Wednesday of Pentecost 19 – Psalm 80:7-19 

Restore us, O God of hosts;
    let your face shine, that we may be saved!

You brought a vine out of Egypt;
    you drove out the nations and planted it.
You cleared the ground for it;
    it took deep root and filled the land.
10 The mountains were covered with its shade,
    the mighty cedars with its branches.
11 It sent out its branches to the sea
    and its shoots to the River.
12 Why then have you broken down its walls,
    so that all who pass along the way pluck its fruit?
13 The boar from the forest ravages it,
    and all that move in the field feed on it.

14 Turn again, O God of hosts!
    Look down from heaven, and see;
have regard for this vine,
15     the stock that your right hand planted,
    and for the son whom you made strong for yourself.
16 They have burned it with fire; they have cut it down;
    may they perish at the rebuke of your face!
17 But let your hand be on the man of your right hand,
    the son of man whom you have made strong for yourself!
18 Then we shall not turn back from you;
    give us life, and we will call upon your name!

19 Restore us, O Lord God of hosts!
    Let your face shine, that we may be saved!

The professor looked at the tears streaming down the face of the student who sat in his office. He had never failed a test before. It was not part of his experience. The student understood that he should have studied harder. He should have been more attentive class. He should have read the textbook more carefully. He should have… but he did not. Now, his GPA, scholarships, and eligibility were in jeopardy.

The professor’s impassive face hid a roiling set of emotions. He remembered his own college days, sometimes spent in pursuits which were insufficiently academic in nature. He too had borne the consequences of inadequate study and attention. It would be a simple thing, really, to say that the score did not matter so much. Had he not read somewhere that tests were poor evaluative tools? He wanted to alleviate those tears, to take away their cause. Suffering is hard to watch.

He did not follow that course. He also remembered that his own brush with failure had refocused his entire academic career. Other students had worked hard to perform on this exam and had succeeded. This young man needed to learn this lesson. The score would stand. He could work his way out of the hole he had dug. It would be hard, but he could do it.

We do not know the exact situation of this psalm. Was it written in the days of the Exile or some other affliction which God had visited upon the people of Israel? Using the same image which Isaiah so skillfully enjoined in yesterday’s text, the psalmist here gives us the words of the vineyard whose walls have been broken and which has been ravaged by the wild boar that uproots its vines. “Please” the psalmist cries, “let your face shine upon us that we may be restored.”

The human beings of planet earth in these days might make that their cry as well. We could use a little of God’s face shining upon us. I have no prophecy to share in this regard, except to proclaim that God’s love has never ceased. The professor who let his student’s failure stand did not do so out of some spite. He did it because he cared for the character and life of that student. God hears the prayers of his people today. He responds only in love. It might be unpleasant, but it will be love.

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