Restore Us, O God (Psalm 80)
How do you approach God when you need restoration?
Advent is about waiting/anticipating God’s restoration. In Psalm 80, Asaph longs for the covenant blessings to be returned to Israel. He pictures God as an angry Shepherd who left his flock, in the midst of their enemies, to feed upon their tears. He longs for the Lord’s restoration and favor.
The Psalms teach us how to communicate with God. We learn to express our emotions in ways that honor him.
Kidner “God, it seems, prefers an excess of boldness in prayer to an excess of caution, as long as the boldness is something more than loquacity…We come to him as sons, not as applicants.”
Asaph captures the confidence of a son calling upon his father to flex his muscles and come to his rescue.
Read Psalm 80.
I. The Shepherd’s Smile (1-7)
1-2 Asaph is crying out for the Lord to shine/reveal/display his beauty and glory. The people long to feel His presence. God’s displeasure had fallen upon the northern tribes. They are in need of a mighty rescue.
3 Here Asaph asks for restoration by combining the ideas of shining and saving. The shining face of God is a reflection of favor/pleasure. This is common biblical imagery of God’s grace towards his people (Num. 6:25).
“Restore” (שׁוב) = turn back, return. The people of God are expecting him to return something they had lost. They long for the peace and prosperity they once had in the Promised Land under the reign of David and Solomon.
4-6 Asaph acknowledges God’s anger. They have been served a course of tears with a side of tears and a piping hope mug of tears to wash it all down. God has made his people enter contentious relationships with others who mock them.
As sheep we may bleat our complaint to the Shepherd that we fell into a ditch without acknowledging our wandering off. The Shepherd had every right to be angry. Is Asaph accepting that or simply complaining? It’s hard to tell. But, either way, it’s a bold prayer from one secure in his adoption.
7 Only slightly amended from v.3, adding “God of hosts,” referencing his military might.
God as Shepherd brings protection, provision, and leading. Sheep were utterly dependent upon their shepherd for sustenance. Sheep come to know their shepherd’s voice so well, they can be called after mingling with other flocks. Asaph represents Israel’s longing to hear their Shepherd’s kind voice and to feel his shining smile upon them once again.
Here he transitions to their longing for…
II. The Vinedresser’s Care (8-19)
God is pictured as the Vinedresser of Israel. The vineyard at one point was thriving, but is now picked by outsiders and ravaged by animals.
8-11 Image of Israel as vine planted in Promised Land. Soil prepared, roots deep, filled the Promised Land. It grew to shade the mountains and the tall cedar trees were hidden by the vine’s branches which covered the land to its borders (cf Isa. 5:1-7).
12-13 However, the Vinedresser has broken down the walls surrounding the vineyard removing its protection. Now, its fruit can be enjoyed by anyone who passes by, including animals!
14-16 Asaph desires God to return his gaze upon the vine that he planted and made strong like a son. He calls for God’s rebuke of the enemies who had burned and cut down the vine.
17-18 But God can restore them by strengthening the “son of man.” Asaph pictures this “son” as the one who will restore the Lord’s favor, enabling them to remain faithful.
19 The repeated refrain (3, 7) shows us Asaph’s hope for salvation. He knows that is the result of God’s restoring grace. He provides two common images (Shepherd and Vinedresser) which relate to God’s protection for his covenant people and his provision for them.
This is the reality even when the sheep and branches are feeling isolated. When we apprehend the source and content of our hope we can endure anything. When we know God as protector and provider we turn to him often and feel him smiling over us!
William Cowper in God Moves In A Mysterious Way writes, “Behind a frowning providence He hides a smiling face.” We see both in Psalm 80. The frown of God’s discipline leads his people to long for the smile of his redeeming grace.
Bring your petitions to God. Recount his care of you in the past and call upon him to protect and provide again. He delights to hear from his children. He will not cast you out. In fact, he comes running to meet his prodigals and restores them with extravagant celebration (Luke 15).
Let us cry out for our own restoration, as well as the restoration of one another. That is how we persevere! That is how our hope of salvation is restored. Let us rely upon the Holy Spirit even now for his favor to fall upon us!
When the shepherds in a field near Bethlehem were the first to hear the announcement of the Messiah’s birth it was anticipating this restoration (Luke 2:8). “Restore” is exactly what Israel expected the Messiah would do (Acts 1:6). Clearly, the fullness of their anticipation was not satisfied in Christ’s resurrection (Acts 1:7-8). Our situation is quite similar to Asaph’s Israel. We long for the final restoration God promised his covenant children! And we should express that longing with the full range of emotions that accompany it.
Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser” (John 15:1). Restoration involves abiding in the true vine. Jesus also said, “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11-15). Not only is Jesus the good shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep, he’s the Lamb who was slain (Rev. 7:17).
The hope of salvation is God’s ongoing protection of, and provision for, his covenant people… (we should add) through Jesus Christ, the good shepherd who laid down his life for the sheep.