I will praise Him!
Reading: Psalm 81
For the director of music. According to gittith. Of Asaph.
Sing for joy to God our strength;
shout aloud to the God of Jacob!
Begin the music, strike the timbrel,
play the melodious harp and lyre.
Sound the ram’s horn at the New Moon,
and when the moon is full, on the day of our festival;
this is a decree for Israel, an ordinance of the God of Jacob.
When God went out against Egypt,
he established it as a statute for Joseph.
I heard an unknown voice say:
“I removed the burden from their shoulders;
their hands were set free from the basket.
In your distress you called and I rescued you,
I answered you out of a thundercloud;
I tested you at the waters of Meribah.
Hear me, my people, and I will warn you—
if you would only listen to me, Israel!
You shall have no foreign god among you;
you shall not worship any god other than me (NIV).
Psalm 81 begins with a call for God’s people to celebrate: Sing for joy to God our strength; shout aloud to the God of Jacob! Begin the music, strike the timbrel, play the melodious harp and lyre.
Why should we break forth in music and song? Well, we have a good reason to celebrate. We have been set free from our burdens. Because of the victory of Christ, we have been set free from slavery to sin. The psalmist expresses this thought with these words: I heard an unknown voice say: “I removed the burden from their shoulders; their hands were set free from the basket. In your distress you called and I rescued you.”
Who is that unknown voice? That unknown voice belongs to the LORD. He is the One who set the people free from bondage in Egypt. God went out against Egypt. He opposed the most powerful nation of the world at that time and claimed a people for Himself by rescuing them from the hand of Pharaoh.
Our heavenly Father has done the same for us. At the cost of his life, Jesus redeemed us from bondage to sin and Satan and he brought us into his Kingdom. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:13-14). We have plenty of reasons to celebrate and break forth into music and song. Let nothing hold you back. The joy of the Lord is our strength.
Response: LORD God, I thank you for rescuing me from a life of sin and futility. I praise you for redeeming me, Lord Jesus. I rejoice in your continual goodness. Your mercies are new every morning. Amen.
Your Turn: Do you find it difficult or easy to break into song as you think of the Lord’s love for you?
Reading: Psalm 80
You transplanted a vine from Egypt;
you drove out the nations and planted it.
You cleared the ground for it, and it took root and filled the land.
The mountains were covered with its shade,
the mighty cedars with its branches.
Its branches reached as far as the Sea, its shoots as far as the River.
Why have you broken down its walls
so that all who pass by pick its grapes?
Boars from the forest ravage it,
and insects from the fields feed on it.
Return to us, God Almighty! Look down from heaven and see!
Watch over this vine, the root your right hand has planted,
the son you have raised up for yourself.
Your vine is cut down, it is burned with fire;
at your rebuke your people perish.
Let your hand rest on the man at your right hand,
the son of man you have raised up for yourself.
Then we will not turn away from you;
revive us, and we will call on your name.
Restore us, LORD God Almighty;
make your face shine on us, that we may be saved (NIV).
Who can turn around this situation? Who can bring this nation back to God? Essentially that was the question of the psalmist, Asaph, here in Psalm 80. Israel had been ravaged by foreign invaders. The beautiful land had been laid desolate, so Asaph pleads with the LORD. Your vine is cut down, it is burned with fire; at your rebuke your people perish. But one hope remains. Let your hand rest on the man at your right hand, the son of man you have raised up for yourself. Then we will not turn away from you; revive us, and we will call on your name.
Who is this son of man—this great hope of the people of God? Clearly a man—a champion like David is needed. David defeated Israel’s enemies on all sides. He turned the nation into a great military and economic power. He laid the foundation for the prosperity that followed under the wise rule of Solomon his son. Asaph is writing several generations later when all that wealth has been squandered and there is a dearth of godly leadership.
Who can save us now? The answer lies in the son of man. Jesus continually referred to himself as the Son of Man. He used that phrase thirty times in the Gospel of Matthew. All too often we are busy looking for a political savior. But what we need more than anything is the one and only true Savior. His name is Jesus Christ. He saves us body, soul and spirit from the corruption that is in the world.
