By Bob Bouwer
Psalm 80 finds Israel divided into twelve tribes and two kingdoms. Each had its own leaders, values, and theological differences.
This has parallels with the worldwide Christian church, which consists of “tribes” of various denominations and two large “kingdoms”—Protestant and Catholic. This division continues among conservatives and liberals, traditional- and contemporary-music fans, and people who prefer high liturgy and people who prefer low liturgy.
Our text today speaks words of hope to the church worldwide and to our particular denominational context in three ways. The first is that God’s hand is on the one at his right hand, the Son of Man. This points to Jesus the Messiah and to Israel, God’s firstborn. These words remind us that God has called Israel to be one nation, one people. Under Christ Jesus, there is unity, and he is Lord over all.
The second way it speaks to us is by showing us how we should respond. We must not turn our backs on God’s Word but rather be proactive, seeking life in him and praying. These actions allow us to see God’s will for our lives.
The third way it speaks to us is by giving us hope of restoration or transformation. We turn away from God’s Word, but God can bring us back, providing grace to save us. Asking God to turn us around by his grace, mercy, and strength brings unity in diversity.
I appreciate the explanation Michael Wilcock offers in his commentary, The Message of Psalms 73-150: Songs for the People of God. He writes: “We may have the deepest misgivings about some who reckon themselves God’s people. We may deplore some of their belief and practices that flourish under the name of the church of Christ. But wherever the inheritance of biblical truth may still be found, there is the one ‘Israel of God’ and we must pray for ‘peace and mercy to all who follow this rule.’”
Prayer: God, only you could understand the unity of such a diverse body of believers. You see more than we do; you know more than we do. Help us to do our part and to pray lovingly for peace and mercy on all who follow your rule.
Bob Bouwer is pastor of Faith Reformed Church in Dyer, Indiana. The 2016 Advent devotions were written by RCA church planters and parent churches.