Was awake earlier than I had hoped this morning. So, did a “double portion” of my reading plan. And reading Psalm 80 and Psalm 81 back-to-back provided context for a conversation between God and His people that I would have missed otherwise.
Psalm 80 begins with the poet of God’s people desperately crying out to God, “Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel.”
Though they had been a vine brought out of Egypt and planted in a land of promise, things had gone south. Though they had once taken deep root and born much fruit, as the songwriter looks around, the walls are broken down, all who pass by pluck the fruit, and the wild beast of the forest ravages the vineyard at will.
The people had given God their back. God had responded by feeding them with “the bread of tears.”
And so, the psalmist pleads again and again . . .
Restore us, O God;
let Your face shine, that we may be saved!
(Psalm 80:3 ESV)
Three times this petition is found in the song.
Cause us to return, Lord. Turn us back. That we might know again Your face. That we might walk again in Your light. That we might be delivered again. Liberated again into the freedom You intended when You first redeemed us from Egypt’s cruel bondage. Restore us, O LORD. Let Your face shine. That we may be saved!
Then we shall not turn back from You;
give us life, and we will call upon Your name!
(Psalm 80:18 ESV)
And then I read Psalm 81. And again notice a lyric repeated. But this time it is the response of the Great Shepherd:
Hear, O My people, while I admonish you!
O Israel, if you would but listen to Me! . . .
Oh, that My people would listen to Me,
that Israel would walk in My ways!
(Psalm 81:8, 13 ESV)
Listen to Me. Cease with Your vain calls to worship. Don’t think for a moment that mindless, rote celebrations of My works is the way to favor. I don’t need to hear again the praise and trumpets of people who “honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.” Rather, you need to hear Me. To listen to My voice. To follow My counsel and not the leading of your stubborn hearts. To walk in My ways. To be still and know again that I am God. Oh, that My people would listen to Me.
Perhaps when we sense a silence from heaven it’s not because God has ceased to speak, but we have ceased to listen. We’re not in His Word. We’re not really interested in His way. We just want things to be easier and know His favor.
And so we cry, “Restore us, O God!” To which God may be responding, “Listen to Me, My people!”
I am the LORD your God,
who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.
Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.
(Psalm 81:10 ESV)
What a promise! How often is the cause of a sense of His failure to shine on us the result of us having turned our back on Him. We don’t have His face, because we have not given Him ours. But when we give Him our face, when we open wide our mouth, He will fill it.
When we seek Him wholeheartedly, He will be found. When we ask Him sincerely, He will respond. When we knock at His door earnestly, we will find that, all the while, He has been waiting at our door patiently, ready to come in and dine with us, and open the doors of heaven to us. Our hearts burning again within us as we hear again His voice speaking to us.
Listen, My people!
By Your grace. For Your glory.