Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the three-year lectionary.
In our reading from Psalm 80, the Psalmist, speaking for all the people of Israel, call upon God for restoration and care. He addresses God as both the “shepherd” and the “God of Armies.” Both roles are those of protectors. The people need protection and rescue, particularly from earthly enemies. The neighboring people have been mocking Israel. It would seem that they are also mocking the God of Israel, who has set his people part but then seems to be ignoring them.
The Psalmist sees that God is not answering the prayers of his people. This is the sign of his anger against them, spurred on by their neglect of his person and nature. When we consider the troubles Israel faced throughout their history, they coincided with times when Israel developed an opinion that God was someone who needed to act according to their own ideas and plans.
God’s typical response seems to follow this logic. “If you want to believe that I am the God I have said I am, and if you realize that my actions have been consistent with what the Moses and the Prophets have said, you will find that I am the loving, patient, and caring God who will rescue you from every evil. But if you want to re-create me in your image, if you treat me like someone of your own imagination, I will allow you to see what kind of a powerless god that is. I can save you according to my righteousness or I can give you what you actually deserve. It’s up to you.”
Our Psalm, then, calls us back to trusing in God as he has revealed himself. When he seems silent, when our enemies are rising up against us and we don’t have any assurance of his presence or mercy, it’s almost certainly because we are not looking for him in the places and ways he has said he will be present. And that place to find God is not in our own heart, not in our imagination, not in national or ethnic pride. It’s in Word and Sacrament, the places he has said he would be present. If we look there, we will certainly find the rescue we need.
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