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.
Thank God! We’ve left fires and quakes and judgment behind and find ourselves in the familiar arms of a shepherd. In place of quaking mountains or heavenly anger come comforting images like “shine, stir, come, restore, give life… restore, restore, RESTORE!
Then, like in those aftershocks we felt in Eagle River, Alaska, following the 7.1 mag. earthquake on November 30, 2018, the rumbling returns: “How long will you be angry with your people’s prayers? You have fed them with the bread of tears” (vs 4-5); we’re scorned by our neighbors and (OMG!) our enemies are LAUGHING among themselves! (vs 6) What can we say about that?
From our focus on God’s Grace and shepherd-like protection now suddenly we bounce back to zero, focusing in on ourselves. We’ve been good, we’ve done our best, and yet we’re getting laughed at! How embarrassing, God! Why don’t you… wait, what? Now we ARE echoing the people of Israel of Isaiah’s time: “Do this for us, and THEN we’ll… We’ll what? I’ll what? You will… what?
Let your face shine, O Lord God of hosts, that we may be saved, as often and as necessary, from—ourselves. Amen.