“You have brought a vine out of Egypt; You have cast out the nations, and planted it. You prepared room for it, and caused it to take deep root, and it filled the land. The hills were covered with its shadow, and the mighty cedars with its boughs. She sent out her boughs to the Sea, and her branches to the River.” Psalm 80:8–11
Psalm eighty, like many of the psalms of Asaph, is a plea for God to intervene and defend Israel from the incursions of the pagan nations surrounding it.
Steadily throughout the reigns of Saul and David the Philistines, Amorites, Ammonites, Amalekites, Edomites, Syrians and other nations were pushed back and prevented from successfully raiding and annexing territories claimed by Israel. Finally during the reign of Solomon the efforts of these two warrior kings bore fruit in prolong peace and security for the Hebrew nation.
But Asaph didn’t serve during the time of Solomon, he wrote and prophesied during the time of David and was obviously personally familiar with the stress and difficulty associated with a nation plagued by frequent war. Hence his plea for God’s intervention and protection.
Abruptly in the middle of Asaph’s petition are four verses in which the poet artfully recalls God’s providence in leading Israel out of Egypt and establishing her in Canaan. Using the metaphor of a vine to symbolize Israel Asaph casts God as a gardener, or vine dresser, who lovingly and skillfully plants his vine and nurtures it until it’s mature and fruitful.
One wonders who Asaph is trying to remind of God’s attentiveness, himself, together with the rest of Israel, or God.
It’s not obvious from the psalm itself but it stands to reason that God doesn’t need our prompting to remember his care for us. It’s we who need reminding. Difficulty, grief and hardship often tempt us to question and doubt God’s presence in our lives. We forget that God has a plan for our lives and that under his care all things work together for our good.
It’s tempting to trust in the blessing and providences God sends our way for our security when it’s God himself who should be the one being relied upon. The truth that trust is more profoundly demonstrated and more deeply engrained in the midst of uncertainty and trial than it is in ease and leisure is a difficult lesson to learn
Like Asaph we need to come to God entreating him for the blessing and protection we need all the while remembering that God has already blessed us in more ways than we could ever count and for this reason we can rely on him as he leads us through the valley of difficulty.
You’ve planted and prospered us, O Lord, we trust you to protect us now.