Psalm 80

Psalm 80
For the director of music. To the tune of "The Lilies of the Covenant." Of Asaph. A psalm.

(1)Hear us, Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock. You who sit enthroned between the cherubim, shine forth 
(2)before Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh. Awaken your might; come and save us.

(3)Restore us, O God; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved.

(4)How long, LORD God Almighty, will your anger smolder against the prayers of your people?
(5)You have fed them with the bread of tears; you have made them drink tears by the bowlful.
(6)You have made us an object of derision to our neighbors, and our enemies mock us.

(7)Restore us, God Almighty; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved.

(8)You transplanted a vine from Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it.
(9)You cleared the ground for it, and it took root and filled the land.
(10)The mountains were covered with its shade, the mighty cedars with its branches.
(11)Its branches reached as far as the Sea, its shoots as far as the River.

(12)Why have you broken down its walls so that all who pass by pick its grapes?
(13)Boars from the forest ravage it, and insects from the fields feed on it.
(14)Return to us, God Almighty! Look down from heaven and see! Watch over this vine,
(15)the root your right hand has planted, the son you have raised up for yourself.

(16)Your vine is cut down, it is burned with fire; at your rebuke your people perish.
(17)Let your hand rest on the man at your right hand, the son of man you have raised up for yourself.
(18)Then we will not turn away from you; revive us, and we will call on your name.

(19)Restore us, LORD God Almighty; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved.

Psalm 80 is titled: Prayer for Israel’s Restoration (NKJV); Restore Us, O God (ESV); God Implored to Rescue His People from Their Calamities (NASB).

For the choir director; set to El Shoshannim; Eduth. A Psalm of Asaph (NASB). To the Chief Musician. Set to “The Lilies.” A Testimony of Asaph. A Psalm (NKJV).

As with Psalm 45, 60 and 69, this psalm is set “To the Lilies.” The phrase may refer to the general beauty of the composition, to the tune, or even to a six-stringed instrument known as the Shoshannim (the literal translation of the Hebrew).

David Guzik, pastor,

Shoshannim is some sort of stringed instrument from ancient times; Eduth means “testimony.” Asaph was the great poet and singer and worship director of King David and Solomon’s life times. However, this Asaph is probably a later worship leader. Some believe the name is more like; “in the line of Asaph” or a “son of Asaph.” But it’s very likely that Asaph was a common name in that family line, a name that the particular Levite family of the original Asaph would be happy and proud to continue giving to their sons.

A Psalm of Asaph. A latter Asaph we should suppose, who had the unhappiness to live, like the “last minstrel,” in evil times. If by the Asaph of David’s day, this psalm was written in the spirit of prophecy, for it sings of times unknown to David.

Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892

The historical time frame is hard for Bible scholars to pinpoint. Some believe Psalm 80 resembles Psalm 74 and 79 which were more clearly written during the Babylonian exile. Others believe that the psalm was penned during a later struggle. But what is clear in Psalm 80 is that something terrible has happened and that the entire Hebrew nation is suffering.

Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, You who lead Joseph like a flock; You who dwell between the cherubim, shine forth! Before Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh, stir up Your strength, and come and save us! Restore us, O God; cause Your face to shine, and we will be saved!
Psalm 80:1-3 NKJV

After Solomon’s death, the kingdom of Israel was divided in two. The southern kingdom was called Judah and included the tribes of Judah and Benjamin and the city of Jerusalem. The northern kingdom, called Israel, included all of the other tribes. This psalm calls for the Lord to rescue them all, the entire kingdom.

Often, God is referred to as the “Shepherd of Israel.” According to one commentator, however, only twice in the Psalter: here and Psalm 23. But the idea of the Lord being a shepherd is reassuring. The shepherd was someone that the ancient world understood. He was the defender of the weak, the finder of the lost, the provider for the flock. He carried them when they needed help; he healed them when they were hurt. He protected them as they slept. The shepherd is a beautiful, tender metaphor for God, the Father.

Restore us, O God; cause Your face to shine, and we will be saved! This seems to be the refrain of the song as it’s repeated three times. And what a verse to repeat! Asaph knew that all he and his people needed was for God to look upon them once more. If He would just turn His face and His favor back upon Israel, they will be saved.

O LORD God of hosts, how long will You be angry against the prayer of Your people? You have fed them with the bread of tears, and given them tears to drink in great measure. You have made us a strife to our neighbors, and our enemies laugh among themselves. Restore us, O God of hosts; cause Your face to shine, and we shall be saved!
Psalm 80:4-7 NKJV

There is nothing more frightening in this universe, than the anger of the Lord. In fact, there is nothing more frightening than the fear of the anger of the Lord. Asaph calls upon the LORD (YHWH/Jehovah) and God of Heaven’s Armies (Sabaoth). Jehovah Sabaoth is LORD God of Hosts.

One commentator says this:

Jehovah Sabaoth is the Name of God we find used in Scripture when a man or woman is at the end of their rope so to speak–Jehovah Sabaoth is the Strong Tower which God has made available for those times when we fail and are powerless, when our resources are inadequate, when there is no other help. And it is especially during those times that one comes to appreciate that God is truly the LORD of the Armies and of all hosts. In short, Jehovah Sabaoth speaks of God’s available power in our time of trouble.

