Today’s Scripture Lesson: Psalm 81
I invite you to read the entire Psalm on your own and allow the Holy Spirit to minister to you through His Word.
The 81st Psalm is attributed to the priest name, Asaph. In this psalm, Asaph speaks to the people of Israel, and then God speaks to Israel. Let’s begin with Asaph’s words in the first 5 verses and pull out some instructions, or commands:
- Sing for joy to God (v.1)
- Shout joyfully to the God of Jacob (v.1)
- Raise a song (v.2)
- Strike the timbrel (v.2)
- Blow the trumpet at the new moon (v.3)
After this shortlist is presented, Asaph tells the people why. He says, “For it is a statute for Israel, an ordinance of the God of Jacob. He established it for a testimony in Joseph when he went throughout the land of Egypt…”(vs 4-5)
I know this looks a little bit like the unsatisfying explanation, “Because I said so,” which we all no doubt received during our formative years, but I’m going to let it just hang in the air for a little while before I address it further.
Hear and Follow the Voice of God
Beginning in verse 6, God begins to speak of how He delivered His people from Egypt. He references the burden they carried on their shoulders, probably referring literally to the bricks they carried in slavery. He speaks about answering their troubled call from Egypt, leading them out by a pillar of clouds and a pillar of fire. He speaks of delivering them from their thirst and revealing His faithfulness with the waters of Meribah. Meribah is such a convicting reference, as it was one of many places on the journey through the wildernesses when the people quarreled asking, “Is the Lord amongst us, or not?” (Exodus 17:7)
Moving forward we read these words in verses 8-12:
“Hear, O My people, and I will admonish you;
O Israel, if you would listen to Me!
“Let there be no strange god among you;
Nor shall you worship any foreign god.
“I, the LORD, am your God,
Who brought you up from the land of Egypt;
Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.
“But My people did not listen to My voice,
And Israel did not obey Me.
“So I gave them over to the stubbornness of their heart,
To walk in their own devices.”
Verse 12 is such a telling verse. God “gave them over to the stubbornness of their hearts” and allowed them “to walk in their own devices.” Israel is often called a “stiff-necked people” in the Old Testament. I don’t know that I can state anything more clearly than what Scripture has already provided, but let me ask you…
Can you see a connection between stubbornness and:
- worshipping other gods/having idols?
- not listening to God?
In some translations of the Bible, the word used for “devices” is “counsel”. In other words, they were walking in their own counsel rather than seeking the counsel of the Lord, their God. In Jeremiah 7, God speaks these words through the prophet, “But this is what I commanded them, saying, ‘Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you will be My people; and you will walk in all the way which I command you, that it may be well with you.’ Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in their own counsels and in the stubbornness of their evil heart, and went backward and not forward… they did not listen to Me or incline their ear, but stiffened their neck; they did more evil than their fathers.” (vs 23-24, 26)
Once again, we see that Israel failed to listen to their heavenly Father. In fact, God said they wouldn’t even “incline their ear” to Him, meaning they didn’t even give His word consideration.
Abundant Favor Follows the Voice of God
It’s important to note the reason God wants us to obey, the reason God wants us to walk in His commandments. He uses the words, “that it may be well with you.” Our heavenly Father desires good for us. But, with stubbornness in our hearts, we often say, “I’m going to do it my own way.”
In the 81st Psalm, God goes on to say, “Oh that my people would listen to Me, that Israel would walk in My ways!…I would feed you with the finest of the wheat, and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.” Do you see the tension?
We say “my way” while God says, “My way.” When we walk in our own way, we go after the best we can attain on our own, but God is fully ready to give us the “finest” thing there is. He’s ready to satisfy us in ways that we can’t even conceive. Whoever heard of honey coming from a rock? How sweet it must be!
So, what’s the play call?
I told you I would come back to the opening verses.
The various commands have nothing to do with satisfying God. They merely serve as acts of remembrance. In other words, just like the table of covenant where we “do this in remembrance,” God provided rituals which served as acts of remembrance that He delivered His people from Egypt, that He was and IS amongst His people.
I left out a phrase earlier from verse 5, which says, “I heard a language I did not know.” This phrase serves to introduce the Words of God in this psalm. I point this out to suggest that you consider your counsel. We know the voice of our desires. We know the voice of our friends. We know the voice of our mentors. We know the voice of our pastors. While some of these may actually be wise counsel, do you know the voice of the Good Shepherd? He is known as the “Wonderful Counselor.”
The question at Meribah was, “Is the Lord amongst us, or not?” It can’t be a coincidence that we see this scene referenced shortly after Asaph says, “I heard a language I did not know.” Hearing the voice of the Wonderful Counselor rather than seeking other voices of counsel is an act of faith. It is time to enter Scripture in faith and understanding that, YES, the Lord is here and active and living and fully ready to speak to the heart inclined to Him.
His is the only voice which will never deceive you and which will satisfy you in ways you can’t even imagine.