PSALM 80 TALK: A SONG FOR REVIVAL OF GOD’S PEOPLE

PSALM 80 TALK: A SONG FOR REVIVAL OF GOD’S PEOPLE

 (A psalm which opens up the need for and source of true God centered revival for God’s church today.)

 THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide”.

INTRODUCTION

 In my course of research and study for this Psalm I came across an excellent explanation of the Psalm and its application to Christian revival in a article written by Steven J. Cole called “Praying for Revival” published on the internet in 2009. I will quote from this article a few times during my own explanation and application of this amazing Psalm.

Cole makes it clear as the Psalm does that Revival of God’s people is not something we can do or engineer as Cole states clearly with these words,

“Revivals are a sovereign work of God that effect many at the same time.”

 Our connection to true revival is in the areas of prayer or pleading with God to do it and in the preaching of the word of God and people rightly responding to that message, as God demands. These two areas of human activity thread there way through the entire Psalm.

Psalm 80 contains the name Asaph as its writer in the Hebrew Heading yet again it could not have been the original Asaph who lived and wrote in the time of David and Solomon as this Psalm seems to indicate that it was set in the time of the divided kingdom of Israel as it speaks of the Northern Kingdom tribes in verse one. This means that a descendant of Asaph wrote this Asaph Psalm like a number we have already looked at already.

It also seems to feature things relevant to the Northern Kingdoms problems around the time of it’s conquest by the Assyrians in 722 B.C although it could have been written in the years leading up to that conquest as nations like Assyria whittled away at portions of the northern kingdom over many years.

However the Psalm also speaks of things unique to the southern kingdom known as Judah with the reference to Benjamin in verse 2 and the unique design of the Ark of the Covenant in verse one which was located in the southern kingdom in Jerusalem.

I like Steven Coles theory of the authorship and what lies behind it, he writes,

“It may have been penned by a poet in the south who had witnessed the destruction of the north and was concerned that the same enemies not conquer the south”.

 It is interesting that a man named Asaph appears in the story of the unsuccessful Assyrian siege of Jerusalem in 701BC and we read of him and two other men taking the message of the Assyrian commander to King Hezekiah in 2 Kings 18: 37.

“Then Eliakim son of Hilkiah the palace administrator, Shebna the secretary, and Joah son of Asaph the recorder went to Hezekiah, with their clothes torn, and told him what the field commander had said.”

Psalm 80 is both a Lament Psalm and a song as it is written in the form of a prayer of complaint and it has a refrain or chorus that appears three times in the Psalm, vs. 3, 7 and 19. This made the breakdown of the Psalm very easy so with the theme of A song for revival and these three refrains or choruses my breakdown is:

  1. 1 – 3 REVIVE YOUR CHOSEN PEOPLE
  1. 1 – 2   The shepherd of his people who is enthroned in heaven
  2. 3         Revival Chorus 1 – Restore us
  1. 4 – 7 REVIVE YOUR DOWNTRODDEN PEOPLE
  1. 4 – 6   The smoldering anger of God
  2. 7         Revival Chorus 2 – God Almighty
  1. 8 – 19 REVIVE YOUR TRANSPLANTED PEOPLE
  1. 8 – 17 Revive the vine God planted
  2. 18 -19 Revival chorus 3 – The results of Revival

 Finally I will also be referring to a great old hymn during this Psalm talk called “Revive your Church of Lord” written by Albert Midlane who lived between 1825 – 1909 and would have been part of the 3rd Great Awakening of the church in England and America between 1850 – 1900. I will use this hymn as its verses relate to teaching in the Psalm.

To kick this off I offer the first verse as a kind of setting of the scene for what we are about to learn,

Revive your church, O Lord,
In grace and power draw near;
Speak with the voice that wakes the dead,
And make Thy people hear.

May we be all awoken from our sleep by the voice of God that wakes the dead so that we might be revived by his power and grace through the study of this Psalm.

  1. 1 – 3 REVIVE YOUR CHOSEN PEOPLE

 So we start our look at this ancient song, which is a prayer for God to revive us with its first verse, which is our verses 1 and 2 and the first chorus which is our verse 3 which then forms the two parts of this first section of this Psalm.

  1. 1 – 2   The shepherd of his people who is enthroned in heaven
  2. 3         Revival Chorus 1 – Restore us
  1. 1 – 2   The shepherd of his people who is enthroned in heaven

 This first part of the first section has two wonderful poetic images of God and his people, which are:

  1. The shepherd of his people
  2. Their God who is enthroned in heaven

Lets now have a closer look at each of these two poetic images:

  1. The shepherd of his people

 The Psalm, prayer or song starts with the words,

“Hear us, O Shepherd of Israel”.

 I have noted a number of times already in my Psalm talks on the Psalms of Asaph that this concept of God being Israel Shepherd and Israel being God’s sheep as a distinctive feature of these Psalms. In the last Psalm we read of it in the last verse, verse 13,

“Then we your people, the sheep of your pasture; will praise you forever; from generation to generation we will recount your praise”.

 Now Asaph or a descendant of Asaph prays to God addressing him as the,

“Shepherd of Israel”.

I have pointed out before that this concept of God being Israel’s shepherd appears right throughout the bible and first appears clearly in Genesis 48: 15 – 16 which is Jacobs blessing to his sons Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh who’s names appear in these first two verses of this Psalm, Jacobs blessing then,

“May the God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day, the Angel who has delivered me from all harm – may he bless these boys. May they be called by my name and the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac, and may they increase greatly upon the earth”.

 This first reference of God leading Jacob like a shepherd leads his sheep and is incorporated into his blessing for his three sons Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh and its connection with the term being used at the opening of this Psalm and the mention of the three brothers Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh is no coincidence. The writer of Psalm 80 is asking for Jacobs blessing to be on the descendants of these boys the Northern Kingdom of Israel. They are in such a terrible state and desperately need God’s shepherd like leading.

We must also mention that Asaph includes the name Benjamin but he too is related directly to the other three boys as the youngest brother and last child of Rachel who is often associated with the Northern Kingdom but became the second tribe of the smaller southern kingdom when the Kingdoms divided.

Benjamin could be seen as a buffer tribal area between the two Kingdoms and I’m sure much of its northern area suffered similar problems to the Northern Kingdom during the Assyrian invasions.

No matter how terrible the people of Israel became, no matter how far they wandered from the sheepfold, from truly following God as their shepherd they were still considered by God to be his chosen people.

Jeremiah speaks of fallen Israel in terms of the shepherded people of God and God as the shepherd and writes in Jeremiah 31: 10 – 11,

“Hear the word of the Lord, you nations; proclaim it in distant coastlands:
‘He who scattered Israel will gather them and will watch over his flock like a shepherd.’ 11 For the Lord will deliver Jacob and redeem them from the hand of those stronger than they”.

