Psalm 80:1-2 - Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, You who lead Joseph like a flock. You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth. Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh, stir up Your might and come to save us!
"Stir up Your might and come to save us!" We are very familiar with that kind of prayer. Struggling with illness, loss, and grief, or worried about troubles with family or work, we plead with God in much the same way: "Lord, come to save me!" This psalm may reflect the prayers of Israelites who were under siege by Assyrian troops. After King Solomon died, the twelve tribes of Israel were divided into two kingdoms. The northern tribes, including Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh as mentioned in this psalm, formed the kingdom of Israel. The southern kingdom was called Judah. The king of Assyria besieged and conquered the northern kingdom. The Israelites were taken captive and exiled to Assyria. The verses of this psalm may be their plea for deliverance. They knew the Shepherd of Israel cared for His people, but now wolves surrounded them. They needed the Shepherd!
We also need the Shepherd. Israel looked back to their past to see how God had cared for them; they called on Him in prayer, seeking His help once again. We read about Israel's history in the pages of Holy Scripture to see how God led Joseph "like a flock." The history of God's mighty acts of power shapes our faith and life in Christ. We see that we too must place our trust in the Shepherd of Israel: "For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope" (Romans 15:4).
The Israelites suffered captivity and exile because they "had sinned against the LORD their God" (2 Kings 17:7b). Israel longed and prayed for the Messiah, the Shepherd of Israel, to come to save them. When the right time came, Jesus the Shepherd, the Son of God, was born in Bethlehem; the long-promised Savior had come! He is the Good Shepherd who came to lay down His life for His sheep, to suffer and die to atone for the sins of the world. He came to set free all who are besieged by sin and Satan, all who are held captive to death. As foretold in the psalm, the Shepherd of Israel came to save us!
As we prepare to celebrate Jesus' first advent, His birth in Bethlehem, we also look forward to the day of His return, His second Advent. On the Last Day, we will see Jesus returning in glory as King and Judge. The Good Shepherd will come again to gather His flock to Himself forever. This ancient prayer from the psalm is our Advent prayer: "O Shepherd of Israel ... stir up Your might and come to save us!"
WE PRAY: Come, Lord Jesus! Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Carol Geisler.
1. How does the God of Israel differ from the gods of Babylon and Assyria?
2. How does Scripture indicate that God is concerned with His people on a human level?
3. How does Christmas reveal so beautifully God's personally involvement in each of our lives?
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