December 16, 2021

December 16, 2021

December 16, 2021

Pierce J. (Jack) Edwards
Appalachian District

Psalm 80:1-7 (NIV)
How Long O Lord

For the director of music. To the tune of “The Lilies of the Covenant.” Of Asaph. A psalm.
Hear us, Shepherd of Israel,
    you who lead Joseph like a flock.
You who sit enthroned between the cherubim,
    shine forth before Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh.
Awaken your might;
    come and save us.
Restore us, O God;
    make your face shine on us,
    that we may be saved.
How long, Lord God Almighty,
    will your anger smolder
    against the prayers of your people?
You have fed them with the bread of tears;
    you have made them drink tears by the bowlful.
You have made us an object of derision[b] to our neighbors,
    and our enemies mock us.
Restore us, God Almighty;
    make your face shine on us,
    that we may be saved.


Psalm 80 is psalm of national lament and is one of the very few psalms which had their origin in the northern kingdom of Israel.   The tribes of Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh represent the very heart of the northern kingdom.  The fact of the lament is foreshadowed in the words “How long O Lord?”
The Israelite remnant, those who had been exiles, had been carried as captives of Samaria and felt themselves to be under the disciplining hand of God.  For decades tears have been their food and drink.  So, the writer breathes a sigh of impatience.  How long must they endure it? How long will God demand such punishment from those of His people who have escaped the sword? 
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, I would imagine Christians and non-Christians have cried a similar statement.  “How long must we endure this pandemic?”  “How long must we wear a mask in worship?”  “How long must we live in the fear of the loss of a loved one who might die from COVID-19?”    There may have been many other times in our journey of life that we have cried out, “How long O Lord?”  I know I have personally uttered those words when I have felt helpless and maybe even hopeless at times.  
In verse 7, the writer cries out “Restore us, O God Almighty; make your face to shine upon us, that we might be saved.”   This same plea is made in two other places in the latter verses of the Psalm.   He moves from the distress of the present and turns in sharp and heart-relieving contrast to the wonderful early history of his people.  He looks back certainly through decades, possibly through centuries, that have elapsed and prays for the restoration of lost splendor and for the saving favor of God.  His purpose is to present stimuluses that will move God to intervene to help His people, and it is addressed directly to Him.  
Sometimes when we are crying out “How long O Lord?” we need to remember the history of how God has intervened in our lives before and delivered us when we were facing some of the most difficult times in our faith journey.   God heard our laments then just as He hears our laments now.  In fact, He is always ready to hear our laments maybe before we are ready to offer them in prayer.
The next time we find ourselves praying “How long O Lord?” maybe we need to pray the same prayer the writer of Psalm 80 prayed: “Restore us, O God Almighty; make your face to shine upon us, that we might be saved.”
After we have prayed such a prayer, we must wait on the Lord to answer.  Our next prayer might be to ask God to give us patience while we wait for his saving and restoring grace.


Almighty God, we might ask often “how long?”  Speak to us again and remind us of “how often.”  Not only that, but restore us, O God Almighty, and turn our hearts and our faith back to you.  We pray this in the name of Christ our Lord.  Amen.