The book of Psalms is Israel's song book. The book of Psalms is also filled with prophecy concerning Israel's future, specifically in the latter days. Psalm 80 gives a view of the tribulation, with Israel calling out to God for salvation, specifically calling out for Messiah. The opening verse gives reference to a time of judgment, alluding to the visions of the prophet Ezekiel. Psalm 80:1 To the choirmaster: according to Lilies. A Testimony. Of Asaph, a Psalm. Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock. You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth. Ezekiel had experiences with God that included encounters with Christ seated on a platform being carried by Cherubim. Chapter one of Ezekiel gives a detailed description of the Cherubim and what seems to be some kind of powered craft they operate. Ezekiel 10 identifies the "being" seated on the platform above the Cherubim as God. Scholars agree that this figure must be Christ in a pre-incarnate appearance, also known as a Christophany.
The significance of the reference to Ezekiel is that Ezekiel's ministry was to Israel during the Babylonian captivity, when the nation was being judged for it's disobedience toward God. Ezekiel's early ministry was to warn Israel to repent for it's sin letting the nation know that God's judgment was imminent. Ezekiel's later ministry consisted of comforting the exiled Jews, encouraging them with God's promises to restore Israel and descriptions of the reign of Messiah. There will be another day when Israel experiences the wrath of God, when Israel will repent and call out for Messiah, specifically Jesus Christ. This time is what we refer to as the Tribulation, also known as the "Time of Jacob's trouble" and "the 70th Week of Daniel." The Tribulation will culminate with Christ returning to rule over Israel for 1000 years, which we see vividly described by the prophet Zechariah who ministered to Israel after Ezekiel's ministry ended and the people came back into the land: Zechariah 12:9 And on that day I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. "And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn. The people of Israel will recognize Jesus when He returns, and I believe they will not only be expecting Him but calling for Him to rescue them. Psalm 80 gives us clues that this is the case.
Verse 2 leads us to the understanding that the Psalmist recognizes that the Messiah will come from the line of David. Psalm 80:2 Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh, stir up your might and come to save us! Verse one references Joseph being led by the shepherd of Israel and here, in the next verse, we see reference to Joseph again, albeit through his sons Ephraim and Manasseh. Also in verse two is Benjamin. The reason these names are significant is because A).Jacob counted Joseph(for a number of reasons) as his first born son, even though he was 11th born, thus rightful ruler over the descendants of Jacob and B). Benjamin was the tribe from which King Saul hailed, Saul being the first king of Israel chosen by God. The Psalmist is reaffirming God's choice to reject these two tribes as leaders and establishing Judah, David's line, as ruler over Israel. The Messiah, Jesus, a direct descendant of Judah and David will rule over Joseph and Benjamin.
Verses 3-16 demonstrate that Israel is in distress and calling out to God for salvation :Psalm 80:3-16 Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved! O LORD God of hosts, how long will you be angry with your people's prayers? You have fed them with the bread of tears and given them tears to drink in full measure. You make us an object of contention for our neighbors, and our enemies laugh among themselves. Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved! You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it. You cleared the ground for it; it took deep root and filled the land. The mountains were covered with its shade, the mighty cedars with its branches. It sent out its branches to the sea and its shoots to the River. Why then have you broken down its walls, so that all who pass along the way pluck its fruit? The boar from the forest ravages it, and all that move in the field feed on it. Turn again, O God of hosts! Look down from heaven, and see; have regard for this vine, the stock that your right hand planted, and for the son whom you made strong for yourself. They have burned it with fire; they have cut it down; may they perish at the rebuke of your face! Here we see Israel acknowledging that they are in distress and under threat of total destruction. Israel recounts the deeds that God has done on their behalf and also acknowledges that, even though the enemies of Israel have wrought destruction, it has ultimately come from the hand of God. This acknowledgement is necessary for true repentance. Finally, the Psalmist, speaking on behalf of the nation, or, most likely, recording future pleas from the nation of Israel, records the call to God of Hosts for salvation. The call from Israel is for help for the Vine that was planted by God's Right Hand. We know, by virtue of the Gospel accounts, that Jesus Christ sits at the Father's right hand. In this same passage is mentioned "the Son you made strong for Yourself" In other translations the word Son is rendered branch. Both of these are references to Messiah. Isaiah 11 identifies the Messiah as the Branch of Jesse. It would seem that at some point during the 7 year Tribulation, Israel will recognize their plight as judgment from God and they will acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus Christ and call out for His salvation - both physical and spiritual.
Not surprisingly, in the next verse, the Psalmist, and Israel by inference, cries out again, more emphatically for the right hand and Son of Man. Psalms 80:17 But let your hand be on the man of your right hand, the son of man whom you have made strong for yourself! For believers, hindsight is 20/20. We know that Christ referred to Himself as The Son of Man. Christ did this because He knew that the religious leaders would understand that He was bringing warning and judgment on Israel as the prophet Ezekiel had. Ezekiel was called son of man by God. We can see here that Israel will one day call out for the savior and they will recognize that the savior is Jesus Christ, the self proclaimed Son of Man, Jesus Christ, who is seated at the right hand of the Father. Amazingly, at the time of this writing, the Psalmist had no concept of the Messiah being seated on the right hand of the Father or of His calling Himself the Son of Man. These things are written purely by the inspiration of God and speaks of events in the future. Very exciting when you think of the intricacies and subtleties of prophecy. No word or phrase is wasted, every passage has significance.
In the last two verses, we see Israel calling on God for salvation and restoration: Psalms 80:18-19 Then we shall not turn back from you; give us life, and we will call upon your name! Restore us, O LORD God of hosts! Let your face shine, that we may be saved! This is the final cry of Israel as a nation, the call that brings them back to God once and for all, the cry that acknowledges that Jesus is the Messiah, that they need the salvation of God through the sacrifice of Christ. God promised Israel to restore them and forgive them of all sin: Jeremiah 31:31-34 "Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more." Jesus declared, "I am the Way the Truth and the Life and no man comes to the Father but by Me." If God promises to forgive and restore Israel, and Jesus is the only way to that forgiveness and restoration, we can conclude that Israel must at some point acknowledge Jesus as Messiah and repent before God on that basis. I believe that Psalm 80 is prophetically recording this event, when Israel acknowledges Jesus as Messiah, facilitating Christ's return to establish His 1000 year kingdom.
Sometimes, very subtle clues in scripture have earth shaking ramifications!