Saturday, April 28, 2012

Forgive, Revive and Restore

[To the chief Musician upon Shoshan'nim–e'duth, A Psalm of Asaph]

1 Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, thou that leadest Joseph like a flock; thou that dwellest between the cherubims, shine forth.

2 Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh stir up thy strength, and come and save us.

3 Turn us again, O God, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved.

4 O LORD God of hosts, how long wilt thou be angry against the prayer of thy people?

5 Thou feedest them with the bread of tears; and givest them tears to drink in great measure.

6 Thou makest us a strife unto our neighbours: and our enemies laugh among themselves.

7 Turn us again, O God of hosts, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved.

8 Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt: thou hast cast out the heathen, and planted it.

9 Thou preparedst room before it, and didst cause it to take deep root, and it filled the land.

10 The hills were covered with the shadow of it, and the boughs thereof were like the goodly cedars.

11 She sent out her boughs unto the sea, and her branches unto the river.

12 Why hast thou then broken down her hedges, so that all they which pass by the way do pluck her?

13 The boar out of the wood doth waste it, and the wild beast of the field doth devour it.

14 Return, we beseech thee, O God of hosts: look down from heaven, and behold, and visit this vine;

15 And the vineyard which thy right hand hath planted, and the branch that thou madest strong for thyself.

16 It is burned with fire, it is cut down: they perish at the rebuke of thy countenance.

17 Let thy hand be upon the man of thy right hand, upon the son of man whom thou madest strong for thyself.

18 So will not we go back from thee: quicken us, and we will call upon thy name.

19 Turn us again, O LORD God of hosts, cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved.

—Psalm 80 KJV Bible

At the time of the conquering of the land of Canaan, the twelve tribes of Israel were Reuben, Simeon (Levi), Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Benjamin, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Ephraim, and Manasseh. The first ten tribes were descendants of the sons of Jacob and the last two were descendants of the sons of Joseph, who were also grandsons of Jacob. Each tribe was allotted land. The descendants of Jacob's son Levi did not receive a territory, but instead received a collection of cities scattered throughout the nation. Simeon's land allotment was adjoining Judah, and was eventually absorbed into Judah, possibly during the reign of Saul or David. The combined territories were known as the Kingdom of Israel. Four kings reigned over the entire kingdom: Saul, David, Solomon, and Rehoboam. While Rehoboam was king, the country split into two kingdoms. The southern kingdom, which remained loyal to the royal line of David and was still ruled by Rehoboam, was composed of the territories originally occupied by Benjamin, Judah and Simeon. This became the Kingdom of Judah. The rest of the territories became the northern Kingdom of Israel. It has been suggested that this psalm was written against the background of the Assyrian conquest and captivity of the northern Kingdom of Israel (2 Kings 17:1-23). The psalm reveals the shock that event had in Jerusalem (where the Asaph singers lived). Now exposed to Assyria on the north, the people of Judah cry to God as the Shepherd of His sheep and to God as Husbandman of His vineyard.

The psalm description says it is a song of Asaph. Asaph was an outstanding musician who lived in the time of King David (Nehemiah 12:46). Asaph's father was Berechiah (1 Chronicles 6:39). David had appointed Asaph as a minister of music for the tabernacle (1 Chronicles 15:16-19) and Asaph's descendants were also official temple musicians (Ezra 2:41). Asaph was sometimes described as a "seer," or a prophet (2 Chronicles 29:30). Psalms 50 and 73 through 83 are attributed to Asaph, or perhaps written for Asaph to perform. The beautiful psalms of Asaph describe the world round us in a clear way, remind us that God cares for us, cause us to learn from events, and remind us of the greatness of God. Since the Asaph of David's time was long dead, the psalm may have been written by or for Asaph's descendants in his honor, or it may have been written by or for a contemporary who was also named Asaph.

The psalm description also says it is to be performed according to “Shoshannim Eduth” —Hebrew, meaning "lilies, a testimony." This is possibly the name of a melody to accompany the psalm.

In verses 1 through 7, the psalmist records the cry of the people of Judah to God as the Shepherd of His sheep. In verse 1, the psalmist refers to “Israel” and “Joseph.” At different points in Scripture the writers use the names “Israel,” Jacob” and “Joseph” to represent all of the people of Israel.

In verses 8 through 19, the psalmist records the cry of the people of Judah to God as Husbandman of His vineyard. In verses 8 through 10, the psalmist records how God transplanted the vine of Israel from Egypt and spread it throughout Canann. God clear ground for the vine and it grew tall and spread wide. In verse 11, the psalmist notes how the people of Israel were spreading to the Mediterranean “Sea” and to the Euphrates “River.” The psalmist then expresses dismay, wondering why God has allowed his vine to be cut down and destroyed. In verse 17, the psalmist asks for God's hand to be on Israel, which the psalmist describes "the son of man." this is a reference to Exodus 4:22, where God describes Israel as His first-born son.

In verses 3, 7 and 19, the psalmist asks to be restored. This seems to be more than just a cry for national restoration. Verse 18 appears to be a confession of sins and a desire for spiritual revival.

Father, help me to learn from the mistakes of others. Give me insight to understand their faults—not for their condemnation, but for my betterment in your service.


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