Psalm 80 – Mantra for a Desperate Nation

Bible opened to Psalm 80 with Chuao Caramel Apple Crush Chocolate on snowman plate

Today’s passage: Psalm 80

Today’s chocolateChuao Caramel Apple Crush

Here’s another psalm of Asaph, picking up on some of the same themes from Psalm 79. It’s a prayer to God for forgiveness and restoration in Israel. In the middle of Asaph’s requests to God, he recalls God’s saving works in Israel’s history, using the extended metaphor of a flourishing vine cultivated by God. “You removed a vine from Egypt; You drove out the nations and planted it. You cleared the ground before it, and it took deep root and filled the land” (8-9), he says. I’m reminded of Paul’s discussion of the Tree of Abraham in Romans 11, but here, the gentile nations aren’t viewed as branches grafted onto the vine. In verses 12-13, they’re passersby taking its fruit, wild animals and boars devouring it parasitically, the result of God retracting his protection.

Another observation: verse 3 forms a sort of chorus, which is repeated in verses 7 and 19. It reads, “O God, restore us and cause Your face to shine upon us, and we will be saved” (3). In verse 7, the invocation reads “O God of hosts,” and then in verse 19, it’s “O Lord God of hosts.” This mantra echoes the Birkat Kohanim, the priestly blessing; it asks God to make his face shine on his people, and it requests a blessing. However, in Psalm 80, it’s not the priests mediating a blessing from God to the people. It’s Asaph and whoever else sings his song asking God directly for the specific blessing of salvation. Israel is so desperate for deliverance from its enemies’ oppressive hand that it sings straight to God, addressing him with escalating terms of address, culminating in the final verse of the song.

The final segment of the psalm (vv.14-19) looks to me like it might paint a picture that applies to Jesus Christ as well as the vine of Israel. Asaph writes, “Look down from heaven and see, and take care of this vine…[Look] on the son whom You have strengthened for Yourself” (14-15). The subject of the passage is even referred to as “the man of Your right hand, the son of man” (17). He draws his strength from God, he suffers and prays for God to lift him up. However, while Jesus Christ suffered specifically for his righteousness, Asaph suggests that Israel is suffering as punishment for their sins against God: “O Lord God of hosts, how long will You be angry with the prayer of Your people?” (4)

Question of the Day: Is there an element of messianic prophecy in Psalm 80:14-19? What do you think?

 

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