KEY WORDS/PHRASES the first strophe titles God as Shepherd of
Israel, who leads Israel like a flock. Shepherd, of course, is one of the most
memorable images to describe the relationship between God and Israel through its long and
checkered history (Psalm 23, for example); the image of shepherd also at times referred to
Israels leaders, both good and bad (2 Samuel 5:2, Ezekiel 34). Another image that
emerges within the lines of this psalm is you who are enthroned upon the cherubim (v.
1b). That phrase conjures up the story of Exodus 25; there the building of the ark
includes the crafting of two cherubim. It was believed that the invisible God of Israel
would appear there between the cherubim.
GODS SMILE Let your face shine, that we may be saved . . . that
phrase appears throughout the psalm, closing thoughts and opening new places for
reflection. Gods shining face refers to the Aaronic blessing in Numbers
6:24-26which would be an appropriate blessing to give departing listeners on this
day. Gods shining face is a sign of divine approval and blessing.
SORROW AND TEARS John Calvin said of this psalm that it was "a sorrowful
prayer, in which the faithful beseech God that he would be graciously pleased to succour
his afflicted Church." In this psalm the faithful question Gods posture toward
themhow long will you be angry and reject our prayers? they wonder. Yet the
psalm also is an act of faith and hope. Despite conflicting weather reports of Gods
attitude toward them, the people of God dare to affirm that God reigns, thus they must
prepare themselves through repentance so that they will be ready to be turned and restored
to Gods favor.
When have you seen Gods mighty power at work in human
agencies or in personal experience?
When have you felt like God disapproved of something in your life or action? Or have
you ever felt that on a national or global level, God was blowing out smoke through his
nostrils (the literal translation of v. 4)?
When have you seen God smile?
Since Advent is a season of preparation, including repentance, you might want to listen
to this lament from the perspective of metanoia and allow a homily to reflect
Gods gift of repentance. Incredibly and wonderfully, the emphasis in this psalm is
on Gods gracious willingness to allow repentance. But thats not the
only thing that our lives ultimately depend upon. So does the birth, life, death, and
resurrection of Jesus. Heres a great definition of repentance: turning to accept
the loving embrace of the God who gives us life. 
 The New Interpreters Bible IV (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1996), page