Sermon Text: Psalm 80
Sermon Theme: Christmas is the LORD meeting us in our prayer for Him to notice our circumstances and restore us to a right relationship with Him.
He that dwelleth upon the mercy-seat, is the good Shepherd of his people. But we can neither expect the comfort of his love, nor the protection of his arm, unless we partake of his converting grace. If he is really angry at the prayers of his people, it is because, although they pray, their ends are not right, or there is some secret sin indulged in them, or he will try their patience and perseverance in prayer. When God is displeased with his people, we must expect to see them in tears, and their enemies in triumph. There is no salvation but from God’s favor; there is no conversion to God but by his own grace.
The church is represented as a vine and a vineyard. The root of this vine is Christ, the branches are believers. The church is like a vine, needing support, but spreading and fruitful. If a vine does not bring forth fruit, no tree is so worthless. And are not we planted as in a well-cultivated garden, with every means of being fruitful in works of righteousness? But the useless leaves of profession, and the empty boughs of notions and forms, abound far more than real piety. It was wasted and ruined. There was a good reason for this change in God’s way toward them. And it is well or ill with us, according as we are under God’s smiles or frowns. When we consider the state of the purest part of the visible church, we cannot wonder that it is visited with sharp corrections. They request that God would help the vine. Lord, it is formed by thyself, and for thyself, therefore it may, with humble confidence, be committed to thyself.
The Messiah, the Protector and Savior of the church, is the Man of God’s right hand; he is the Arm of the Lord, for all power is given to him. In him is our strength, by which we are enabled to persevere to the end. The vine, therefore, cannot be ruined, nor can any fruitful branch perish; but the unfruitful will be cut off and cast into the fire. The end of our redemption is, that we should serve Him who hath redeemed us, and not go back to our old sins.
(From Matthew Henry’s Commentary)
- However painful our afflictions, are they a blessing from God? Whether the afflictions are physical anguish, moral distress, social bereavement, disappointment, or persecution, if they but send us in prayer to God, they are blessings in disguise. So, let us acquiesce in all the Divine proceedings that come our way. Though we should not stop praying, we ought to stop sinning. For wherever the soul of a person may turn, unless it turns to you, it clasps sorrow to itself. Even though it clings to things of beauty, if their beauty is outside God and outside the soul, it only clings to sorrow. Be thankful that whatever favors God may see fit to withhold or suspend, He bestows far more than we have deserved.
- How much are we in danger if we are left alone and abandoned to ourselves? For grace in us is very weak. Corruption in us is very active (James 1:14). There is folly enough remaining in the wisest and best of men to prevent and mislead them. The temptations which come upon us are very numerous. Every place, every condition, every employment, every relation is full of them. But such is the mercy of our God, that He will wink at many infirmities in our devotions, and will not reject the prayer of an honest heart because of some weakness in the petitioner. It must be a greater cause than all this that makes God angry at our prayers. In general, it is in sin (John 9:31; Psalm 66:18; Isaiah 1:15). God will have none of those petitions that are presented to Him with bloody hands. In particular, it is the hypocrisy of sin, or the sin of hypocrisy, that makes God so angry with our prayers. For the nearer we are to Him, the nearer do our offences torch Him; as a man more takes to heart a discourtesy done by a friend than a great injury by a stranger.
- Are you reaching out to those people who do not realized that their relationship with God had become dangerously strained? Entreat them to form the resolution that they will not go back from God. Whatever their difficulties or trials, whether pleasures allure or dangers intimidate, it is theirs to follow unmoved the great Captain of their salvation. Help them think of the recompense set before believers — the crown of life set before those who shall be faithful unto death.
- What can possibly restore the church in America to its former state? The tidal wave of apostasy sweeps each successive generation into a hundred streams of heterodoxy and increasingly egregious forms of unbelief. Israel had its idolatry; our churches are plagued with homosexuality, divorce, and materialism. Israel broke into two nations after Solomon; the church of Christ has fractured into a thousand denominations. Unless God turns the hearts of His people back to Him, the church will continue it’s degradation of faith in the Western world. Those who cannot see how this Psalm applies to the devastating conditions of the churches have a false impression of the church. They are themselves on the road to apostasy, and their hearts are consumed with pride. Truly, the destruction that has wasted the church is breathtaking. May God give us eyes to see our broken-down condition! This is a Psalm to be prayed on our knees with tears and a sincere, passionate appeal to the Shepherd of the church to turn the hearts of His church to repentance. May God move us from a man-centered orientation to a God-centered view of truth, ethics, worship and life!
- Who can pray without the vivid realization of the Divine personality, the Divine presence, and the Divine entreatability? Who will pray without feeling the strongest convictions of duty to love, serve and honor the great God? For the stability and constancy of believers are entirely owing to the grace and strength which are laid up for us in Jesus Christ (Psalm 68:28). In Him is our strength found, by which we are enabled to persevere to the end. May we be encouraged to pray that Jesus would, “Quicken us, put life into us, revive our dying interests, revive our drooping spirits, and then we will call upon His name.” We will continue to do so upon all occasions, having found it not in vain to do so. We cannot call upon God’s name in a right manner unless He quicken us; but it is He that puts life into our souls, that puts liveliness into our prayers.
