Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord (Acts 3:19 NKJV)
Notice that the verse above does not speak of “a time” of refreshing but “times” – again and again we receive times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord. The word refreshing denotes a recovering of breath, a reviving or revival. We need these “times of refreshing” to:
To Bring us From Spiritual Death to Life in Christ
To refresh, in this context, means to revive or breathe life into. When Ezekiel was given a vision of a valley of dry bones, he heard the voice of the Lord say “prophesy … come O breath, breathe upon these slain that they may live” (Ezek 37:9). They rose and came to life, a mighty army.
Those who do not yet have a relationship with Jesus Christ need the new life he brings. The Bible reveals that without Jesus, we are all “dead in trespasses and sins,” and nothing less than the new birth which Jesus offers can bring us to enjoy life as God intended – the full spiritual life which a personal relationship with God brings. Jesus once said, “You must be born again,” and explained that the Holy Spirit was able to introduce this new life into the hearts of all who believed in Him.
After his resurrection, Jesus breathed on his disciples and said, “receive the Holy Spirit.” We too must let the living Christ breathe into our hearts and bring us to LIFE. New life begins when we, like his disciples, recognise that Jesus is alive, and surrender to his Lordship.
To Satisfy our Spiritual Hunger & Thirst
At some time we have all experienced, perhaps in a minor way, the sensations of hunger and thirst. Jesus calls us to crave something more than food or drink. He said “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be filled.” The scripture clearly teaches that God refreshes the thirsty. “Ho! Everyone who thirsts, Come to the waters; And you who have no money, Come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk Without money and without price.” (Isa 55:1) Yet at the same time, the Bible places an emphasis on the spiritual nature of that thirst – it is a thirst for God.
David knew what it was to thirst for God: “O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You In a dry and thirsty land Where there is no water.” (Ps 63:1)
David had experienced the thirst of being on the run in the desert. On one occasion, recorded in 2 Samuel 23, David longed for some water from the well at Bethlehem to quench his great thirst, but since the well has behind enemy lines, three of his soldiers volunteered to get it at risk of their lives. When the Lord Jesus Christ hung on a cross, he opened a fountain that would quench our spiritual thirst and satisfy our spiritual hunger eternally.
And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35)
The river of the water of life is, a symbol of the Holy Spirit, is pictured in Revelation as proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. Having ascended to heaven, Christ received the Holy Spirit whom he now pours out abundantly on those who seek and obey him (see also Tit 3:5-6).
“If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:37-39)
For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, And floods on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, And My blessing on your offspring; (Isa 44:3)
What a shower to refresh the weary, thirsty land! God says:
The wilderness and the wasteland shall be glad for them, And the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose; (Isa 35:1) For waters shall burst forth in the wilderness, And streams in the desert. The parched ground shall become a pool, And the thirsty land springs of water (Isa 35:6-7).
Here is a picture of how God the Holy Spirit creates fruitfulness and life where once there was only barrenness and death. If God is able to quench the thirst of an entire desert, making it lush and green, then He is equally able to satisfy the longing and thirsting of our hearts for something real and eternal. The simple fact is that if you want more of God, He is ready to give it you. There is never a lack of supply, but too often there is lack of demand. Just how much do we hunger and thirst for God? Those who are anorexic do not lack food – there may be plenty of food. It is their lack of desire for food that causes the dangerous loss of weight. Similarly, our lack of spiritual desire can cause a dangerous deterioration in our spiritual lives. We need times of refreshing, to renew our desire in God.
To Strengthen Our Spiritual Life
After the burning of Ziklag, David captured an Egyptian man who was a servant to the Amalekite raiders (see 1 Samuel 30). The man had fainted and was near to death, but they revived him with water and some softened food, that he might swallow. There are times in our Christian experience when we too become faint. The battle of life has been hot, the way has been difficult. The sad truth which David discovered about the Egyptian man I mentioned, is that he had become faint because of sickness, and his master had abandoned him. As Christians we can be assured that our master never abandons us! He said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” We may find it difficult at such times to praise God or even maintain a positive outlook. That’s human nature. When we are fainting, we only see the worst in things. How blessed are the times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord! Again and again, when we have been too faint to continue, Christ has revived and strengthened us within.
Paul once experienced utter weakness. He does not give us the details of how this came about, but in 2 Corinthians 1:8-10 he relates how God brought him through:
For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us, (2 Cor 1:8-10)
Thank God that the Holy Spirit is able to help us in times of weakness. There is a wonderful picture of God’s help in the life of King David. When he was fatigued from battle, and about to be overcome by the enemy, David called out for help, and one of his officers Abishai came to his aid, striking down the enemy and giving David time to recover. The name Abishai means “gift of the father” and it is the father’s gift who delivers and revives us in the battle:
Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear. (Act 2:33)
Another great help to us when we face times of weakness is the strength and encouragement we find in the scriptures. In another Old Testament battle, David’s friend Jonathan became faint, but he found some wild honey oozing from a tree, and when he ate it, he said, “Look now, how my countenance has brightened because I tasted a little of this honey.” (1 Sam 14:29-30) The strength he received from nature’s life-giving food revived him to continue and to win the battle.
