1 For the director of music. According to gittith. Of Asaph.
Sing for joy to God our strength; shout aloud to the God of Jacob! 2 Begin the music, strike the tambourine, play the melodious harp and lyre 3 Sound the ram’s horn at the New Moon, and when the moon is full, on the day of our Feast; 4 this is a decree for Israel, an ordinance of the God of Jacob. 5 He established it as a statute for Joseph when he went out against Egypt, where we heard a language we did not understand.
6 He says, “I removed the burden from their shoulders; their hands were set free from the basket. 7 In your distress you called and I rescued you, I answered you out of a thundercloud; I tested you at the waters of Meribah. Selah
8 “Hear, O my people, and I will warn you—if you would but listen to me, O Israel! 9 You shall have no foreign god among you; you shall not bow down to an alien god. 10 I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of Egypt. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it. 11 “But my people would not listen to me; Israel would not submit to me. 12 So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices.
13 “If my people would but listen to me, if Israel would follow my ways, 14 how quickly would I subdue their enemies and turn my hand against their foes!
15 Those who hate the LORD would cringe before him, and their punishment would last for ever. 16 But you would be fed with the finest of wheat; with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”
Psalm 81 – Trust and obey
(Verses 1-5) Psalm 81 starts like a hymn, with enthusiastic worship supported by various musical instruments. It is for one of Israel’s ordained feasts, very probably the Feast of Tabernacles. Some special celebrations were held when there was a new moon. The Feast of Tabernacles was commanded by God and held on the fifteenth day of Tishri – a New Moon day in what would be September or October for us today. It commemorated how God had kept and provided for His people in the desert after leaving Egypt and before entering the Promised Land.
(Verses 6-7) The lifted ‘burden’ and the ‘basket’ remind Israel of their slavery in Egypt when they had to carry baskets of bricks. God rescued His distressed people and gave them His laws on Mount Sinai , where they heard thunder. At Meribah (‘strife’) He tested them: they failed and tempted God by asking if He was still with them. When Christ becomes your Saviour, God removes the burden of sin and guilt because Jesus paid for your sins by His death on the cross. You will be tempted and tested too. If you fail to trust the Lord to overcome them, remember 1 John 1:9 , ‘If we confess our sins [direct to God] He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.’
(Verses 8-12) God reminded them that He saved them from Egypt and wanted to satisfy all their needs generously. But they neither listened nor submitted to God. So, God left them to their stubborn hearts and their own ways to teach them they really did need Him in charge. Far better to learn that lesson in the blessing of trusting and obeying your loving God. One hymn says,
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey.
(Verses 13-16) These final verses underline the truth of that hymn. See the Lord’s positive promises to those who do trust and obey Him: they are far better than merely avoiding His chastising hand:-
- God will subdue Israel’s enemies quickly and oppose their foes.
- God will deal with those who hate Him. They will ‘cringe before Him’.
- God will feed and satisfy them, by the ‘finest of wheat’ and ‘honey from the rock.’ Jesus, our Rock, gives sweet and satisfying blessing.