Monday, December 12, 2016
by Sheryl & Chris De Pree
Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19
Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock! You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh. Stir up your might, and come to save us! Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved. O Lord God of hosts, how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers? You have fed them with the bread of tears, and given them tears to drink in full measure. You make us the scorn of our neighbors; our enemies laugh among themselves. Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved. But let your hand be upon the one at your right hand, the one whom you made strong for yourself. Then we will never turn back from you; give us life, and we will call on your name. Restore us, O Lord God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved.
“Our hope rests not in what we have done, nor can do, but in all that God is.”
W. Dennis Tucker, Jr., Professor of Christian Scriptures at George W. Truett Theological Seminary
American life has become increasingly polarized in recent years, and it is easy to see how anyone reading this passage might see themselves reflected in the phrase, “You have made us an object of derision to our neighbors, and our enemies mock us.” Humans often see themselves as defined by the other, those opposed to us (whoever we are). Our first tendency might be for us to pray to God to affirm what we know to be true (whatever our beliefs), for God to have our back, and to make things turn out the way we know they should.
This passage reminds us, though, that when the world seems set against us, and everything we believe in, we need to remember that God is the shepherd of our flock, where the flock is all of humanity, people with whom we agree, and people with whom we do not. We all need to look to God for restoration. The Psalmist calls out three times, “Restore us, Lord God Almighty: make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.” The Psalmist does not submit a list of grievances to be addressed, but rather asks for restoration.
Sometimes in times of stress, when we feel that we have been drinking “tears by the bowlful”, our first reaction is to ask, “What can I do? How can I make this situation better?” The Psalm reminds us of something important: what we need more than a quick fix is something deeper, a restoration of our spirits. And when we are truly down, eating the “bread of tears”, God is the only one who can restore us.