Summary: How do we learn to handle the many distractions that come to all of us--especially at the Christmas season?
Iliff & Saltillo United Methodist
December 8, 2002
Managing the Inevitable Distractions
Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19
INTRODUCTION: This week I had difficulty getting this sermon ready. I was distracted by many things. Maybe you have felt this way too, especially during the Christmas season. Pulled from one thing to another, a person often begins to lose sight of what you started out to do and what is the main priority. How many have had this happen to you this week? You find that the week has gone by yet you have failed to stay on target. Today I want to talk about managing the inevitable distractions--especially those extra ones that creep up during the holiday season. I want to also go back in history to a time when the Israelites were experiencing some of the same problems--being distracted by the ordinary things of daily life to being distracted from giving their attention to God who brought them out of Egypt. Their distractions finally took them far from God and in this Psalm they were trying to get back on track. Sometimes we find that our distractions lead us far away from what we say is really important to us and far away from God who is our true source of all that is good--peace, hope, joy, and love. The Advent Season is a time to get back to where we need to be.
In Psalm 80, the Israelites had become distracted by many things. Many of the people became very arrogant and were distracted by false gods in the land. They made alliances with people who were not even serving God. They didn’t really think they needed God because they were blessed by everything they needed. Joshua had led them into the promised land, they had defeated their enemies, they had an abundance of everything and thought they could make it on their own. The many distractions led them into a sense of false security. The enemies finally defeated them and led them away into captivity. II Kings 17:6 tells us that the king of Assyria came and invaded the entire land and carried the Israelites off into captivity.
Today’s Psalm is a prayer for help for oppressed Israel. Did they have a shred of hope left? The Psalm is a picture of themselves as they looked back to better times. A time when the distractions around them were at least not defeating them. Let’s see what we can get out of this scripture.
1. Go Back to Square One: Psalm 80 starts out by saying, “Hear us, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock. Awaken your might. Come and Save us. Restore us. Make your face Shine Upon Us.
1. Hear us 3. Come and Save us
2. Awaken your might 4. Restore
I think what this Psalm is saying to us is Go Back to Square One and start over again. They didn’t even think God was hearing their prayers. They thought God’s anger was “smoldering against their prayers” (v. 4). They still considered themselves God’s people, but they felt so far from Him. I have heard many Christians say the same thing. “God is not hearing my prayers. God is not answering me.” Could it be that we have allowed the many distractions to lead us away from God that we no longer feel His presence as we once did? These people of God went back to Square One--Hear us. They had begun to recognize their need of God. Awaken your might and come and save us. They are saying, “Stir Up Your strength which now seems to be dormant and silent in my life.” Restore us--when we think of restoring something, we want to make it beautiful again, to polish it or refinish it to a similar valuable state. They remembered the times when things were better for them. They went on to say, “Cause your face to shine on us that we may be saved.”
This was a very significant part of the Mosaic blessing in Numbers 6:25
“The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”
The Shechinah Cloud was the symbol of God’s presence among his people. They knew they had lost their sense of His presence in their lives. “Shine forth” represents POWER, FAITHFULNESS, and LOVE.
Distractions of all sorts--busyness, wrong priorities, neglect of the important, neglecting God--ALL of these things can lead us away from the Presence of God as well.
Today is the time to go back to Square One.
Here is the hope--they had not gone so far away from God that they couldn’t come back, that they couldn’t be restored. When they once recognized that things were not going so well, that something had happened to them, then they were able to find help. They returned to Square One right in the middle of their distractions just as they were. They didn’t try to “fix things” on their own.