The Art of Restoration with God
I want to spend this Christmastime known as Advent to talk about four important skills that we all may go through as Christians. We all have an opportunity to:
During this holiday season, I want to ask you ask a question: “Who do I need to spend time making a restoration?” “Who do I need to restore a relationship with?” I want us to look at a psalm that describes the process and art of restoration. This psalm is attributed to Asaph1 This psalm is a prayer of restoration. In essence, the psalmist is expecting more from God. Like many of us during this Christmastime, we may be expecting more from God this Christmas. This psalm plays out like a song, a carol. It has three verses each with a refrain.
Verse 1: God is my Shepherd (Psalm 80:1-2)
“Listen, Shepherd of Israel, who leads Joseph like a flock; you who sit enthroned between the cherubim, shine on Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh. Rally your power and come to save us.” (Psalm 80:1–2, CSB)
In the first verse of this psalm, the writer reminds himself that God is His shepherd. There are only two psalms that refer to God as a shepherd. This is one of them. The other is Psalm 23. The writer of this psalm is asking God to listen to him. In the Christmas story, the shepherds come to Joseph to see the baby, Jesus. Here, it is the Shepherd who leads Joseph. This Shepherd sits in Heaven.
Perhaps you need to restore your relationship to God. You may want God to listen to you. You need His power to save you and you need His help.
Refrain: Restore me, God. (Psalm 80:3)
“Restore us, God; make your face shine on us, so that we may be saved.” (Psalm 80:3, CSB)
Let’s repeat this verse together.
The people of God are threatened by the Assyrian armies. God’s face seemed to be turned away. They desperately needed him to turn his face back to them, smile on them favorably, and rescue them from the destruction that is about to take place.2 Perhaps you are in a situation during this Christmastime when you feel that God’s face is turned away. You want Him to smile on you and rescue you from the danger that may be in your future. You need God’s restoration. You want to ask Him for that restoration. Christmastime is a great time for that restoration.
This leads us to the second verse:
Verse 2: My Food of Tears (Psalm 80:4-6)
“Lord God of Armies, how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers? You fed them the bread of tears and gave them a full measure of tears to drink. You put us at odds with our neighbors; our enemies mock us.” (Psalm 80:4–6, CSB)
Tears are the food of a prayer-tortured soul. I have heard one time that tears are a blessing from God. But one wouldn’t think that from this verse. The psalmist describes a prayer scene full of anguish and pain. He is asking God to restore them. The reason is that the psalmist feels an injustice. He looks at his circumstances and wonders if God is giving them all of this pain.
He feels that God is angry with the psalmist’s petitions. He thinks that the angry scenes with the neighbors come from God’s hand. He senses the snicker of laughter from the enemies. In the midst of this confusing state, his body can’t help from be overcome with tears. He is overcome with grief.
I understand that feeling. You feel like you can’t do anything else but cry. You feel just overwhelmed. You can’t sense God’s direction and you wonder if God has given up on you. So like the psalmist you have God to restore you. As David said in Psalm 23, “restore to me the joy of my salvation.” One can ask God to restore me to my proper relationship with Him because my feelings have gotten in the way. When your spiritual and emotional nourishment consists of tears, you will start to get hungry for God’s presence.3
You can ask God to turn your food of tears into a hunger for His presence. You can ask God to restore His relationship with you so that you may drink from Your fountain.
Refrain: Restore me, God of Armies (Psalm 80:7)
“Restore us, God of Armies; make your face shine on us, so that we may be saved.” (Psalm 80:7, CSB)
Let’s repeat this refrain together.
The refrain repeats the desire for restoration. You may notice echoes of the priestly blessing from Numbers 6 in these refrains.
““May the Lord bless you and protect you; may the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; may the Lord look with favor on you and give you peace.”’ In this way they will pronounce my name over the Israelites, and I will bless them.”” (Numbers 6:24–27, CSB)
As we progress through this psalm, which is a prayer of restoration, you can see how the psalmist really wants to restore his relationship with God. Christmastime should be a time when we restore our relationship with God. If you are apart from God. If you feel like your relationship has drifted. You have to ask yourself who moved.