Sadly as David points out in his famous shepherd Psalm, Psalm 23: 4b, the Shepherd carries a Rod and staff,

“Your Rod and your staff they comfort me”.

Sometimes the Shepherd had to use his rod or staff to prod and probe his sheep when they became wayward and sometimes some foolish sheep wandered so far from their shepherd he could not save them.

All through the Old Testament God seems to have a remnant that remains faithful to him or returns to him and Jeremiah makes direct reference to God’s remnant sheep in Jeremiah 23: 3,

“I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number”.

This prayer in Psalm 80 will be answered by God but not with a mass turning to God as we see in unusual times of revival but in the sure reality of a remnant that God will preserve and many years later this chosen remnant will to return from the Babylonian exile and will feature people mainly from the southern Kingdom of Israel but I’m sure mixed among them would have been a even smaller remnant group of Northern tribal members.

We know from the New Testament and particularly from Jesus teaching in John 10 that God has now established a new chosen people made up of people from every nation on earth. Jesus says this about his new enlarged sheepfold and how through his death on the cross he would establish this new flock of God’s sheep in John 10: 14 – 18,

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

 We to can fall away from following the Good shepherd and we to need to return to following him both as individual believers and as a church for both can and have fallen away many times and in ways over the centuries since Christ established his church on earth once and for all on the day of Pentecost.

The church throughout its long history has had to be revived from time to time and Albert Midlane’s hymns second verse captures well this often-desperate need for revival,

Revive your church, O Lord,
Disturb this sleep of death;

Give life to smouldering embers now

By Thine almighty breath.

  1. Their God who is enthroned in heaven

The second poetic image is in verse 1b

”You who sit enthroned between the cherubim, shine forth”.

This seems to be a direct reference to the Ark of the Covenant as Tremper Longman 111 points out,

“God is also the one who sits enthroned above, the cherubim, a reference to the cherubim who extended their wings with their heads down over the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 25: 10 – 22)”

But Longman goes on to point out that,

“The ark is also the portable symbol of God’s presence, and it often accompanied the army into battle”.

What this Ark of the Covenant symbolized was then a reality in heaven as Isaiah caught a vision of in Isaiah 6: 1 – 4,

“I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke”.

Isaiah’s vision saw 6 winged angels while the Ark of the Covenant had two winged angels but both present the concept of God being enthroned in heaven surrounded by heavenly hosts as Psalm 80 verse 1 speaks of. Allan Harman draws on the concept of these Angels, Cherubim being on the mercy seat and makes this conclusion,

“The idea is probably more than simply that God is enthroned above the mercy seat. He is seated on his heavenly throne. From there he is asked to come and execute judgment and lead his people as of old, restoring them to their former position”.

Then at the end of verse 1 Asaph prays,

“Shine forth”

Asaph wants the shepherd of Israel, who sits on the mighty throne of heaven to shine forth as the God of the bible is often seen as a God of light, as David declares in Psalm 27 verse 1,

“The Lord is my light and my salvation”

And Deuteronomy 33: 2,

“The Lord came from Sinai and dawned over them from Seir; he shone forth from Mount Paran. He came with myriads of holy ones from the south, from his mountain slopes”.

Asaph wants God to shine forth again on his people Israel who was facing the darkness of the Assyrian invasion. They are also in the darkness of their many sins that has effectively cut them off from the God of light.

Jesus declared in John 8: 12,

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

 But John tells us in John 3: 19,

 “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil”.

So Jesus wants us to turn from darkness, the darkness of this sinful fallen world and follow him the light of the world who came from the great God of light to bring us his light so that it can now shine forth in us.

Great revivals of the past were always times when great light, understanding of God shine brightly in the dark world of there times and so today we need God’s light to shine forth again and bring us out of darkness into God’s glorious great light.

Finally Asaph prays at the end of verse 2,

”Awaken your might; come and save us”.

 Tremper Longman 111 writes,

“Until now it is as if God has been asleep, but now he calls on God to awaken and come to rescue them from their enemies”.

 David combined the God of light with his salvation in Psalm 27: 1,

“The Lord is my light and my salvation”

When this God of light revealed himself in the history of Israel it was usually in his acts of Salvation. For 400 years of so Israel remained trapped in the bondage of slavery in Egypt but then it must have seemed like God awoke and raised up Moses and Aaron who God used to shepherd his people out of bondage and into eventually the promised land.

Now Asaph wants God to awaken yet again to save his people in the north from the terrible darkness and destruction of the Assyrian invasions. He wants God to come and save them.

However we know from history that these people of the Northern Kingdom had fallen so far from the light of their God that God instead of Salvation was awakened to Judgment.

Once the final judgment of God came on the Northern Kingdom in 722B.C under the Assyrian king Shalmaneser we read the horrible dark sinful state Israel had become in 2 Kings 17: 16 – 17,

“They forsook all the commands of the Lord their God and made for themselves two idols cast in the shape of calves, and an Asherah pole. They bowed down to all the starry hosts, and they worshiped Baal. 17 They sacrificed their sons and daughters in the fire. They practiced divination and sought omens and sold themselves to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, arousing his anger”.

So Asaph prayed for Israel to be restored and maybe a remnant did come back to God and his word and escaped into the southern Kingdom of Judah at that time which was saved from the Assyrian invasion but for the vast majority of the Northern Tribes their fate because of their many sins was death or exile into Assyria.

We too as Christians must take God and his word serious because if don’t then God will awaken on us in Judgment instead of Salvation. John sets forth clearly the two ways, Judgment or Salvation in the verses that follow the famous John 3: 16 and this is what he teaches us in John 3: 18 – 21,

“Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God”.

  1. 3         Revival Chorus 1 – Restore us

This bring us to the first use of the chorus of this prayer or song and here it reads this way,

“Restore us, O God; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved”.

 This chorus contains three main elements:

  1. The call for Restoration or Revival
  2. The use of the priestly blessing of God’s face shinning
  3. The call for salvation

Lets look a little closer as each of these three elements:

  1. The call for Restoration or Revival

The word restore and revive are similar in meaning. One dictionary tells us that Restore means,

To bring back into existence or use; reestablish”.

While it says that revive means,

“To bring back to life or consciousness; resuscitate”

It offers further meaning for the word revive as,

“To give new health, strength, or spirit to”.

Israel needed all this and more as morally as well as spiritually it had fallen so far from God and his word. Today I hear and read of churches that had fallen so far from God and his word that they accepted and practice immorality like homosexual relationships forbidden in the bible. They teach anything other than the bible in their services and they accept and use non- believers in their worship services who promote secular music instead of music that honors God and his word.

These churches like ancient Israel need restoration – being brought back to God’s word and revival – brought back to life and spiritual health.

Even churches in the first century needed to be reminded of walking in the light of God’s word and John had to write to churches in his day who had let false teaching take place and as a result loose living entered their churches. In 1 John 1: 5 – 7 he starts to call the church or churches he was working with back to the word of Christ and living in the light of that word in their daily lives,

“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin”.

Even these first century churches needed God’s work of restoration and revival in their member’s lives.

So the first concept of Asaph revival chorus is a call for God to restore and revive his people.

  1. The use of the priestly blessing of God’s face shinning

Then he uses in his chorus words that all Jewish people both ancient and modern are very familiar with the priestly Aaron blessing found in Numbers 6: 25,

“The Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace”.

 This blessing would have been used many times in the Temple services Asaph was involved in as a Levite leader of worship.

So he takes up part of this priestly blessing and uses it this way,

“Make your face shine upon us”

 What does it mean to have the face of God shine on us?

Leopold makes it clear how he interprets this idea in the chorus with these deceitful words,

“Let Thy gracious attitude be reflected in a countenance that reflects Thy good will”.

 Deuteronomy speaks of the judgment of God as God turning his face away from us or hiding his face from us, Deuteronomy 31: 18,

“And I will certainly hide my face on that day because of all their wickedness in turning to other Gods’.

 David linked God’s blessings to his face being shining on us in Psalm 67: 1,

“May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us”.

 Jesus strongly implies that looking into God’s face brings us not only blessings but help and protection as well in Matthew 18: 10,

“See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven”.

 Finally in the darkest of times what we need is the light of God’s face shining on us, which could be called the smile of God. When David wrote Psalm 4 he was on the run from his angry snarling face son who sought to kill him but David looked to God during this dark difficult time and wrote Psalms 3, 4 and possibly 5 in response to his predicament.

In Psalm 4 verse 6 David speaks of the anger of his enemies and counters these angry snarling faces with the shining face of God, which he believed he could receive through prayer,

“Many are asking, “Who can show us any good?” Let the light of your face shine upon us, O Lord”.

 David seems to immediately receive the blessing of God’s face shining on him almost as he prays for it for the next verse we read,

“You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound”.

 David is saying here that even though he is out in the wilderness sleeping rough with no food or wine to drink he because he has God and his blessing on him is far happier than his enemies who have lots of precious food and wine to drink.

  1. The call for salvation

 The third and final part of Asaph revival chorus is the words,

“Come and save us”.

 This is a call for God to save the Northern Tribes from the destruction of the Assyrian invaders. He believes that only God can restore and revive these people and only God’s face shinning on them can bring them blessing and protection and now only God can save them.

This is a major concept or idea in Steven J. Cole paper on “Praying for Revival”, he writes,

“Genuine revivals begin when through the preaching of the Word, the Holy Spirit convicts people of their spiritual apathy and sin. At the same time, He opens their eyes to get a new glimpse of the holiness of God and of his wrath against sin”.

 What Cole is speaking of here is real salvation the kind that brings people to Christ and leads them on to active Christian service.

When God shinned his face on Israel they were being saved not Judged as David declares in a Psalm of thanks recorded in 1 Chronicles 16: 11 – 13,

“Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. 12 Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced,13 you his servants, the descendants of Israel, his chosen ones, the children of Jacob”.

His face shone on Israel when they were a nation of slaves in Egypt and he saved them out of bondage and then, 40 years later established them in The Promised land of Egypt. Asaph in his chorus wants God to do it again,

He wants a restoration or revival of Israel, he wants God’s face to shine on them, his good favour and grace to come upon them so that they can be saved.

Spiritually speaking we all need to be saved and this chorus is a good pattern for our own prayers for spiritual revival of our nation and our world.

Stephen Cole makes the wonderful connection between this Old Testament request for salvation and what I would call the New Testament connection that relates to us today with these words,

“In the Old Testament salvation often refers to physical deliverance from enemies. But there is also a spiritual element, in that the reason the nation was in danger from its enemies was that they had turned from the Lord”.

Cole goes on to point out that,

They knew the Jewish rituals and customs and practiced them religiously, but their hearts were far from God. So the psalmist’s cry for God to save them was at least in part a cry for him to save the people from sin and judgment”.

Cole concludes,

“But when the Spirit sends genuine revival, they see their need of Christ, repent of their sins, and are genuinely saved”.

I close this section with the next verse of Albert Midlane’s hymn, “Revive your Church, O Lord”.

Revive your church, O Lord

Exalt your precious name;

And, by your Holy Spirit come

And set our love aflame.

  1. 4 – 7   REVIVE YOUR DOWNTRODDEN PEOPLE

 This Psalm is a corporate Lament or complaint Psalm so now Asaph song moves into full lament / complaint mode.

I have broken this second section into two parts again. The first part is what I see as another verse of the song and the second part is that revival chorus again which has one major change to it, which I will comment on extensively.

  1. 4 – 6   The smoldering anger of God
  2. 7         Revival Chorus 2 – God Almighty
  1. 4 – 6   The smoldering anger of God

This second verse of what I believe is an ancient song contains a very familiar phrase,

“How long”.

 The start of this verse actually says,

“O Lord God Almighty, how long”

 “Lord God Almighty” could be translated, God of hosts – “Yahweh, God of armies” or “God who rules among the hosts of heaven” according to the commentator Joseph Benson. I will comment much more on this in my look at the second time the chorus comes up in this Psalm in verse 7, in the second part of this section.

For now I will focus on the phrase, “How long”.

We have come across this same Phase 7 times already in the Psalms (Ps. 4: 2, 6:3, 13: 1 -2, 35: 17, 62: 5, 74: 10 and 79: 5 and we will see it used four more times in future Psalms, 89: 46, 90: 13, 94: 3 and 119: 84.

So what does it mean and why does it come up so much in the Psalms?

Tremper Longman 111 answers the first question really well, what does it mean?

He writes,

“The phrase indicates that the sufferer has been long in his pain and sees no terminus in sight”,

 He goes on to explain,

“He appeals to God’s pity, suggesting that perhaps enough is enough”

 The problem of the invasion of the Northern kingdom of Israel went on for a number of years between 740BC to 722BC a period of 18 years or so and it would have been both a very difficult time to live through and also a very frustrating time thus the call to God,

“How long”

 This phrase is a popular phrase in the Psalms because so many of the Psalms are Psalms of Lament or complaint and they deal with very difficult days of either personal or national agony of both mind and spirit. The writers of the Psalms are calling out to God, “Howl long” will I suffer this or that problem in my life.

I think we can all relate to this cry for answers in our lives when we face times of testing and difficulty. Recently I had a terrible night of almost constant vomiting from a 48-hour stomach bug and that night seemed so long and agonising as I suffered hour on hour of pain and discomfort. I wondered that night, “How long” was it going to last.

One night of sickness pails into insignificance to days, months or even years of suffering I know some people have had to endure. Even during my one night of pain and discomfort I prayed desperately to God for it to stop.

Some might ask, why does God allow us to go through pain and suffering?

