Lectionary II (Yr C)
Luke 14:1, 7-14 (I)
Luke 14:1, 7-14 (II)
Heb. 13:1-8, 15-16
Lk. 13:10-17 (I)
Lk. 13:10-17 (II)
Isaiah 5:1-7 (I)
Isaiah 5:1-7 (II)
Luke 12:49-56 (I)
Luke 12:49-56 (II)
Heb. 12:1-7 (I)
Heb. 12:1-7 (II)
Gen. 15:1-6 (I)
Gen. 15:1-6 (II)
Psalm 50 (I)
Psalm 50 (II)
Lk 12:32-40 (I)
Lk 12:32-40 (II)
Heb. 11:1ff. (I)
Heb. 11:1ff. (II)
Lk. 12:13-21 (I)
Lk. 12:13-21 (II)
Lk. 11:1-13 (I)
Lk. 11:1-13 (II)
Lk. 11:1-13 (III)
Lk. 10:38-42 (I)
Lk. 10:38-42 (II)
Lk. 10:25-37 (I)
Lk. 10:25-37 (II)
II Kings 5:1-14 (I)
II Kings 5:1-14 (II)
Lk 10:1-12, 17-20
Galatians 6 (I)
Galatians 6 (II)
II Kings 2:1-14
Ps. 16 (I)
Ps. 16 (II)
Gal. 5:1, 13-25
I Ki. 19:1-15a (I)
I Ki. 19:1-15a (II)
Ps. 42-43 (I)
Ps. 42-43 (II)
Gal. 3:23-29 (I)
Gal. 3:23-29 (II)
I Kings 21 (I)
I Kings 21 (II)
Luke 7:36-50 (I)
Luke 7:36-50 (II)
Gal 2:11-21 (I)
Gal 2:11-21 (II)
I Kings 17:8-24
Trinity (June 3)
Prov. 8:22-31 (I)
Prov. 8:22-31 (II)
Romans 5:1-5 (I)
Romans 5:1-5 (II)
John 16: 5-15
Pentecost (May 27)
Gen. 11:1-9 (I)
Gen. 11:1-9 (II)
Acts 2:1-21 (I)
Acts 2:1-21 (II)
John 14:8-17 (II)
Easter VII (May 20)
Acts 16:16-34 (I)
Acts 16:16-34 (II)
John 17:20-26 (I)
John 17:20-26 (II)
Easter VI (May 13)
Rev. 21:10, 22-22:5
Easter V (May 6)
Acts 11; 13; 14
My Own Acrostic Ps. (based on Ps. 145)
Pentecost + 12--August 19, 2007
Bill Long 8/7/07
Ps. 80:1-2, 8-19; Shine Forth, O God, To Help
Here are these verses, from the NRSV:
"To the leader: on Lilies, a Covenant. Of Asaph. A Psalm.
1Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock! You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth
2 before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh.
Stir up your might, and come to save us!...
8 You brought a vine out of Egypt;
you drove out the nations and planted it.
9 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.
16 They have burned it with fire, they have cut it down; may they perish at the rebuke of your countenance.
17 But let your hand be upon the one at your right hand, the one whom you made strong for yourself.
18 Then we will never turn back from you;
give us life, and we will call on your name.
19 Restore us, O Lord God of hosts;
let your face shine, that we may be saved."
This powerful Psalm is set up like a hymn--with verses and a refrain. The reading for today obscures this, but I want to begin with that point, in order to emphasize the rhythmic nature of the Psalm. But there are two interesting "twists" on the hymn concept in this Psalm. (1) When we think of stanzas in a song (consisting of verse and refrain), we think that they must be of equal length. In fact, we expect it. But Ps. 80 bursts that assumption. The first "verse" is in vv. 1-2, with refrain in v. 3. Then, the second "verse" is in vv. 4-6, with refrain in v. 7. Finally, the third "verse" is in vv. 8-18, with refrain in v. 19. There is almost a "refrain-like" character to the first words of v. 14, but v. 14 isn't a refrain. As the Psalm develops, it is as if the Psalmist is telling a story, and more and more needs to be put in the story before you can get to the next refrain. Each of the three "verses" of the hymn has a different focus; the first is an exhortation to God to act; the second is a complaint to God; the third is the story of the people's covenant existence.
