Prayer for the Deliverance of the Church.
To the chief musician upon Shoshannim-Eduth, to be rendered in public worship according to the melody “Lilies a Testimony,” a psalm of Asaph, the hymn referring to the testimony of Jehovah before His people and speaking in a prophetic strain of the tribulation and deliverance of the Church of God. V. 1. Give ear, lending His ear in the attitude of most careful attention. O Shepherd of Israel, Jehovah being the true Shepherd and Protector of the spiritual Israel, Thou that leadest Joseph, who here represents all believers, like a flock, Is. 40, 11; Thou that dwellest between the cherubim, the place above the mercy-seat where God revealed Himself to His people, Ex. 25, 22; Num. 7, 89, shine forth, making known His glory. V. 2. Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh, these three tribes, associated also Num. 2, 18-24, being named as representatives of Israel, in marching next to the Ark of the Covenant under the leadership of Jehovah, stir up Thy strength, which now seemed so sluggish, and come and save us, bringing assistance and salvation to His people. V. 3. Turn us again, bringing them back, delivering them out of all the misery with which they were contending, O God, and cause Thy face to shine, in the glory of His loving-kindness and tender mercies; and we shall be saved, this being the refrain sung by the congregation of believers for their own consolation. V. 4. O Lord God of hosts, the Ruler and General of all the heavenly forces, whom He freely used in His service, how long wilt Thou be angry, literally, “smoke,” said of indignant snorting, against the prayer of Thy people? during their prayer, not heeding their prayer, their appeals not being able to penetrate the smoking clouds of wrath with which the Lord had surrounded Himself. V. 5. Thou feedest them with the bread of tears, they were unable to eat, their tears were their only food, Ps. 42, 4; and givest them tears to drink in great measure, all this being Oriental imagery to emphasize the severity of their affliction. V. 6. Thou makest us a strife unto our neighbors, the object of their taunts and attacks; and our enemies laugh among themselves, making mockery of Israel’s plight. Therefore the Church’s pleading cry sounds forth once more, v. 7. Turn us again, O God of hosts, and cause Thy face to shine, and we shall be saved. The believers now bring additional arguments to stress the need of speedy assistance. V. 8. Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt, the congregation of the Lord; Thou hast cast out the heathen, expelling them out of Canaan, the land promised to Israel, and planted it, giving to His children the country where He expected them to live and flourish chiefly in their capacity as His Church. V. 9. Thou preparedst room before it, providing sufficient space for physical expansion, and didst cause it to take deep root, Israel being established firmly also as a nation, with the idea of the Lord’s people foremost, and it filled the land. V. 10. The hills were covered with the shadow of it, and the boughs thereof were like the goodly cedars, Israel, as the Church of God, flourishing in its country, which is so largely mountainous, like the cedars of Lebanon. V. 11. She sent out her boughs unto the sea, for the Israelites occupied the land down to the Mediterranean Sea in the West, and her branches unto the river, the northeastern boundary being the Euphrates. V. 12. Why hast Thou, then, broken down her hedges, the picture of a vineyard with its sheltering hedge being retained, so that all they which pass by the way do pluck her? the hedge having been removed, any passer-by felt himself entitled to step in and rob. V. 13. The boar out of the wood, one of the neighboring nations, doth waste it, cutting it down with his tusks, and the wild beast of the field, the reference here probably being to the nomad tribes of Arabia, doth devour it. The entire country was helpless before the inroads of the enemies, and the Church was the chief sufferer. V. 14. Return, turning back His eyes which had been turned away in anger, we beseech Thee, O God of hosts, with His unlimited resources; look down from heaven, and behold, and visit this vine, once more taking an active interest in its welfare, supporting it in its present difficulty; v. 15. and the vineyard, the garden of the Church, which Thy right hand, emblem of almighty power, hath planted, and the branch that Thou madest strong for Thyself, protecting its stem, the stock of the Church, which He had chosen for the honor of His name, for the spread of His glory. V. 16. It is burned with fire, it is cut down, the reference being rather to the host of the enemy, which would be utterly destroyed by the avenging hand of the Lord; they perish at the rebuke of Thy countenance, this being the definite expectation of the believers. V. 17. Let Thy hand, in favor and protection, be upon the man of Thy right hand, supported by God’s almighty power, upon the son of man whom Thou madest strong for Thyself, the reference being either to the Church as personified in each believer, or to the great Son of Man, the Messiah, Himself; for the prophetic character of the psalm is very marked. V. 18. So will not we go back from Thee, never forsaking the Lord of their salvation. Quicken us, blessing them with new spiritual life, and we will call upon Thy name, proclaiming the Lord as He has revealed Himself in His Word. With this assurance, which must be found in every prayer, the believers send up their appeal for the third time: v. 19. Turn us again, O Lord God of hosts, cause Thy face to shine, and we shall be saved. Such a prayer will bring to the believers the quickening grace, which enables them to persevere in the right worship.