I don’t think there is a simple answer to that question and I will only point you to my Psalm talk on Psalm 6 which does contain a more detailed attempt at a answer to that question but for now all I will do is offer two encouraging quotes from the New Testament with a brief comment of each one.

  1. Hebrews 12: 2 – 3,

“Fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart”.

The writer to the Hebrews is saying when you have to suffer as a believer fix your eyes or focus on who Jesus is and what he endured for us, which was so much more painful and difficult than we would ever have to face. Jesus did it because he knew that by doing it he could achieve so much for us.

  1. Romans 8: 18,

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us”.

Paul is saying that no matter what we might have to suffer now is nothing compared to the glory we will eventually have in heaven. Men and women in the past have had to endure terrible deaths for their faith in Christ but they were able to endure that often because they knew where their suffering death would lead them to, the glory of being with Christ forever in heaven.

So Asaph now uses three expressions to express how the people of Israel are suffering and are being downtrodden and those expressions are:

  1. Their prayers are met with God’s smouldering anger (vs. 4)
  2. Their tears are their food and drink (vs. 5)
  3. Their enemies mock and hold them in contempt (vs. 6)

 Lets have a closer look at each of these three expressions,

  1. Their prayers are met with God’s smouldering anger (vs. 4)

Verse 4 says,

“How long will your anger smoulder against the prayers of your people”.

 Steven J. Cole writes,

“The psalmist mentions in verse 4 that God was even angry with the prayers of His people! The Hebrew literally says that He was smoked with them”.

 When someone in a comic or cartoon is depicted as being angry he often has smoke coming off his head.

The people were praying about the Assyrian problem yet God was both not answering these prayers and was even angry the people were praying them.

Why was God responding to his people’s prayers with anger”?

The answer lies simply in the way the people were praying to God at that time which is described for us in 2 Kings 17: 16 – 17,

“They forsook all the commands of the Lord their God and made for themselves two idols cast in the shape of calves, and an Asherah pole. They bowed down to all the starry hosts, and they worshiped Baal. 17 They sacrificed their sons and daughters in the fire. They practiced divination and sought omens and sold themselves to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, arousing his anger”.

Yes they were making earnest prayers but they were offering them to the God of the Bible using unbiblical worship and prayer techniques that even included the sacrifice of children. Some ancient cultures reasoned that God would listen to their prayers if they were willing to sacrifice their very own children.

The practice of child sacrifice was associated in the ancient world with the worship of fertility God’s like Baal and Molek and we read God’s reaction and condemnation of children offered to Molek in Leviticus 20: 2 – 5,

“Say to the Israelites: ‘Any Israelite or any foreigner residing in Israel who sacrifices any of his children to Molek is to be put to death. The members of the community are to stone him. I myself will set my face against him and will cut him off from his people; for by sacrificing his children to Molek, he has defiled my sanctuary and profaned my holy name. If the members of the community close their eyes when that man sacrifices one of his children to Molek and if they fail to put him to death, I myself will set my face against him and his family and will cut them off from their people together with all who follow him in prostituting themselves to Molek”.

The 2 Kings 17 passage mentions more than just child sacrifice was used for the Northern tribes to pray to God it included pagan shaped idols and even divination or other Satan inspired practices were employed in their prayers.

So God’s anger smoked against these prayers.

We as Christians certainly would not even think of offering up prayers to God using child sacrifice but when we consider what these ancient Israelites were doing was incorporating non biblical worship practices that non God of the bible believers were using around them to worship and pray to the God of the bible then we can see that even today some Christians do this.

I mentioned in another Psalm talk that my wife and I went to a Sunday Church worship service in Canada last year called a Jazz service.

This service featured a jazz group that played secular jazz music and the church bulletin even bragged that none of the jazz band players were believers. The message the minister gave was at best vague and had little to do with the word of God and the whole service was a celebration of man’s accomplishments in the field of jazz music.

This service left me cold and even angry that a secular jazz concert was promted as a worship service and I wondered what God thought of such a service.

I thought of the very words of Paul during this service in 2 Timothy 4: 2 – 5,

“For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry”.

I left that church quickly after the service and chose not to speak with anyone there, as I knew no matter what I said I would have been shouted down as a narrow- minded bigot. Maybe that’s how the Israelites in the Northern Kingdom saw the many prophets God raised us to warn them of God’s anger and coming judgment for their many sins that included non- biblical worship practices.

  1. Their tears are their food and drink (vs. 5)

We then read these words in verse 5,

“You have fed them with the bread of tears; you have made them drink tears by the bowlful”.

This is of course a poetic description of the state of the people in the North of Israel during those 18 years or so of invasion by the Assyrian aggressors. One of the main ways ancient armies conquered the many walled cities they cam up against was by siege. During the last King of Israel’s rule, King Hoshea we read that Shalmaneser the Assyrian king who led the last invasion of Israel did this, 2 Kings 17: 5,

“The king of Assyria invaded Samaria and laid siege to it for three years”.

Ancient walled cities like Samaria tried to withstand the siege tactics with great stores of food and water but a siege of three years would easily outlast the best of preparations and both food, water and even wine would have been in short supply.

So verse 5 using the image of tears as food and water is a vivid way of portraying what it would have been like during this three -year siege of Samaria.

It also would fit as a good poetic picture of the entire Assyrian 18 year invasion of Israel as much suffering would have gone on like people eating and drinking tears instead of food and water or wine. Allan Harmon writes,

“Trouble and sorrow are pictured as being their daily food, so that tears substituted for bread and drink”.

Sometimes we might suffer because of our sins which the bible calls God’s discipline and the famous passage on this in the New Testament is Hebrews 12: 5 – 11,

“And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all.

Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Let me say that I am not advocating that all suffering is a result of God disciplining us for some specific sins but when we are suffering it would be good for us to search our heats and minds and see if there is some unconfessed sin so we can truly come back to God and have his face shine on us again with blessing and help.

  1. Their enemies mock and hold them in contempt (vs. 6)

Finally this lament or complaint to God speaks of the contempt and mockery these Northern Israelites copped during God’s judgment on their many sins, verse 6 reads like this,

“You have made us a source of contention to our neighbours, and our enemies mock us”.

Allan Harmon sees this verse as speaking of the actual Assyrian invaders themselves with this comment,

“God was using the surrounding nations to bring judgment upon his own people”.

A few years on from this the southern Kingdom would suffer the same fate of their northern neighbours through the invasion of the Babylonians who by then had acted as God’s judging agents against the Assyrians. The previous Psalm to this, Psalm 79 was set in the context of the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians and verse 4 of that Psalm reads,

“We are objects of reproach to our neighbours, of scorn and derision to those around us”.

I mentioned in my comments on this in my last published Psalm talk that the Babylonians were known to enlist soldiers from nations they conquered so other nations through these soldiers could have directly conveyed the reproach and scorn to the people of Jerusalem during that great siege and invasion.

