Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19 (NRSV)
Verse 1Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock! You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth
Verse 2before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh. Stir up your might, and come to save us!
Verse 3Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved.
Verse 4O Lord God of hosts, how long will you be angry with your people's prayers?
Verse 5You have fed them with the bread of tears, and given them tears to drink in full measure.
Verse 6You make us the scorn of our neighbors; our enemies laugh among themselves.
Verse 7Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved.
Verse 17But let your hand be upon the one at your right hand, the one whom you made strong for yourself.
Verse 18Then we will never turn back from you; give us life, and we will call on your name.
Verse 19Restore us, O Lord God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved.
Like the story about Ahaz in yesterday's reading, this psalm comes from about 700 years before Christ's birth, when Israel was threatened by Assyria. The people plead with God to save them from the ruins of war with a hostile neighbor. What does Christ have to do with this ancient civilization's political troubles? Perhaps nothing. We should proceed with caution when attaching the name of Jesus Christ to these kinds of texts, written so long before his birth.
And yet, even so long ago, Israel yearned to see God's shining face — just as we do today. They were longing to see God in action. They were looking for God to use God's power to restore their civilization as it faced destruction. We often ask God to bless our nation. But what if Christ's coming is about a restoration to justice and peaceful relationships and not about shoring up a civilization? Christ's word of grace will stand forever even as civilizations crumble.
Jesus Christ, do not let us be the ones who scorn or threaten others. Do not let us be the enemies laughing among ourselves while others fear for their lives. Teach us to be the peacemakers, Lord. Amen.