DUNCAN/Restore us, O God

DUNCAN/Restore us, O God


If you have your Bibles, I’d invite you to turn with me to Psalm 80 as we continue to make our way through the Third Book of the Psalms. In Psalm 80, we see the fall of the Northern Kingdom. And the theme of this Psalm is this repeated prayer that you see in verses 3, 7, and 19 that the Lord would “restore us.” I want to look at the Psalm in three parts. If you look at verses 1 – 3, you’ll see a prayer which is based on the person of God. If you look at verses 4 – 7, you’ll see this plea based on God’s mercy. In verses 8 – 19, you’ll see this prayer is based upon God’s purposes for His people. 

I. Prayer Based on God’s Person 

We see here in verses 1 – 3 that God would have us come boldly to Him in prayer with arguments based on His person. He says, “O give ear, Shepherd of Israel, You who lead Joseph like a flock; You who are enthroned above the cherubim, shine forth! Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh, stir up Your power, and come to save us!”

I want you to note the boldness of this prayer. Just as prayer itself adds nothing to God’s knowledge and yet plays a large part in His work in this world and among His people, so the impassioned plea of this psalmist for His attention, has a proper place within our prayers. When we come to Him in prayer, we are not making Him more compassionate. He is already all compassion, but as we plead for Him to be compassionate, we are brought into a realization of the fullness of His compassion for His people. The Psalms abound in language like this. God prefers an excess of boldness in prayer as opposed to an excess of caution because we come to Him as sons, not as applicants! He bids us to burst in His door with our hearts breaking and pour out our passionate plea to Him in prayer, and we see that overflowing here. 

And notice the content of his appeal. The first thing that he says is, “O give ear, Shepherd of Israel.” And so, he comes to God with this plea based on who God is, and that is an especially poignant plea because it reminds us that the psalmist knows that God is not only a Shepherd to His people, but that He’s a Shepherd with a long memory. But He’s not just a Shepherd with a long memory, He also is a sovereign Shepherd. You see that in the very next phrase: “You who are enthroned above the cherubim, shine forth!” The cherubim are the guardians of holiness, they are God’s agents of judgment. And the reminder that God is enthroned above the cherubim points to His sovereign rule.

But finally, notice how this psalmist goes on to pray in verse 3: “O God, restore us, and cause Your face to shine upon us, and we will be saved.” Here he’s going back to Aaron’s benediction in Numbers. And here he reminds us that our prayer is not only to a sovereign Shepherd with a long memory, but to a God who delights in blessing His people. This is a petition for God to manifest His love on His people, and the psalmist knows that if God will do that, they will be saved.

II. Prayer Based on God’s Mercy 

Look at verses 4 – 7. This plea goes on behalf of beleaguered Israel. And notice this: Since God is the source of judgment, He alone is our hope for mercy. It’s not ultimately Assyria that has brought judgment on the Northern Kingdom. It’s God who has brought judgment on the Northern Kingdom through Assyria, and since God is the source of judgment, He’s the One you go to for mercy! He is the only solution and hope for relief. Only God’s blessing can answer our deepest need.

I want to draw your attention to one thing especially. In verses 5 and 6, notice the psalmist writes, “You have fed them with the bread of tears, You have made them to drink tears in large measure. You make us an object of contention to our neighbors.” Do you see the community of sympathy that these Jews in the Southern Kingdom have for their Northern neighbors under the judgment of God? They speak of them as eating and drinking their tears, and at the same time, “You make us an object of contention to our neighbors.” In other words, they are joining in with the experience of their Northern neighbors under judgment. That speaks volumes about how we ought to pray when we see brothers and sisters under judgment.

It may well be that you have worked very hard to walk faithfully in this world. You may see professing Christians falling by the wayside and finding judgment, and your temptation may be to be censorious, to stand over them in superiority and say, “Aha! You’re finally getting what you deserve.” And the Southern Kingdom could have done that about the Northern Kingdom, but they didn’t. Instead, there’s a sharing in sympathy with those who are under judgment and a plea for God to be merciful to them. Let us pray with burden and with sympathy for those who have fallen under the judgment of sin.

III. Prayer Based on God’s Purposes 

In verses 8 – 19, we see this prayer to God based on God’s purposes for Israel, which are spoken of as a vine. There’s so much we could say about this passage, but this is what I want to say most of all. When we lift up the question of “Why?” in prayer, we must realize that sometimes the answer is God’s secret will, and He does not tell us what His “why” is.

At one level the answer to, “Why, O Lord, why have You broken down its hedges?” is, “Because I’m judging their sin!” That answer is all through the prophets. But the thing that is really striking is that ultimately the answer is because God has determined that Israel, His vine, would foreshadow the true Vine, and that Israel is not the reality but the foreshadowing, and the reality is Jesus.

There would be a night, the night of the death of Jesus, and He would stand before His disciples and would say, “I am the vine, you are the branches.” And this psalmist could not have possibly understood the fullness of that, and so when he cries out with every fiber of his being, “Why are you doing what You’re doing?” God has a very good answer, but God does not tell him. We have the privilege of looking back and seeing the glory of God’s design: that though Israel, the foreshadowing of this great work of God in the world, would be cast aside, yet there would be a true Vine that would never ever fail. 

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