Likewise the Assyrians did the same as did in later years the Romans, they offered conquered nations the opportunity of joining their great armies to fight for them.

Maybe here in verse 6 the contempt and mockery comes directly from these foreign soldiers in the Assyrian army.

Even today the Christian church is held in contempt and is mocked when its members are seemed to or actually have been caught out to sin or hypocrisy.

The New Testament warns the church about the danger of making a bad witness amongst non-believers. Peter encourages his readers to live good lives among non-believers in 1 Peter 2: 12,

“Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us”.

We could easily turn this verse around and see the seriousness of not living good lives among non-believers and see that this would not glorify God but could help to bring down the idea of God and that would have awful consequences for us on the day God visits us which is obviously the day of judgement.

I have had to speak to non-believers over the years that mock me because I dare believe in a God and a faith in that God that is the same as the faith a former friend or family member supposedly had who did the wrong thing by them.

All I can say to such people is, “Christians are not perfect they are just forgiven” as the famous car bumper sticker says. Then all I can do is try and show them the love of Christ they obviously did not receive or see in that former friend or family member.

  1. 7   Revival Chorus 2 – God Almighty

We read again in verse 7 the chorus of what I believe is an ancient Hebrew song and a writer of poems particularly poems for songs we call lyrics I know both the function and value of a really good chorus.

The function of the chorus is to sum up the main point of the song in a simple and attractive fashion. The verses develop the ideas and message of the song but the chorus seeks to capture the central main message of the song.

On a recent teaching trip to Myanmar I took with me a number of new songs that I thought had simple but catchy choruses with the view of getting my hearers mainly young Bible or Theological students who at best had English as a second language to sing with me the chorus. One song was a great hit and I had many students singing the catchy chorus of this song. It was my song for my Psalm 57 talk called “God’s love and faithfulness”. The chorus goes like this,

God’s love and faithfulness

In Jesus we see.

God’s love and faithfulness

He’s always with me.

This song proved the value and importance of a good catchy chorus as this chorus represented my main New Testament application of my understanding of Psalm 57 and I could hear students leaving the lecture hall or church humming my songs chorus and even muttering its words.

Asaph wrote his chorus we learnt the first time it appeared with three main elements:

  1. The call for Restoration or Revival
  2. The use of the priestly blessing of God’s face shinning
  3. The call for salvations

He even sneakily uses what all Hebrews in the past and present know very well the priestly blessing of Aaron from Numbers 6: 25,

“The Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace”.

The one difference of this chorus here in verse 7 compared to verse 3 is a special name of God,

“God Almighty”

 I mentioned in my discussion of this name when it appeared in verse 4,

“Lord God Almighty” could be translated, God of hosts – “Yahweh, God of armies” or “God who rules among the hosts of heaven” according to the commentator Joseph Benson”.

So Asaph slips into his chorus, which is a call for God to Restore or revive the people of Israel and particularly the people of Israel in the Northern Kingdom, a significant powerful name for God.

Albert Barnes draws this conclusion for the use of this special name for God here in this chorus,

 “This indicates greater earnestness; a deeper sense of the need of the interposition of God, indicated by the reference to his attribute as the leader of hosts or armies, and therefore able to save them”.

 The reasoning goes is that if God is the ruler and leader of the heavenly hosts then he is far greater and more powerful than any human forces like these Assyrian invaders.

So far as our prayers for revival we need to remember that we are constantly caught up in a great spiritual battle as Paul tells us in Ephesians 6: 12,

“ For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”.

These evil forces are seeking to stop true return to God and his word. Paul knew that his God was far greater and more powerful than any force in heaven and earth and that is why he encourages us to fight this battle with the power, strength and protection of God himself, Ephesians 6: 10 – 11,

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes”.

The Devil will do his best to stop the church being revived but with the power of God and his word, Ephesians 6: 16 – 17,

“In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God”.

And with real and sincere praying in the Spirit of God, Ephesians 6: 18,

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people”.

Revival and restoration of God’s church can come today.

I close this second section of this Psalm with the words of Albert Midlane’s fourth verse of his hymn Revive your Church, O Lord.

Revive your church, O Lord

Give us a thirst for you,

And hunger for the bread of life

Our spirits to renew.

  1. 8 – 19 REVIVE YOUR TRANSPLANTED PEOPLE

 We now move into the third and final section of the Psalm, which could easily be two sections as it is 11 verses long but uses one poetic image throughout it, The Vine.

So this final section is divided into two parts:

  1. 8 – 17 Revive the vine God planted
  2. 18 -19 Revival chorus 3 – The results of Revival
  1. 8 – 17 Revive the vine God planted

 I will break this final section into two aspects of the vine. We will look at verses:

  1. 8 – 11 The transplanted vine
  2. 12 – 17 The destruction of the transported vine.

We move now to the well used bible image of the vine representing God’s special people cultivated by God himself. I say well used because it appears in a number of places in the Old Testament and of course it is in the New Testament at the start of Jesus teaching in John 15.

In the Old Testament the vine image first appears in Genesis 49: 22, which is part of Jacobs blessing for his 12 sons and verse 22 is his blessing on Joseph,

“Joseph is a fruitful vine, a fruitful vine near a spring, whose branches climb over a wall”.

 Which seems to be the reference Asaph has in mind in this third section of his song because he started his song speaking of particularly Joseph being led by God his Shepherd and now he speaks of the vine God brought out of Egypt and then of the breaking down of the wall the vine climbs over.

Other references to Israel being God’s vine can be found in Isaiah 5: 1 – 7, Jeremiah 2: 21 and Hosea 14: 7.

So let’s look at what Asaph has to say in the two parts of this third section that deal with Israel being God’s transplanted vine.

  1. 8 – 11 The transplanted vine

Verse 8 begins Asaph description of God’s transplanted vine,

“You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it”.

 Israel as a nation with a homeland owed its existence to God alone. God moved Jacobs growing family into Egypt and over a 400 year period this family developed into a large tribe but they were for a long time in Egypt a tribe of slaves. Then God miraculously saved them out of Egypt.

God then led this tribe of people through the wilderness, blessing them with even more members of this tribe and by the time he led them into the Promised Land this large tribe had become a small nation with a homeland.

So the image of Israel being a transplanted vine is very appropriate and God being the gardener of this vine or nation is also very real and instructive. Jesus makes this image very real for us, the church which is the grafted on branches of his vine or chosen people. Jesus says in John 15: 1,

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener”.

 Up unto the coming of Jesus the Jews where exclusively God’s chosen people but this was broken down by the coming of Jesus who through his death on the cross for our sins has established a vine or chosen people that is made up of people from every nation on earth as Paul declares in Galatians 3: 28 – 29,

“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise”.

At the end of Paul’s letter to the Galatians he speaks to the church their, made up of both converted Jews and Gentile (non- Jews) and says this, Galatians 6: 16,

“Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God”.

