Israel was taken into captivity in Babylon in 586 BC, but after the decree of Cyrus (559-530 BC) the return from exile began, though the walls of Jerusalem were not rebuilt until 445 BC. This psalm dates to a time after the exile. It is about revival. "We were like men who dreamed" it says, "Our mouths were filled with laughter and our tongues with songs of joy."
Revival is a time that delights the people of God. We find it thrilling to read about such times. If ever you are downhearted and depressed about the current state of the world, read about the Great Awakening or the Welsh Revival of 1908, or the Revival on the Isle of Lewis in 1948 or the American revival of 1858 or the revival in Korea or Kenya.
How does revival come? Not from the schemes of men. Not from methods. Not from great men. Revival is the gift of God. But how it is watered with prayer.
How should we recognise it? Read about the great revivals and you will find that there was great awareness of the presence of God and the power of God and the peace of God. Men are convicted of sin. Oh, they may know about sin, they may know about the remedy for sin, but suddenly they are convicted of their own sin. Their sin becomes a burden to them. It grips them like a vice. it pains them and will give them no peace.
Then, and only then, comes the presence of God. God washes over them and through them; cleansing, nay searing them clean. Men that hitherto had no time for Godly things are sujugated to Him. They can't get enough of Him. He is the all in all. And the world around them changes. At the time of the Welsh revival the newspapers were full of the numbers of conversions. The prisons emptied; the police were unemployed. Following the Weslyan revival, prisons were reformed, slavery ended, women and children came out of the coalmines, schools were started in every village. Convictions, conversions, changes.
The Lord has done great things for us and we are filled with joy.
We are like verse 4. We plead, "Restore our fortunes, O Lord." In our tears we must sow the word. He who goes out weeping carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him. Now there's a promise.