To be so low that all one has is one’s own tears. Such great sadness and loneliness and hopelessness. That others laugh and point. That God has turned His face away.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Look! God's dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."
Revelation 21:3-4

Jesus came and gave His life for you and for me so that God will never turn His face away. Although we will suffer and struggle on earth, God’s face will always be upon us. He is always faithful.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
John 16:33

“Restore us, God Almighty; make your face sine on us, that we may be saved.”

You have brought a vine out of Egypt; You have cast out the nations, and planted it. You prepared room for it, and caused it to take deep root, and it filled the land. The hills were covered with its shadow, and the mighty cedars with its boughs. She sent out her boughs to the Sea, and her branches to the River. 
Psalm 80:8-11 NKJV

The vine and the root and the vineyard were another image well known during ancient times. The Israelites are often referred to as a vine or a vineyard by God.

I will sing for the one I love a song about his vineyard: my loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside.
Isaiah 5:1

I had planted you like a choice vine of sound and reliable stock. How then did you turn against me into a corrupt, wild vine?
Jeremiah 2:21

In the New Testament, Jesus teaches with parables of the vineyard (Matthew 20; Matthew 21/Mark 12), a metaphor that the people understood well.

God is the gardener, His children are the branches, and Jesus is the vine with which we cling to.

I am the vine, you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit, apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers, such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.  This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. 

As the Father has loved me, so have I love you. Now remain in my love.
John 15:5-9 NIV

Asaph sings in this ancient song of a vine that was transplanted from Egypt. The vine was safely carried, then carefully pruned and planted. Then it grew to fill the space from the Euphrates River to the Mediterranean Sea in the Promised Land. These vines even grew to cover the hills and ancient cedar trees. What a beautiful metaphor of God’s people during times of old.

In Solomon’s time the little land of Israel occupied a high place among the nations. There have been times when the church of God also has been eminently conspicuous, and her power has been felt far and near.

Charles Spurgeon
Why have you broken down her hedges, so that all who pass by the way pluck her fruit? The boar out of the woods uproots it, and the wild beast of the field devours it. Return, we beseech You, O God of hosts; look down from heaven and see, and visit this vine. And the vineyard which Your right hand has planted, and the branch that You made strong for Yourself. It is burned with fire, it is cut down; they perish at the rebuke of Your countenance.
Psalm 80:12-16 NKJV

Why have you broken down her hedges? In ancient Israel a vineyard was often surrounded by a thick and thorny hedge that kept out thieves and wild animals. Asaph looked at Israel’s troubled state and could see the symbolic hedges were broken down by the hand of God.

David Guzik, pastor,

God protects His children to this day. We have a hedge of protection around us of angels and heavenly warriors. God’s hand is today our protection. What happens when He removes it? Why would He do that? This is free will. When we make our own choices that go against God’s will, He may remove His hand and let us fall.

Using Asaph’s metaphor, you can just see our loving Father cutting away that beautiful hedge of protection around His children, shaking His head, “Okay, if this is what you really want…”

Even the smallest hole in the hedge can allow a wild pig in resulting in total destruction.

What a beautiful metaphor of sin. In Asaph’s time, the wild boar was probably Babylon. But the imagery stands for other things today: pride, envy, hatred, lust…

His favor is life, and His wrath is as messengers of death. One angry glance from Jehovah’s eye is sufficient to lay all the vineyards of Ephraim desolate. O Lord, look not thus upon your churches. Rebuke us, but not in anger.

Charles Spurgeon
Let Your hand be upon the man of Your right hand, upon the son of man whom You made strong for Yourself. 
Then we will not turn back from You; Revive us, and we will call upon Your name.
Restore us, O LORD God of hosts; cause Your face to shine, and we shall be saved!
Psalm 80:17-19 NKJV

Who is the “man of Your right hand,” the “son of man whom You made strong?” Maybe Asaph referred to the current king of the times, to make him strong again, restore his leadership. Maybe Asaph prayed for a stronger leader than before, to free the people and encourage the people and bring strength to the people once more.

But ultimately, that would never happen by mere human means. The Son of man and the One at God’s right hand is Jesus.

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. 
Ephesians 1:18-23 NIV

The Lord Jesus is such a leader, that in Him is life, and the life is the light of men. He is our life. When He visits our souls anew we shall be revived, and our praise shall ascend unto the name of the Triune God.

Charles Spurgeon

And finally, Asaph closes his song with the refrain, although slightly different, and imminently more power.

Restore us, O LORD God of hosts; cause Your face to shine, and we shall be saved!
Psalm 80:19

Turn us again, O LORD God of hosts. Here we have another advance in the title and the incommunicable name of Jehovah, the I AM is introduced.

Charles Spurgeon

Man can do little to save himself. Asaph calls for God to just turn His face back to His children. Just a glance and all would be healed.

God comes in distress. And distress goes when He comes.

Gaelic Proverb

Father in heaven, thank you for your Word and for your promises. Thank you for your faithfulness throughout time, that you are the same yesterday as you are today as you will be tomorrow. We hope and we rest in this promise. That even though the world is full of sadness and evil, that you are good and your faithfulness endures forever. Look upon us today, continue to watch over and strengthen your children. Help us to follow the path of righteousness. Amen.


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