So Paul understood that God’s vine – his special chosen people were now because of what Christ had done on the cross the Church of Jesus Christ the New Israel of God.

In verses 9 – 11 Asaph then spells out in more detail how God actually transplanted his special people, the vine. We will see two ways God transplanted this vine – nation:

  1. He cultivated the ground (vs. 9)
  2. He made it grow prosperously (vs. 10 – 11)

Lets look at these verses a little more deeply,

  1. He cultivated the ground (vs. 9)

Verse 9 makes a simple but clear description of how God actually transplanted the nation of Israel from slaves in Egypt to the Promised Land by preparing the way for them to do it,

“You cleared the ground for it, and it took root and filled the land”.

 Like a good gardener God did a lot of work on the ground the vine was put in to make sure it took root and grew successfully. When I was a Youth worker in a church in a large housing area out side of Sydney I learnt the value of good garden cultivation. The Youth Worker I replaced lived in the Youth workers cottege burnt over many years rubbish in the house’s backyard. This meant I had a pile of mature potash in my yard. My next store neighbor an older retired non Christian man one day asked me if he could have some of my pot ash for his vegetable garden.

I said yes if he came in and taught me how to grow vegetables. The man did and he showed me how to prepare the ground using the potash and fertilizer and I grew many wonderful vegetables for the next three years I lived in that house.

Verse 9 is telling us that God went before the armies of Israel and helped clear the ground of the Promised Land so that this ground preparation helped Israel develop into a large and prosperous nation.

Jesus did not just use the horticultural analogy of the vine to convey spiritual truth he also used for instance the horticultural image of Harvesting a crop to speak of the great cultivation God has done for us in the souls of men and women and how he wants us to be his harvesting workers, Matthew 9: 37 – 38,

“Jesus then said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field”.

Albert Barnes makes this interesting and informative comment on this verse,

“The harvest truly is plenteous … – Another beautiful image. A waving field of golden grain invites many reapers and demands haste. By the reference to the harvest here, he meant that the multitude of people that flocked to his ministry was great. The people expected the Messiah. They were prepared to receive the gospel; but the laborers were few. He directed them, therefore, to pray to the Lord of the harvest to send forth reapers. God is the proprietor of the great harvest of the world, and he only can send people to gather it in”.

  1. He made it grow prosperously (vs. 10 – 11)

Both verse 10 and verse 11 speak of how prosperous God helped his vine – his chosen people to grow in his Promised Land.

“The mountains were covered with its shade, the mighty cedars with branches. It sent out its boughs to the sea, its shoots as far as the river”.

 The prosperity of the growing vine is now described in the form of the extent and strength of its growth. It covered a wide area and the area this vine covered is a poetic description of the land of Israel at the height of its existence, probably during the later reign of David and particularly in the reign of his son Solomon.

The northern extent of Israel was the area we now call Lebanon, which is poetically described in verse tens reference to the famous cedar trees that grow there. The eastern border is poetically described in verse 11 by the mention of the sea, the Mediterranean sea and the river in the same verse poetically represents the western border, which is of course is the river Jordon.

The strength of the nation Israel at its height of existence is poetically spoken of as the branches of the vine being as big as the branches of the cedar tree in verse 10. Israel owed the extent of the land to the cultivation work of their God, the God of the bible.

The church owes its existence growth in this world also to God and not our work. Paul makes this clear to the Corinthian church in 1 Corinthians 3: 6,

“I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow”.

 Many church growth experts today emphasize the role we play in seeing the church grow and we certainly have a role to play but what they often fail to emphasize is that only God can make it grow so we must depend on him in prayer for revival and growth.

  1. 12 – 17 The destruction of the transported vine.

We come then to the second half of the vine – God’s chosen people image and now the positive nature of this image changes to a very negative one. I have broken the verses in this section into three parts,

  1. The brake down of God’s transplanted vine (12 – 13)
  2. A call for God to re-grow his transplanted vine (14 – 15)
  3. God’s judgment on his transplanted vine (16 – 17)

Lets then have a closer look at each of these three parts:

  1. The brake down of God’s transplanted vine (12 – 13)

Asaph then asks a rather desperate question of God in verse 12,

“Why have you broken down its walls so that all whom pass by pick its grapes?”

 This question is not answered directly here but verse 4 seems to say Asaph knew the answer because verse 4 asks another question that really is a form of statement of the spiritual problems Israel had at this time,

“How long will your anger smolder against the prayers of your people?”

 Asaph knew they had turned from the God of the bible and his clear directive for prayer and worship not to be pagan prayer and worship that included things like child sacrifice and idol worship. The people of Israel through their rebellious sin had become morally and spiritually bankrupt. Therefore God allowed foreign powers like Assyria to invade it.

These foreign powers are represented here in verse 12 by the term,

“All whom pass by pick its grapes”

 The image of the vine growing on a wall and the wall being broken down could also have a double meaning or idea as the walled cities of the Northern Kingdom like its capital Samaria would have had their walls broken down as the invaders first lay siege and then broke down their walled defenses as they were overrun by them.

 These foreign invaders are also spoken of in verse 13,

“Boars from the forest ravage it and the creatures of the field feed on it”.

 The boar or pig is a good image of a foreign invader as pork was a forbidden food for Israel to eat and the idea of wild boars or pigs feeding on the people from Israel would have been a horrifying thought to a person from Israel in that time.

Creatures of the field feeding on God’s chosen people, grapes from the vine God planted is a image spoken of in the previous Psalm 79 verse 2b which I believe describes the invasion of the Babylonians of Jerusalem,

“As food to the birds of the air, the flesh of your servants to the beasts of the earth”.

 God’s judgment is not a pretty sight and Jesus gave lots of warning to God’s judgment to come like Jesus speaking of God’s judgment that is coming being like trees being cut down and thrown in the fire in Matthew 3: 10,

“The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire”.

 Jesus speaks of God’s pruning of the vine – his chosen people, the Church in John 15: 2,

“He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit”.

 Then in the same verse he speaks of positive pruning for those who do bear fruit,

“While every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful”.

 This obvious word of encouragement for Christians who go out into the world to serve God and help others come to Christ.

This success of bearing fruit is not a individual thing but comes as we, the church – the true vine – God chosen people unite in Christ and work together for him as John 15: 4 says,

“Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me”.

  1. A call for God to re-grow his transplanted vine (14 – 15)

Then the main theme of Asaph song, revival or restoration re- appears in verses 14 as he calls to God to grow the broken down transplanted vine again,

“Return to us, O God Almighty! Look down from heaven and see! Watch over this vine”.

 This verse suggests that what has happened or is happening to Israel in the North appears to be like God leaving them. Indeed God did not stop the Assyrian invasion of the Northern Kingdom as he did not stop the Babylonian invasion of the Southern Kingdom years later. So the call,

“Return to us, O God Almighty”

 Is a fair thing to call for from God as Israel compared to the super powers of its day like Assyria was outgunned in every way. Assyria had both superior numbers of soldiers and resources. It would be like New Zealand today trying to defeat the USA or even defend itself against a full on attack from US forces.

