Psalm 80 - Revive Us
Psalm 80:1-19 NIV
Israel’s walls were broken and enemies ravaged them. The people were massacred and many survivors were exiled. They prayed for salvation, but the situation worsened. Their hearts were heavy, and they waited for God to raise up someone to rescue them.
How can we relate to the Psalmist? Try replacing the word “nation” with the word “church” and “enemy” with “Satan”. What do we see?
Are our Christians fed with humanistic teachings more than the gospel of Jesus? Are people attracted to church today because of the prosperity gospel, which is a fake teaching? Are we losing church members because of poor leadership?
The Psalmist, Asaph, called God the Shepherd, to lead them like a flock. He asked God three times to “restore us” and four times for “God’s presence/face to shine on them”. He desperately wanted God to restore the nation.
Asaph asked God to raise up a “son” to lead them and save their nation. In times of trouble, we too should pray for God to protect us like a flock and raise up spiritual leaders to lead us. We must be as desperate as Asaph in our prayer to God.
Hear us, Shepherd of Israel, You who lead Joseph like a flock. You who sit enthroned between the cherubim, shine forth
before Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh. Awaken Your might; come and save us.
The theme of this psalm is really about asking God to restore us.
Asaph referred to Joseph, Benjamin, Ephraim and Manasseh (the latter two were Joseph’s sons). After the nation of Israel split in two following Solomon’s reign, the above names were used to refer to the Northern Kingdom, while Judah was used to refer to the Southern Kingdom.
The tribes of Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh used to marched directly behind the Ark and the Levitical priests while they were in the wilderness (Numbers 2:17). The remaining tribes marched behind these three tribes. Asaph could be praying for the fellow Israelites in the North by invoking these three names, or he could be asking God to lead all His people including those in the South. Historically, the Northern Kingdom was conquered by the Assyrians before the Southern Kingdom was conquered by the Babylonians.
Restore us, O God; make Your face shine on us, that we may be saved.
Asaph remembered God’s blessings and asked God to shine on them, that they might be saved.
The Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace.’” So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.” (Numbers 6:22-27 NIV)
To “make His face shine” is to ask God to smile on them. Which promises of God do we remember? God is faithful, and He will not forget His promises. God wants His face to shine on us, and He is doing all He can to turn us back to Him. Jesus died on the cross to wash away our sins, and that brings God’s smile back on us again. So we fix our eyes on God and let Him lead us.
How long, Lord God Almighty, will Your anger smolder against the prayers of Your people?
How will we feel if we feel like God’s anger smolders against our prayers?
Asaph’s imagery of God burning their prayers shows his frustration at the situation they were in. God is compassionate and He wouldn’t be angry with their prayers if they were made with sincere hearts and good intentions.
When we pray about the bad situations that we are in and do not find them improving, we may think that God is angry with us no matter how devoted we are in our prayers. But God is compassionate, He loves us. God won’t be angry with our prayers, we just have to be patient.
You have fed them with the bread of tears; You have made them drink tears by the bowlful.
Their meals were bitter and full of sorrow. It wasn’t so much a problem with the food, but more the conversations at the dining table — they were miserable.
What saturates our conversations during our meal times? If they are full of discouraging topics, perhaps we might be going through some of what Asaph felt — frustration and discouragement with our situation.
You have made us an object of derision to our neighbors, and our enemies mock us.
Restore us, God Almighty; make Your face shine on us, that we may be saved.
The once powerful nation of Israel had become a mockery to its neighbours and enemies. Things were falling apart. How about our kingdom, the church? Are we falling apart too? Has our church become an object of derision to Satan? Is Satan laughing at us today?
Asaph repeated his cry to God to smile on them. He prayed for his people collectively. Let’s pray for the church and the world.
You transplanted a vine from Egypt; You drove out the nations and planted it.
You cleared the ground for it, and it took root and filled the land.
The mountains were covered with its shade, the mighty cedars with its branches.
Its branches reached as far as the Sea, its shoots as far as the River.
Why have You broken down its walls so that all who pass by pick its grapes?
Boars from the forest ravage it, and insects from the fields feed on it.
The “vine” was a metaphor for the nation of Israel and the “grapes” would be the people. Asaph reminded God that He had transplanted the vine from Egypt into Canaan. God cleared the ground by helping Israel clear out the Canaanites and helped them grow “as far as the Sea and the River”. He asked God why He allowed Israel’s walls to be broken and the enemies to ravage them.
Have the “walls” of our church been broken down? Is Satan is picking up our Christians like grapes from the vine?
How do we feel about the state of spirituality in our world or in our church today? Let’s not be oblivious to how we’ve strayed from God; we need to learn to pray like Asaph. This psalm is not only for the leaders of churches, but for all of us who call ourselves Christians. It is NOT for those who choose to complain about their churches and do nothing for the kingdom of God. The psalm helps us to know God’s heart, that He desires us to protect the grapes of His vine.
Return to us, God Almighty! Look down from heaven and see! Watch over this vine,
the root Your right hand has planted, the son You have raised up for Yourself.
Your vine is cut down, it is burned with fire; at Your rebuke Your people perish.
Let Your hand rest on the man at Your right hand, the son of man You have raised up for Yourself.
Then we will not turn away from You; revive us, and we will call on Your name.
Restore us, Lord God Almighty; make Your face shine on us, that we may be saved.
Asaph repeated for the third time, “Return to us, God Almighty!” He asked God to watch over the nation that He Himself had planted.
Under the leadership of ungodly kings, the nation went astray, they were “cut down” and were “burned with fire”. Asaph prayed for God to raise a “son” who would revive them again. He expected God to raise up a physical king to deliver them, but we’ve learnt that the son he prophesied is our King, Jesus Christ. Jesus came and died 2,000 years ago, and he was raised up from the dead. Through him, God’s face shines on us again.
Under ungodly leaders, churches will be “cut down” and “burned with fire”. We will stray away from God and become unspiritual, ripe pickings for Satan. The “son” has already been raised to save us. We need to turn to Jesus and be focused on him. We need to be devoted to his teachings and model ourselves after him. Let’s pray that God will raise us as His instruments to revive our churches and be an impact in the world. We need to pray for the spirituality of our leaders.
Are we as faithful as Asaph and pray for God to revive the churches?
Andy is the head of compliance for an international bank and is happily married, with three daughters. He became a disciple of Christ three decades ago, and studies God's Word passionately. He desires to be constantly led by the Spirit. Andy joined the Central Christian Church in 1990.