SAVIOR-JESUS
As believers we all have our ‘Negev’ at one point or another.
How about our Lord Jesus? Did Jesus face his Negev too?
The driest moment of Jesus was when He was hung on the cross and He cried out the shortest words on the cross – “I THIRST” (John 19:28).
It is possible that Jesus had nothing to drink for 18 hours, maybe since the Passover meal. The Bible says he sweated blood in the Garden of Gethsemane. Then for a long time He was forced to be on His feet as He was interrogated by Annas, then to stand before Caiaphas, then before Pilate, then before Herod, and back again before Pilate.
He had been beaten by the soldiers, and He was forced to wear a crown of thorns. I’m sure He was bleeding and this meant precious fluid was pouring from His body. Jesus carried the cross until He fell out of exhaustion. Then for 6 agonizing hours our Lord hung on the cross and continued to lose body fluids. I’m sure by this time He was completely dehydrated, so it is no wonder that the 5th word from the cross was, “I thirst”.
Historians say when being crucified, one of the worst pains is a need for water. The thirst is agonizing. As the victims hung on the cross their mouths and throats cried for water. Their lips cracked and bled and their eyes were glazed. Their tongues swelled in their mouths. Their thirst was horrible.
Jesus went through that extreme thirst and parchedness. It was his ‘Negev’ experience turned to the maximum level.
Psalms 22:15 already prophesied that Jesus would undergo such grievous thirst: “my strength is dried up like a potsherd [sunbaked clay], and my tongue cleaves to my jaws; thou dost lay me in the dust of death.”
How many of us today have experienced such grievous thirst to the point our tongue swell in our mouths; our lips crack and bleed; our eyes become glazed; our physical strength is dried up like a sunbaked clay and we feel like dying?
Why must Jesus experience His Negev to such an extreme?
Firstly, He wants us to know He understands us and to identify with our humanity – our dryness, our parchedness and our weariness. He knew we would face pain of the body and the soul and that we would be thirsty in our dry season, in our Negev. He knew we might be thirsty for water just like the wadis thirsting for water. Who would better understand our thirst and dryness unless he is one who has undergone the same thirst? Therefore with these two words from the cross, Jesus was telling us an amazing comforting fact –“I UNDERSTAND! I- GOD IN THE FLESH- UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU ARE GOING THROUGH.
Charles Spurgeon said, “How truly man he [Jesus] is; he is indeed, “bone of our bones and flesh of our flesh,” for he bears our infirmities…Jesus was proved to be really man, because he suffered the pains which belong to manhood. Angels cannot suffer thirst. A phantom [spirit], as some have called him could not suffer in this fashion; but Jesus really suffered and He endured thirst to an extreme degree, for it was the thirst of death that came upon him…That thirst was caused….by the loss of blood and the fever created by the irritation caused by his four grievous wounds….as the weight of his body dragged the nails through his blessed flesh and tore his tender nerves. The extreme tension produced a burning feverishness. It was pain that dried his mouth and made it like an oven, till he declared, in the language of the twenty-second Psalm, “My tongue cleaves to my jaws.”
There were patients on death-bed who cried out for water but the doctors held it back because they could not swallow. What a horrible thing to see a man like that, with no water to quench his dying thirst. Relatives would plead to the doctors to give the patient a taste of water since he was dying anyway but those doctors, fearing lawsuits more than humanitarianism, refused even a drop of water to cool those dying tongues.
Spurgeon said, “Our Lord was so truly man that all our griefs reminds us of Him: the next time you are truly thirsty, you may gaze upon him and whenever you see a friend….thirsting while dying we may see Jesus’ suffering dimly but truly mirrored…how near and how related to us the thirsty Savior is…”
Jesus is “Immanuel”- God with us, the God-man, even in the hour when we feel the thirst of death because He said, “I thirst.”
Second the thirst of Jesus was a sign of His substitution for sinners. Jesus said, “I thirst” and that suffering thirst atoned for the sinful words from every human mouth, of every person who comes to Him.
Thirdly, the thirst of Jesus can spare you from the thirst of Hell.
The gospel of Luke tells us of a man who died, “and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments…and he cried…have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and COOL MY TONGUE; for I am tormented in this flame.”
If Jesus had not suffered thirst on the Cross, every one of us would have to suffer our thirst in Hell. Spurgeon said, “Our sinful tongues…must have burned for ever in hell had not Jesus’ tongue been tormented with thirst in our place” – in our place on the cross.
How did our Father restore Jesus’ captivity to the cross? He resurrected Jesus three days after he died; Jesus ascended into Heaven 40 days after His resurrection and 9 days later, our Father sent the Holy Spirit to rain down Pentecost like streams of Negev. The whole spiritual atmosphere was changed by the torrential downpour of the Holy Ghost. Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the outermost parts of the world were flooded with gospel message of Jesus Christ. With this restoration, today Jesus can live up to His promise – “I am the bread of life, he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35). “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38).
What is your Negev experience that causes you to be so thirsty for a restoration? Jesus understands them all. And he is with you in your Negev. He has undergone the Negev for us so that we won’t experience Negev eternally in hell and also that we can experience the rivers of living water flowing from within us because of his death. Without Jesus going away in death and finally in ascension, the torrential downpour of the Holy Spirit would not come.
I would like to conclude this message with an old hymn that goes like this:-
Let the Lord have His way
In your heart every day
There’s no rest, there’s no peace
Until the Lord have his way
Place your life in His hands
Rest secure in His plan
Let the Lord, let the Lord
Have His way.
It shall flow like the river
It shall fall like the rain
It shall rise like
The dawning of glory o’er the Land
And the knowledge of the Lord
Shall fill all the earth
And the Spirit of the Lord shall fall.
Yes, let the Lord have his way in our Negev. Though it is dry, frustrating, anguishing and painful, Negev is still part of the roadmap of our Christian journey. Let the Lord use our Negev to teach us to be workers, weepers and waiters. Place our Negev in His hand and rest secure in His plan to restore us in His timing. It will be sudden and swift.
When the time comes for restoration, it shall flow like the river, it shall fall like the rain and it shall rise like the dawning of glory over the land. It will cause the knowledge of the Lord to spread and impact all the earth.
Yes – I declare to all of you who are undergoing Negev – THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD SHALL FALL UPON YOU LIKE A RIVER AND FALL LIKE THE RAIN – JUST LIKE THE STREAMS OF NEGEV! Believe it, expect it and claim it! It shall come!
PREACHED AT ETAB 1ST ENG SV ON 15 NOV 2015