Advent Devotional-December 2

December 2

Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19

Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel,
   you who lead Joseph like a flock!
You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth 
   before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh.
Stir up your might,
   and come to save us! 

Restore us, O God;
   let your face shine, that we may be saved. 

Lord God of hosts,
   how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers? 
You have fed them with the bread of tears,
   and given them tears to drink in full measure. 
You make us the scorn
 of our neighbours;
   our enemies laugh among themselves. 

Restore us, O God of hosts;
   let your face shine, that we may be saved. 

They have burned it with fire, they have cut it down;
   may they perish at the rebuke of your countenance. 
But let your hand be upon the one at your right hand,
   the one whom you made strong for yourself. 
Then we will never turn back from you;
   give us life, and we will call on your name. 

Restore us, O Lord God of hosts;
   let your face shine, that we may be saved.

 

When I was working for The Washington Chorus, I once heard a singer say, “I think I could get along very well with a theology of choral music,” and I immediately agreed. The history of choral music is long and rich, and of course holds deep roots in the Church. All those fantastic musical settings of liturgical texts, scripture and devotional poetry by musicians from the Renaissance all the way through Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, the tradition of the African-American Spiritual, today’s John Rutter, and even our most gifted music students—it’s the best stuff on earth.

 

The Psalms strike me in a similar way. If we spend a little time in the Psalm texts, we see that those poems cover the entire spectrum of human life—anger, despair, bliss, praise and glory, the highest highs, the lowest lows, and even some of every day life, companioned by God. Not surprisingly, the texts also refer to God in just as wide a spectrum of images— loving Shepherd, King of glory, oppressor, avenger, super-hero, light and salvation. This text alone represents a condensing of that complexity into one chapter. The very first verse opens with a reference to the Shepherd, but the writer would rather speak to the powerful God who is enthroned between or upon the cherubim. This is not one of the praise-and-glory Psalms. Rather the writer asks God for relief from the bread and bowls full of the tears of life. We can follow the refrain throughout the chapter as the writer makes a crescendo in his pleas for help:

 

“Restore us, O God; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved” (v.3)

“Restore us, O God Almighty; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved” (v. 7) “Restore us, O Lord God Almighty; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved” (v. 19)

 

At Advent, we see the answer to the cry coming in the birth of Christ:

“Let your hand rest on the man at your right hand, the son of man you have raised up for yourself. Then we will not turn away from you; revive us, and we will call on your name” (v. 17 – 18). So the Psalm becomes prophetic as we look toward Christ’s coming. God’s face shines upon us all, we are saved, we are revived. We will not turn away, we will call on God’s name. Come, Lord Jesus, quickly come! Amen.

 

Cheryl Branham

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