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Psalms 79 & 80, May His Face Shine Upon Us That We May Be Saved


Psalms 79-80 are penned by Asaph and concern the invasion and destruction of Jerusalem. Psalm 79 describes the horror of the destruction upon Jerusalem that took place when the Babylonians invaded. The psalmist calls out to God asking how long the anger of the Lord will burn against Jerusalem because of the sins of the people and their forefathers. Verse 9 is the central part of the psalm: “Help us, O God our Savior, for the glory of your name; deliver us and forgive our sins for your name’s sake.” Psalm 80 also is a cry out to the Lord for help in the face of the Lord’s anger.

Psalm 80

God, the Shepherd of Israel (1-3)

Psalm 80 begins by describing God as the Shepherd of Israel. We particularly know that the psalmist is speaking about the Lord from the description given in verse 1: “you who sit enthroned between the cherubim.” Exodus 25 tells us that the presence of God dwelled between the cherubim on the ark of the covenant. “Set the mercy seat on top of the ark and put the testimony that I will give you into the ark. I will meet with you there above the mercy seat, between the two cherubim that are over the ark of the testimony; I will speak with you from there about all that I command you regarding the Israelites” (Exodus 25:21-22).

Verse 3 seems to be a chorus which is repeated in verse 7 and verse 19. The chorus is a call from Israel to God for restoration. “Restore us, O God; make your face shine upon us; that we may be saved.” This is the psalmist’s prayer on behalf of Israel for deliverance.

This description of God as a shepherd also occurs in Psalm 23, a famous psalm that many people know. Understanding that the Jewish people looked to God as their shepherd make the words of Jesus controversial. “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep” (John 10:14-15). For Jesus to call himself the good shepherd of Israel was an obvious and direct declaration that he is God.

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