Psalm 80 is a cry for help. When this was written, it was clear that the people of Israel were in a desperate situation. Several writers believe that Psalm 80 was written shortly after the fall of Judah, and the destruction of Jerusalem. In their mind, all seemed lost. The great kingdom forged in the days of Saul, David and Solomon was long gone. Then the northern kingdom of Israel was destroyed. Finally, the same fate happened to Judah. The depth of the writer’s anguish is clearly revealed in his words. “Oh, give ear, Shepherd of Israel…stir up you power and come save us!” ”Oh God, restore us… and we will be saved.” “O LORD God of hosts, How long will You be angry with the prayer of Your people?”
As heart wrenching as the words are, the reader may ask, “Well, what did you expect! Look at your history! You were warned! What were you thinking?” Yes, even a brief reading of the history of Israel in the Old Testament shows that the people of Israel were stubborn, fickle, and consistently unfaithful. Message after message was delivered by the prophets to the people, yet that message was ignored, and, as promised, judgment finally came to them.
Why on earth didn’t they listen? Why didn’t they pay attention to the words of Moses, the writings of David and Solomon, and down through all the prophets? “If I had lived then, I would have been faithful!” It would be so easy to dismiss the Israelites. After all, even God called them “stiff-necked”. But then, there are other warnings that are also given in the Bible.
“For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and WILL THEN REPAY EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS.” Matt. 16:27; “For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be”. Matt. 24:37-38 “But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world…Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels;” Matt. 25:31-34, 41
There are scores of passages that WARN that the Lord WILL return. Judgment will happen. Those faithful to God through Jesus Christ will be saved, and those that are not will be lost. These words are not harder to understand than the warnings in the Old Testament.
Yet, how many people actually do know and do not pay attention? How many Christians do not give their relationship with God the importance it deserves? At the time Psalm 80 was written, the future looked dark indeed, but a remnant of Israel would survive, and many would return to the land of Israel and Jerusalem. Israel was given another opportunity to obey God.
After their return from captivity, Israel never did fall back into paganism. It seemed that they had indeed decided to follow God’s Will, but eventually, the leadership of Israel would reject the Son of God, and oppose the Good News of Jesus Christ. But, in spite of their efforts, the message of hope and promise – the Good News – would spread around the world.
Like the days of old, people are busy going about their lives, and the words, the message, of the Bible begins to fade, because so many other things demand their attention. Sadly, when some say, “I’m a Christian”, it carries no more meaning than belonging to a community organization or trade association. But the reality is that this world, this life will not last. There will be an ending.
Now, today, there is still time to embrace the invitation and life that God has offered. For those that have make a genuine commitment, God has promised blessings – just like Israel was promised blessings IF they stayed faithful to God. Israel was also warned that they would be cursed if they did not stay faithful to the Lord (Deut. 28). Likewise, the New Testament is very clear that one day, the offer will be withdrawn. One day an accounting WILL occur. But this time, there will be no second chances. The Lord will return for His own, and the rest will be cast out. Jesus said there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
In light of this, if a person has not obeyed the Gospel, or has not made a real commitment to the Lord God, then the same questions apply: “Well, what did you expect! Look at your history! You were warned! What were you thinking?” <James Shelburn>