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Devotional

Psalm 80

God the Gardener

In Psalm 80, we see that Jesus is the tender gardener and son of man who will protect and rescue his people.

What's Happening?

God sent the nation of Assyria to destroy Israel’s northern capital in response to their idolatry and evil (Psalm 80:1-2). The psalmist Asaph sees the weeping of his people and the rubble of the city. He imagines God’s face smoldering in anger while the surrounding nations mock Israel for trusting the God who destroyed them (Psalm 80:4-6). Three different times, Asaph desperately asks God to turn his face towards his weakened people and restore them to their former glory in his kindness and love (Psalm 80:3, 7, 19).

Before the destruction, God has been like a loving gardener to his people. He transplanted the vine of Israel out of slavery in Egypt. He cleared the soil of their enemies and planted them in the land he promised. He built walls to protect them. And under his care their vine multiplied, spread, and covered all of Israel up to her borders on the sea (Psalm 80:8-11). And historically, all this happened under the leadership of King David. But now the walls David built are broken (Psalm 80:12). Wild animals root and ravage through their underbrush. Locusts consume all that’s green (Psalm 80:13). So Asaph begs God to become Israel’s gardener and caretaker once again, and to not so quickly abandon the vine he has so lavishly and carefully cultivated (Psalm 80:14-16).

Specifically, Asaph prays that God’s hand will raise up a “son of man” to sit at God’s right hand (Psalm 80:17). Asaph hopes that if God appoints a son of man—a human—and raises him to sit on a throne next to his, God's people will follow his godly leadership away from their evil and idolatry (Psalm 80:18). And more than that, Asaph hopes that when a son of man is raised up, God’s people will finally see God’s face shining in kindness and love towards them (Psalm 80:19).

Where’s the Gospel?

Psalm 80 gives the people of Israel two hopes that are actually the same. The first is that God will be their gardener once again and restore the vine of Israel. And the second is that God will raise a human, a son of man, to sit at his right hand in the heavens. Both of these hopes are fulfilled in Jesus.

The vine of Psalm 80 was not simply a metaphor for Israel in general, but of King David and his dynasty in particular (Isaiah 11:1; Psalm 80:17). When the leaders of David’s dynasty followed God, Israel followed their example and flourished like the vine in the psalm. But when the kings after David chose idolatry and evil, Israel decayed. So for God to restore Israel after it has been destroyed, he must raise another son of David to lead God’s people into godliness and flourishing once again. But there is a problem this psalm never resolves. Even if the line of David is revived, no human, no son of man, is qualified to sit at God’s right hand.

But that problem is resolved in Jesus. Jesus was God born human (John 1:14). Not only a true son of man born from a woman but also a true descendent and son of David (Matthew 1:1-16). Jesus was the vine and son that Asaph was praying for. And in Jesus, God fully turns his face towards his weakened people. God’s own eyes saw and experienced their suffering and desolation. And in his kindness and love, he determined to restore and save them beyond their former glory (Hebrews 1:3). 

Just as Israel was destroyed for her evil and idolatry, Jesus was destroyed and buried for the sins of his people. He was mocked, as Israel was, for trusting the God who would let him hang on a cross and die (Matthew 27:39-41). And in fact, God turned his face away from Jesus as he did to Israel in Asaph’s day (Matthew 27:45-46). But just as the psalmist hoped God would restore Israel, God restored Jesus to life in his resurrection. Now Jesus, the Son of Man, is seated in heaven as a true son of God and son of David. God’s smoldering anger at our evil and idolatry has been crucified. God’s face shines on us in love and affection. And Jesus now leads his people away from evil and idolatry forever. 

See For Yourself

I pray that the Holy Spirit will open your eyes to see the God who restores his people. And may you see Jesus as the face of God come to save his people.

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