God’s story of salvation for the world is the story of an all out rescue mission. We can see the gospel hinted at the beginning of Psalm 80:
Hear us, Shepherd of Israel,
you who lead Joseph like a flock.
You who sit enthroned between the cherubim,
shine forth before Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh.
Awaken your might; come and save us.
This is a prayer for the great Shepherd of Israel, to come out from the holy of holies and get His hands dirty. To enter into the brokenness of the world and make it right. To come like the mighty right hand of God’s justice and lift us out of desperate struggle we find ourselves in. This psalm is a prayer that reached far beyond the imagination of the Psalmist. It pointed us to Yeshua, a name shared by Jesus with Joshua, and which means means “rescuer” or “deliverer” and ultimately to the salvation embodied in Jesus Christ. It pointed us to God’s great story of redemption that was nothing less than the God “enthroned between the cherubim” awakened in a human body and coming to save us in the flesh. This prayer was answered, but not without a lot of hoping and waiting for the fullness of God’s plan to be revealed.
This advent, an advent celebrated by a world in turmoil, may our circumstances do us the kindness of helping us recognize our need for God, our longing for God to save us in one form or another. The psalmist references the story of Joseph in the Genesis. He says “you who lead Joseph like a flock” All throughout the Old Testament story of Joseph he has some pretty big setbacks along the way. He gets thrown in a hole, threatened with death, sold into slavery, thrown in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Yet God is behind the scenes pulling the strings, putting Joseph into a position of power he never would have imagined for himself.
Near the end of his life, Joseph is reconciled with his brothers who sold him into slavery. He has this moment of revelation where he realizes that God’s hand was behind it the whole time, that all of this was orchestrated by God to save his family from famine… He says to his brothers, what you intended for evil, God intended for good.
Having God as our shepherd does not mean that nothing bad will ever happen to us. It doesn’t mean we will never lament, or shake our fist at God. But it does mean that in the end we will see God’s purposes in it. We will see how God used even the lowest points in our lives for His glory. Salvation isn’t just about having arrived. Sometimes it means slowly moving in the right direction, but moving with God rather than against Him. The Psalmist also points to the future glory of Jesus. He writes:
“Let your hand rest on the man at your right hand,
the son of man you have raised up for yourself.
Then we will not turn away from you;”
This future son of man who sits at the right hand of the Father is Jesus, the one who saves that would be lifted up before a watching world. He would come under the power and authority of God Himself and save His people once and for all. He would bring a salvation we would not turn away from… He would come and do for us what we could not do for ourselves. This is the big story of Christmas. The gospel is not only about the resurrection, it is about the incarnation. It is the story of God stepping into human history to save a people crying out for redemption.
It is easy for us to lose our focus, to drift away from what matters. To misplace our hope in hopeless things, yet God, like a shepherd, nudges us back into the right direction. He restores and revives us. He challenges us to become fully alive and fully recreated in God’s image. But He will not give if we don’t ask, He will not open the door if we are unwilling to knock. If we pretend we have no need for a savior, how can we expect to be ready for the rescue? As Augustine puts it, “our hearts are restless until they rest in Him.”
As we wait for God’s fulfillment this Advent, do still we look for the Lord’s face to shine on us? Where are you still restless because you are not resting in Him? Part of our preparation for God’s ultimate arrival is to acknowledge our need, and not in a way where we throw up our hands in despair…but where we turn again to the Shepherd of our souls and once again say, “Come Lord Jesus. Come and save us.”
PS Merry Christmas in advance from all the Tower family!