(2) But each "refrain" of the hymn is slightly different. Notice how it builds. Whereas the first refrain says: "Restore us, O God" (v. 3), the second has, "Restore us, O God of hosts" (v. 7), and the third has, "Restore us, O Lord God of hosts (v. 19). With each successive refrain we have a deepening expression of urgency and depth as if the author is opening himself up to God. While many things could be said about the Psalm, my focus below is on the image of the vine in vv. 8-19. It is almost as if this section of the Psalm is a midrash on Is. 5:1-7, our first reading for the week.
II. More on the Vine (vv. 8-19)
The story of the vine in Ps. 80 contrasts with that in Is. 5 in at least two ways. First, Ps. 80 emphasizes the extent of the vine's reach, while Is. 5 focuses on the tender care of the owner of the vineyard. Second Ps. 80 lays responsibility for destruction of the vineyard on the enemies of Israel, while Is. 5 lays blame at the people's door. Let's look at each theme separately.
A. The poetic narrative of Ps. 80 begins similarly to that of Is. 5, where ground is cleared for Yahweh's vine, and the vine is planted. But in Ps. 80 we are then brought into the extent of the vine's reach. Verses 10-11 are particularly vivid. We think of a vine perhaps snaking along the ground or, if it crawls up a trellis or pergola, arching over our heads. But it never reaches the height of the majestic cedars of lebanon; its top never reaches the heavens. However, Ps. 80 speaks of this kind of reach of the vine. It not only covers the mighty cedars with its branches, but it overshadows the mighty mountains. This is one huge vine! When you study trees, you learn a whole new vocabulary. Many trees are known as "understory" trees--those that grow "under" the truly big "guys" in the forest or in cultivation. The dogwood, for example, is an "understory" tree. In the text at hand, we would have expected the vine to be an "understory" growth, but instead it overshadows everything. Just pause and think of it for a moment. Can you even imagine a vine covering the mountains? A vine maple being bigger than a sugar maple, for example?
So large was the vine that its root system spread to the seas. The image is meant to describe the extent of Israel's power under David or Solomon, but the image selected is vivid. Only the biggest trees send out a root system that reaches deep into and far along the earth; here the vine does the same. Thus, our passage portrays the extent of Israel's power in pictorial form.
B. But then, destruction comes. The Psalmist, who believes that God is responsible for all things, says that "you" (i.e., God) have "broken down its walls." The instrument used by God to do this is the "boar from the forest" (v. 13). When Martin Luther was attacked by the Catholic Church after penning his treatises of 1520, the Catholic response talked about a "wild boar" (i.e., Luther) who was loose in the "vineyard of the Lord." Well, here the enemies of the people are so portrayed. Other Psalms depict the nature of the enemy destruction of Jerusalem. I have never been able to get the description of Ps. 74 out of my mind:
"4 Your foes have roared within your holy place;
they set up their emblems there.
5 At the upper entrance they hacked
the wooden trellis with axes.
6 And then, with hatchets and hammers,
they smashed all its carved work.
7 They set your sanctuary on fire;
they desecrated the dwelling-place of your name,
bringing it to the ground."
Our words in v. 16 are similar in their intensity. Whereas Is. 5 stresses the "bad fruit" that the vineyard bore, Ps. 80 emphasizes simply the abject condition of the people of God. They need restoration, and only God is able to do it.
The image of the vineyard is a popular one in the Old Testament (see also Is. 27; Ezek. 15 and 19) as well as the New Testament (John 15). I think it was the fruitfulness of the vine, the robustness of taste that comes from a fairly willowy or wispy vine that captured the imagination of the Biblical authors. Here we have a vigorous "reinterpretation" of Israel's "vine-like" experience, but the result or bottom line is the same. God needs to come to rescue the people, who are in a desperate situation. The kind of prayer in v. 19 is one that is always in season.