Response: LORD God, on so many levels our nation is in a mess. We need a Savior to emerge. Jesus, you are the great Son of Man. I turn my heart to you. Govern my thoughts and my actions every day. Amen.
Your Turn: Who is governing you—governing your heart and mind?
Reading: Psalm 80
For the director of music. To the tune of “The Lilies of the Covenant.”
Of Asaph. A psalm.
Hear us, Shepherd of Israel,
you who lead Joseph like a flock.
You who sit enthroned between the cherubim,
shine forth before Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh.
Awaken your might; come and save us.
Restore us, O God;
make your face shine on us,
that we may be saved.
How long, LORD God Almighty,
will your anger smolder
against the prayers of your people?
You have fed them with the bread of tears;
you have made them drink tears by the bowlful.
You have made us an object of derision to our neighbors,
and our enemies mock us.
Restore us, God Almighty;
make your face shine on us,
that we may be saved (NIV).
Have you been greeted by a happy face today? I’m talking about the ubiquitous, yellow, happy face stickers that pop up everywhere, especially in any form of online communication. J,J,J! We all recognize that these happy faces are intended to brighten our day—make us feel happy like the smiley face shows. I’m not sure they always succeed in their objective.
Of course a bright, shining human face with a broad genuine smile is much better in communicating happiness than a symbolic sticker on a screen. Real live face time trumps online communication in every way—at least it should. Some things—most things—are communicated best face to face.
Here in Psalm 80, the psalmist, Asaph, pleads for face time with the LORD. In fact, in the entire psalm, Asaph repeats this request three times. Restore us, O God; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved. Clearly, the psalmist is longing to see the smiley face of God—the shining face of God.
In Hebrew literature the shining face of God represents God’s favor—His grace. In reality the psalmist is pleading for God’s favor to rest on him and his people. The truth is we get nowhere without the favor of God. Unless the LORD is gracious to us, we are doomed to fail in this life and perish in eternity. It’s just that simple. We desperately need that happy face sticker from God. This should be our daily prayer: Restore us, God Almighty; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved
Response: Father God, today I need face time with you. Show me your kindness. Help me to sense you smiling down on me like a loving parent smiles down on their child. Thanks for your grace. Amen.
Your Turn: Have you recently sensed God smiling down on you? How did that make you feel?
Reading: Psalm 79
Do not hold against us the sins of past generations;
may your mercy come quickly to meet us,
for we are in desperate need.
Help us, God our Savior,
for the glory of your name;
deliver us and forgive our sins for your name’s sake.
Why should the nations say,
“Where is their God?”
Before our eyes, make known among the nations
that you avenge the outpoured blood of your servants.
May the groans of the prisoners come before you;
with your strong arm preserve those condemned to die.
Pay back into the laps of our neighbors seven times
the contempt they have hurled at you, Lord.
Then we your people, the sheep of your pasture,
will praise you forever;
from generation to generation
we will proclaim your praise (NIV).
Psalm 79 began with the psalmist lamenting that Jerusalem had been invaded by foreign armies. Destruction and bloodshed were everywhere. O God, the nations have invaded your inheritance; they have defiled your holy temple, they have reduced Jerusalem to rubble (Psalm 79:1). Now at the conclusion of this psalm there is a plea for God’s help and mercy. Do not hold against us the sins of past generations; may your mercy come quickly to meet us, for we are in desperate need.
It becomes clear from this psalm and other passages in scripture that there are personal sins and there are corporate or national sins. Here specifically the psalmist is reflecting on the sins of the nation. Both personal and national sins can be intergenerational. They are passed down from generation to generation with terrible consequences. The father who disrespects and abuses his wife is far more likely to raise a son who does the same to his partner.
The nation that mistreats racial, religious or ethnic minorities within its borders can expect dire national consequences. The LORD hears the cries of the oppressed. He heard the cries of the people of Israel when they were enslaved in Egypt, and the LORD hasn’t suddenly changed. His ears are still open to the cries of any people who cry out to Him for mercy.
But as for us, we need to recognize our collective or national sins even as we recognize and repent of our personal sins. Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?” As always, our God is watching us. He is watching over the nations and He sees how we treat our neighbors here and around the world.
