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 to our neighbors, and our enemies mock us. Restore us, God Almighty; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved. You transplanted a vine from Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it. You cleared the ground for it, and it took root and filled the land. The mountains were covered with its shade, the mighty cedars with its branches. Its branches reached as far as the Sea, its shoots as far as the River. Why have you broken down its walls so that all who pass by pick its grapes? Boars from the forest ravage it, and insects from the fields feed on it. Return to us, God Almighty! Look down from heaven and see! Watch over this vine, the root your right hand has planted, the son you have raised up for yourself. Your vine is cut down, it is burned with fire; at your rebuke your people perish. Let your hand rest on the man at your right hand, the son of man you have raised up for yourself. Then we will not turn away from you; revive us, and we will call on your name. Restore us, Lord God Almighty; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved. – Psalm 80:4-19
This passage contains an interesting reference to tears that I am not sure I understand…”You have fed them with the bread of tears; you have made them drink tears by the bowlful”. This seems to be describing hardships that accompanied the Israelites in Egypt and the Promised Land. The blessings came with tears. I suspect the tears were a result of the “soul sickness” associated with the stubborn rebellion that was the hallmark of the Israelites up to this point.
The passage then turns a corner from the bitter water of tears to restoration through Reflections of Him – the Son of Man. In this verse the psalmist answers the question I posed in a post a few days ago…Iron Man or Son of Man? The prophetic answer provided here is clearly the Son of Man and the restoration that He will bring. When I think of restoration I think of antique furniture, rivers damaged by humans; restored relationships; and people whose souls are disconnected from the spring that is God.
Restoration of furniture is actually very rewarding. I remember purchasing a homely desk at a garage sale when I was in graduate school. We could tell from the chipped paint and the density that it was made of solid oak. We bought that homely desk covered in thick paint and took it home. Over the next few weeks we stripped off all the old paint to reveal an amazing oak desk that we own to this day…restoration. In the case of restoring furniture the end goal is relatively straightforward. In my work with rivers restoration is a common goal, but what the goal looks like is not always so clear.
As a geomorphologist part of my career has been researching human impacts from dams and ways to restore rivers. There are many challenges to attempting to restore a river. One of the biggest challenges is discerning what the condition of the river was prior to it being altered. If one is to restore a river one needs to know what the target is for that restoration; otherwise one can never know when one has finished. As complicated and difficult as rivers are to restore relationships are even harder.
As my wife astutely pointed out to me, restoring relationships involves two or more people; and each of the players has emotions and ideas about how the relationship is supposed to look and function. Successful restoration of relationships requires really good communication and compromise to arrive at the same end goal of a restored relationship. In some ways this is true of our relationship with God except that God has the advantage of knowing us better than we know ourselves. He has the endpoint clearly in view – a new creation. We have the disadvantage of having to communicate with God in a language not native to us, soul to soul prayer; and through a veil that makes everything a bit “fuzzy”.
Fortunately God is a God who see us for who we are and what we can become. A God who wants to carry us like a son or daughter. Just like the old oak desk covered in paint God needs to strip us down to the soul by removing all the sin and baggage that we have accumulated. This process of restoration can be hard and sometimes feels like our skin is being torn from our bodies, but that is what is needed for us to become the new creation God sees in us.
Prayer: Restore us, Lord God Almighty; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved.