TEXT: PSALM 80
Verses 1-2: The psalmist refers to God as the Shepherd of Israel in an appeal to God to listen to their prayer. The psalmist asks God to shine forth.
Verse 3: Here is the first statement of the psalm’s refrain calling on God to restore his relationship with his people by saving them.
Verses 4-6: The psalmist continues the lament by asking: How Long?
Verse 7: Again, the psalmist asks God to restore the relationship.
Verses 8-11: Israel is likened to a vine. The vine transplanted from Egypt is an obvious reference to the Exodus.
Verses 12-15: The psalmist urgently asks God to return, invoking him again with his battle name “God Almighty”.
Verses 16-18: The psalmist requests that God enable their king, since God had given them this king.
Verse 19: For the third and climatic time, the psalmist calls on God to restore them to his good graces.
The psalmist speaks on behalf of the community and asks God to save them in a manner typical of a corporate lament. This psalm is notable for its use of a repeated refrain (v. 3, 7, 19) and a striking use of the metaphor of God’s people as a vine. The historical setting that inspired this poem is uncertain but the reference to God as enthroned above the cherubim indicates a connection with the theology of the Jerusalem temple, and thus a southern Israel perspective.
The psalmist calls on God during the midst of a threat, likely an attack from a northern army, to come in power to save them. They recognize that God has become distant, but now they call on him as Warrior to rescue them. This psalm speaks of God’s people’s special position and their present predicament, using the figurative language of a vine.
Reading this psalm from a New Testament perspective brings our attention first to the reference of the king, the “son of man you have raised up for yourself” (v. 17). While not cited in the New Testament, this passage cannot be read by a Christian without evoking a connection with Jesus, the Son of Man, who is the Christ (the anointed King). Secondly, our attention is drawn to John 15: 1-6, where Jesus presents himself as the vine and his followers as the branches. In the light of other New Testament passages in which the Kingdom is describes as a vineyard (Matt 20: 1-11; 21: 33-43), Jesus is saying that participation in the Kingdom depends on his followers being united with him.
Very often, we attempt to grow the vineyard apart from the vine. This often leaves us feeling exhausted or even worse, disillusioned. Similar to the southern kingdom of Israel, we too can feel distant when we put too much faith in our own efforts or in other branches. It is the vine that gives life to the branches, and it is the vine that grows the vineyard. Jesus is the true source of life and nourishment, and it is when we abide in him that we become capable Kingdom builders. Not only is it an honour to serve him in this way, but it brings honour and glory to his name when we do. God’s light will shine upon us and our Kingdom work, when we abide in the True Vine.
PRAYER: Heavenly Father, teach me to abide in Christ and He in me. Teach me to live my life as you would have me to live in total dependence upon you, which is the life of Christ being lived through me, so that I may produce that good fruit in my life that is honoring to you. In Jesus name I pray. AMEN.
SONG: You Are The Vine; We Are The Branches
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.