by Katie Pearson
“Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock. You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth. Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh, stir up your might and come to save us! Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved! O Lord God of hosts, how long will you be angry with your people's prayers? You have fed them with the bread of tears and given them tears to drink in full measure. You make us an object of contention for our neighbors, and our enemies laugh among themselves. Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved!” - Psalm 80:1-7
What a year it has been for the people of God as we witness the entire world struggling in profound ways with issues that are far from being resolved. The Israelites had different enemies, but nonetheless experienced communal suffering. Psalm 80 is a beautiful reminder that as adopted and redeemed members of God’s family, we don’t struggle alone; not only do we have each other to offer support and encouragement, we have a Shepherd at the helm.
While this Psalm refers to the horrific experience of the Israelites being attacked by the Assyrians, the deeper layer of suffering is evident in their plea for God to “shine forth.” In other words, in the most dire circumstances, their Shepherd King is absent. In his anger he has withdrawn his presence leaving a spiritual vacancy that we can only imagine on this side of the cross. Their appeal to him from this perspective is heart wrenching—will he extend mercy and return to redeem Israel?
Because of Christmas and the cross, we know that regardless of whether or not we are immersed in darkness, God is anything but absent. His mercies are new every morning with the rising of the sun. While this season might bring up more questions than answers related to the circumstances surrounding the pandemic, climate change, politics and all else, or it might be laden with overwhelming grief for those who have lost loved ones, the light has overcome the darkness. In fact, in Jesus there is no darkness.
I’m in Seattle where heavy clouds often block the sunshine for days on end, but that doesn’t mean the sun is not there. While it looks impenetrable, the thick layer offers no resistance to the airplanes rising up and out of the city into the brilliant light. Whatever it is that threatens our hope, it helps to remember that our Glorious Father is always there, and one day soon the clouds will part.
What feels impenetrable in your life this season? What seems to be preventing God’s light from shining on you and yours? Regardless of what you are facing today, cling to the words of the prophet Isaiah that provide us with an eternal perspective: “Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end” (Isaiah 60:20, NIV).
Christ has come to us, and through him we have nothing to fear and everything to rejoice in. He is our peace, our hope, and our promise. To him be the glory forever!
Shepherd of our lives and our hearts, may your everlasting light shine brightly, guiding us through the darkness with joy, hope and overflowing gratitude today and always! Amen. We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Could you use some hope right now? Join Peter’s first audience—“elect exiles” undergoing persecution—and experience the apostle’s powerful call to follow Jesus in the midst of life’s challenges, knowing your Living Hope is not a distant one, but a daily, glorious, life-giving reality! This unique six-week small group Bible study, A Living Hope: A Study of 1 Peter, helps you uncover the priceless promises written specifically to the struggling and the hurting, with pastoral gentleness and bold confidence for the future. This study of 1 Peter will help you become utterly convinced that Jesus is the only sure, true, incorruptible, and permanent hope for you.
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