However if God chose to answer that call, he the Lord Almighty or The Lord of Heavenly Hosts would make an enormous difference as he did some twenty years later. The smaller southern Kingdom in 701BC faced the mighty Assyrian army when they lay siege of Jerusalem. God fought for them with his Angel of death and thousands of Assyrians were killed and the Assyrians were sent packing back to where they cam from never to bother Judah again.

God in 701BC looked down from heaven and saw not just his chosen people – transplanted vine in great trouble but he heard their desperate genuine prayer for help that came from a true faith in him by their King Hezekiah.

Hezekiah’s reaction to the siege and the challenge the Assyrian commander made to him and his God is recorded in 2 Kings 19: 1 – 4,

“When King Hezekiah heard this, he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and went into the temple of the Lord. He sent Eliakim the palace administrator, Shebna the secretary and the leading priests, all wearing sackcloth, to the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz. They told him, “This is what Hezekiah says: This day is a day of distress and rebuke and disgrace, as when children come to the moment of birth and there is no strength to deliver them. It may be that the Lord your God will hear all the words of the field commander, whom his master, the king of Assyria, has sent to ridicule the living God, and that he will rebuke him for the words the Lord your God has heard. Therefore pray for the remnant that still survives.”

Hezekiah could react like this because he was a king who truly trusted in the God of the bible and sought to worship him correctly and also sought to obey his laws as we read of in 2 Kings 18: 5 – 8,

“Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him. He held fast to the Lord and did not stop following him; he kept the commands the Lord had given Moses. And the Lord was with him; he was successful in whatever he undertook. He rebelled against the king of Assyria and did not serve him. From watchtower to fortified city, he defeated the Philistines, as far as Gaza and its territory”.

It is interesting that in 701BC one of the court officials who brought the message of what the Assyrian commander to king Hezekiah was named Joah and is called a son of Asaph, 2 Kings 18: 37, which means he was probably a direct descendant of Asaph and could be the Asaph who wrote this Psalm.

So Asaph our writer of Psalm 80 wants God to return to his people Israel but what he does not say or ask for is for Israel to return to God. Hezekiah proved what true turning to God could lead to. God told Solomon how true revival can come to God’s chosen people in 2 Chronicles 7: 14,

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land”.

 Israel in the north stopped being the kingdom of priests to the world when they adopted worldly religious practices and ways of living so as God’s vine they stopped being fruitful, Steen J. Cole says this,

“The analogy of Israel as God’s vine implies that they were to bear fruit for him. God complains that Israel as His vine has only produced worthless grapes”.

 So God broke down the supporting wall and foreign invaders ate the grapes on the vine. Now he will not go back on his acts of judgment so he will not return to his people to save hem.

Verse 15 makes it even clearer whom Asaph wants God Almighty to help,

“The root your right hand has planted the son you raised up for yourself”.

 Allan Harmon sheds great light on this tricky verse with these words,

“The Psalmist pleads with the divine gardener to come and take care of his own precious plant that he placed in the garden of Canaan”.

 The son here is another poetic term for the nation of Israel were also known in the bible as The Children of God, Deuteronomy 14: 1,

“You are the children of the Lord your God”.

 In other places they are literally called God’s Son, as Asaph will declare in Psalm 82: 6,

“I said, ‘You are “god”; you are all sons of the Most High”.

 This idea of us being God’s children through Christ and Paul even speaks of us as God’s children and heirs of his kingdom in Romans 8: 16 – 17,

“The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him”.

This is because as followers of Christ who are now made up of both Jews and non – Jews, people from every nation on earth we are God’s new chosen nation and royal priesthood who take the message of God’s love and salvation to the world as Peter makes it clear in 1 Peter 2: 9 – 10,

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy”.

  1. God’s judgment on his transplanted vine (16 – 17)

Asaph has just pleaded for God to return to Israel in the north and save them, God’s transplanted vine but he seems to come back to the reality of Israel’s situation which is they are suffering God’s judgment because of there many sins, verse 16 reads this way,

“Your vine is cut down, it is burned with fire; at your rebuke your people perish”.

 Sin is a serious business and God takes it very seriously. Today sinning seems to be considered fun and even acceptable which was probably the case in Asaph day particularly in the northern kingdom.

When people today suffer because of their sins they so quickly turn on God and blame him. They refuse to accept the fact that sin is unacceptable to God and he must judge it. Paul makes this clear in a passage like 2 Thessalonians 1: 8 – 9,

He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might”.

This idea of being cut off from God is expressed in verse 16 as,

“Cut down”.

 Maybe the people of the Northern Kingdom and later the southern Kingdom of Judah took their privileged position as God’s chosen people for granted. I’m sure that many people in the Northern Kingdom still thought they were still serving God but bit by bit as they mixed non biblical worship practices with the ones God had laid down they quickly drifted from true faith in him.

The New Testament warns even Christians of the dangers of religious compromise and the danger of drifting away from God. I like these words in Hebrews 2: 1 – 3 on this,

“We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For since the message spoken through angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him”.

The people of Northern Israel ignored even God’s prophets who warned them over and over again against the danger of turning from God to the worship of idols, for not obeying his laws and for using non -biblical worship practices that even included child sacrifice.

For this they were God’s vine cut down and thrown in the fire of his judgment. God rebuked his people for their sins and that meant they perished at the hands of the Assyrian invaders.

Then Asaph gives us a very strange verse, verse 17,

“Let your hand rest on the man at your right hand, the son of man you have raised up for yourself”.

I found Joseph Barnes very helpful in understanding the first part of this verse namely,

“Let your hand rest on the man at your right hand”.

 Barnes writes,

“Let thy hand be upon the man of thy right hand – Luther renders this, “Let thy hand guard the folks of thy right hand, and the people whom thou hast powerfully chosen.” The right hand is the place of honor; and the phrase “the man of thy right hand” means one who occupies such a position of honor”.

 Israel as God’s chosen people were in fact then the people who were in the privileged position of being on God’s right hand.

Jesus is spoken of being raised and ascended to this privilege position of the right hand of God as Paul says in Romans 8: 34,

“Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us”.

 So Asaph calls for God to help his special people who are at his right hand.

But what does the next expression, “the son of man you have raised up for yourself” mean?

Some commentators see the term, “Son of man” and immediately think of Jesus who favored that description of himself in the Gospels. This would mean that this part of the verse is a reference to the Messiah but again Joseph Barnes clears this up with these words,

“It is true that the appellation “the Son of man” was a favorite designation which the Lord Jesus applied to himself to denote that he was truly a man, and to indicate his connection with human nature; but the phrase is often used merely to denote a man. Here it refers to the king or civil ruler”.

 So I think like Barnes that this phrase is a reference to the king the God designated ruler of the chosen people of God who sit at the right hand of God.

