They were God’s vineyard. As a vine brought out of Egypt, they had driven out the nations, been planted, and had taken deep root in a land prepared for them. And for a time they flourished. They had grown to such stature that the hills were covered with their shadow, and the mighty cedars were dwarfed by their boughs. The extent of their branches reached from the Sea to the River (Ps. 80:8-11). But that was then.
Now, the walls of the vineyard lay broken down. Anyone who passed by could walk in and take of the fruit as they pleased. Without protection, wild animals came and uprooted the vine and devoured it (80:12-13). For the vineyard was being judged. It had run wild, turning it’s back on the One who had planted it, determining to follow it’s own course, and now the Vinedresser was undertaking some serious restorative pruning.
And what captures me this morning is the degree of desperation expressed by the songwriter as he intercedes for the vineyard, for Israel. They had turned their back on their God and now, as they looked heavenward, all they saw was God’s back turned toward them. And so, three times in his song, the psalmist cries out for God’s face.
Restore us, O God; let Your face shine, that we may be saved!
(Ps. 80:3, 7, 19 ESV)
Sin had severed fellowship to such an extent that, in His restorative purposes, God had determined it necessary to give Israel over to her enemies in order to turn back her heart. And that heart was now crying out to the “Shepherd of Israel”, to the One “enthroned upon the cherubim” (80:1). And the heart’s plea? “Let Your face shine!”
Their great need was to be delivered from their enemies. Their great desire was to be restored to the former days. And so they cried out, knowing that their hearts must be turned again toward their God.
But in order for God to turn them back to Himself, He must first, in His compassion, determine to turn Himself again toward them. The means of accomplishing their restoration would require God to graciously cause His face to shine upon them. To illuminate their hearts with His presence. To dispel the darkness of self-will with the light of His being. What they wanted was to turn back and renew their relationship with their God. What they needed was His presence.
And while I’m not sitting here this morning as a vineyard stripped of it’s protection, there is something about the psalmist’s plea that resonates within me. A certain connection with the desperate desire to have the face of God shine. That His face might ward off darkness. That a fresh glimpse of His glory would dispel any complacency. That He would fan into flame the fire lit long ago and reclaim a sometimes distracted heart solely for Himself. There’s value, I think, to periodic sanctified “panic attacks” that drive you back to the throne of grace wanting to know afresh His presence. Seeking to be renewed and revived in the inner man.
Yeah, I’m thinking I shouldn’t wait until the vineyard is overrun with weeds and the walls have been broken down because of neglect. But rather, I should cry out to Him daily, desperately desiring for His face to shine and for His Spirit to revive and restore.
Let Your face shine, O God.
That we might be restored. That we might be found faithful.
All by Your grace. Only for Your glory.