Psalm 81

Psalm 81

Oh, That My People Would Listen to Me

To the choirmaster: according to The Gittith. Of Asaph.

81   Sing aloud to God our strength;
    shout for joy to the God of Jacob!
  Raise a song; sound the tambourine,
    the sweet lyre with the harp.
  Blow the trumpet at the new moon,
    at the full moon, on our feast day.
  For it is a statute for Israel,
    a rule of the God of Jacob.
  He made it a decree in Joseph
    when he went out over the land of Egypt.
  I hear a language I had not known:
  “I relieved your shoulder of the burden;
    your hands were freed from the basket.
  In distress you called, and I delivered you;
    I answered you in the secret place of thunder;
    I tested you at the waters of Meribah. Selah
  Hear, O my people, while I admonish you!
    O Israel, if you would but listen to me!
  There shall be no strange god among you;
    you shall not bow down to a foreign god.
  I am the LORD your God,
    who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.
    Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.
  “But my people did not listen to my voice;
    Israel would not submit to me.
  So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts,
    to follow their own counsels.
  Oh, that my people would listen to me,
    that Israel would walk in my ways!
  I would soon subdue their enemies
    and turn my hand against their foes.
  Those who hate the LORD would cringe toward him,
    and their fate would last forever.
  But he would feed you with the finest of the wheat,
    and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”


Psalm 81 Commentary

by Brad Boyles

Sin destroys.

If we ever were to wonder what God thinks about sin, we only need to start with this chapter. It brings to mind a movement within churches today to minimize God’s anger and illuminate His love. It’s much better to focus on both! Without God’s incredible standard for moral conduct, we would never understand the cost Jesus paid on the cross. Here in Psalm 81, we get a glimpse of things from His viewpoint.

I am Yahweh your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.  11  “But My people did not listen to Me; Israel did not obey Me.  12  So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own plans.  13  If only My people would listen to Me and Israel would follow My ways,  14  I would quickly subdue their enemies and turn My hand against their foes.”

Psalms 81:10-14 HCSB

What’s beautiful about this passage is that it allows us to step into God’s shoes. I recently asked the kids in the children’s class how many chances God should have given the Israelites. Many of them said 1. A few of them said 2 or 3. Then, I asked them how many chances I should give them when they disrupt class. The number was much higher!

The point is, it’s easy to see something one-sided when you fail to understand the conflict from the other side. The people complained that God did not act quickly and allowed them to be humiliated. God states here there was a reason for that – a lack of obedience. But, even then, Israel come up with excuses. We do the same. Many today are quick to blame God when things go wrong, but very few look at their own lives from His perspective. And He has given miraculous mercy and grace despite!

“This psalm turns the prayers of the people in the previous two psalms on their heads. Now it is God who stands alone. The psalm tells of the consequence of our actions in the heart of God. It is a jarring image that reminds us that, just as with that generation in the wilderness, God has also provided us with all we have and has even offered salvation, yet we continue to seek our own counsel and ways instead of the one who gives us all we need. It reminds us that God, too, has a story to tell about this relationship God shares with humanity. Our relationship with God is complex and two-sided, and often as here it gives us pause to contemplate the other side and to see the world, just for a moment, from God’s side.”

Beth Tanner

So, what do you need to contemplate from God’s side? What changes need to be made?

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