Psalm 80:2–3, 15–16, 18–19
O shepherd of Israel, hearken,
from your throne upon the cherubim, shine forth.
Rouse your power,
and come to save us.
Once again, O LORD of hosts,
look down from heaven, and see;
take care of this vine,
and protect what your right hand has planted
the son of man whom you yourself made strong.
May your help be with the man of your right hand,
with the son of man whom you yourself made strong.
Then we will no more withdraw from you;
give us new life, and we will call upon your name.
From the Responsorial Psalm today: (repeat second stanza). This Psalm was written during a time of great distress in Israel, when they were under attack, and eventually taken into exile. It was a cry of lament over the judgment that God had already placed against Israel for its infidelity.
But this, like many of the Psalms of lament, do not focus so much on the pain that the people are feeling, but on an appeal to God’s majesty. Repeatedly they make reference to how the result of their exile was that God was not being looked at as great as he is.
They were not saying “Oh, how terrible it is for us.” But were instead crying out that God’s glory would be revealed through the restoration of worship of him in Jerusalem.
With this is the background, when we look at it for ourselves, we are in a very similar position today. I know, it is true, we have not been exiled. We have not been overrun by foreigners, whose desire is to destroy. Instead, we have an insidious attack by a culture that is no longer Christian. I am not saying this to downplay the terrible moral failures that he have existed in the church in recent decades, they are indeed an abomination.
However, why is society so quick to attack the church because of these failures? It is because they want to attack the Majesty of God. Again, from the Psalm: “Once again, O LORD of hosts, look down from heaven, and see…” This needs to be the cry of the church today. Not for our honor, but that the Majesty of God will be revealed in a world that does not want to hear about how majestic he really is, about how holy he is, about how necessary it is for us who have been made in the image and likeness of God to come back to him.
Verse 17 of Psalm eighty is not mentioned in the Responsorial Psalm that we have today. This is what it says: “Those who would burn or cut it down — may they perish at your rebuke.” We, corporately, as the church, have failed the Majesty of God. The church remains holy and undefiled, but her members, well, that is another story.
And it has damaged, not just the reputation of the church, but the image of God in the eyes of unbelievers, and weak believers, such as those who only seem to come to church a couple times each year. It was the strong believers who came up with Psalms like we have today.
It is strong believers like this, who are angry at the way God is treated in our society, who are willing to cry out for the intervention of God himself, that are needed in the church today. Not just angry at those who have sinned, not just angry at those who turned a blind eye, but those who are angry that the Majesty of God has been diminished in the eyes of unbelievers, these are the people we need today.
The last stanza of the Psalm reads: “May your help be with the man of your right hand, with the son of man whom you yourself made strong.” We know that Son of Man is Jesus. And remember what it says next: “Then we will no more withdraw from you…” Well, God has held up the Son of Man, Jesus. He is the strong one of Israel. He is the lion of Judah. The Savior of the world… if only the world would accept him.
This needs to be the driving force of our lives. This cry, coming from ancient Israel, needs to ring out from the church again: come and save your people, oh Lord. Not for their sake, but for the sake of your Majesty.
Lord Jesus, the day we remember your birth is only a few hours away. This Advent season is just about gone. Your church is crying out for healing. So many of your children have walked away, because of what they have seen in the church. Bring healing to your church, not for our sake, but for the sake of your Majesty, for the sake of your holiness.
Restore the church in this day, not to the glory it seemed to have had, but to being your bride, holy and spotless. A bride who looks for the coming of her groom. A bride who rejoices that her day draws near.
Show forth your Majesty, your holiness, your righteousness, not for our sake, but for yours so that others will see, understand, and desire what you offer: a life of true joy and happiness, even in the midst of the suffering in this world, and a permanent place of joy and happiness with you forever in heaven. Amen.