- Is the Psalmist trying to make a bargain with God: “If God will return to the people, then they will return to God and not turn again?” It may seem as if the people are trying to make a bargain, but another reading is an acknowledgment that Israel cannot restore the relationship alone. Such is the complexity of the dance. The Psalm is asking God to cause a change in believers’ hearts so they can indeed experience God and be saved. They are conscious that they have gone astray from God and their duty, and have turned aside into sinful ways, and that it was this that provoked God to hide his face from them and to give them up into the hand of their enemies; and therefore they desire to begin their work at the right end: “Lord, turn us to thee in a way of repentance and reformation, and then, no doubt, thou wilt return to us in a way of mercy and deliverance.” For the best turn is not that of circumstances but of character.
- What confidence then do we have that God will answer our prayer, if He is so angry with His people? The psalmist testifies to the perseverance of a remnant and hinges it upon God’s quickening in His work of salvation. The church will persevere – that is His commitment. But if we did not believe that God will quicken, we could never commit to a lifetime of fidelity to God. This is always the testimony of the godly. We turn to God in faith, while at the very same time we acknowledge God’s sovereignty in His work of salvation.
- Are we taking to much pride in mere assent to doctrinal propositions such that it is empty knowledge without life? Is it pseudo-faith without works? Many churches may seem to be “reformed” or following the ways of Christ but see no need to reform and repent any more. As long as we live in a sinful world, there will never be a time when the church is not in need of repentance, a fresh and new turning back to God. Although most churches today would never refer to themselves as “Repentance Community Church,” every true church must at least consider itself as such.
- Can you catch a vision for the needs of our family and our church? Are you aware of the struggles of the body of our local church or even the church as a whole in this country? How does the weakness of the church affect our individual family?
- What are the sins that are addressed from the pulpit of our church? What sorts of sins could we confess and repent? What is our “repentance agenda?”
1) The word Almighty (sebaot) refers to a large number of hosts such as human armies (Exodus 7:4; Psalm 44:9), the celestial bodies such as the sun, moon and stars (Genesis 2:1; Deuteronomy 4:19; Isaiah 40:26), or heavenly creatures such as angels (Joshua 5:14; 1 Kings 22:19; Psalm 148:2). The title, the Lord Almighty, or the Lord of hosts, conveyed the idea of the sovereignty of God over all powers in the universe. It also referred to God as the God of armies, both the heavenly army (Deuteronomy 33:2; Joshua 5:14; Psalm 68:17) and the armies of Israel (1 Samuel 17:45). It occurs 486 times in the Old Testament as a special name for God that speaks of his sovereign rule over the entire created order. The Lord is the mightiest Warrior and the omnipotent King. While having military connotations, sebaot denotes more than military meanings to encompass the forces of the realms, both heavenly and earthly (1 Samuel 17:45). Thus the divine name, Lord Almighty, or the Lord of hosts, denotes the God who sovereignly reigns above all, showing himself to be ready to intervene on behalf of his people (Psalm 80:19; Psalm 84:1; Isaiah 28:5-6; Amos 4:13; Amos 5:8-9; Amos 9:5-6).
(From Holman Old Testament Commentary)
2) Most modern translations use “restore us” for hašîḇēnû, but the word means, literally, “make us turn around,” so the people are literally asking for an about-face, a turning back to God. But a turning back is not quite enough, for God also must make your face shine. The people’s turning is not enough for restored relationship; God must show up and show favor again for the relationship to be restored. The people must confess, and God must forgive.
(From Holman Old Testament Commentary)
3) In his work The Reformation in England, historian J. H. Merte d’Augbigue concludes that “the only true reformation is that which emanates from the Word of God.” So it is with every revival that inevitably leads to reformation. It will be through the ministry of God’s Word that true revival will come—or it will not come at all. What must we do today to see great revival come?
Preach the Word. Revival is spread through the preaching of God’s Word. A biblical pulpit is the fuel for the fire of revival. In the eighteenth century, Bible preachers such as George Whitefield, John Wesley, Daniel Rowland, and Howell Harris were used mightily by God in seeing great multitudes converted. Preaching fed the flame of this revival. Pray that God will raise up biblical expositors in this hour who preach the full counsel of God.
Submit to the Word. In a time of revival, there is a new humility before God’s Word. The authority of Scripture reigns in the hearts of God’s people again. There is a new submission in believers who place themselves under the Bible, desiring to do whatever it requires. Pride is dethroned, and biblical authority once again rules the day. There is a coming back to the Bible, which is a coming under the Bible.
Obey the Word. Revival always brings a new allegiance to keep the Word. It is not to be measured by fanatical emotions running high but by a new obedience to the commands of Scripture. Repentance from disobedience comes. A return to embracing the requirements of Scripture comes back in full bloom. The Word preached becomes the Word practiced.
(From Holman Old Testament Commentary)
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