I sold a used car last week. The purchasers were a young couple who had saved their money to replace their worn vehicle for one with fewer miles that would last them a few years. They paid cash. Cash, mind you, from a young, modestly employed couple who are committed to honoring God in every aspect of their life, including their financial stewardship.
Psalm 80 cries out for those who also long to be good stewards of life’s challenging circumstances. The superscript (early verse 1) notes it is a testimony by Asaph. Untouched by the manipulation of prosperity preachers, he acknowledges life with God has both roses and thorns. Written when the Hebrew nation was in great trouble, He has experienced adversity and wondered: “How long will You be angry with your people’s prayers?” Discipline is never enjoyable.
So, Asaph calls his community and himself to worship God. Though there are a variety of character qualities of God sketched for us there, three images of the God we worship burst out from behind the paper and ink.
First, God is “the LORD God of hosts” (4,7,14,19). God leads an army to rescue and restore His people, and to accomplish His plan. Innumerable in size, and commissioned and led by God Himself, the God of angel armies will dispense severe judgment upon those who have rejected Him and His Son, the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Linger a moment and consider the implications of this title of His inherent holiness, unending power, loving mercy toward His disobedient people, and unquenchable wrath toward His enemies. Of His mercy, Asaph remembers He is “Shepherd of Israel” (1). Our testimony: God is, mercifully, on our side!
Second, God Himself longs to give us His approval—to “let You face shine that we may be saved” (3, 7, 19). Like an adoring parent with a full-faced smile from ear to ear at the love and success of their child, God takes immeasurable pleasure in you and me as His children (cf. Zephaniah 3:17). We live to accomplish His desires (will) and for His pleasure. Philippians 2:13 exclaims, “for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:9, “we make it our aim to please Him”). Is that my testimony?
Last, God is redeemer, and as such loves His own with a special love. Asaph uses a familiar metaphor for Israel, “vine.” For them, He redeemed them from Egypt and created a track record of faithfulness and care (8-14). Their future rests in the “son of man,” notably a title for Messiah Jesus.
We, too, have church, national, and personal crises and long for His resolution (2 Timothy 3:11; 2 Peter 3:4), W. Robert Godfrey points us to our testimony: “The psalter directs us to Christ…Only in Jesus are the crises of this world finally and fully overcome for God’s people in the new heaven and earth where Jesus is King to His own.”
What a day that will be!