PSALM 80 and 84
Bible Study Notes Rev. Betsy Perkins
A psalm of Asaph. For the director of music – to the tune of “The Lilies of the Covenant”
This psalm is a communal lament and a prayer for restoration. It was likely written after the nation, or at least the northern portion of it (see vs.2, “Ephraim, Benjamin and Menasseh”), was attacked and ravaged by a foreign army. The Assyrian armies invaded and defeated the Northern Kingdom of Israel in the 8th century B.C, carrying many families away to live in exile in Assyria.
The psalm is arranged in 5 stanzas of 4 Hebrew lines each. A refrain concludes the 1st, 2nd and last stanzas. Read that refrain, comparing it in verse 3, verse 7 and verse 19. What is added to the refrain as the psalm progresses? Why?
Stanza 1 (vs.1-3): An appeal to God to arouse Himself and lead them.
Stanza 2 (vs.4-7): A lament over God’s severe punishment.
Stanza 3 (vs.8-11): Recalling God’s previous plans and care.
Stanza 4 (vs.12-15): Prayer for God to resume that care.
Stanza 5 (vs.16-19): Prayer for God to bring restoration.
o On the basis of what relationship do the people approach God in prayer (vs.1)?
o “Restore us” is their request. What did that mean to them? How do the people of God need restoration today?
o What is the significance of the similarity between “make your face shine upon us” in the refrain and special blessing for Israel in Numbers 6:24-26?
o The Temple in Jerusalem contained the “Bread of Presence” or literally, “the Bread of Face.” Read Exodus 25:30. Could that relate to the imagery about tears in verse 5, or with the “face” of the refrain?
o How does the imagery of the vine illustrate the story of Israel? What does it say about God’s role in Israel’s story? What can we learn about God’s role in our lives?
o In verse 14, the people ask God to “return to us” or to “repent”. How does this strike you? What does that say about God and the relationship God has with his people?
o Who is verse 17 referring to? How do we hear this verse differently after the life of Jesus?
A psalm of the Sons of Korah. For the music director – according to gittith (means winepress, perhaps referring to the tune of a song or an instrument).
This is a prayer of longing for God’s house. For some reason the psalmist is unable to go to the Temple, perhaps due to age/disability or due to war/exile.
Stanza 1 (vs.1-4, six lines): The deep longing for the house of the Lord
o Why is the psalmist jealous of a sparrow / swallow?
o In light of Christ, we now understand God’s dwelling as within/among His gathered people rather than in a physical structure. What does that mean for our longing for the “house/courts” of the Lord?
Stanza 2 (vs.5-7, three lines): The blessedness of those who can travel to God’s house
o Baca means either weeping or balsam trees. The place, a Valley of Baca, is unknown but it may refer to a barren place. How is that place transformed by the pilgrims? How can Christians today transform the places they go?
Stanza 3 (vs.8-11, six lines): A prayer for the king and for the psalmist great desire
o Korah and his sons led a rebellion against Moses and Aaron, as recorded in Numbers 16-18. Read Nu.16:3-11,28-35. The few survivors were offered grace of being allowed to be servants in the sanctuary. How does this story bring greater meaning to verse 10?
Conclusion (vs.12, one line): The blessing
o Stanzas 1 and 3 each contain three references to LORD. The conclusion contains the final, seventh use of God’s name. What is the significance of this?
o Who is this blessing for? How would that have comforted the writer who is unable to travel to the Temple?