Psalm for 1st Sunday in Advent: Psalm 80:1-7
Our focus on this first Sunday in Advent is “Restore us?” from Psalm 80. But it doesn’t take long before we are overwhelmed by what needs people claim needs to be restored. Here is a short list I found within 5 minutes on the internet:
Restore Physical health
Restore Hyper Wellness (web site)
Sudan said Saturday it has signed an agreement with the US to restore the country’s sovereign immunity.(Oct 31, 2020)
Restore the United States To a Monarchy We are trying to restore all the power that was lost from the monarchy and we are starting this petition to see if we can restore the power that was lost.
And the list goes on.
But in Psalm 80, the psalmist has something else in mind.
“O God, restore us And cause Your face to shine upon us, and we will be saved” (Ps. 80:3, 7, 19)
The plea to God is to restore, but specifically linked to God causing His face to shine upon “us.” With the ultimate plea: “save us!!” That is, it was not indivdualistic, but communal, “we” “us.”
The underlying problem behind this plea: 80:4–5
How long will You be angry with the prayer of Your people? You have fed them with the bread of tears.
God had heard the prayers of the people, but they were prayers not primarily for God, but for themselves. Self-centered prayers. And correspondingly their prayers were not for the benefit of others, for their health, safety, spiritual growth. This indifference by the people of God to others and their needs was repugnant to God. What they needed was confession of sin, their sin, not others’ sins. The Law spoke to their disobedience, their lack of concern for God and others.
In our worship services we confess our sins right at the beginning of the service. We see who the “players” are in the interaction: God and us sinners:
Notice that the confession is not “I am sorry” (for being late? etc.), but rather for sinning against God (1st table of commandments) against others (2nd table of commandments).
God: In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Silence for reflection on God’s Word and for self-examination.
Us: I, a poor, miserable sinner, confess unto You all my sins and iniquities with which I have ever offended You and justly deserved temporal and eternal punishment. But I am heartily sorry for them and sincerely repent of them, and I pray You of Your boundless mercy and for the sake of the holy, innocent, bitter sufferings and death of Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to be gracious and merciful to me, a poor sinful being.
God: Upon this your confession, as a called and ordained servant of the Word, announce the grace of God to all of you, and in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
The Psalmist calls for the people to reorient themselves, yes, individually, but especially communally. How does that take place?
Confession is individual (and corporate); so absolution is spoken individually (and corporately).
After confession and forgiveness, then we can look at the relationships through the eyes of Encouragement/Exhortation: individually and corporately. And we go through this process every week (daily, if possible). By following this, we are not caught in a dreary ritual, but a life-giving process of being renewed in our life in Christ that God gives us.