Holding onto Hope in Advent – Psalm 80

It is dark at my house this morning. The electricity went out at some point during the night, leaving my entire neighborhood shrouded in blackness. I wander about the house, gathering candles, a lighter, and my trusty book light. Without light, my home becomes a frustrating obstacle course featuring various objects ready to bruise my shins and trip me up. I feel desperate for the light to be restored.

God’s people find themselves in a season of darkness and desperation at the beginning of Psalm 80.

1 Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock. You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth.
2 Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh, stir up your might and come to save us!
3 Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved!
(Psalm 80:1-3 ESV)


Drawn to Light

Like us, they are drawn to light and know they need a restoration that can only come when God’s face shines upon them again. They are stumbling along in the darkness of sin and disappointment.

Just like them, we all find ourselves in seasons of spiritual darkness from time to time. God knows this about His people and provides certain rhythms and reminders for us on the church calendar.  

Advent

The season of Advent provides a time of preparation during the four Sundays leading up to Christmas. As the first candle is lit on Advent wreaths around the world, God’s people are reminded of Jesus’ miraculous birth and His promised return. The light glows forth and hope, the theme of the first week of Advent, ignites again in our souls.

The psalmist goes on to acknowledge God’s anger with his disobedient people.

4 O Lord God of hosts, how long will you be angry with your people's prayers?
5 You have fed them with the bread of tears and given them tears to drink in full measure.
6 You make us an object of contention for our neighbors, and our enemies laugh among themselves.
7 Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved! 
(Psalm 80:4-7 ESV)


Shepherd

However, God is still a shepherd and gently and firmly guides His sheep through dark times. He alone can restore and reconcile His people.

Sadly, even though today’s believers are reconciled to the Lord through the saving blood of Jesus Christ, we often choose to walk in darkness and go our own way from time to time.

The psalmist describes His people’s repeated cycles of rebellion against the Lord.

8 You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it. 
9 You cleared the ground for it; it took deep root and filled the land.
10 The mountains were covered with its shade, the mighty cedars with its branches.
11 It sent out its branches to the sea and its shoots to the River.
12 Why then have you broken down its walls, so that all who pass along the way pluck its fruit?
13 The boar from the forest ravages it, and all that move in the field feed on it.
14 Turn again, O God of hosts! Look down from heaven, and see; have regard for this vine,
15 the stock that your right hand planted, and for the son whom you made strong for yourself.
16 They have burned it with fire; they have cut it down; may they perish at the rebuke of your face!
(Psalm 80:8-16 ESV)


Hope Found and Lost

God brought the Israelites out of slavery and out of Egypt in a miraculous way. At that point, they flourished and thanked God, but all too soon they rebelled and ended up wandering in the desert in disbelief for forty years. Eventually, they settled in the promised land and flourished again, only to drift away in more cycles of sin and rebellion. Many enemies came against them and destroyed almost everything and everyone.

All hope seemed lost.

17 But let your hand be on the man of your right hand, the son of man whom you have made strong for yourself! 
18 Then we shall not turn back from you; give us life, and we will call upon your name!
19 Restore us, O Lord God of hosts! Let your face shine, that we may be saved! 
(Psalm 80:17-19 ESV)

Hope Re-ignited

In these final verses, hope is re-ignited. God gives His people eternal life through His son Jesus Christ. All will call upon God’s name, and the ultimate restoration will occur. In Advent, we remember how Jesus came as a baby, lived as a man, and died on the cross to save us. In Advent, we also keep a hopeful watch for Jesus to come back to rule and reign forever.

Prayer

In the meantime, as we light the first Advent candle, we see the light of hope and pray the repeated verse from Psalm 80, “Restore us, O Lord God of hosts! Let your face shine, that we may be saved!”

(Psalm 80:3,7 &19 ESV)

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