Feeling God’s Absence

18 May

I have just enjoyed the morning at a small town parade, but the psalm is not so happy.

Psalm 80 is reflection of the people feeling God’s absence and pleading with God to return to caring for God’s people.    The psalm again speaks in literary images.  God is Israel’s Shepherd and the people of God are a vine that God has planted.  Obviously, the psalmists is never concerned with mixed metaphors.

The Psalm begins by telling God to get out of bed and start moving.  As a mother of two sons, I know what the psalmist is talking about; it is hard to get some people going.  Of course, the psalmist is trying to get God in gear.  The psalmist wants God to give a smile of blessing; that will be all the salvation needed.

1-2 Listen, Shepherd, Israel’s Shepherd—
get all your Joseph sheep together.
Throw beams of light
from your dazzling throne
So Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh
can see where they’re going.
Get out of bed—you’ve slept long enough!
Come on the run before it’s too late.

God, come back!
Smile your blessing smile:
That will be our salvation.

The request for God’s smile is repeated in a refrain throughout the psalm.  This second stanza is lays on the guilt for God’s slowness to respond to the tears of God’s people.  I wonder if there is the freedom in our understand to talk this frankly to God?

4-6 God, God-of-the-Angel-Armies,
how long will you smolder like a sleeping volcano
while your people call for fire and brimstone?
You put us on a diet of tears,
bucket after bucket of salty tears to drink.
You make us look ridiculous to our friends;
our enemies poke fun day after day.

God-of-the-Angel-Armies, come back!
Smile your blessing smile:
That will be our salvation.

In this next stanza, he writer continues to pour on the guilt by reminding God that God has a crop that needs tending.  Read through this metaphor about the people of Israel and this about how you would describe your church.  I think I would describe my little church a plant that had survived a long drought, only to be hit by a brush fire.  It is good news that the flames have been quenched and we are starting to re-grow the church.  We too are looking for the smile of God.

8-18 Remember how you brought a young vine from Egypt,
cleared out the brambles and briers
and planted your very own vineyard?
You prepared the good earth,
you planted her roots deep;
the vineyard filled the land.
Your vine soared high and shaded the mountains,
even dwarfing the giant cedars.
Your vine ranged west to the Sea,
east to the River.
So why do you no longer protect your vine?
Trespassers pick its grapes at will;
Wild pigs crash through and crush it,
and the mice nibble away at what’s left.
God-of-the-Angel-Armies, turn our way!
Take a good look at what’s happened
and attend to this vine.
Care for what you once tenderly planted—
the vine you raised from a shoot.
And those who dared to set it on fire—
give them a look that will kill!
Then take the hand of your once-favorite child,
the child you raised to adulthood.
We will never turn our back on you;
breathe life into our lungs so we can shout your name!

19 God, God-of-the-Angel-Armies, come back!
Smile your blessing smile:
That will be our salvation.

I pray this day you experience the blessing smile of God.  It is certainly our hope and salvation


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