Many believe that Psalm 80 was written around the period of the Babylonian captivity which began around 607 BC (2 Kings 24:1), and ended in 537 with the ascendancy of Persia over Babylon (Ezra 1:1-11). There are many who feel that Psalm 79 and Psalm 80 were meant to be one and the same Psalm. And whereas such a possibility appears to be irrelevant, there is at least one positive outcome were that proposition true. There is a glaring lack in Psalm 80 amidst the presence of repeated requests for restoration and a picture perfect imagery of Israel as a vine – the vine planted by God Himself. There is no acknowledgement of the cause of God’s judgment, a necessary ingredient to vindicate the righteousness of God. However in Psalm 79:8-9, The Psalmist acknowledges the Nation’s past sins and asks God to deliver them and atone for their sins.
As a rule of thumb, the judgment of God is preceded by disobedience to God. There is the exception to the general rule in the case of Job, and the exception does not make the rule. Even Joseph could be found guilty of contributory negligence in bringing about his initial suffering, albeit God at all times meant it for good. It should also be noted that there is a difference between the suffering of Joseph and even that of Job, on the one hand, and the punishment meted out to the Israelites primarily because of their idolatry. God’s preserving presence could be seen with Joseph throughout his trials. And in the case of Job, as problematic as they turned out to be, God sent three friends to comfort and mourn with Job. They got it right, at least for the first seven days.
When we see affliction in our lives, it is a good habit to be extra diligent in checking our lives for unconfessed sin (Psalm 139:23-24) , or as I have experienced, the sin is confessed, but its consequence must take its toll. It is good in these times to ensure that we are suffering for righteousness, and not as an evildoer (1 Peter 4:15). Israel and Judah together had spent more years in idolatry than they had spent worshipping Yahweh. And in a manner of speaking, that was the unpardonable sin. It is for good reason that that was the first commandment given to the Israelites. “Thou shalt have no other gods beside me!” (Exodus 20:1-6)
As prophesied, the Babylonian captivity lasted for 70 years. At the end of the 70 years, Ezra and Nehemiah, empowered by Cyrus, King of Persia, under the inspiration of God, began the rebuilding of Jerusalem and Israel was restored. There is no record in the Bible of Israel ever again descending into Idolatry after the Babylonian captivity. This was the Psalmist’s commitment in verse Psalm 80:18. This time, God got the message through, but it was not for lack of trying that He failed on numerous previous occasions. In fact it would appear that even the severity of the Babylonian captivity which intensified during several successive tranches, could have been avoided, had the Israelites repented, and submitted to the initial mild punishment of God through heathen Nations. But each time they tried to overthrow their oppressors without first repenting, God increased the intensity of their suffering (2 Kings 24:8-16; 2 Kings 24 – 25)
Always remember that God loves us and has good plans for us (Jeremiah 29:11). If and when He disciplines us, as every loving father sometimes does, let us submit and repent, and praise Him in the process.
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