Since April of 2013, our scripture reading on Sunday mornings has been from the Psalms. Sometimes choosing a topic for a brief article is difficult and I struggle until I find something to discuss. This psalm is not a problem. My real problem is how can I not write multiple articles on the vivid themes expressed in this psalm? There are many to choose from and before I could get out of the first verse the decision was made. In less than five seconds, my eyes were riveted to this phrase, “thou that dwellest between the cherubims, shine forth.”
Those of you that know me well understand why I gravitated towards this phrase. It is a tabernacle or temple reference which has long been one of my favorite subjects. What is the stunning beauty of this statement? It is the promise God made to dwell in fellowship with His people in tabernacle worship. The special place of God’s presence was in the Holy of Holies where the Ark of the Covenant stood. The Ark was a small rectangular box made of wood overlaid with pure gold. Though very small, a little less than four feet long and a little less than two feet wide and tall, the Ark was a powerful symbol of the presence of God.
On top of the Ark forming a lid, was the mercy seat which is the place of the sprinkling of blood by the high priest on the Day of Atonement. Above it stood two cherubs with wings outstretched and touching at the wing tips. It was a beautifully constructed box, but nothing could match the beauty of the intangible between those two cherubs. This is the reference in Psalms 80 verse 1. “Thou that dwellest between the cherubims, shine forth.” The intangible was a bright shining light of the glory of God that showed He was in residence.
An interesting point in this psalm is the absence of the temple, the absence of the Holy of Holies, the absence of the Ark of the Covenant, and thus the absence of the bright shining light known as the Shekinah Glory. The temple and all of its furnishings had been destroyed as the result of Israel’s sin. The psalmist is in the midst of a sad bitter wail asking God to return. Three times he prayed, ”Turn us again, O LORD God of hosts, cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved.”
Again, interestingly, the figure switches from the physical light of God’s glory in verse one to the spiritual expression of His presence displayed in blessing Israel again. I believe this is what is sorely needed in our churches today. We have never had manifestations of God’s glory in shining lights, but there have been plenty of them in demonstrations of the Holy Spirit’s power. The power today is not present in old time gifts of the Spirit such as tongues, prophecy, and healing. The presence of God is manifested in the power of His word spoken from pulpits by His preachers.
We need more power in the pulpit. I do not mean shouting, screaming and pounding—I mean sermons with depth that feed the souls of God’s people. We ask God to keep supplying messages that pierce the heart and pique the understanding. It is not the preacher’s work—it is the presence and power of the Holy Spirit that make it happen. “Please God—cause your face to shine in the preaching of the word. Hide your preachers behind the cross that your glory may be seen.”
Pastor V. Mark Smith