Psalm 80:1-7 (The Psalms of Advent—Series B)
“Stir Up Your Might and Come to Save Us”
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT
December 6, 2017
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
During this Season of Advent, we look to God’s Word in the psalms as the basis for our meditations and prayers as we await Christ’s Second Coming even as we prepare our hearts and minds to celebrate His Incarnation and Nativity among us. Our Psalm text for this first week in Advent is from Psalm 80:
1Listen, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock of sheep; you who are enthroned above the cherubim, shine forth. 2Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh, stir up your might and come to save us. 3O God, restore us and cause your face to shine and let us be saved. 4O Yahweh, God of hosts, how long will you be angry with the prayers of your people? 5You have caused them to eat the bread of tears and you have given them to drink tears by the measure. 6You make us an object of contention for our neighbors and our enemies mock us. 7O God of hosts, restore us and cause your face to shine that we may be saved.
Psalm 80 is a psalm of Asaph. He was one of the tabernacle song leaders appointed by King David in 1 Chronicles 6. His work included composing songs and psalms which may have been carried on by his descendants and successors.
As you probably noticed, this psalm is a prayer, as are many of the psalms. The psalmist and those who sing and pray this psalm ask God to listen to them. They want God to hear their prayer. What is their request? That God would stir up His might and come and save them. They want to be restored to God, to have His face shine upon them again so that they might be saved.
You see, at present, God was angry with them. “O Yahweh, God of hosts, how long will you be angry with the prayers of your people?” they inquired. God was fuming and inflamed with anger against the sins of His people. They people wanted the shining face of the compassionate God, the kindness of the warm, sun-like face of God upon them. Instead, they had received punishment. The mention of the tribes of Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh, representing the Northern Kingdom of Israel, suggests that the psalm was written and prayed in response to the Assyrian campaign against Israel. Refugees from the Northern Kingdom may have come to the temple in Jerusalem in the Southern Kingdom of Judah to pray for restoration and peace.
It was Israel’s rebellion against God, their worship of false Gods, and their failure to keep the Commandments and Covenant of God that merited God’s anger and punishment. They sinned and did that which God told them not to do. They broke the contract that God had made with them and He gave them over into the hands of their enemies. “You caused them to eat the bread of tears and you have given them to drink tears by the measure. You make us an object of contention for our neighbors and our enemies mock us.” Their sorrow had become so great that every part of their lives was defined by crying and weeping.
The only thing the people of Israel could do was pray and beg God to hear their prayers. They needed God to turn them in repentance so as to restore them to a right standing before Him. God must show up and show His favor to them again in order for their relationship to be restored.
As it was for Israel, so it is for you and me. Our sins, our complete failure to keep God’s commandments perfectly—to love Him and to show mercy to our neighbor—earns for us the Lord’s wrath and anger. By rights, God has no reason to take our prayers into account. We learned it this way in the Small Catechism, “We pray that our Father in heaven would not look at our sins, or deny our prayer because of them. We are neither worthy of the things for which we pray, nor have we deserved them, but we ask that He would give them all to us by grace, for we daily sin much and surely deserve nothing but punishment” (Fifth Petition). That’s what God’s people of old did using Psalm 80. They asked that God would shine His face upon them in gracious favor towards them, that He would restore them to His gracious favor, and save them from their sins and from their enemies.
On the basis of His gracious favor alone, God stirred up His might and came to save His people. In time, God did restore Israel and Judah after the Assyrian conquest and the Babylonian captivity. But the ultimate restoration happened in the fullness of time. When the time was right, God the Son took to His divine person a true human body and soul. God the Son became fully human and came into this world of sin so that God’s face might shine His gracious favor upon everyone. Jesus Christ, true God and true Man, shouldered our sins and bore them in His body on the tree of the cross as if they were His own. While nailed to the cross, God the Father’s shining face was hidden from His One-of-a-Kind Son. Jesus, in humanity’s place, faced the full wrath and anger, the smoking fury of God’s rage against all sin. Jesus’ suffered hell and death for our sins on the cross so that God our heavenly Father might look upon us with Hi gracious favor because our sins are forgiven. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross purchased that forgiveness for you and me and for all people.
Jesus’ death and resurrection restores all humanity to God’s favor. He is no longer angry over
our sins because the penalty has been paid in full by Jesus’ blood and righteousness. God came to save us in the person of His Son, Jesus, so that we now receive the gracious favor of God turned to us as His face shines upon us with the warmth of His love and mercy and peace. Because of Jesus and the free gift of His forgiveness and salvation won for us through His cross, God doesn’t hold us to what we deserved. He deals with us graciously. He forgives us for the sake of Christ. He restores us to a right relationship with Him. Our Father in heaven hears our prayers and always answers them in the way that is best. For He alone knows what we need according to His grace and what is of most benefit to you and me.
Yahweh, the God of hosts, has come in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ, to save all people from their sins, from death, and from the power of the devil. In Christ, be assured that God shines His face upon you in the forgiveness of sins. He bestows on you His gracious favor. The Lord give you life everlasting through faith in Jesus our Savior. Amen.