Pastor’s Bible Reading Notes – Sept. 4/17

Introduction: It is important as we begin a new school year to understand that the church of Christ on earth has an ongoing duty to stand in the gap to pray for our nation, our communities, and our neighbors (in their need for repentance and conversion) as well as to pray for our covenant children’s future usefulness in the service of Jesus Christ. Intercession is a means by which we can be used to ask God to send revival to our families and in our nation. May God use Psalm 80 in this week’s notes as a biblical challenge to us to pray for revival as a work of God’s sovereign grace, sent down on God’s people when the days are evil.

 

Monday: read Psalm 80:3, 7& 19. Psalm 80, with its three-fold plea for God to return with the light of His forgiving favor, causing “His face to shine” on His people anew, is a Psalm that prays for revival. Dr. Joel Beeke writes to challenge us to pray for such revival with these words:

 

“When the tears of God’s people flow, they can remind themselves that Christ is the divine shepherd of His chosen flock, present with them as an enthroned king by the Holy Spirit. He is the LORD God of Hosts, the all-powerful Commander of all creation. His face shines upon believers, indeed shines within their hearts, through the Gospel (2 Cor. 4:6). They are God’s vineyard, and Christ Himself is the vine whose sap gives life to all branches that abide in Him (John 15:1-8), for He has joined Himself to us by taking our human nature as the Son of Man so that we might by joined to Him by His Spirit.

 

Therefore, when the church suffers defeat, believers should call upon Christ to revive them so that they may bear the fruit God desires. How often are you praying for the revival of Christ’s church? How can this Psalm help you to pray?”

 

Amen. May God hear our cries for Him to restore us and our families to true godliness and a faith that shows itself in holy living!

 

Tuesday: Exodus 32:32; Psalm 80:1-4 & Ephesians 4:30. This Psalm partakes of the spirit of all true intercessors by exuding a spirit of grief at the sins of God’s people. In this way, the Psalmist aligns his hearts and affections with the ‘Ephesians 4:30’ heart of the Holy Spirit, who can be grieved by our sin. Consider for example how the Holy Spirit inspired Moses to pray “blot me out of your book” in Exodus 32:32, as he prayed for the punishment to fall on him, instead of on Israel after the sin with the golden calf! In the same way, Asaph cries out for Israel as they suffer God’s chastisement for their sin with the words, “How long will your anger smolder against the prayers of your people?

 

May God hear our cries for those who need to be delivered from the bondage and the destruction which sin produces in their lives.

 

Wednesday: read Psalm 80:1-7. Psalm 80 was written by a member of the Levite family of Asaph who served in Jerusalem’s choir for generations. These “Asaphites” had the comfort of being securely settled in Zion with God’s Temple as their daily place of joyful service. They followed the worship laid down by David – including singing the Psalms of David. In the days of Hezekiah King of Judah, it is recorded that Israel sang the songs of “Asaph the seer” (2 Chronicles 29:30)! Yet, this does not mean that the Asaphites would forget those who had been sent into exile when this Psalm was written.  Is it not beautiful that Asaph and his descendants did not let their privileges and religious standing dull their compassion for the lost? Psalm 80 teaches us the importance of weeping in prayer for those who have “gone into exile,” as indeed the 10 tribes had done before this Psalm was written!  

 

Thursday: read Psalm 80:1-7 & 13. Asaph’s grief is especially acute because he grieves for those in exile who now were barred from the great privilege of worship.  Perhaps the descendant of Asaph who penned Psalm 80 was originally a Levite from one of the towns in Northern Israel – who now served in Jerusalem after the exile of all his neighbors from the northern ten tribes. Whatever his birthplace, though, it is clear that he grieves for the invasion of the land of Israel by the “wild boars from the forest” in Ps. 80:13 – a description traditionally understood by many to refer to the Assyrians who deported the northern ten tribes in 722 B.C. (In fact, the title of this Psalm in the Septuagint actually says: “… concerning the Assyrian.”) In other words, this Psalm expresses the grief of the godly in Judah who mourned the loss of their brothers to Assyrian exile – much like, for example, the prophets Amos and Hosea also grieve the sin of the ten tribes and their eventual banishment from the Promised Land.