Response: LORD God, deliver us and forgive our sins for your name’s sake. Forgive the sins we have committed against minorities within our borders. You hold us accountable. Show us your mercy. Amen.
Your Turn: Does the LORD care only about us, or all people? How can we reflect God’s love for all?
Reading: Psalm 79
A maskil of Asaph.
O God, the nations have invaded your inheritance;
they have defiled your holy temple,
they have reduced Jerusalem to rubble.
They have left the dead bodies of your servants
as food for the birds of the sky,
the flesh of your own people for the animals of the wild.
They have poured out blood like water
all around Jerusalem,
and there is no one to bury the dead.
We are objects of contempt to our neighbors,
of scorn and derision to those around us.
How long, LORD? Will you be angry forever?
How long will your jealousy burn like fire?
Pour out your wrath on the nations
that do not acknowledge you,
on the kingdoms that do not call on your name;
for they have devoured Jacob
and devastated his homeland (NIV).
Have you caught a glimpse of the devastation? It seems that the psalmist, Asaph, had a good look at it. Now take a good look at his words. They have left the dead bodies of your servants as food for the birds of the sky, the flesh of your own people for the animals of the wild. They have poured out blood like water all around Jerusalem, and there is no one to bury the dead.
This description reads like a segment of the evening newscast. Of course the newscast has plenty of disturbing visuals to go with it. When we look at conflict zones like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, we realize that bloodshed and violence are all too common in our world. Jihadi violence has spread to European cities too. But we don’t have to go overseas to find images of death and destruction. Just last week in my city an unarmed black man was beaten to death by two police officers. As is so often the case, the images were caught on camera. Violence and bloodshed are present in our cities too.
Has the world gone mad? Are we sinking deeper and deeper into depravity? Have our minds become numb to the carnage? Or are we joining with the psalmist in crying out, “How long, LORD?” How long will you let this insanity continue? LORD, won’t you come and fix this broken messed up world?
Our hearts cry out for justice, mercy and peace—justice for those who have been wronged, mercy for those who have been wounded and broken, and peace for all who are troubled in soul and spirit. He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus (Revelation 22:20).
Response: LORD God, please have mercy on the people of this world. We need you here—right here with us in this broken world. Come and fix it. Come and fix us, Lord Jesus. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you concerned about the state of your city, your country and the world?
Reading: Psalm 78
Then the Lord awoke as from sleep,
as a warrior wakes from the stupor of wine.
He beat back his enemies;
he put them to everlasting shame.
Then he rejected the tents of Joseph,
he did not choose the tribe of Ephraim;
but he chose the tribe of Judah,
Mount Zion, which he loved.
He built his sanctuary like the heights,
like the earth that he established forever.
He chose David his servant
and took him from the sheep pens;
from tending the sheep he brought him
to be the shepherd of his people Jacob,
of Israel his inheritance.
And David shepherded them with integrity of heart;
with skillful hands he led them (NIV).
Up to this point Psalm 78 has catalogued a long list of Israel’s transgressions. They have been a stubborn and rebellious people who have been unfaithful to the LORD. They have been unfaithful despite His mercy and the miracles He has performed on their behalf. Now this final portion of the psalm represents a turning point in the history of the nation.
Once again, the LORD intervened in the affairs of Israel. He chose David his servant and took him from the sheep pens; from tending the sheep he brought him to be the shepherd of his people Jacob, of Israel his inheritance.
God chose a man; He chose a leader. Often the LORD chooses the most unlikely candidates for leadership. He did not go to the palace; He went to the sheep pen. He overlooked Jonathan, the courageous royal son of Saul, and instead He called out David, the youngest son of Jesse—a man after God’s own heart.
What does God consider when He looks for a leader? When selecting the next king, the prophet Samuel was told, “The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). The LORD is not looking for physical strength or a handsome face, but he is looking for integrity of heart.
That should give hope to every one of us. I cannot change my stature or significantly alter my appearance, but through repentance and faith I can change the condition of my heart.
Response: LORD God, I want a heart of integrity—a heart that is pleasing to you. Help me to become an instrument that you will use for your good purpose in this strife-torn world. Amen.
Your Turn: Can we change our hearts or is that God’s job? What role do we play?