Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Wednesday, December 03, 2014

"Give Ear, O Shepherd of Israel"

Advent Midweek I: The Psalms of Advent: Restore Us, O God!
“Give Ear, O Shepherd of Israel”

December 3, 2014
Text: Psalm 80:1-7

            Our theme for the midweek Advent services this year is “The Psalms of Advent.”  Each week we will meditate on the Psalm appointed for the previous Sunday.  In the lectionary, there is always a Psalm appointed in addition to the Introit, for use in Matins and Vespers or in other minor services, or even as an addition to the Divine Service.  The Psalms for the Sundays in Advent all in one way or another speak the petition, “Restore us, O God.”  We prayed that petition a couple of times in our Psalm this evening (Ps. 80:3, 7).  We’ll pray it again in the Introit this coming Sunday.  It is an Advent prayer, and it is the continual prayer of the Church.  “Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved!” (v. 3; ESV).
            Restore us, because we are lost and broken in our sins.  Restore us, because we have been taken captive by death and the devil.  Like lost sheep who have wandered away into the perils of predators and robbers, noxious weeds and poisoned water, dangerous rocks and crevices, away from the flock, away from the Shepherd.  Psalm 80 is the prayer of a penitent people who know they are lost.  It is the prayer of a nation in distress.  Israel, the Northern Kingdom, Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh… they know they have sinned.  They have turned from God.  They have lived in luxury while despising the poor.  They have made alliances with the heathen nations and worshiped their idols.  They have not feared, loved, or trusted in their God above all things.  They have persecuted their brothers and sisters in Judah.  And now they have been taken captive by Assyria.  They are lost and they know it.  They need the LORD to rescue them and restore them.  They need the LORD to hear their petitions and lead them to safety and freedom.  “Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock!” (v. 1).
            This is our prayer.  We pray that our Good Shepherd would come to rescue us from the threatening perils of our sins and save us from our enemies, the devil, the world, and our own sinful nature.  We are a nation and a people in distress.  We are a house divided.  We are politically polarized.  We always believe the other side has done us injustice, and we loot and we riot when we don’t get our way.  We sit in luxury and grumble about how poor we are.  We sacrifice our babies on the altar of hedonism and nourish our self-idolatry on the sacrament of fleshly pleasure.  We view our brothers and sisters as things to be used and abused, as meat to be consumed.  We fail to see them as dear sheep for whom our Lord Christ shed His precious blood.  We peer into that upon which we should not look.  We give ear to that to which we should not listen.  Our tongues wag to the destruction of our neighbor’s reputation, as we spread the consuming fire of gossip.  We bite and devour one another.  We push with side and shoulder and thrust at the weak with our horns (Ez. 34:21).  This is the mess of a world we live in.  This is the mess you and I are in.  We have done it to ourselves.  We have wandered off.  All we like sheep have gone astray.  We have turned, every one, to his own way (Is. 53:6).  And there is nothing we can do about it.  If we are to be rescued, if we are to be restored, the Good Shepherd must come and find us.  “Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel,” we pray.  He must hear our helpless bleating.  He must take us in His arms, hoist us over His shoulder, and bring us back into His fold.
            That is why the Father sent the Son.  Jesus is the fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophecy.  “Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out” (Ez. 34:11).  He does it in the flesh of Jesus of Nazareth.  He is God’s servant David, the Son of David, who feeds His sheep and is their shepherd (v. 23).  And the food He feeds us is the verdant pasture of His Word, the Table of His Body set in the midst of our enemies, and the overflowing Cup of His holy, precious, sin-cleansing Blood.  He lays down His life for the sheep (John 10:15), takes away from us all the guilt of our wandering away, of our selfishness and idolatry, our lovelessness and abuse, our soiled eyes and ears and tongues.  He lays down His life of His own accord.  And He has authority to take it up again (v18), which He does on the Third Day, that He may tend His sheep and give them life forever.
            Beloved, He hears your cry.  He knows your deep sadness over your sins.  He knows how grieved and afflicted you are living in a godless and unbelieving world.  He knows you have eaten the bread of tears (Ps 80:5), that you have been an object of contention for your neighbors (v. 6), that they have despised you and laughed at you and mocked your faith in Christ.  He knows about the thieves and robbers (John 10:8), the wolves and predators, the false teachers, the demons, and your own great weakness.  He knows.  So He does something about it.  He stirs up His might and He comes to save you (Ps. 80:2).  He advents.  We talked this past Sunday about the three ways that He comes to you.  He came as the Savior, born of the Virgin Mary, to be your Savior by suffering and dying on the cross, and rising again.  He comes to you even now in His Word and holy Sacraments.  Here He is present with you in a hidden way, to forgive your sins and strengthen you for daily life in this fallen world.  And He will come again, visibly, on the Last Day, to deliver you once and for all from all that now afflicts you.  So in this sense, there is a three-fold restoration, a three-fold answer to your prayer.  He has restored you by His first coming.  He is restoring you as He comes to you now in the means of grace.  He will restore you fully on the Last Day, when He raises you from the dead. 

            And if you doubt it… If you think that your enemies will finally triumph over you… If you think that your sins are too big for Jesus, that you cannot escape their guilt… If you think that God is unwilling to restore you, that He is angry with your prayers (v. 4), that He refuses to give ear, then believe what He says to you at the end of every Divine Service.  You pray in the Psalm, “let your face shine, that we may be saved!” (vv. 3, 7).  He answers in the benediction (God’s own Word!): “The Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you” (LSB 202; Num. 6:24-26).  It is not simply a prediction for the future.  It is a promise for the present, and for all eternity.  The Lord’s face is shining upon you.  It is the face of your Risen Savior.  It is the face of a Man, God in the flesh, born of the Virgin Mary.  It is the face of the Lord who stirs up His mighty power and comes.  He comes to deliver you.  He comes that you be restored.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.               

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