By Bob Bunn
While Book III contains threads of hope, it is often labeled as the “dark” book of the Psalter because of its focus on lament.
Sometimes, life feels completely out of control. For example, I literally lost control of my car on the interstate a few years ago.
I was driving to work early one morning. It was windy and rainy. A burst of wind caught the side of my car, and, on the damp road, it started to hydroplane. When I tried to correct my drift, things only got worse. I went into a spin with the car heading toward the concrete barrier that separated the northbound and southbound lanes.
It was one of those moments when time went into slow motion. I remember thinking, I’m going to hit that wall. I wonder if it will be the front end or the back end.
It was the back end.
Thankfully, no other cars were around as I skidded from one side of the highway to the other. And thankfully, the damage was “limited” to the bumper and trunk area on the driver’s side. The car was drivable and, ultimately, fixable. But it needed severe repair.
The people of ancient Israel probably understood that feeling. Throughout their history, they were often spiritual wrecks. The Israelites had seen God do so many incredible things over time, but they had consistently drifted. Too many times, they traded the God who parted the Red Sea, gave them manna, and conquered their enemies for their own ideas of purpose and meaning in life.
During those times, the nation’s worship leaders wrote songs like Psalm 80.
At its heart, Psalm 80 represents a prayer to God. It begins by acknowledging who He is (Psalm 80:1–2). Next, it confesses the people’s intense need for Him (v.3). Because of their sin, the Israelites had again drifted from God. They needed Him to step in and fix the damage done. Through the psalmist, a man named Asaph, they pleaded for restoration.
Three times in the psalm, Asaph begged God to “restore us” and to let His “face shine on us” (vv.3,7,19). The first phrase points toward the Lord’s renewal, while the second reflects His loving favor. God longed to offer both, but the people had to repent. Without confession, no restoration would be possible. If they would humble themselves, though, they would “be saved.”
Most of us have experienced the fear and pain that comes from hitting a wall. We’re all too familiar with the aftermath of a spiritual crash and wondering if the pieces can ever be put back together again. Sometimes, we might question God’s ability to restore our lives. More often, though, we question His desire. We assume that we’ve gone too far this time—that we’ve finally reached the limit of His grace.
Thankfully, that’s never the case. God is always able and always willing to restore. He longs to save people today just as much as He did when Asaph prayed on behalf of ancient Israel. No matter what we have done, we are never beyond repair.
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