A prayer for restoration and favour

Tuesday, Nov 28: Psalm 80:1–8, 18–20

A prayer for restoration and favour

1 Hear us, Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock.
You who sit enthroned between the cherubim, shine forth…

  • Three titles of God: ‘Shepherd of Israel’, ‘Guide’ or ‘Leader’, ‘You who sit enthroned’. The language emphasises God being actively involved.
  • “Shine forth” – an appeal for God’s glory to be seen again, remembering the desert journey Exodus 24:16–17; Exodus 40:34–35

2 …before Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh.
Awaken your might;
come and save us.

  • Remembering how the ark of the covenant advanced in front of the troops of these three tribes; Numbers 10:21–24;

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

  • “Make Your face shine upon us” in favour, as in the words of the priestly blessing, Numbers 6:25. Also verses 7 and 19.

4 How long, Lord God Almighty,
will your anger smoulder
against the prayers of your people?

  • This is a plea for restoration against a background of prayers apparently delayed and favour apparently withheld. At a time when many denominations are reporting decreasing numbers and finances, and we are seeing the breakdown of marriage and society as a whole, we might be asking whether our prayers would find a better hearing if they included repentance for known causes of God’s anger.

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 neighbours,
and our enemies mock us.

  • In increasingly secular, multifaith Britain this has a contemporary ring to it

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

  • Verses 4–7 are in the form of a lament

8 You transplanted a vine from Egypt;
you drove out the nations and planted it.

  • Israel was once God’s transplanted vine but became a ravaged vine (verses 8–16).
  • Without suggesting that the Church has replaced God’s intentions for Israel, allusion to Israel as God’s people can often be taken to apply to the Church as an ‘ingrafted form’ of God’s people.

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

  • A suggestion that we will not turn away i.e. we will turn (repent) to call on God again.

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

Application

The psalmist reminds us that God is actively involved with His people, but their prayer and prosperity have been compromised by actions (not specified) which led to God’s anger. This lack of favour with God is spelt out, but also contrasted with the favour God’s people knew in being “transplanted” like a fruit-bearing vine taken from Egypt and replanted in a different land. There is an allusion (v.2) to the day by day obedience of the people in following the pillar of fire and cloud on the desert journey, and their trust of His provision where there was no natural provision. Three times (vv. 3, 7 and 19) there is an appeal for a renewal of God’s mercy, favour and salvation. This speaks to our need for that renewal, and also to recall past revivals. What needs to change in us?

Discussion starters

  1. God’s mercy is based on an unconditional covenant with His people and the prayer “Restore us… make Your face shine on us” contains the “us” of being His people. What distinguishes God’s people?

  2. What kind of prayer (implied, not spelt out) might need to go alongside this prayer to “Restore us…”?

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