READ PSALM 80 & 81
One of the most confusing things for me personally about prayer is the role it plays in God’s activity. Theologically, I know that God is more powerful than any words I could ever utter. I also know that He is sovereign, ruling over all without my permission or warrant. God, as the supreme ruler over the universe, will do as He pleases.
Yet, God has called us to pray for His activity. We are commanded several times in the Word of God to earnestly seek Him, make our requests known before Him, and to plead with Him to act. We are called to the act of supplication. Somehow, beyond the limits of my mind and theological comprehension, God has established two seemingly opposing truths to be reality: God is sovereign and supreme, and He heeds the cries of His children.
In our Psalms for this week – Psalms 80 and 81 – we are going to see these truths on display. We will see the overwhelming glory and power of God, being reminded that He needs no permission to act or diction to guide His steps. We will also be reminded that He bends His sovereign ear to hear from His people, allowing their prayers to move His heart.
Read Psalm 80:1-6. What does the Psalmist seem to be asking? Can you identify elements of the situation of this original writing (context)?
The Psalmist is likely writing these words during the fall of Samaria. You’ll remember in Biblical history that the nation of Israel, after demanding that God give them a line of kings like the nations surrounding them, was divided – the north against the south. Jerusalem fell and the temple – Israel’s most cherished and prized possession – was destroyed. And now, Samaria, Jerusalem’s northern counterpart, was under threat of falling as well. Israel was utterly disappointed in her kings, just as God said she would be. Many scholars believe that this psalm belongs to the Asaphite temple-singers, the faithful Jews who were seeking to continue worshipping Yahweh while in a foreign land.
What does this context unveil for you in this Psalm?
The term “shepherd” was most often used of the king of the nation. When Israel felt as though they didn’t have a fitting leader in God and wanted a king just like the nations around them, they rejected God as their true King, and asked God to give them a ruler. God did, promising that their kings would let them down (and ultimately promising that He would send the final, ultimate King – the Messiah). During the reign of their kings, the people of Israel referred to their leaders as shepherds. That’s why Psalm 78:70-72 says this:
He chose David his servant
and took him from the sheepfolds;
from following the nursing ewes he brought him
to shepherd Jacob his people,
Israel his inheritance.
With upright heart he shepherded them
and guided them with his skillful hand.
Look again at the Metaphor in Psalm 80:1-6. Does the Psalmist’s metaphor here remind you of any other Psalms?
Read Psalm 23. Understanding that Psalm 23 was likely written years before Psalm 80, what is the Psalmist asking of God in Psalm 80:1-6?
The Psalmist is asking God one resounding question from his place of need: God, be who You are! Israel has been brutally reminded: only God can be their true Shepherd. Their kings, or shepherds, have let them down and led them into utter ruin. They have been defeated, they are far from home, and the house of their God has been destroyed. And from this place they call to God: be our Shepherd!
You and I are tempted every day to be like Israel, demanding that God provide for us in ways that we can see so that we don’t need to trust in Him alone. When we do, we ask God to abdicate His throne in our lives, and we insist on lesser, weaker, faulty loves.
Where in your own life have you done this? In what ways might God be calling you to repent and trust Him alone to lead you?
PRAY & REFLECT
Supplication: Confess to God all the ways in which you need Him to restore your faith and grow your trust in Him.
Submission: Confess to God His character. Implore Him to be who He is in your life.