Psalm 80:1-7 - Born to be a shepherd

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1 Hear, O Shepherd of Israel, leading Joseph like a flock; *

shine forth, you that are enthroned upon the cherubim.

2 In the presence of Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh, *

stir up your strength and come to help us.

3 Restore us, elohim of hosts; *

show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.

4 Yahweh elohim of hosts, *

how long will you be angered

despite the prayers of your people?

5 You have fed them with the bread of tears; *

you have given them bowls of tears to drink.

6 You have made us the derision of our neighbors, *

and our enemies laugh us to scorn.

7 Restore us, elohim of hosts; *

show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.


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This is the song that will be the Response to the Old Testament reading from Micah on the fourth Sunday of Advent, Year C, according to the lectionary for the Episcopal Church. It will be read aloud in unison or sung by a cantor, if the verses from Luke 1 (called Canticle 15) are read as part of the Gospel reading. The Micah reading says, in part, “And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of Yahweh, in the majesty of the name of Yahweh elohaw.” This pair will precede a reading from Hebrews, where Paul wrote of Jesus saying, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings … See, I have come to do your will.” All will accompany the reading from Luke 1, where it is written: “In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. [She sang]: His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.”


This psalm is nineteen verses in length, meaning less than half are chosen to be sung on this Sunday. It is identified as “testimony of Asaph,” where the Hebrew word “asaph” means “gatherer” or “collector.” It is believed that a person named “Asaph” wrote this son, along with others that mention his name. However, when the theme then turns to a “Shepherd of Israel,” the words should be considered as David’s way of writing a “psalm of gathering.” To think otherwise lessens the divine intent of writing it down. David was inspired to write by Yahweh, leading him to use this identifying word.


Because David was a shepherd when he was Anointed by Yahweh Spiritually, as well as by Samuel physically, he became elevated to the position of “shepherd of Israel,” with the name “Israel” understood to mean those “Who Retain Yahweh as His elohim.” When the NRSV states “Hear” as the first word of verse one, the truth is the literal translation into English is as this:


“pastor of Israel listen , you who lead like a flock Joseph ; you who establish the

cherubim shine forth .


In the naming of “Joseph” (“yō·w·sêp̄,” from “yoseph”) means “Increaser” or “May He Add.” This says anyone who pastors as one who retains Yahweh as His elohim is then a leader of a flock with the purpose to increase the number of sheep in the fold. Therefore, by understanding the “elohim” of “Israel” as a reflection of a soul merged with Yahweh becoming an “angel” in the flesh, that is explained as “you who establish the cherubim” within one’s soul. The Hebrew word “yō·šêḇ,” from “yashab,” means “to sit, remain, dwell,” with “establish a valid substitution. Whereas the NRSV translates this as a paraphrased that says “enthroned upon the cherubim,” the reality is the pastor-shepherd-increaser is a soul whose body of flesh has “set” within (not upon) the presence of Yahweh, which then “shines forth” as a “pastor Who Retains Yahweh.”


In the naming of “Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh,” three brothers of Joseph make it seem as if this Psalm is speaking of the flocks of Jacob, after the twelve tribes had been delivered into Canaan by Joshua. Again, to see the deeper truth, the meaning of the names needs to be realized.


Logistically, the three tribes representative of those sons of Jacob filled the middle regions of the Promised Land. It included the most sacred places in the history of the Patriarchs, which included the stronghold taken by David (Jerusalem, as the City of David), but not where David reigned as the King of Judah, nor his birth place, Bethlehem. Since David was a “shepherd of Israel” that was greater than these three regions, one needs to look at the name meaning, which are this:


The name “Ephraim” means “Two-fold Increase, Doubly Fruitful.” The name Benjamin” means “Son Of The Right Hand, Son Of The South.” The name “Manasseh” means “Forgetting, Evaporating.” When this is seen, the deeper meaning of verse two literally translates as saying: “the face doubly fruitful and sons of the right hand and forgetting , awaken as your strength ; and come save us .


Here, seeing “Ephraim” as meaning “doubly fruitful” this points out how one lets shine forth the “cherubim” within one’s soul. That “increase” makes one the “right hand” of Yahweh, as His “son.” The old self is then that which is found “evaporating,” with all past sins “forgotten.” This then lead to the Hebrew word “‘ō·wr·rāh” (from “ur”), where “arousing” or “awakening” means leaving the state of sleep that symbolizes the death of a soul alone in its flesh. To be “awakened” is the “strength” of the promise of eternal life. That promise is then what “comes to save us,” with the root of “save” (“yeshuah”) being in the name “Jesus.”


Verse three then confirms the “cherubim” as being the “angels within,” as David proceeds to write “elohim” three times in the next five verses, twice pairing this word with “of hosts.” In verse two, a seemingly innocent use of “the face” (“lip̄·nê,” from “paneh”), regularly translated as “before,” is found confirmed as meaning “face,” as here the clear word “paneka” is found. The NRSV translates this as “countenance,” but it is relative to the First Commandment, where Yahweh’s wives only wear His “face” before Him, having taken on that “face” (Hi name) in marriage and the submission of a soul to Him and only Him.