 

Meditate and Pray: Ask the Lord to use the role of worship in your church’s life to expand your heart in terms of compassion and even tears for the lost. Just as the joy of the Lord expanded Asaph’s heart in worship, so his expanded heart grieved with compassion for those who had lost this great privilege and were scattered as aliens throughout the Assyrian empire. May we likewise go to the Lord in prayer, mourning for the exiles who go through life “without God and without hope in the world.” Amen.

 

Friday: read Psalm 80:1-7. In this Psalm, “Joseph” (“Joseph” meaning the two northern tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh who were the most numerous northern tribes and taken to be the leaders of Israel) is mourned as a lost son of God. How different than many in Judah and Jerusalem who, in their complacency and satisfaction in God’s blessings and in their own skillful worship, do not grieve over the lost at all. As Amos 6:1, 5-7 puts it:

 

Woe to you who are complacent in Zion… You strum away on your harps like David…  You drink wine by the bowlful and use the finest lotions, but you do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph…

 

Meditate and Pray: “Lord, give us hearts of love which persevere in loving those who are far from you. Help us to realize that, in the Gospel, the church is to be for the salvation of the lost and not for our comfort and benefit alone.”

 

Sat/Sun: read Psalm 80:8-19. To have a real, bleeding, weeping and praying compassion for the lost, such as the author of Psalm 80 shows us, it is necessary to appreciate Scripture’s depiction of life without God. Only then will we be moved to extend ourselves in prayer for the lost – whether the lost tribes of Israel or the lost nations of men. To help us be stirred up by the predicament of the lost, consider the description of their condition in Psalm 80:8ff, which can be summed up in one phrase: Living with the regret of wasted days of blessing.

For those among God’s people who were only followers of God outwardly, and who would eventually be exiled, they, nevertheless, enjoyed the blessings of Ps. 80:8-11. They experienced the goodness of God as His eye “watched over” that well-watered Promised Land of milk and honey. But now it was all lost. One can well imagine the regrets of the exiles after so many years of ignoring God’s grace in this way. No wonder Jeremiah mourned with words which expressed (just like Asaph in Ps. 80), not only his grief over the exiles’ lost condition, but also the terrible regrets of lives wasted (Jeremiah 8:19-21):

 

Listen to the cry of my people from a land far away… “Why have they provoked me to anger with their images, with their worthless foreign idols?”

“The harvest is past, the summer has ended, and we are not saved.”

Since my people are crushed, I am crushed; I mourn, and horror grips me.”

 

So as we sum up Psalm 80, let us make no mistake: the consequences of turning from God are permanent and lasting. Though we pray that God’s saving work of grace will indeed triumph in every life exposed to the Gospel message, we must accept that God ordains that His justice triumph over those who implacably refuse Him. Psalm 80:16 speaks of this Divine vengeance and of the role the Psalmist takes as he appeals to God’s justice in the ESV translation of this verse:

They have burned it (your vine) with fire; they have cut it down;
may they perish at the rebuke of your face!

Amen! May God give us the hope and love for our King Jesus to rejoice in the coming day, when God the Father will indeed make all His enemies Christ’s footstool (Matthew 22:41-44), and when Christ’s face will indeed look upon His foes and their destruction!!

 

May the Lord now help us to sing hymn # 349 with new appreciation:

 

O Thou Who the Shepherd of Israel art,
Give ear to our pray’r and Thy favor impart;
Thou Leader of Joseph, Thou Guide of his way,
’Mid cherubim dwelling, Thy glory display.
The axe hews it down; it is burned in the fire;
They perish, rebuked in Thy terrible ire.
O lay then Thy hand on the Man of Thy might,
The Son of Man made to stand strong in Thy sight.

No more shall we wander, delighting in shame;
Revive us, O Lord, we will call on Thy Name.
O Lord God of Hosts, us restore to Thy grace,
And then we shall live in the light of Thy face.