Psalm 80 sounds like a song of the captivity. Penned at a time when the songwriter was aware of God’s anger towards His people (v.4). The Almighty had broken down the walls of protection surrounding the vine He had brought out of Egypt and planted beyond the Jordan (v.12). He had fed His people “with the bread of tears and given them tears to drink in full measure” (v.5). Though He was the Shepherd who had promised to “lead Joseph like a flock” (v. 1a), for now the Shepherd had called a timeout in order to turn the hearts of the sheep back toward Him.
And so the songwriter composes what I imagine to be a dirge. Lots of minor chords . . . not much in the way of “happy music” accompanying these lyrics. But what has stirred me is the “chorus” of the song. The thrice repeated plea of this song of sorrow.
Restore us, O LORD God of hosts!
Let Your face shine, that we may be saved! (Psalm 80:19 ESV)
Verse 3, verse 7, and verse 19. The same plea to the LORD God of hosts . . . let Your face shine!
To the God enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth (v.1b). Look down from heaven and see . . . have regard for this vine (v.14). Give us Your face, Lord!
The songwriter doesn’t offer a defence to justify the vine’s determination to grow wild and undisciplined. He doesn’t make excuses for the sheep who had gone astray. He doesn’t reason as to the merits of allowing other nations to be the rod of God’s chastisement. He knows they had given God their back. Now, in order to get their face, God had given them His.
And so, the psalmist simply asks to know again the LORD’s face. Let Your face shine . . .
Be favorable to us, O God. Grant us Your gracious presence again. Let the light of Your countenance warm our souls. Give us Your front and no longer Your back. And then we will be saved . . . then we will be revived and restored.
And how would that face be known . . . how would it be seen?
But let Your hand be on the man of Your right hand,
the son of man whom You have made strong for Yourself! (Psalm 80:17 ESV)
I think this alludes to Messiah. The Son of Man, the Man of God’s right hand, would be the gracious face of God upon a rebellious people. Let them behold the Son of Man, and they would know the countenance of God.
And, as I think about today, Good Friday, and our remembrance this evening of the Son of Man having come as the Lamb of God, . . . as I reflect anew that the Holy One of Israel sent His Son as the once-for-all atoning sacrifice for all peoples, . . . I see His face shine. His grace made known . . . His favor declared for all who will believe . . . His presence offered to any who would receive the gift of His saving grace.
The song of captivity becomes a song of freedom. The dirge morphs into a great hallelujah chorus!
Let Your face shine, that we may be saved!
By Your grace . . . for Your glory!