THE SMILE OF GOD

Are we living in ways that make God smile?  I wonder.  When we talk, does God smile at the words that fall from our lips?  Do our thoughts, (because He knows them all), make God smile?  In the workplace, at home or among our church family, do our actions make God smile?  That’s what I’m pondering this morning as read about the people of Israel begging God to smile on them once more. 

God’s people have gone their own way and are now paying the consequences of their sin of putting what they want ahead of what God wants for them.  The Assyrians have conquered them, desecrated all that is holy and is now marching them away from all they knew as “home”.  This is Asaph’s prayer to God on behalf of His people after it was taken captive by Assyria in 722-21 BC. 

God’s people lament “how long” and feel God has left them.  They cry out to God for they feel God no longer favors His people with His “smile” of help and protection.  But who left?  Truthfully?  God’s people are now crying out for mercy.  We do that occasionally, too!  But are they repentant?  God hears their cries for help and is merciful.

Warren Weirsbe, Commentator, helps us to understand where these cries for mercy are coming from in this psalm.  Asaph asks God to remember what He had established from the “vine” of Joseph until this day.   Weirsbe writes, “That Asaph would pray for Samaria and ask God for restoration and reunion for the whole nation indicates that some of the old rivalries were ending and that some of the people of Judah were concerned over “the affliction of Joseph” (Amos 6:6). It’s unfortunate that it sometimes takes dissension, division, and destruction to bring brothers closer together. Joseph and his brothers are a case in point. The refrain “Restore us” (vv. 3719 niv) marks out the three requests Asaph made to the Lord for both kingdoms;  Save the flock, pity your people and revive your vine.

SAVE THE FLOCK:  Asaph asked the Lord to “stir up [His] strength” (7:678:65) and bring salvation to His people. This reminds us of the words of Moses whenever the camp set out, “Rise up, O Lord! May your enemies be scattered” (Num. 10:35 niv). The request “cause thy face to shine” of the refrain reminds us of the priestly benediction (Num. 6:22-27. When God hides His face, there is trouble.  “Turn us again” means “restore us to our former state of blessing and fellowship with the Lord.”  In other words, smile on us, Lord!

PITY YOUR PEOPLE:  The shepherd image blends in with the image of Israel as God’s people: “We are his people, and the sheep of his pasture” (100:3).  note that the “O God” of verse 3 now becomes “O Lord God of hosts” (v. 4) (“God Almighty” niv). Jehovah is the Lord of the armies of heaven and earth, but His people no longer marched in victory.

REVIVE YOUR VINE:  The image now changes to that of Israel the vine.  Jesus used this image to describe Himself and His followers (John 15), and in Revelation 14:17-20, John wrote of “the vine of the earth,” the corrupt Gentile nations in the end times. The Lord transplanted Israel from Egypt to Canaan, uprooted the nations in Canaan, and planted His people in the land of their inheritance. As long as the people obeyed the Lord, the vine grew and covered more and more of the land.

But the luxurious “Vine” disobeyed the Lord, produced “worthless fruit” (see Isa. 5:2 nasb), and felt the chastening hand of the Lord. He withdrew His protection and permitted the enemy to enter the land and ruin the vineyard. Asaph prayed that the Lord might forgive and once again bless His people.

Asaph appealed to the covenant and asked God to be faithful to forgive His people as they called upon Him and confessed their sins (Lev. 26:40-45Deut. 30:1-10). This is the Old Testament version of 1 John 1:9. Spiritually speaking, the roots of Israel are still strong (Rom. 11:1ff., especially vv. 16-24), and one day the vine and olive tree will be restored, and Asaph’s prayer will be answered.

WHAT DO WE NEED TO KNOW FOR TODAY?  

Jesus is the Vine and we who believe in Him are the branches.  Let us take a look at what Jesus told his followers while He walked this earth.  Jesus explains:

The Vine and the Branches

15 1-3 “I am the Real Vine and my Father is the Farmer. He cuts off every branch of me that doesn’t bear grapes. And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more. You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken.

“Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me.

5-8 “I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.

9-10 “I’ve loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love. If you keep my commands, you’ll remain intimately at home in my love. That’s what I’ve done—kept my Father’s commands and made myself at home in his love.

11-15 “I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father.

16 “You didn’t choose me, remember; I chose you, and put you in the world to bear fruit, fruit that won’t spoil. As fruit bearers, whatever you ask the Father in relation to me, he gives you.

17 “But remember the root command: Love one another.

John 15:1-17

FRUIT BEARING, WHAT IS THAT REALLY?

When we are attached to The Vine, Jesus, our branch grows, matures and bears the beautiful fruit of His love, the “root command” mentioned in John 15.  You can’t get apples from an orange tree, right?  Attached to Jesus, we begin to bear holy fruit that comes from His Vine of righteousness.  These fruits are described specifically by Paul in Galatians 5;

“He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.  Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified.”  Galatians 5:22-24, The Message)

THIS brings the smile of God with favor when we lead “fruit-bearing” lives.

Worship and Wisdom, Psalms and Proverbs

Psalm 80, The Message

An Asaph Psalm

80 1-2 Listen, Shepherd, Israel’s Shepherd—
    get all your Joseph sheep together.
Throw beams of light
    from your dazzling throne
So Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh
    can see where they’re going.
Get out of bed—you’ve slept long enough!
    Come on the run before it’s too late.

God, come back!
    Smile your blessing smile:
    That will be our salvation.

4-6 God, God-of-the-Angel-Armies,
    how long will you smolder like a sleeping volcano
    while your people call for fire and brimstone?
You put us on a diet of tears,
    bucket after bucket of salty tears to drink.
You make us look ridiculous to our friends;
    our enemies poke fun day after day.

God-of-the-Angel-Armies, come back!
    Smile your blessing smile:
        That will be our salvation.

8-18 Remember how you brought a young vine from Egypt,
    cleared out the brambles and briers
    and planted your very own vineyard?
You prepared the good earth,
    you planted her roots deep;
    the vineyard filled the land.
Your vine soared high and shaded the mountains,
    even dwarfing the giant cedars.
Your vine ranged west to the Sea,
    east to the River.

So why do you no longer protect your vine?
    Trespassers pick its grapes at will;
Wild pigs crash through and crush it,
    and the mice nibble away at what’s left.
God-of-the-Angel-Armies, turn our way!
    Take a good look at what’s happened
    and attend to this vine.
Care for what you once tenderly planted—
    the vine you raised from a shoot.
And those who dared to set it on fire—
    give them a look that will kill!
Then take the hand of your once-favorite child,
    the child you raised to adulthood.
We will never turn our back on you;
    breathe life into our lungs so we can shout your name!

19 God, God-of-the-Angel-Armies, come back!
    Smile your blessing smile:
    That will be our salvation.

TRUTH:  God’s mercy is everlasting.  God’s smile returns to repentant hearts.  THAT is our salvation!

Proverb 24:21-22, The Message

Fear God, dear child—respect your leaders;
    don’t be defiant or mutinous.
Without warning your life can turn upside down,
    and who knows how or when it might happen?

WISDOM:  Know God.  Fear God with awe for His greatness and mighty hand.  Seek the smile of God in all we think, do or say. 

Abba Father,

Thank you for making us smile because of your salvation given to us so freely. We smile because you have been so merciful to us. Your grace is so undeserved. Thank you, Lord for consistently tending the branch that is attached to you, The Vine.

In Jesus Name, Amen

About randscallawayffm

Randy and Susan co founded Finding Focus Ministries in 2006. Their goal as former full time pastors, is to serve and provide spiritual encouragement and focus to those on the "front lines" of ministry. Extensive experience being on both sides of ministry, paid and volunteer, on the mission fields of other countries as well as the United States, helps them bring a different perspective to those who need it most. Need a lift? Call us 260 229 2276.
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