Daily Family Worship

Psalm 80: The Vine and the Pig

by | May 27, 2024

psalm 80

“Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, thou that leadest Joseph like a flock; thou that dwellest between the cherubims, shine forth!” This first verse is the key to the whole Psalm. Who is the Shepherd of Israel? He is none other than the Lord Jesus! Throughout all the Scriptures, this is the well-known character and office of Christ. Of Him, it is said that He shall feed His flock like a Shepherd (Isa. 40:11). “I will set up one Shepherd over them, and he shall feed them,” the Lord says, in Ezekiel 34:23. In the New Testament also, Christ takes to Himself this very name (John 10:11); and in the Song of Solomon (1:7), the Church desires Jesus, as her Shepherd, to tell her where He feeds His flock.

It is good for us to dwell very much upon this thought of Jesus as our Shepherd; for although this fact is generally known and confessed, yet many believers have too few actings of faith upon the Person of Christ in His sweet offices and characters, as distinguished from those of the Father and the Holy Spirit. Yes, there are many precious offices in which the Father has condescended to put Himself; and in the enjoyment of them, it is the privilege of the believer to be everlastingly engaged. Yet it is in a peculiar and special way that redeemed souls are to behold Christ as their Head, Shepherd, Husband, Surety, Brother, Advocate, and Redeemer. Therefore, this Psalm opens with a cry to Jesus, as the Church’s Shepherd. Surely, indeed, it is He Who leads His people along like sheep! It is He Who sits between the cherubim; and it is He Who shines forth when the Holy Spirit shines in the heart, to give “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ!” (2 Cor. 4:6)

With the Holy Spirit as our Teacher, we shall find rich instruction in the beautiful parable that is found in verses 8-13, where the Church is represented by the picture of a vine. Christ is the Vine, as He Himself has said (John 15:1); He is the Head of His Body, which is the Church – which is also referred to under the similitude of a vine, in Isaiah 5:1. Now Jehovah’s glory was celebrated in Christ, the Great Shepherd Who first formed His people into a nation and a flock, and brought them out of Egypt. To make room for the transplanting of this vine in Canaan, the Lord drove out seven wicked nations who inhabited the land. There the Lord’s vine was settled and it spread abroad; the hills were covered with its branches, and the sea of the neighboring states found Israel flourishing. But when the enemy came in like a wild pig from the woods, and when the people’s sin and corruption brought forth wild grapes; then, although the Lord had planted a choice root, it became a degenerate plant! (Jer. 2:21) All this is literally the case, respecting the history of the Old Testament nation of Israel. But the illustration is even more powerful when we consider it in reference to the people of God under the New Testament; for Christ is the true Vine, and His Church is the branches, which are brought out of the spiritual Egypt of sin and death. When they have taken root in Jesus, the branches of His grace and the fruits of His Spirit go forth in every direction, to His praise and glory. The dominion of Jesus extends from sea to sea (Ps. 72:8). But alas! Some of the branches, in the nation of the Jews, have been temporarily broken off the Vine; and our spiritual enemies, like the wild boar, direct their malice against the Vine. In light of this, the prayer in verses 14-19 is most appropriate: “Return, we beseech thee, O God of hosts: look down from heaven, and behold, and visit this vine!” Is this not a prayer that we, as believers, ought to be daily using at the throne and mercy-seat of grace? Ought we not to intercede thus for our brothers and sisters who form the “branch” of the Jews? Should we not beseech the Lord to graft in that ancient branch again?

But we must not fail to notice the reference which the Church makes to Christ, in verse 17, as “the man at God’s right hand!” He is the Man Whose name is the Branch, and in Whom is life! And He has promised us, “Because I live, ye shall live also.” Also observe the promise which the Church makes to her spiritual Husband, in the 18th verse: “We will not go back from thee, if thou wilt quicken us.” What a sweet truth, for there is not one person who can keep alive his own soul; it must be quickened and nurtured by the Lord Jesus! Lastly, let us take notice of the thrice-repeated prayer for the Lord’s face to shine upon us, and for His arm to turn us! Yes, if the Lord turns our hearts, then – and not until then – shall our hearts be changed! Just as this prayer is thrice-repeated; so also, the Lord commanded Aaron to bless the people thrice in Jehovah’s name (Num. 6:23-27). Surely all the persons of the Godhead were intended to be kept in view here, as jointly and individually blessing His children! 

Lord Jesus, we praise You for being our Good Shepherd – feeding Your flock, knowing all our names, guiding us, and causing us to lie down in green pastures! Amen.

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