Today’s reading starts off with Israel pleading with God to be with them and save them in battle against their enemies. The next psalm expresses God’s wonderful wish for His people that wasn’t fulfilled. And the next psalm rebukes some of the problem of Israel’s unfaithfulness, its weak and unfaithful leadership. It’s almost as if it could have come out of the book of Judges with it’s cycle of sin, judgment, repentance, rescue, and sin… And there are important things for us to learn for today here.
Cause Your face to shine upon us (Psalm 80) — “Smile on us!” is what the phrase means. This appears to imply that God was frowning at them at the moment of the writing of this psalm — or at least God’s people in their fears were afraid that God was frowning. They were afraid or knew that their lives were being lived in rebellion to the Lord’s Law; the commonest sins seemed (Judges through 2 Kings) to have been the changing of the worship of the LORD and involvement in the paganism around them. And God would frown.
Funny isn’t it, that we don’t keep an eye on God face (smiling or frowning), or possibly even care, until we need something from Him? But wouldn’t it be a good idea for a disciple to keep his eye on the Master’s countenance? Would Jesus smile or frown at the life you live, the movies you see, the choices you make, the friends you associate with, the stewardship you exercise, the things you say, the thoughts you dwell on, the attitudes you carry, or the trust you demonstrate in Him? And by the way, what causes a divine frown to turn upside down? Well, it’s not a cheesy cliché like that, for sure — it’s something much more serious, repentance. His face shines on us, when we turn from the world and live to Christ.
God’s wish for His people (Psalm 81) — “If only…” may be the saddest way to start any sentence, especially, when it has to do with spiritual matters; and this psalm seems full of such wistful reflection. What would have been? God had rescued Israel from Egyptian slavery; He took them through a wilderness without food or water and fed and watered them abundantly; He gave them commandments; and He offered to bless them greatly — “Open your mouth wide and I will fill it” (v. 10c). But no, they would not listen; and so God gave them over to the consequences of their foolish decisions and choices. But it didn’t need to be that way, it doesn’t have to be that way now! Just listen! Just walk in My ways! Your enemies would be scattered, the evil would be punished, and My great and abundant blessings would return to you.
Do you suppose that any of this could apply to us today? If the Lord were writing this psalm in your “honor”, how would it read? Would it begin with a lot of “If only…” statements? Of course, in everyone’s life there are tons of regrets; but the crucial question is whether or not we learned anything. Are we listening yet? Or do we just think we are listening? Or are we still not even trying to listen? God invites us to open our mouth, so He can fill it — feed us with the finest — if only…
You are gods (Psalm 82) — It’s pretty shocking to compare men to God, but even Jesus made the analogy and the point is where other principles like submitting to ruling authorities (Romans 13:1-7) comes from — God has appointed some to exercise the authority to administer justice — rulers, judges, presidents, congregational elders, and even parents or husbands). But it is not an authority that comes without strings or accountability — judges will be judged on how they dispensed justice and lead their people. Lots of folks would like to be leader — we all think that it would be great to get a chance to call the shots; but that’s not thinking about the accountability angle — and there’s always an accountability angle. The vast majority in this world use it very poorly and will in the end be judged harshly for abusing their position of leadership and judgment. God tells us that despite the fact that you might be leading, we will all die like any man and be judged by the great Judge.
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.