If you’re in trouble, what do you yell?
I’m sure we’ve all been in situations when those words are all we had. Just yelling “help!” was all we could muster with our strength.
Then there are times when our suffering is protracted. There are times when the trial is longer than a moment and we have more time to reflect. In those times, our cry of “help” grows in complexity. Our prayers are different. We are stretched. We are grown. We are pulled closer to our Lord’s side.
This is the feeling of the author (Asaph) in Psalm 80:1-3 as he writes under the Holy Spirit’s inspiration:
Hear us, Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock. You who sit enthroned between the cherubim, shine forth before Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh. Awaken your might; come and save us. Restore us, O God; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved.
In its historical context, Asaph is writing on behalf of his Jewish brothers and sisters of the Northern Kingdom of Israel (“Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh”) when they were taken captive by Assyria in 722-721 B.C. Their fall would serve as a reminder to the Southern Kingdom (Judah) to keep their eyes on the Lord and follow His ways.
But before we are too quick to think we’d do better, stop and think a moment. Haven’t we seen what the Lord does to those who are His and choose to live constantly disobedient lives? Haven’t we seen what the Lord does to those who are His and choose to live obedient lives? What do we do with observation? Don’t we tend to repeat the sins of others?
I know I do.
This is why the author of this Psalm pleads for the Lord to save them and restore them: his nation was heading the same direction as the Northern Kingdom was. And for us today: we should be praying this prayer as well: “Restore us, O God; make your face shine on us.”
Yelling “help!” doesn’t hurt if we’re calling to the Lord. More often than not, however, we should learn from our own discipline by the Lord and the discipline of others and not repeat their mistakes. We pray for the Lord’s face to shine on us and keep us humble in His presence.
This is what our Good Shepherd wants for us. Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). He has died so we might live. He paid the penalty for our sin so we could be free.
May we remember Who our Lord is and remember we are His—the sheep of His pasture. We are safe when His face is shining on us.