Psalm 80 pictures God as a shepherd, the shepherd of the children of Jacob. When they face days in which their only bread to eat is tears and when they feel surrounded by foes threatening their livelihood and family, they pray. But they do not pray for God to simply bring them back to the good old days of old but to go ahead of them, shining the path they must trod. Rather they look back to a time God went ahead of them, when God led their ancestors out of slavery, through a parted sea, and across deep deserts as a pillar of fire.
This psalm invites us to consider our heartaches, losses, our experiences of what has been secure crumbling around us. Yet it also invites to reconsider God. Too often we think God dwells in our nostalgia, in our past. We long for a return to the good old days of yore, which we have idealized by forgetting our struggles. Yet here God is pictured as bringing deliverance not through returning to the old days of yore, but through doing a new thing. This is not a God who is static, sitting still, locked in place by our doctrines, dogmas, or rituals. No this is a God on the move, God always calling us out of our comfortability orthodoxies and patterns into the uncertainty of a new creation.
This challenges us not to become stuck in our current problems, throwing up our hands in hopelessness, nor to become caught up in the trap of pining over what has been. It calls us like a family gathered waiting to welcome a child newly borne into the family to become excited and open about what will be. To open our hearts, trust God enough to take God’s hand and step out of what we have always known into new possibilities which God has for us.