A Cry for National Restoration
A Cry for National Restoration
Psalm 80. This is another Psalm of Asaph, and written to tune of “Shoshannim-Eduth”, or lily of the testimony. This Psalm looks at Israel as a nation, first in her present state (at the time in prophecy to which the Psalm applies) after being decimated by the king of the north, then at the past when brought out of Egypt and established in Canaan, and finally a plea for future restoration. There is a three-fold prayer for restoration; “O God, restore us” (v.3), “Restore us, O God of hosts” (v.7), and “Restore us, O Jehovah, God of hosts” (v.19). There is a progression in this: first the name Elohim, then God of hosts (power implied), and finally Jehovah (relationship implied), although it is in anticipation. There is a particular emphasis on the entirety of Israel, although the Jews are not excluded; e.g. “Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh” are mentioned.
To the chief Musician. On Shoshannim-Eduth. Of Asaph. A Psalm.
1 Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, thou that leadest Joseph like a flock; thou that sittest between the cherubim, shine forth.
2 Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh, stir up thy strength, and come to our deliverance.
3 O God, restore us; and cause thy face to shine, and we shall be saved.
vv.1-3 A Desire for Restoration. In these verses we have the introduction to the Psalm, in which the remnant cry out to God on behalf of Israel for restoration. They call upon God to hear their prayer, and they address Him as the “Shepherd of Israel”, which follows on the confession of Psalm 79; “we, thy people and the sheep of thy pasture”. They also appeal to the holiness of God, and a connection with Israel’s past; “thou that sittest between the cherubim, shine forth”. There is a particular emphasis on the entirety of Israel; e.g. “Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh” are mentioned. Notice that Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh would have marched right behind the tabernacle when the camp marched (Num. 10). It speaks of the presence of God in power among His people, and their longing for that again.1 The hope of Israel expressed by the remnant is that God would cause His face to shine on Israel once again; the full light of God’s favor on the nation. This prayer will be answered in the Millennium.
4 Jehovah, God of hosts, how long will thine anger smoke against the prayer of thy people?
5 Thou hast fed them with the bread of tears, and given them tears to drink in large measure:
6 Thou hast made us a strife unto our neighbours, and our enemies mock among themselves.
7 Restore us, O God of hosts; and cause thy face to shine, and we shall be saved.
vv.4-7 Israel Feeling the Judgment of God. The remnant have a sense that the judgments against Israel are a result of Jehovah’s anger. The question is, “How long?”. Israel has been reduced to her lowest point; overwhelmed with sorrow, and mocked by enemies. The prayer of the remnant (repeated three times) is that Israel might be restored and delivered from their enemies. Here “God of hosts” is addressed, invoking the power of God on their behalf (see v.19).
8 Thou broughtest a vine out of Egypt; thou didst cast out the nations, and plant it:
9 Thou preparedst space before it, and it took deep root, and filled the land;
10 The mountains were covered with its shadow, and the branches thereof were like cedars of GOD;
11 It sent out its boughs unto the sea, and its shoots unto the river.
12 Why hast thou broken down its fences, so that all who pass by the way do pluck it?
13 The boar out of the forest doth waste it, and the beast of the field doth feed off it.
14 O God of hosts, return, we beseech thee; look down from the heavens, and behold, and visit this vine;
15 Even the stock which thy right hand hath planted, and the young plant thou madest strong for thyself.
16 It is burned with fire, it is cut down; they perish at the rebuke of thy countenance.
vv.8-16 Israel’s Past and Present Situation Compared. The remnant look back to the past, to the beginning of Israel as a nation. The nation is compared to “a vine out of Egypt”, brought by God to the choice land of Canaan. God “cast out the nations” before Israel, and planted His vine there. He did everything possible to give it a good chance to grow, and it did for a while; “it took deep root, and filled the land, etc.” (vv.9-11). In comparison with that day, the remnant struggle to understand why God has allowed Israel to come to such ruin. God took away the fence from His vine (providential protection) and allowed “the boar out of the forest” to “waste it”, and “the beast of the field” to “feed off it”. These are poetic descriptions of the Assyrian. Yet the remnant have not lost hope altogether. They beg for God, the “God of hosts”, to return and visit His poor vine, the very same nation that He once tenderly established thousands of years before; “even the stock which thy right hand hath planted, and the young plant thou madest strong for thyself”. The remnant see in v.16 that the ruin of Israel is a result of God’s government on them; fire being a figure of God’s judgment. “It is burned with fire, it is cut down; they perish at the rebuke of thy countenance.” They have answered their own question. The “Why?” has to do with God’s judgment on Israel because of their sin.
17 Let thy hand be upon the man of thy right hand, upon the son of man whom thou hast made strong for thyself.
18 So will we not go back from thee. Revive us, and we will call upon thy name.
19 Restore us, O Jehovah, God of hosts; cause thy face to shine, and we shall be saved.
vv.17-19 A Second Cry for Restoration. In v.17 the remnant make their highest appeal. They speak of Christ, who has not yet revealed Himself to them. Perhaps they realize that they cannot righteously appeal for God’s restoration, but there is One that God can righteously strengthen; “the man of thy right hand, upon the son of man whom thou hast made strong for thyself”. Israel’s hopes are wrapped up now with the woman’s seed, and all prospects hinge on their Messiah. The Son of man is a title claimed by the Lord Jesus in humiliation and in coming glory (Luke 22:69). The remnant steadfastly cling to this hope; “So will we not go back from thee”. They continue to call for God to “revive” them, and “restore” them, so they will praise Him. Here at the end of the Psalm we have the third instance of the phrase “restore us”, and finally the name Jehovah (relationship implied) is invoked, although in anticipation. The new covenant will not be entered into until Christ appears to them.