When we are experiencing hard times, it is easy to ask, ‘Does God up there really understand what I’m going through?’
Look at the contrasting imagery in v1-3: God is a humble shepherd who cares for his sheep, and yet is also a glorious King seated between angels. It is the glory shining forth from his face that brings salvation to us (v3).
And yet this psalm is not some ethereal calm vision, but a cry for help in extreme suffering. Look at the brutal image of grief in v5. And there’s an amazing picture in v8-13 of the Israelites (God’s chosen people in the Old Testament) as a mighty vine, transplanted from slavery in Egypt, dwarfing the mountains and cedars, now ravaged. Does their God understand? Does he care?
The answer is found in v15. Who is ‘the son you have raised up for yourself’ (v15, 17)? Is it looking back in time to Israel, or forward in time to Jesus? Could it be both? When he lived on this earth, Jesus also knew what it was to be ravaged, and humbled to death on a cross. Indeed that is how (v1-3) he came to save us, shining forth so that we may be restored. You and I can trust him today, because he knows what it is like to suffer, and he wants to help us in our suffering, and restore us through it.
PRAYER Thank you Jesus that you knew what it was to suffer in this life. Thank you for dying on the cross for me, so that I can be restored. Help me to trust in your saving work today. “Restore us, O LORD God Almighty, make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.” Amen.
For the director of music. To the tune of ‘The Lilies of the Covenant’. Of Asaph. A psalm.
1 Hear us, Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock.
You who sit enthroned between the cherubim, shine forth
2 before Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh.
Awaken your might; come and save us.
3 Restore us, O God; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved.
4 How long, Lord God Almighty, will your anger smoulder against the prayers of your people?
5 You have fed them with the bread of tears; you have made them drink tears by the bowlful.
6 You have made us an object of derision to our neighbours, and our enemies mock us.
7 Restore us, God Almighty; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved.
8 You transplanted a vine from Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it.
9 You cleared the ground for it, and it took root and filled the land.
10 The mountains were covered with its shade, the mighty cedars with its branches.
11 Its branches reached as far as the Sea, its shoots as far as the River.
12 Why have you broken down its walls so that all who pass by pick its grapes?
13 Boars from the forest ravage it, and insects from the fields feed on it.
14 Return to us, God Almighty! Look down from heaven and see! Watch over this vine,
15 the root your right hand has planted, the son you have raised up for yourself.
16 Your vine is cut down, it is burned with fire; at your rebuke your people perish.
17 Let your hand rest on the man at your right hand, the son of man you have raised up for yourself.
18 Then we will not turn away from you; revive us, and we will call on your name.
19 Restore us, Lord God Almighty; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved.