Psalm 80

Hear us, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock; you who sit enthroned between the cherubim, shine forth before Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh. Awaken your might; come and save us. Restore us, O God; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.

O LORD God Almighty, how long will your anger smolder against the prayers of your people? You have fed them with the bread of tears; you have made them drink tears by the bowlful. You have made us a source of contention to our neighbors, and our enemies mock us. Restore us, O God Almighty; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.

You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it. You cleared the ground for it, and it took root and filled the land. The mountains were covered with its shade, the mighty cedars with its branches. It sent out its boughs to the Sea, its shoots as far as the River. Why have you broken down its walls so that all who pass by pick its grapes? Boars from the forest ravage it and the creatures of the field feed on it.

Return to us, O God Almighty! Look down from heaven and see! Watch over this vine, the root your right hand has planted, the son you have raised up for yourself. Your vine is cut down, it is burned with fire; at your rebuke your people perish. Let your hand rest on the man at your right hand, the son of man you have raised up for yourself. Then we will not turn away from you; revive us, and we will call on your name. Restore us, O LORD God Almighty; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.

“Seeing is believing,” the scoffers love to say. It’s man’s most consistent response to God. From Moses on Mt. Sinai to the Jewish leaders at the foot of the cross, it was always the same. Show me.

When Moses had received the second set of tablets containing the 10 Commandments (remember, he had smashed the first set when he saw the Israelites partying at the foot of the mountain) and had spent a total of 80 days on the mountain with the Lord, he couldn’t stand it any more. “Show me your glory,” He said. And from that day on, everyone has wanted to see the proof that God exists. It’s as if seeing Him is what makes Him real.

After miracles without number and the specific fulfillment of over 300 Old Testament prophecies, the Jews had said, “Show us a sign.” Finally, as they watched Him die, it was, “Come down from the cross and we’ll believe you.”

And it wasn’t only the non-believers. Phillip, having spent three years at the Lord’s side, still asked to see God. And Thomas said, “I won’t believe unless I see,” after the disciples told him about the resurrection. Two thousand years later we’re still asking God to prove Himself to us as a condition of our faith. Save me, restore me, deliver me, heal me, bless me, and then I’ll believe. Show me a sign.

But from God’s view they’ve left out the first step. With Him it’s, “Believing is seeing,” first and then “Seeing is believing” later. Or as one author put it, “When you believe you’ll see, and when you see you’ll believe.” Seeing is meant to be the confirmation of the belief that already exists, not its source. “Faith comes through hearing,” Paul wrote, (Rom 10:17) and, “We live by faith not by sight.” (2 Cor. 5:7)

If the Jews had believed the message of their own prophets they would have seen that Jesus was their Messiah and that God’s redemptive plan was being fulfilled right before their eyes. Then they would have understood why He couldn’t come down off the cross, even though it was well within His power to do so, and thanked God for the incredible privilege of being there to witness His work of redemption.

If Phillip had believed that Jesus was God become man, he would have known he was looking at Him even as he asked, and would have been awestruck at his proximity to his Creator. And if Thomas had believed what Jesus had taught him he wouldn’t have asked for proof of His resurrection. He would have been expecting it and would have kicked himself for not being there when Jesus appeared while begging for another chance to see Him.

How many times has God shown Himself to us, and yet we still ask for signs that He’s with us. If we really believed His promise that He’s working all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose, (Rom. 8:28) wouldn’t we expect to be carried through even our most difficult times and be blessed in the midst of them? And wouldn’t our faith be strengthened every time it happened?

Asking God for a sign as a condition of belief is like asking a stove for heat as a condition of providing fuel. It’s putting the cart before the horse and exposes our lack of faith. If we received all the signs we seek, we wouldn’t need any faith, and that would defeat God’s whole purpose for our lives.

“Because you have seen me you have believed,” Jesus told Thomas, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)