This brings us to the third verse.
Verse 3: I am the Vine. God is the Planter (Psalm 80:8-18)
Jesus proclaimed God the Father as the Vinedresser. God is the planter. Here in this psalm, the nation, but more importantly the people of Israel are compared to a vine. I think an application can be made to you and me. You and I are the vines and God is the planter. The story of the vine is described with a past, present, and future. So, while we read this psalm, and read this as verse three in the song, you can see your journey with God. So I want you to reflect on your relationship with God. Like the story A Christmas Carol, one can see God coming to them and showing them their past, their present and their future.
My Past (Psalm 80:8-11)
“You dug up a vine from Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it. You cleared a place for it; it took root and filled the land. The mountains were covered by its shade, and the mighty cedars with its branches. It sent out sprouts toward the Sea and shoots toward the River.” (Psalm 80:8–11, CSB)
In this grand metaphor, the psalmist recalls Israel’s history. God has dug up Israel like a vine. He transplanted them from Egypt and placed them in the land that He promised. Notice here that God claims the land of Israel to be from the Mediterranean See to the Euphrates River. That is the ultimate boundaries of the nation of Israel.
In the same way, God has transplanted you from your past and has planted you where He wants you to grow. He has set out boundaries in your life and He wants you to flourish.
My Present (Psalm 80:12-15)
“Why have you broken down its walls so that all who pass by pick its fruit? Boars from the forest tear at it and creatures of the field feed on it. Return, God of Armies. Look down from heaven and see; take care of this vine, the root your right hand planted, the son that you made strong for yourself.” (Psalm 80:12–15, CSB)
But just because God transplanted you, it doesn’t mean that where you are will be easy. Boars and other creatures try to attack that vine. In the same way, you may feel your life is being attacked. You may sense the stresses of life from people who act like animals to you. They try to rip you off. They try to tear you down. They try to take away what you have produced.
Don’t you feel like that during this Christmas season? Don’t you feel the stress? Don’t you wonder how you will handle all of this? Remember that if God was there in the past, He is also here in your present.
My Future (Psalm 80:16-18)
“It was cut down and burned; they perish at the rebuke of your countenance. Let your hand be with the man at your right hand, with the son of man you have made strong for yourself. Then we will not turn away from you; revive us, and we will call on your name.” (Psalm 80:16–18, CSB)If God was there in your past and your present, He will most certainly be with you in your future.
Some see that this section of the psalm deals with the future of Israel. The language of this part of the psalm points to elements of Israel’s future. Theologian Arnold Fruchtenbaum states that this psalm deals with the national salvation of Israel just prior to the Second Coming.4
As we have seen in the news this week, God’s calendar is still moving. President Donald Trump declared Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel and has decided to move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This would make the United States the only country to have its embassy there, which would show a sign of support for Israel. It would also cause upheaval in the Middle East. Slowly but surely, or perhaps quicker than we can imagine, the future of Israel and the future of God’s plan for this world are converging. There will be a time when Israel will need the help of a Deliverer. Psalm 80:17 predicts that time. In that verse, Israel is praying to God for deliverance, and the One they ask to come and deliver them is the One seated at God’s right hand. Notice that a person is mentioned at God’s right hand. That person is Jesus.
“Let your hand be with the man at your right hand, with the son of man you have made strong for yourself.” (Psalm 80:17, CSB)
This is said in Psalm 110 as well:
“This is the declaration of the Lord to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.”” (Psalm 110:1, CSB)
We are told in Psalm 110 that this is the Messiah who has ascended to the right hand of God following His rejection. Psalm 110 also states that Messiah will remain there until Israel repents and asks for His return. It is this repentance which is being described in Psalm 80.5
Just as Israel needs the help of a Deliverer, you and I need that same help. I don’t know about you, but as I go through this Christmas season, I sense a need for God’s help more this season than ever before. It’s a busier time than ever before. It’s a more complicated time than ever before. It’s a more anxious time than ever before. I need to depend on Jesus more during this Christmas.
Refrain: Restore me, Lord, God of Armies (Psalm 80:19)
“Restore us, Lord, God of Armies; make your face shine on us, so that we may be saved.” (Psalm 80:19, CSB)
Let’s repeat this refrain.
As we progress through this song and we sing the final refrain, we see that the power of God increases as we continue to restore our relationship with Him. As we saw in the last verse, God is the Planter, and I am the vine. He was there in my past, in my present, and in my future. I don’t know about you, but as each Christmas season passes, I see the power of God in my life getting stronger. I may grow weak or strong, but as I age, I notice God getting stronger. He is more eternal today than He was when I first met Him. He is more compassionate today when He was when He called out to me. He is more merciful with my sins and mistakes than when I first started to realize that I sinned against Him. He is more gracious today than when I first started trusting Him. From God’s point of view, He has always been the same. But from my point of view, His abilities and influences have increased. I have sensed that I need Him more today than I ever did. What about you? Do you sense the power of God increasing? Do you sense the Holy Spirit speaking a stronger word of restoration?
Perhaps you are looking down the week and you wonder who you might see this Christmas. You look around at your family and you wonder if there is a relationship that can be repaired. God is strong enough to restore His relationship with you. He is just as powerful to help you restore your relationship with other people. God has called us to a ministry of reconciliation.
“Everything is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:18, CSB)
But this ministry is an art. It takes a delicate work from the Master Artist as He paints a new future with some splattered and smudgy relationship canvases in your life. Ask For His help during this Christmastime. You may think how am I going to ask His help?
A friend of mine asked on Facebook this week if people could list famous films that have to do with Christmas. He listed a variety of films, either that was about Christmas or took place during Christmas.
Miracle on 34th Street
A Christmas Story
A Christmas Carol
Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer
A Charlie Brown Christmas
Die Hard – yes that movie takes place during Christmas
The Polar Express
Santa Claus Is Coming to Town
The Santa Clause
What do they have in common? They are secular films that are about Christmas traditions. But not one popular film is about the birth of Jesus Christ. There are many films about death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. But not one is about His birth. That tells me that we need God’s help in restoration. Because the culture is not going to help you.
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones asks why the church in the English-speaking world experienced no great revival in the twentieth century. His answer is that the church accommodated itself to the modern scientific worldview. Up until that century, when the church was weak, sinful, and apathetic, a remnant of godly people got down upon their knees, repenting and beseeching God to send a revival. Now, however, since we have embraced the technological society, when the church is weak, sinful, and apathetic, rather than humbling ourselves and crying out to God, we organize an evangelistic crusade. Genuine revival, however, cannot be accomplished by our energy and technique. It is God’s alone to give. Thus in our crisis we must call out to the Lord: “Restore us.” “Cause Your face to shine.” Send the power, send the Spirit, manifest the glory, “and we shall be saved!”6
Where do this revival and restoration start? It starts with you, with me – one person at a time saying the same refrain:
“Restore us, Lord, God of Armies; make your face shine on us, so that we may be saved.” (Psalm 80:19, CSB)
1 Donald Williams and Lloyd J. Ogilvie, Psalms 73–150, vol. 14, The Preacher’s Commentary Series (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1989), 75.
2 James Montgomery Boice, Psalms 42–106: An Expositional Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2005), 662.
3 Jim Erwin, “Food of Tears,” Psalm 80:5, 28 November 2014, http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jimerwin/2014/11/28/food-of-tears/, accessed 8 December 2017.
4 Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of the Messiah : A Study of the Sequence of Prophetic Events, Rev. ed. (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 2003), 238-39.
5 Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, Messianic Christology: A Study of Old Testament Prophecy Concerning the First Coming of the Messiah (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 1998), 87.