How to Read Psalm 80
When we read the Psalms, we need to remember that we are reading poetry. The psalms contain true doctrine but they are not intended to be repositories for doctrinal exposition. Rather they appeal to our emotions through the use of strongly charged imagery and beautiful structure.
Plea for salvation. The community of believers is being oppressed by their enemies and therefore they are crying out to God. Lament is the common term used for this type of psalm.
Throughout the psalm, the sovereignty of God is evident. All good and all evil that happened to Israel is because the Lord did it ("you drove out the nations", "you cleared the ground for it", "you have fed them with the bread of tears", "you make us an object of contention"). And how will Israel come back to the Lord? Only if God will act. Only if He will turn toward Israel and turn Israel toward Himself.
ESV translates vs. 3,7, and 19 as Restore us but provides a footnote that they can also be translated as Turn us again. The latter translation fits in better with the flow of the psalm. It also makes it easier for us to see that the psalm is divided into four pleas for salvation (vs. 1-3, vs 4-7, vs. 8-16, vs.17-19).
The psalm is full of synonymous parallels. It is worth mentioning that verse 17 is a case of synthetic parallelism. The second line gives us a greated understanding of who the man on God's right hand may be and what it means for God's hand to be on him.
Psalm 79 asks for deliverance through judgment on the enemies. Psalms 80 asks for deliverance by turning the hearts of God's people back to God. In Psalm 81 we find God's response.
It will be beneficial for the reader to consider how this psalm fits into the larger group of Asaph psalms (73-83).
It should be impossible to read God being referred to as the Shepherd of Israel without us immediately remembering Christ calling himself the good shepherd (John 10:14). When we read that God brought "vine out of Egypt", once again we should think of Christ. Not merely because Christ calls himself the true vine but because throughout the Scripture, Christ is the true Israel, that is He fulfills the purpose of God's son (Hosea 11:1 - Matthew 2:15). And finally, who is the son of man? Christ frequently uses this term to refer to himself in the Gospels. And this psalm concludes by pointing us to the son of man who will turn us again to our God.
As we read the Psalms, it is important to remember that they are not just poetry. They are songs of worship. And as such, they should move us to worship our God.
This is by no means the comprehensive way to read a psalm but merely a few suggestions. For more enouragement from the book of Psalms, consider the following: