This Week's Focus Passage

The Inability to Restore Oneself

Focus Passage: Psalm 80:3

‘Turn us again, O God, And cause thy face to shine, and we shall be saved.’

This plea, ‘Turn us again, O God, And cause thy face to shine, and we shall be saved,’ is iterated in this psalm of Asaph three times. Does that not, in and of itself, suggest to us that the author held it to be of great importance? And ought not we then hold it to be of great importance? Whether it be ‘Turn us,’ or ‘restore us,’ as it is found in numerous versions, it amounts to the very same thing. There is an expressed need for restoration; there is a pointed desire to be turned back again from wherever we have wandered, or from whatever we have wandered into. It might even be rendered, ‘Revive us again, O Lord God,’ and this would indicate a felt need of being restored to life, for that is what revival is. It may suggest a being turned back unto life, for we have been wandering in the valley of the shadow of death. The varied renderings each suggest the great need and desire of leaving that which we have wandered into and being returned to our previous estate. It is followed by the plea, ‘And cause thy face to shine.’ Surely, this indicates that the path which has been taken, has been found to be a path of darkness; a path void of the light of God in our hearts and lives.

Whatever it is; whatever the felt need is, it is conspicuously apparent that the psalmist and any who subscribe to these sentiments, are profoundly aware of their own intrinsic inability to turn themselves; to restore themselves, or to revive themselves. They have it not within themselves to recover the light from which they have departed; it is God who must shine His face upon them; He must cause His face once again to shine upon them, if they are to be saved. The recognition of this manifest inability is unequivocally declared in the ensuing appeal, ‘Cause thy face to shine, and we shall be saved.’ We would readily emphasize the One to whom this appeal is being made. It is being made, as seen in the first verse of this psalm, to the ‘Shepherd of Israel, Thou that leadest Joseph like a flock: Thou that sittest above the cherubim.’ Well might we read it, ‘CAUSE YOUR FACE TO SHINE UPON US,’ JESUS, LIGHT OF THE WORLD! Is there any other that is the Shepherd of Israel? Did any other ever lead Joseph like a flock? And just who is He that sits above the cherubim; who is He that is typified by the Ark of the Covenant with the cherubim touching their wings over the mercy seat? The psalmist sees, with his inspired vision, the Messiah; the Christ; the Anointed One who will come to save His people from their sins. It is as though he were listening to the announcement of the angel to the husband of Mary, when he directed him to give this glorious Name to that holy thing promised to be begotten of the virgin, ‘And she shall bring forth a Son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS, for it is he that shall save his people from their sins.’ It is unto her Shepherd that the people of God cry, ‘Turn us again, O God, And cause thy face to shine.’

The Baptist preacher and commentator, Samuel Eyles Pierce (1746-1829), puts his imprimatur upon these conclusions in the introduction to his comments upon this eightieth psalm, when he wrote in the following words:

The subject-matter of this Psalm is as follows: It contains a prayer offered up by the church to the Lord Jesus Christ, under the title and character of the Shepherd of Israel. In it an account is given of her present state, of her present miseries, and grievous afflictions. She gives an account of her former exaltation, and of her present depression. This is done under the symbol and figure of a vine; after which, she is more importunate in her requests. She expresseth her faith in Christ the Mediator, and prays for his coming. This is the outline of it.

Does not the church today empathize with Asaph and his fellows? Have we not, with them, experienced the ‘bread of tears;’ have we not frequently been given, ‘tears to drink in large measure’? Does our own history not include ‘being made a strife unto our neighbors’? Surely, we have known occasions when ‘our enemies laugh among themselves’ about us, and call us a peculiar people.

Asaph speaks of the people of God being brought out of Egypt under the simile of a vine—a beautiful picture—and how that God Himself planted this vine, driving out other nations to make room for it. He then refers to both the ascendancy and the descendancy of this people that He had planted, stating that the mountains were covered with the shadow of this vine when it had taken deep root and filled the land; it sent out its cedar-like branches as far as the sea, and its shoots to the River; it covered the land from shore to shore. But then the demise of this vine is revealed. Its walls were broken down so that wild animals could easily ravage and destroy. This vine is cut down, it is burned in the fire; it is perishing at the rebuke of the countenance of the One who planted it at the first.

Asaph cries out these three times, ‘Turn us again, O God, And cause thy face to shine,’ until at last the appeal is made that God would ‘let thy hand be upon the man of thy right hand.’ If we are not able to discern who is ‘the man of thy right hand,’ He is more clearly defined for us as ‘the son of man whom thou madest strong for thyself.’ It is the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of man, who was made strong for the glory of God; who received the Spirit without measure; who went about doing good; who nearing His time upon earth could say, ‘I glorified thee on earth, having accomplished the work which thou hast given me to do.’ John 17:4. The Light of the World came into the world. He shined as none other could. He shined into the hearts of men. He brought light into darkness. He was the ‘man of thy right hand’ ascending to sit at God’s right hand, ever living to intercede for us. Do we not need to be revived? Let us then cry, ‘Turn us again, O God, and cause thy face to shine, and we shall be saved.’

David Farmer, elder


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