Year A – Advent 4 – Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19

Psalms 80:1–7, 17–19 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.   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 the scorn of our neighbors; our enemies laugh among themselves.   7 Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved.   17 But let your hand be upon the one at your right hand, the one whom you made strong for yourself. 18 Then we will never turn back from you; give us life, and we will call on your name.   19 Restore us, O LORD God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved.

Overview – Between about 734 and 722 BC the ten tribes of the northern kingdom of Israel were taken into captivity by Assyria. It seems this Psalm laments this and calls repeatedly for “restoration.” Though Israel (northern kingdom) and Judah (southern kingdom) had been divided shortly after the days of Solomon’s death, in 2Chr. 30:1, King Hezekiah had reached out for survivors to unite, in the face of Assyria’s threat: “Now Hezekiah sent to all Israel and Judah and wrote letters also to Ephraim and Manasseh, that they should come to the house of the LORD at Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover to the LORD God of Israel.” Sadly the response was mocking:  “So the couriers passed from city to city through the country of Ephraim and Manasseh, and as far as Zebulun, but they laughed them to scorn and mocked them” (2Chr. 30:10). The rest of the story is that the northern kingdoms were drowned in the Gentile sea. This Psalm was written by the musicians of Asaph at the temple in Jerusalem (Judah), yet it calls for the Lord to “Stir up your might, and come to save us!” (a united Israel) (v2). Given the peril of those days, the faithful were calling for God intervene in restoration. Striking in this Psalm is v 17, “But let your hand be upon the one at your right hand, the one whom you made strong for yourself.” In the context of the original hearers this would have been understood as God’s firstborn, “Israel.” Let Yahweh strengthen all of Abraham’s children (north and south).

Insight  – Though God’s firstborn was “Israel,” Israel was to give birth, in the fullness of time to the Final, One True Israelite, the hope of Israel, born of  “Woman” and born under Law in order to redeem us all from the curse of the Law (Gal. 4). God would restore the family of Abraham, but in a way that no one could imagine. It is as though the cry for deliverance and restoration that first rang out in this Psalm from Judah, echoed throughout those hundreds of years until it was answered in the whimper of a newborn in Bethlehem. A Child that was to be laid in a manger, a feeding trough. Jesus was the True and ultimate Shepherd of Israel because He gave Himself for His people.

Child’s Catechism – Why is the final Shepherd of Israel Jesus? Because Jesus gave Himself for His people.

Discussion – If you were to write this Psalm today, what would you be asking God to do in this “restoration”?

Prayer – O Shepherd of Israel, we give You praise because of your mysterious and marvelous plan of redemption. You made promises and You kept them. You have always shepherded Your people. Grant that we may be faithful sheep who love and serve You in the victorious kingdom of Christ our Lord, especially in this time of Advent, as we anticipate the celebration of the birth of our Savior, Jesus the Lamb of God. Amen.

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Year A – Lent 2 – Psalm 121

Second Sunday in Lent
Psalm 121: I lift up my eyes to the hills; *  from where is my help to come? My help comes from the LORD, *  the maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved *  and he who watches over you will not fall asleep. Behold, he who keeps watch over Israel *  shall neither slumber nor sleep; The LORD himself watches over you; *  the LORD is your shade at your right hand, So that the sun shall not strike you by day, *  nor the moon by night. The LORD shall preserve you from all evil; *  it is he who shall keep you safe. The LORD shall watch over your going out and your coming in, *  from this time forth for evermore.

Sing this Psalm! See Psalm 121 Here

Summary – Psalm 21 is one of those psalms giving great comfort to God’s people. One phrase has been frequently used as a call to worship:  “From where is my help to come? My help comes from the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth.” For those in covenant with God, like father Abraham, God has promised to bring about His covenant promises and will bring protection. Since God is the maker of the world, the elements of the world will not harm us. We can sleep with ease, because the sun will not hurt us, the moon will not hurt us and we are defended from enemies on all sides. This psalm functions as a benediction upon God’s covenant people.

Insight – All benedictions are general. If we receive the blessing that, God bless you and keep you, it may seem that sickness or trial would be inconsistent with this. But is it? To the unbelieving, every difficulty is a sworn witness against God’s goodness and His willingness to bless His people. But to one who is saturated in God’s word and promises, we know that all things work together for good because He is conforming us to the image of Christ. Abraham went through trials, but they all resulted in His receiving promised blessings from His Covenant Lord. So this psalm calls us to look to the Lord for goodness. We are to look to Him and from His hand we are to receive goodness. We are to trust that the Lord will preserve us from all evil. In believing this, we can weather trials and hardships because the Lord who is sovereign overall does not intend these as evil, but for our eternal good.

Child catechism – From where is my help to come? My help comes from the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth.

discussion – What are some ways we could use blessings and then benedictions in our lives?

Prayer – O Lord God we trust you because you are the maker of heaven and earth. Grant that we who call upon you may be ever hopeful in your goodness and trustful and your mercy. We pray in Christ’s name, Amen.