Verse three literally states this: “elohim return us ; and cause to shine your face , and we shall be saved .” In this, “elohim” is following the end of verse two, which stated “and come save us.” That which Yahweh sends for this purpose is His Spirit, which transforms a soul in a body of flesh to one of the Yahweh elohim He creates, for the purpose of “returning” a soul to His fold. This is then the “establishment of cherubim [plural angels, as is elohim] whose presence within one’s soul causes it to “shine forth. This can be depicted in art as a halo surrounding one’s “face” or head. That presence within then assures one that all such souls who are the “elohim” of Yahweh “are saved.”


This is then confirmed in verse four, where David sang “Yahweh elohim” (not “the Lord God”). The combination of words – “Yahweh elohim” – is found written eleven times in Genesis 2, after the seventh day has been announced with the creation of Adam. Adam was the first “Yahweh elohim,” whose soul was merged with an “angel” of Yahweh, making Adam be immortal, as a demigod.


The whole of verse four then literally translates into English as saying: “Yahweh elohim of hosts ; as far as when you will burn , against prayer of your people ?” Because this ends with a question mark, the words meaning “as far as when” (“ad-mathay”) are translated by the NRSV as “how long”. The Hebrew word translated as “be angry” (“a-san-ta,” from “ashan”) also means “smoke,” which means, “where there is smoke there is fire.”


Here, it is important to realize Yahweh appeared as a pillar of “fire” or “smoke,” to watch the Israelites by night. Thus, the question should be seen as “How long will Yahweh watch over His people, when their “prayers” are against marriage to His Spirit?” When a “prayer” is seen to say, “Save me,” the “burn” must be when one’s soul sacrifices self unto Yahweh, so one’s flesh becomes “smoke” that no longer leads a soul astray. To then say “against prayers” in one word (“biṯ·p̄il·laṯ”) becomes a statement that “prayers” are for having broken the marriage agreement – the Covenant.


When this song is about the “gatherer” [“Asaph”], a “shepherd” or “pastor” can only call to the sheep to come, but it is up to the sheep to hear the voice and go. To pray against being saved is to play the fool, which is how many Christians go through life. The call Jesus their Good Shepherd, but they never take the steps necessary to become Jesus reborn and become the “gatherer” of lost souls. Thus, verse five sings of what “against prayers” bring into the lives of perpetually ‘lost sheep.’


The literal translation of verse five is as such: “you have fed them the bread of tears ; and you have given them drink tears a third .” In this, the last word written in Hebrew is “šā·lîš,” from “shaliysh,” This means “a third,” where the assumption is one of three parts. The repeating of “tears” twice is then the choice made by those who call themselves ‘believers,’ while they refuse to go towards true faith, by merging their souls with Yahweh. Yahweh offers them His “bread” of Scripture, but they refuse to see the deeper truth. Therefore, they focus only on the “tears” that come forth. As for the “drink” offered by Yahweh – the blood of His Son, in relationship – they again refuse to marry Yahweh and become both His wife and the mother of His Son. They then refuse to form the Sacred Trinity, denying themselves the most important “third” of the Trinity. This places them into the category of fallen angels, where “a third” went “against” Yahweh’s command to serve mankind.


David then sang about the constant state of turmoil that surrounds transplants into Canaan, where they were never meant to remain there forever. The seed of Jacob was deposited into the womb that was the Promised Land. However, that placement of seed was to grow into a baby that would be born into the world, for the purpose of saving the souls of others – as themselves being shepherds. This makes verse six be pointing to the childbirth a true Christian is expecting during Advent.


This means the literal translation of verse six says this: “you have made us a contention to our neighbors ; and our enemies , laugh among themselves .” Here, the element of being “made” must be seen as meaning the purpose of Yahweh planting His people in a place where others already lived. The “contention” or the “strife” is what eventually will be labor pains that expel the fetus from the womb, leaving only the natural organs and tissues (“the neighbors”) as they were before. They are meant to be “enemies,” because a new human being cannot exist within another human being. Such mergers of two into one can only be done spiritually, as a soul becoming filled with Yahweh’s Spirit, and a soul giving birth of His Son’s soul as the new Lord-Shepherd within. The element of “laughing” comes when the baby has been birthed and new life is in the world.


Verse seven is then a repeat of verse three, where “elohim of hosts restore us , and cause to shine your face , and we shall be saved .” This says the new birth os Saints does not and cannot end with one. David was not an end. Jesus also was not an end. There is no end to childbearing responsibility. The point of this Psalm 80 is to see the Spiritual aspect of bringing new life into this world. It is our souls that must become the brides of Yahweh and the mother of Jesus, over and over and over again.


As a Response to the Old Testament reading from Micah, where childbirth is stated as: “she who is in labor has brought forth,” the purpose of this song of shepherding or gathering has to be seen from that perspective. Christians are placed in a state of pregnancy by a profession that says, “I am a child of Yahweh who believes in Jesus.” The bread and the wine given by Scripture and the deeper meaning it exposes cannot be turned to the “tears” of “against prayers.” The womb can only hold a fetus for so long. It must become a live birth or stillborn. This song sings of becoming a “Yahweh elohim,” one of “the hosts” who have served Yahweh as His wives and His Sons reborn. The call is to be expecting that end to come, where salvation is known.

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