David beseeched God in Psalm 80 “Turn again, O God of hosts! Look down from heaven, and see; have regard for this vine, the stock that your right hand planted, and for the son whom you made strong for yourself” (v.15). Something about Psalm 80 delivered such an emotional kick that I made a note to myself. The Messianic overtones are rich here — is that why they are so alluring?
The Vine of John 15
John 15:1 quotes Jesus as saying, “I am the vine, and my Father is the true Vinedresser.” My Bible study group spent several weeks talking about Jesus as the vine and us as the branches. As my understanding of God’s Word grows deeper, Christ emerges from the Old Testament more and more. His Spirit prompts me to ask more questions too. For instance, why does David call himself the vine in Psalm 80:15 if Jesus is the vine?
Matthew Henry explains that “the church is represented as a vine and a vineyard. The root of this vine is Christ, the branches are believers.” While Jesus describes himself as the vine, David calls him the actual root, and himself a product of that root. Everything good in him grows out of the root, which is the Triune God.
Jesus Immanuel is the physical manifestation of God, who is Spirit (John 4:24) but also more than man who is mortal and withers like the grass (1 Peter 1:24). God is the root, Jesus is one with the root, but as man, we see him in the flesh — as the vine. At least, that’s what I’m getting. Putting Psalm 80 and John 15 together draws a picture of the Holy Trinity. The Vine represents the God of relationship.
Adjustment and Relationship
That’s a deeply hopeful reality for us Christians. David cries, “Turn again, oh God,” accepting an invitation to be in relationship with his Heavenly Father.
Nancy Koester explains that “the God of the Bible is emphatically a God in relationship. And to be in relationship calls for continual adjustment, [...]. If God cannot ‘turn’ and ‘remember’ us, then we are praying into empty space, [...]. There is hope in a prayer that asks God to ‘turn again.’”
David cries out for the Lord to do what he has done multiple times — restore his people again; remember that they are his people again. But he also points us forward to the time when those who believe in the saving work of Christ will be saved once and for all.
Fire and Fruit
Psalm 80:16 turns dark and dangerous with the imagery of hellfire: “They have burned it with fire; they have cut it down; may they perish at the rebuke of your face!” Those who are cut off from the root of God will face his wrath. God will not tolerate rejection and rebellion forever.
In John 15:6, Jesus develops this picture. “If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.” What a devastating reality — come to Christ or you will be firewood.
Yet, there’s a glimmer of light: Jesus is “your right hand, the son of man whom you have made strong for yourself!” (Psalm 80:17). Christ did come, he did save us, and he is waiting for the right time to return.
When we read about God’s right hand, this reinforces our understanding of the entire Bible as Christ’s story, and I don’t know about you, but this strengthens my faith in the power of God to make all things new.
David’s Relatable Doubt
At the same time, I can relate to Israel. Like David does here, I have cried out to God with doubt, insecurity, and fear, which are natural, yet they feel grimy. How is it that after the Lord had shown himself faithful so many times, and after finding peace over and over in his grace through Jesus, that I still throw my hands in the air and scream, “Where are you?”
If the great King David could forget how trustworthy the Lord is and doubt his goodness, and yet be known as a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14), I feel a little better. The Lord still loves his doubting, sinful children because they are covered in the blood of his consistently faithful Son.
Luke’s account of the early church — what we know as the Book of Acts — says this: “everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (2:21). This is what I hear when I read David’s Psalm. He begs “give us life, and we will call upon your name!” (Psalm 80:18). Jesus turned that statement around — instead of “give us life first and we will call on you” he says call on me and I will give you life.
Here’s my commentary on that — what a gracious God. How good, how merciful, how generous to promise that if we simply call on him, he will enter our hearts. Just cry out and I will give you my presence. David alludes to this possibility, but the dots aren’t quite connected yet.
Aspects of his life foreshadow the reality of Christ’s coming, of who he would be, and reinforce Messianic themes, but Jesus — the true Vine — removed every shadow of sin from David’s incomplete representation. David was only human, and his heart was sometimes black. Christ was fully God and fully human, and his heart was always full of light.
If David Had Only Known
“Restore us, O Lord God of hosts! Let your face shine, that we may be saved!” (Psalm 80:19). David trusted God’s promise to save Israel; to restore them. He knew that when God makes promises he keeps them, even the promises we would rather he forgot, the discipline stuff such as Deuteronomy 8:19, which says, “If you forget the Lord your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish.”
David trusted the Lord’s promise to save his people even though he did not see Christ. He was not in the audience as Jesus taught about the character of God; taught how to glorify God with our lives; invited people from outside the sheepfold of Israel to be shepherded by the Almighty Father as one of his own. Explained the nature of love. How would David have felt to hear his own name in Christ’s narrative?
The Pharisees thought the Messiah would be the Son of David, so Jesus asked, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet’”?” (Matthew 22:43-44).
Imagine David’s relief — “I knew it! I was not THE Chosen One!” David’s Psalms portray a flawed man, but one who kept going back to God in humility and weakness; a man who feared God and realized that he needed to confess and beseech the Lord for mercy, not merely expect it like a royal brat.
Reliability and Psalm 80
Sometimes, Jesus’ presence in Scripture is subtle, but not here. Maybe that is why Psalm 80 begs to be explored — my Savior is all over these pages. I love to find him there, and we can definitely go deeper. I love to be reminded that our sin was no surprise to God, and salvation was planned before the Lord placed Adam and Eve in the Garden.
I love that our Father reinforces the evidence of his goodness for our sake, to encourage and sustain us, by having his servant David point to Christ even when he didn’t know the significance his words would hold for believers a few thousand years in the future.
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Candice Lucey is a freelance writer from British Columbia, Canada, where she lives with her family. Find out more about her here.