A cry for restoration

A cry for restoration

A restoration project is a fascinating thing. Perhaps you have found yourself glued to the TV watching a documentary about the restoration of some stately home. The place has been left to rack and ruin until someone chooses to buy it and restore it. The old and broken parts are removed, and weak areas are built up to be strong again. New parts are brought in to match the beauty and majesty of the original. It’s a fascinating thing to watch and see unfold.

Or you might think of the restoration of some piece of artwork. Again, perhaps a painting that has been neglected over the years and there are layers of dirt and grime obscuring its beauty. Take something like the fresco of the Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci. It’s a famous piece of art but it was also hugely neglected. Someone cut a door through the wall, right where Jesus’ feet were. Late in the 18th century, Napoleon Bonaparte’s soldiers turned the area into a stable and damaged the artwork by shooting at it. When they finally decided to restore the painting, some of the restoration was incredible sloppy. One artist in particular was so casual about the task that he actually gave Saint James six fingers on one hand!

Restoration is important. The question is, will that restoration be effective?

Psalm 80 is a cry for restoration. It is a prayer to Almighty God and it begins with the request in verse 2: “Awaken your might, come and save us.” Then three times in the psalm this section is repeated:

Restore us, O God, make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.

God’s people are crying out for restoration. It’s not quite clear what the situation is that they face. There are a number of points in Israel’s history that could fit these words. What we do know is that they are grieving – fed with the bread of tears and drinking tears by the bowlful. Israel is pictured as a vine, whose grapes have been picked up others and which has been cut down and burned. They need reviving and restoring.

Perhaps you can relate to the sentiment of this psalm. Perhaps you feel in need of revival and restoration after the strain of recent months. Perhaps we look around us and say “revive us and restore us O Lord!”

Thankfully God longs to restore his people. But it’s important that we realise how God brings that restoration. What might you expect the people of Israel to ask for in this psalm? Perhaps the restoration of the city, which seems to be broken and ruined. Perhaps the restoration of the temple and of worship. Perhaps the restoration of power and influence. Perhaps the restoration of strength and might. Perhaps above all, you might expect the heart of their prayer to be: God take this situation away from us! Perhaps you have prayed that prayer at one time or another. I know I have.

But the psalm doesn’t start there. Yes, it asks for restoration and salvation. But it knows that those things lie in a particular place. Look at those repeated words again:

Restore us, O God, make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.

Restoration and salvation come when God’s face shines upon us. When God turns his face towards us in blessing. There’s nothing wrong with praying, “Lord take this situation away.” But our first prayer should be, “Lord, make your face shine upon us.”

Wonderfully, that is what God promises to do. Jesus came to restore us to our Heavenly Father and reassure us that his face is always turned toward us. Through Jesus, God has made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6). Whatever other restoration we would like or long for, we are fully restored to the shining face of God’s blessing.

Photo by Hulki Okan Tabak on Unsplash