We know that Israel in fact once they split into the Northern Kingdom rejected the God appointed king that was of the line of David. However even in the divided kingdom of Israel their kings were appointed by God as we read for instance in 2 Kings 9: 1 – 3,

“The prophet Elisha summoned a man from the company of the prophets and said to him, “Tuck your cloak into your belt, take this flask of olive oil with you and go to Ramoth Gilead. When you get there, look for Jehu son of Jehoshaphat, the son of Nimshi. Go to him, get him away from his companions and take him into an inner room. Then take the flask and pour the oil on his head and declare, ‘This is what the Lord says: I anoint you king over Israel.’ Then open the door and run; don’t delay!”

 The connection then of this verse and the idea of the Messiah is that all the kings of the Northern Kingdom including Jehu turned out to be failures in the eyes of God and only ended up leading the people astray into idol worship and other wicked practices.

It would be through a descendant of the great king David that this would change and that descendant was of course the Lord Jesus Christ. Revelation 17: 14 makes it clear who this great coming king will be. It is Jesus and he will lead us all to ultimate victory over all God’s great enemies,

“They will wage war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will triumph over them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings—and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers.”

  1. 18 -19 Revival chorus 3 – The results of Revival

I have decided to include verse 18 with this final revival chorus as it acts as the perfect bridge to the final chorus. Just as many modern songs have a bridge that links ideas in the verse to as chorus or another verse so verse 18 does this here.

Verse 18 says,

“Then we will not turn away from you; revive us, and we will call on your name”.

 The word then obviously links the ideas of this verse with what he has already said or better still asked God for. He asked God to do four things in the verses leading up to this verse and they are:

  1. Return to Us (vs. 14a)
  2. Look down on us (vs.14b)
  3. Watch over (vs. 14b)
  4. Let your hand rest (vs. 17)

If God does this Asaph says they will do three things:

  1. We will not turn from you
  2. We will be revived
  3. We will call on your name

Lest have a quick look at each of these three things;

  1. We will not turn from you

Unfortunately the Old Testament proved over and over again what Asaph says he and the rest of the nation will do does not usually happen. This is because over and over again the people of Israel were helped and delivered from their enemies and over and over again they went back to sin and disobedience.

The book of judges sets down this pattern of turning away from God and God acting judgment through a non Israelite invader or uprising, the people turn to God for help and God raises up a judge and frees the people from their enemies and then they responded to this by turning back to their rebellious ways.

Judges 2: 18 – 19 sets down this sad but all so true pattern of the people of Israel during the time of Judges,

“Whenever the Lord raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the Lord relented because of their groaning under those who oppressed and afflicted them. 19 But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their ancestors, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways”.

This pattern did not stop when God ended the time of the Judges but it continued on through the time of the kings of Israel and Judah.

  1. We will be revived

Certainly if God chose to revive his people they would be revived and were revived on a number of occasions during their long history. However as I have already pointed out often this turning back to God did not last long and soon the people slipped back to pagan worship and ways as Judges 2: 19 told us,

19 But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their ancestors, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways”.

This has been true of the Christian church throughout its long history revival or renewal has happened but it did not last and the church continually fell back into worldly ways.

This speaks to me of our great need for the love and power of the Lord Jesus Christ for without him we are merely dead in out sins. Stephen J. Cole says this,

“We need to understand that salvation is not a human thing, where a person of his own will decides to ask Jesus into his heart. Salvation is when God imparts new life to dead sinners. He changes their hearts so that they believe and obey”.

The reality is this is something that needs to happen to people of each generation and it only comes through the preaching of the word of God and particularly the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When one generation comes along and turns away from the word of God and that Gospel message then that generation and the next misses out on the power of God and his word. As Paul says to the younger Timothy towards the end of his life and ministry, 2 Timothy 2: 8 – 10,

Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained. 10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.

  1. We will call on your name

Finally in this bridge to the final singing of the chorus we read the words,

“And we will call on your name”

 What Israel was doing wrong Asaph says they will now do right, that is instead of calling on the name of Baal or some other false God they will call on the God of the bibles name.

This was an admirable desire but Israel we know failed to do this as they continued right to the end to turn back to the God of the Bible and call on his name not just with their lips but by their deeds as well.

It was James, the half brother of Jesus who gave us the wonderful and practical teaching of putting our faith into action of proof we actually have true faith in God.

He speaks of this a couple times in his little but power packed letter. I like the way he speaks of it in chapter 2: 18 – 26,

“But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.20 you foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.

 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.

25 In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead”.

So Asaph might say:

“We will call on your name”

However the people of the Northern Kingdom of Israel failed to do so and for that God’s judgment in the form of the Assyrian invaders came upon them in 722BC.

Finally we come to the actual revival chorus for the final third and final time in verse 19,

“Restore us, O Lord God Almighty; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved”.

 I remind you again the three elements of this chorus:

  1. The call for Restoration or Revival
  2. The use of the priestly blessing of God’s face shinning
  3. The call for salvation

I wont go over these three elements again but simply commend what I said earlier in the talk.

I close with one more final quote from Steven J. Cole, the final verse of Albert Midlane’s hymn Revive my Church, my own original revival for God’s people song and a prayer.

“Jesus is the one who brings true and lasting revival to his people. Like the Psalmist, we may or may not see revival in our day. But we should still pray earnestly. The ultimate fulfillment of our prayers for revival will be when Jesus comes in power and glory to reign”.

 Revive your church, O Lord

And let your power be shown;

The gifts and graces shall be ours

The glory yours alone!

REVIVE YOUR PEOPLE NOW

(Based on Psalm 80)

Revive your people now

And lead us every hour

Be our shepherd, savior King

And save us now to sing.

 

Chorus:

 

Restore us God above

And show us now your love

Shine on us your face O Lord

And save us by your word.

 

Revive your people now

And help us Lord each hour

To battle this worlds many sins

O help us Lord to win.

 

Chorus:

 

Restore us God above

And show us now your love

Shine on us your face O Lord

And save us by your word.

 

Revive your people now

And give us now your power

Help us to produce fruit for you

And remain always true.

 

Bridge:

 

O Jesus work in us

To be a blessing Lord

By taking your message to the world

And proclaim your mighty word.

 

Chorus:

Restore us God above

And show us now your love

Shine on us your face O Lord

And save us by your word.

 

By: Jim Wenman

PRAYER:

 Father in heaven we pray that you will revive your church today. Renew us by your Holy Spirit through your powerful word. Give us a new vision of who you are and what you have done for us in your Son Jesus Christ. Help us to turn from our many sins and understand afresh that they are all forgiven in Christ Jesus our Savior and our Lord. Help us to take the message of the Gospel to the world and may your Spirit open the hearts of the people who hear this message so that they also can know your wonderful life changing love. In Jesus name we pray Amen.

 

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