Honey in the Bible is a picture of the word of God, for example, “How sweet are Your words to my taste, Sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Ps 119:103) . If we need reviving so that we can run in the ways God with renewed strength and zeal, then we need the sweet food of the God’s word and the help and fulness of the Holy Spirit.
To Refresh us in Old Age
We all need daily refreshing, but this is especially true as we get older. The truth is we are all getting older every day! When a garment is old, it needs to be refreshed, and this is no less true for you and me. There is a beautiful old devotional book by Mrs Cowman called, “Traveling Toward Sunrise,” which has daily readings meant for those who are approaching the latter end of their lives. What I loved most about this book was the title – it is not toward sunset, but sunrise, for the best is yet to come. God’s word is full of precious promises for those who are growing old in years.
They shall still bear fruit in old age; They shall be fresh and flourishing, (Ps 92:14)
The word “fresh” in this context means literally green and fertile. An old tree cannot produce fruit once its wood has become dead and dry. It needs the invigorating sap to fill it with life before it can produce fruit. And here is a promise especially for the older believer that he or she will be invigorated in time of old age, revived and renewed by God the Holy Spirit. An older Paul said:
Even though our outward man is perishing, the inward man is being renewed day by day. (2 Cor 4:16)
God promises, “I will be like the dew to Israel;” (Hos 14:5). It is the dew that refreshes the grass in the dry eastern climate and speaks of the precious dew of the Holy Spirit that continually, gently, almost unfelt by us renews and refreshes even in old age.
Do you recall the verse “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” It is a well known quote from Joshua 24. But did you realize that Joshua made this statement at the age of 110, just a short time before he died? He had said to the elders in the previous chapter, “this day I am going the way of all the earth.” Yet in chapter 24 he says that, till the very end, I will serve the Lord. Surely the ability to serve God right up to the end of life is a privilege granted by God, who will enable us to do so by the renewing power of the Holy Spirit.
A simple reading of the New Testament will reveal that the majority of it was written by old men! Think for example of such references as to “John the elder”, and “Paul the aged”. These men of God could remain fruitful despite the passing of time because they experienced, “Times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord.”
Naomi was a woman who knew times of refreshing in later life. Obed was not biologically her grandson, but was counted so because of her close relationship to Ruth, his mother. When he was born it was said to her, “And may he be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you, who is better to you than seven sons, has borne him.” (Ruth 4:15) The word restorer means, to start again, and Obed brought a newness into bereaved Naomi’s life, “a nourisher” who would feed and provide for her when the time came that she could no longer are for herself.
Renew us to Immortal Life
So we come back to the context of Peter’s sermon, where he first made the announcement that “times of refreshing” would come from the presence of the Lord. Peter makes clear that these times of refreshing will culminate with the coming again of the Lord Jesus Christ, who will restore all things. In other words, the life-giving blessings we receive now provide just a foretaste of future glory, when God’s life-giving power shall be manifest in an even greater way, for when Christ comes, he:
“will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.” (Phil 3:21)
This fits well with the teaching on resurrection in 1 Corinthians:
Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed– in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (1 Cor 15:51-52)
What a time of refreshing when we see Jesus as he is and are changed perfectly into his likeness. This will be the restoration of all things, as the whole creation will be restored.
For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. (Rom 8:19-21)
Creation waits with longing for the day when, as the sons of God are manifested, the curse will be removed and creation released from its bondage. Since we have only known a fallen creation, we cannot imagine how glorious the world will appear when it is restored to its former, pre-fall glory.
At that time, relationships will also be restored. Christian loved ones, parted by death, will be reunited in the resurrection Jesus brings.
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. (1 Thess 4:14)
Sleep, of course, in the above passage is a reference to death. It is not the soul that sleeps, for to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. Nevertheless, our bodies rest in sleep until they are re-awakened and reunited with our soul and spirit at Christ’s coming, and then there’s going to be a lot of shouting for joy as we are forever reunited with loved ones and death is finally defeated. I really love some of the old hymns that were written in expectation of this blessed hope!
As one hymn writer says:
What a shouting there will be -when each other’s face we’ll see – changed in the twinkling of an eye! (Fanny Crosby)
Friends shall be there I have loved long ago, Joy like a river around me will flow; Yet, just a smile from my Saviour, I know, Will through the ages be glory for me. (C H Gabriel)
God’s jurisdiction over the world will be fully restored, and so at his coming, Christ will reign as Lord of Lords and King of Kings. At that time we will join in the song, “You have taken your great power and have begun to reign” (Rev 11:17). Over all the earth for 1,000 years, the lion will lie down with the lamb and eat straw like the ox. It will be a wonderful time, a season of perpetual refreshing and restoration. Then through the ages of eternity in a new heaven and earth he will reign and we will reign with him. Jesus is the highest name not only in this age but in the age to come.
So in the present need or the future life, what we need are times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord. Lord, let them fall on us now, as the dew of Israel, let the showers of blessing fall!