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Psalm 80:1-7                                       


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 Israel’s 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.

GOD’S SMILE – Let your face shine, that we may be saved . . . that phrase appears throughout the psalm, closing thoughts and opening new places for reflection. God’s shining face refers to the Aaronic blessing in Numbers 6:24-26—which would be an appropriate blessing to give departing listeners on this day. God’s 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 God’s posture toward them—how 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 God’s 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 God’s favor.



When have you seen God’s 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 God’s gift of repentance. Incredibly and wonderfully, the emphasis in this psalm is on God’s gracious willingness to allow repentance. But that’s not the only thing that our lives ultimately depend upon. So does the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Here’s a great definition of repentance: turning to accept the loving embrace of the God who gives us life. [1]

[1] The New Interpreter’s Bible IV (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1996), page 1001.