It is much too easy to begin a spiritual investigation by making basic assumptions. For example, it is easy to "assume" what restoration is. It is easy to "assume" that our dedication to restoration is a biblical thing to do.

Let's not "assume." Let's ask the questions. From the Bible's point of view, what is restoration? Is dedication to restoration a Bible thing to do?

  1. Restoration is one of the primary themes and concerns in the Bible.
    1. We are introduced to the basic concept of restoration in Bible's first book, the book of Genesis.
      1. Our first introduction to the concept of restoration is in Genesis 20.
        1. Abraham was afraid that he might be killed by someone who wanted to marry his wife, Sarah.
        2. So Abraham told everyone that Sarah was his sister (she was his half sister).
        3. The king of that area, King Abimelech, took Sarah with the intention of making Sarah his wife.
        4. God appeared to Abimelech in a dream and told him that if he married Sarah he was a dead man because Sarah was Abraham's wife.
        5. This was in instruction God gave King Abimelech:
          Genesis 20:7 "Now therefore, restore the man's wife, for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you will live. But if you do not restore her, know that you shall surely die, you and all who are yours."
      2. Our second introduction to the basic concept of restoration is again found in Genesis, chapter 40, in an incident in Joseph's life.
        1. Joseph was in the prison the king placed his prisoners.
        2. The king of Egypt put his chief cup bearer and his chief baker in that prison.
        3. Both of these men had dreams they did not understand, and the chief cup bearer asked Joseph to tell him what the dream meant.
        4. Joseph did, and this is what the dream meant.
          Genesis 40:12,13 "This is the interpretation of it: the three branches are three days; within three more days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your office; and you will put Pharaoh's cup into his hand according to your former custom when you were his cupbearer."
    2. This is the basic concept of restoration: to cause to turn back, a returning, a making whole again, to be complete.
      1. This concept is used often in the early part of what we call the Old Testament in regard to people, livestock, and possessions.
      2. But in the collection of Psalms, this concept is applied to Israel's need to return to God.
      3. The concept does not change; the application of the concept changes.
      4. Israel belonged to God.
        1. God created them.
        2. They existed as a people and as a nation because of God's deliverance.
        3. God not only established them; God also gave them their land and their purpose for existing.
      5. Israel needed to return to God.
        1. They needed to go back to the God who made them.
        2. They were incomplete because they had left God.

  2. From the book of Psalms forward into the New Testament, the basic concept of restoration is returning to God.
    1. Psalm 14 and Psalm 53 both talk about Israel's great wickedness and foolishness.
      1. Both Psalms end with exactly the same emphasis and plea:
        Psalm 14:7 Oh, that the salvation of Israel would come out of Zion! When the Lord restores His captive people, Jacob will rejoice, Israel will be glad.
      2. Psalm 14:7 and 53:6 make identical pleas.
      3. It is God who will restore the fortunes of His people.
    2. Listen to some of the restoration emphasis in Psalms.
      1. In Psalm 60:1 God has broken Israel because of their wickedness.
        Psalm 60:1 O God, You have rejected us. You have broken us; You have been angry; O, restore us.
      2. Psalm 80 petitions God to rescue His people from the disaster they brought on themselves.
        Psalm 80:3 O God, restore us And cause Your face to shine upon us, and we will be saved.
        1. This Psalm briefly tells the story of Israel.
        2. Israel was like a grape vine; God had taken them out of Egypt and planted them in Canaan.
        3. In Canaan God had protected them for a while, but God had removed their protection because of their wickedness.
        4. The Psalm makes a plea:
          Psalm 80:14 O God of hosts, turn again now, we beseech You; Look down from heaven and see, and take care of this vine.
          Psalm 80:19 O Lord God of hosts, restore us; Cause Your face to shine upon us, and we will be saved.
      3. Psalm 85:1-4 asks God for mercy.
        Psalm 85:1-4 O Lord, You showed favor to Your land; You restored the captivity of Jacob. You forgave the iniquity of Your people; You covered all their sin. You withdrew all Your fury; You turned away from Your burning anger. Restore us, O God of our salvation, And cause Your indignation toward us to cease.
      4. If God restores them, how will they act toward God?
        1. Verse 8: We will listen to God and not return to our stupid way of living.
        2. Verse 9: We will reverence Him so that His glory will live in our land.
        3. Verse 10: We will combine mercy with truth, and righteousness and peace will be close companions.

  3. There is a lot of Old Testament emphasis on restoration; I chose for us just one example from Jeremiah.
    1. In Jeremiah 5, God instruction Jeremiah to tour the streets of Jerusalem and see if he could find just one person who cared about justice (the fair treatment of other people) and who was interested in truth (in context, doing what you promise to do).
      1. If Jeremiah could find just one person, God would pardon the entire city.
      2. That is how untrustworthy and ungodly the citizens of Jerusalem were at that time.
      3. Jeremiah walks among the poor citizens of the city.
        1. He finds no one.
        2. He said to himself, "Why should I expect to find that kind of person among poor people? They are foolish people who do not know the way of the Lord."
      4. So Jeremiah went among the significant people of the city.
        1. He still did not find the person he was looking for.
        2. All of them also had broken away from God.
      5. God declared, "I have no reason to pardon those people!"
    2. In Jeremiah 6:16-21 God made this statement:
      Thus says the Lord, "Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, Where the good way is, and walk in it; And you will find rest for your souls. But they said, 'We will not walk in it.' "And I set watchmen over you, saying, 'Listen to the sound of the trumpet!' But they said, 'We will not listen.' "Therefore hear, O nations, And know, O congregation, what is among them. "Hear, O earth: behold, I am bringing disaster on this people, he fruit of their plans, Because they have not listened to My words, And as for My law, they have rejected it also. "For what purpose does frankincense come to Me from Sheba And the sweet cane from a distant land? Your burnt offerings are not acceptable And your sacrifices are not pleasing to Me." Therefore, thus says the Lord, "Behold, I am laying stumbling blocks before this people. And they will stumble against them, Fathers and sons together; Neighbor and friend will perish."
    3. In Jeremiah 7:1-11 God gave Jeremiah specific instructions about what he was to do and say:
      The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, "Stand in the gate of the Lord's house and proclaim there this word and say, 'Hear the word of the Lord, all you of Judah, who enter by these gates to worship the Lord!' " Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, "Amend your ways and your deeds, and I will let you dwell in this place. Do not trust in deceptive words, saying, 'This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.' For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly practice justice between a man and his neighbor, if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, nor walk after other gods to your own ruin, then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers forever and ever. Behold, you are trusting in deceptive words to no avail. Will you steal, murder, and commit adultery and swear falsely, and offer sacrifices to Baal and walk after other gods that you have not known, then come and stand before Me in this house, which is called by My name, and say, 'We are delivered!'--that you may do all these abominations? Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of robbers in your sight? Behold, I, even I, have seen it," declares the Lord.
      1. I would paraphrase God's interaction with a wayward Israel in this way: God said;
        1. "You have forgotten what who you are supposed to be."
        2. "You have forgotten who I am and what I am about."
        3. "You think because you have My temple and offer correct worship everything is okay."
        4. "It is not okay!"

  4. When we enter the New Testament, things are still not okay in Israel.
    1. Luke 19:11 states that those who listened to Jesus expected God's kingdom to come immediately.
      1. Some of the Psalms called for restoration, for the people to return to God; it did not happen.
      2. Jeremiah (and other prophets) called for restoration, for the people to return to God; it did not happen.
      3. Jesus' ministry comes and nears its end, and it still has not happened.
      4. Some expected it to happen immediately, before Jesus died, but it did not.
    2. When Jesus died and was resurrected, those who were closest to Jesus had no understanding of what all this meant.
      1. The disciples who had followed Jesus throughout his ministry asked Jesus a question just before Jesus ascended into heaven. This is their question:
        Acts 1:6 "Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?"
      2. They still did not understand God's purposes in restoration.
    3. After the church was established, after the good news of Jesus' atoning death and resurrection had been preached in Jerusalem, Peter made this statement at the temple.
      1. He had just healed a lame man.
      2. An astounded group of witnesses wanted to hear what Peter had to say.
        Acts 3:19-21 Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time.
      3. God's restoration was in progress from the moment that Jesus was presented as Lord and Christ for the first time in Acts 2:36.
      4. God's restoration will not be complete until Jesus returns and God's judgment begins.

  5. From scripture I conclude three things about God's restoration.
    1. Restoration focus on God's priorities, not ours.
    2. Restoration begins when God's people repent and return to godly living.
    3. Restoration cannot be produced by forms (that is never enough); it can be produced only when hearts are ruled by God.

  6. God has always wanted the same thing from people; His desire has never changed.
    1. He wanted it in creation.
    2. He wanted it in Israel.
    3. He wants it in us.
      1. What is that?
      2. He wants a people who belong to Him and to Him only by their own choice.

Titus 2:14 [Jesus Christ] gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.

Do you belong exclusively to God?

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 24 April 2001

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