Psalms #80

‘God, Come Back’

LISTEN (v.1-3)

Is it well?
In a few brief minutes of watching the news there are several contemporary reminders that all is not well. The news of the past few days brought that home vividly.  Scenes of people in vehicles fleeing Yellowknife on the one highway out of town.  People forced to evacuate neighbourhoods in Kelowna.   Many of these good folks may be crying for God in their midst.  Where is God in the midst of all this? Creation cries out. People cry out. Our souls cry out, as we too wonder where God is. Does God not see? Does God not hear the cries of God's people?

A DIET OF TEARS  (v.4-7)

After reading the words of the psalmist, I paused and looked at the world around me with new eyes, with a different lens that embraced the angst of the psalmist looking at the pain of a suffering community. Her words bring to mind an unnamed truth, unpleasant realities that provide very few words to describe the angst brought on by community suffering. Has your heart ever been so burdened that you had no words to explain how you were feeling, and wanted to cry out in anguish?


The images of God as shepherd and vine-keeper were images the people cherished. Both were caring, nurturing images.  However, both images evoked a tenderness and concern they were not experiencing. Where was God? Why was God no longer present?  God had planted a vine with deep roots and tended it carefully.  The community had flourished.  Yet now it has been trampled and desecrated.  The image of the wild boar wreaking havoc is vivid and even frightening.  Given their experience with the presence of the Divine in the past, is it no wonder they were confused with what they were experiencing in their present?

RESTORE US, O GOD  (v.17-19)

"Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved" (vv.3, 7, 19). The cry for restoration occurs three times.
The psalmist’s prayer of ‘how long’ is never answered.  Nevertheless, she prays in hope and confidence, for she knows only God can do the work of restoration and salvation.


Horatio Spafford's "It is Well with My Soul"  is familiar to many of us:
When peace, like a river, attends my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, you have taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

The story is told that Spafford wrote the hymn following two major traumatic events in his life. The first was the Chicago Fire of 1871 which brought him to financial ruin. The second was the death of his four daughters who died at sea when the ship they were on with his wife collided with another ship as they crossed the Atlantic Ocean. When he heard the news, he booked a ship to Liverpool to meet his wife.  It is said that Stafford wrote the hymn as his ship passed the spot in the Atlantic where his daughters lost their lives.  This seems to me to be Stafford’s own version of the psalm of lament. Stafford does not question, he manages to find peace in knowing God is present even in his moment of grief and suffering.

(A side note:  Claire and Wally asked their congregation to sing this song at their farewell service before they left for an MCC assignment in war-torn Vietnam in 1973). - It is well with my soul