You have sought God's will, tried to be His light in the darkness, and have Jesus as your Savior. But why can't you hear his voice?
Be sure to join us for the fourth and final week of our Advent devotional My Christmas List.
*not a word for word transcript, but the sermon manuscript*
MY CHRISTMAS LIST
PART FOUR: PRAYER OF RESTORATION
For Advent this year, we are making a list. It is not a list of the gifts we want, but a prayer list. First on our prayer list is to know God’s will. God’s will is not complicated, it is for us to acknowledge our need for Him and live in acceptance of that knowledge. Second, is we want to show God we are grateful for His goodness towards us. Next on our list was about finding joy, a state of happiness that goes all the way to the core of our being. Jesus is our source of such joy through salvation in Him.
But maybe you have been praying all those things with nothing happening in your life. You have been participating in the accompanying devotional, even doing the challenge of five to fifteen minutes of silence, but you cannot hear God. Why can’t you hear Him?
READING THE TEXT: Psalm 80:1-7
1 Listen, Shepherd of Israel, who leads Joseph like a flock; you who sit enthroned between the cherubim, shine 2 on Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh. Rally your power and come to save us. 3 Restore us, God; make your face shine on us, so that we may be saved. 4 LORD of God of Armies, how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers? 5 You fed them the bread of tears and gave them a full measure of tears to drink. 6 You put us at odds with our neighbors; our enemies mock us. 7 Restore us, God; make your face shine on us, so that we may be saved. (CSB)
This is the Word of God, for the people of God, thanks be to God.
IN THE TEXT:
***Key verse (s)***
There are two key verses in this passage, but they say the same thing. But Psalms is a book with a collection of poems and songs, writings will be more repetitive. Verse 3 and 7 say, “Restore us, God; make your face shine us.” Verse 7 has “God of Armies,” but the implication is the same.
These verses will help us answer the question, “why can’t I hear God?” When reading the Psalms, again remember that it is poetry. Poetry is a writing style that uses language to convey emotion and connect the reader with those emotions. There is a strong pleading in these lines, desperate for God to answer the Psalmist. What is the writer asking God for?
***Call to awaken***
The prayer poem begins with “Listen, Shepherd of Israel… shine on Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh.” These are three of the tribes of the nation of Israel, Benjamin being the ancestors of Israel’s first king, Saul. They would split off from Judah, the house of David, forming a northern kingdom. Some national event is taking place leading the Psalmist to plead with God to send them His presence.
When the Psalmist is asking for God to send His presence, it is with the how God did so in the past in mind. In Exodus, when the Tabernacle, Israel’s mobile tent for worship, was completed for its purpose, “then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.” (40:34, NRSV) And a similar event happened again later when King Solomon finished building the Temple, “the house of the LORD was filled with a cloud so that the priests could not stand to minister… for the glory of the LORD filled the house of God.” (2 Chronicles 5:14, NRSV) This is the presence of God that the Psalmist believe he and his people needed again.
Why did he believe they need God’s presence again? Yes, there was some sort of event that made this writer see the need, but it also implies that he believed God’s presence was gone.
In the second part of verse 2, the writer continues with, “Rally your power and come to save us.” The word “rally” implies that God was someplace else, somehow separated from His power. Of course, “rally” could also be translated “wake up,” like God is off somewhere taking a nap, or at least His power is resting. The Psalmist is penning this prayer to wake God up from his nap or to get Him to pull Himself together. You know, and I know, that God does not sleep, nor can He be separated from His power. But in this moment, surrounded by whatever circumstances, the Psalmist felt that way.
***Call to silence ***
Skipping to verse 4, the Psalmist continues to plead with God. However, now the writer shifts to how he wants God to intervene. “How long will you be angry with your people’s prayers?” The Psalmist wants God to stop the “smoke” coming from His ears. To be clear, it is not the prayers God is upset about, it is those who are saying them. The pray-ers. He was angry with them because God had sent them the prophets telling them they needed repent, but they ignored that and only sought God for the blessings. (2 Chronicles 36:16)
“You fed them the bread of tears and gave them a full measure of tears to drink.” (Verse 5) Tears does not make much of a meal, and they really do little to quench thirst. They were hungry and thirsty for God’s presence, all they had were empty tears.
Of course, when you are down, that is when your enemies come around to point their fingers and laugh at you. This is what happened to the Psalmist and perhaps the nation. “You put as at odds with our neighbors; our enemies mock us.” (Verse 6) God’s presence was gone, and since they were not with God that made them vulnerable to their enemies’ attacks. Understand, when you are not with God then you are with the enemy, either as a participant in their works or as a prisoner of war. Either way, you are separated from God and that is what the enemy wants.
FROM THE TEXT:
***What is the text saying?***
The Psalmist is calling for God to wake up and to silence the laughing enemies. Ultimately, that is the purpose behind verses 3 and 7. As I have gone through many years of schooling, I have learned a couple things. If a textbook has something in a box or a teacher writes something on the board in a box, then that is important. Also, if they repeat something, that is important. Verses 3 and 7 both repeat, “Restore us, God; make your face shine upon us” because it is important. Continued reading in this Psalm, the writer repeats it again in verse 19.
Looking up the phrase “restore us” in the original language, you discover that any word combination that conveys the idea of “turning around” is the meaning. While the Psalmist is asking for God to send His presence, the writer is stating the reason the presence is gone is because someone is turned and facing the wrong direction, maybe even moving in that wrong direction. And God is not the one who is turned the wrong way. “Restore us” is referring to the Psalmist and the nation.
“Shine on us” is a phrase used by someone who is in the presence of a king hoping the king would smile on them. When a king smiled on someone, that meant the king was likely to grant their request. The Psalmist was asking God to come and grant the writer’s request to be turned around.
***How does this apply to my life? ***
“The Shepherd of Israel” the Psalmist mentions is Jesus Christ. In John 10:11, Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (CSB) Christ is the Good Shepherd. The same God who the Psalmist stated was “sleeping,” the same God you might think is far away or too busy to hear you right now. Even though the Psalmist felt God was missing in that moment, who does he plead his case too? He knew that He is same God who could turn the Psalmist around. And Jesus can do the same for you.
When you believe that Jesus is far away, not listening, sleeping, or too busy for you, Jesus is not the problem. You are. Jesus is God, and God never stops moving. The apostle James writes, “You ask and don’t receive because you ask with wrong motives.” In other words, you are not with God, therefore you are with the enemy. Either as a prisoner of war or a participant in the enemy’s camp. Fear of what might happen, believing the lies, and failure to lift our hands in worship are signs we are prisoners of war. Choosing to pursue sin but praying to God to bless you as you sin is to be participating in the enemy’s camp. Regardless, you are turned in the wrong direction. The noises of this life have stolen your focus, and this lack of focus keeps you from hearing God.
Know this though, Jesus is smiling on you. He is God. God has not abandoned you, nor has He forgotten you. Jesus is not sleeping or somehow separated from His power. The Lord is smiling on you because you are His creation, the one for whom the Good Shepherd laid down His life. Jesus is smiling on you; you must turn your eyes toward Him. You need the Lord’s help to turn you around to restore you in His presence.
BEYOND THE TEXT:
Why can’t I hear God? Because I am too distracted/held captive/obsessed with the noise to hear His whisper.
Season 1 Episode 33, "Most important question." The text for the message is from Mark 8:27-30, part 1 of a series called The Son of Man. The question we are trying to answer is "What is the most important question?"