This psalm was written by the collected community of God’s people as a lament over their harsh treatment from the Gentiles. It’s beautiful and poetic in its imagery yet heartbreaking in its content. They ask God if they’re being punished out of His anger toward them and mention how they are mocked and laughed at by their enemies (v. 4-6). They compare the Gentiles to a boar who is ravaging the vine (God’s people from Egypt; v. 12-13). They later say that they (again illustrated as the vine) have been cut down and burned up (v. 16). They are discouraged, hurt and desperate. They repeat this specific prayer 3 different times in this one Psalm (v. 3, 7, 19).
“Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved!”
They are crying out for restoration and salvation. As a promise making, covenant keeping God, he has not left them. Emotion and lament is appropriate for this psalm as they are being persecuted and God wants to hear their hearts in such trials. However it doesn’t change the character of who God is by what they identified Him as in the very first verse of this lament, a Shepherd.
“Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock…” (80:1a)
God , the good shepherd will not abandon His flock. Wolves may sneak in but the good shepherd lays down His life for His sheep and He will lead them, guide them, and protect them. He is attentive, sacrificial and compassionate. He is the perfect blend of authority and care. In yesterday’s Psalm we see God’s people referring to themselves as God’s sheep in His pasture and thanking God for this role. In Isaiah 40:11 God is described as a shepherd who gathers his lambs in His bosom and gently leads nursing ewes. Today they are crying out to that same shepherd for protection and salvation. They are accurate in starting their Psalm with Him as Shepherd because the Good Shepherd is all of these things. No matter the circumstances, the Good Shepherd will take care of His sheep.
If you don’t feel taken care of because of harsh circumstances on earth like the Israelites here, trust that you will have an eternity in His pasture after. Some sheep are sovereignly placed by vicious wolves and for long seasons. Our unchanging good Shepherd is still there.
In the comments below, share how God is shepherding you in your current season of life right now.
By: Erik Koliser — West Campus Pastor