Throned Above the Cherubim - a Conception of God
Psalm 80:1
Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you that lead Joseph like a flock; you that dwell between the cherubim, shine forth.

Prayer book Version, "Thou that sittest upon the cherubim;" Perowne, "Thou that sittest (throned above) the cherubim;" Revised Version margin, "dwellest between." It is plain that this psalm was composed when Israel was groaning under some foreign oppression which it was powerless to resist. It is a plaintive cry for restoration to a state which should be indicative of the Divine favour. Two periods may be mentioned as times when Palestine became the battleground of rival powers (see ver. 6) - when Assyria and Egypt fought in it; and in the post-Exilic period, when it was the apple of discord between the Ptolemies and the Seleucidae. There is evident poetical reference to the tabernacle of the wilderness, rather than to the temple at Jerusalem; for the poet was thinking of God as leading his people, and in vision saw the tribes in their camping and marching order. The cover, or mercy scat, of the ark was thought of as the throne of Jehovah. Above it rested the bright light, which was the symbol of the Divine presence; and the figures of the cherubim, with their wings extended and touching each other, formed the canopy of the throne. God's presence there was the sign of his abiding presence, and close, helpful relations with his people. His shining out, or shining forth, was the sign of his specially acting in judgment on the rebellious, or in vindication of the Divine honour, as in the case of Korah. So the psalmist, in Psalm 50:2, says, "Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined." (The account of the cherubim is given in Exodus 25:19-22.) We inquire what thoughts of God are specially associated with his manifestations from between the cherubim.

I. GOD IS EVER PRESENT WITH HIS PEOPLE. To the Jewish mind the symbol was always there between the cherubim, though not one of the people ever beheld it. It helped them to realize that their God was in their midst. No matter what might be the national calamities, at least they could be sure of this - that symbol of the present God remained. There could be no overwhelming calamity while the Keeper of Israel was still between the cherubim.

II. GOD MAY BE HIDING HIMSELF FROM HIS PEOPLE; or rather, he may seem to them to be hiding himself. This is the trouble of the psalmist - Israel is in sore distress, and God seems to keep silence, to "dwell in the thick darkness," and hold aloof from the strife. God never is uninterested in his people's cares; but his interest may sometimes best be shown in withholding his hand, and biding his time. His time is sure to come.

III. GOD MAY BE ASKED TO MANIFEST HIMSELF TO HIS PEOPLE. It may be precisely for the attitude which expresses itself in asking that God may be waiting. He manifests himself by "stirring up his strength to help us, and by shining forth his glory to cheer us." - R.T.

Parallel Verses
KJV: {To the chief Musician upon ShoshannimEduth, A Psalm of Asaph.} Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, thou that leadest Joseph like a flock; thou that dwellest between the cherubims, shine forth.

WEB: Hear us, Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock, you who sit above the cherubim, shine forth.

The Word God Means the Shining One
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