Today I want to take a closer look at Psalm 81.
I remember growing up, on a few occasions, I would ask my dad if I could try something that would either hurt me a little (not really harmful), or taste something that he knew was not good. Although he would tell me “no” I would persist, trying to convince him to allow me to try or taste whatever it was that was not good for me. There were a few times where my dad would allow me to do those things, even though he knew it would not taste good or hurt me a little. There were 2 things that I believe my dad was teaching me in allowing me to have what it was I wanted so badly. 1. He wanted me to learn to trust him and 2. not everything I want is good for me.
In this psalm, the psalmist starts out with what is believed to be describing the celebration of the “feast of booths” or “feast of tabernacles.” This is a celebration of the nation of Israel celebrating Gods “tabernacling” or his presence dwelling with them while they wandered in the desert for 40 years.
So, the psalmist calls on the nation of Israel to celebrate God’s protection and dwelling among them during their wandering. Then there seems to be a shift in the psalm to where God begins to speak. Starting at verse 6 going through verse 16. It is as if God is warning the nation of Israel not to follow the desires of their hearts.
Psalm 81: 6-16
6“I relieved your shoulder of the burden;
your hands were freed from the basket.
7In distress you called, and I delivered you;
I answered you in the secret place of thunder;
I tested you at the waters of Meribah.
8 Hear, O my people, while I admonish you!
O Israel, if you would but listen to me!
9There shall be no strange god among you;
you shall not bow down to a foreign god.
10 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.
11“But my people did not listen to my voice;
Israel would not submit to me.
12So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts,
to follow their own counsels.
13 Oh, that my people would listen to me,
that Israel would walk in my ways!
14I would soon subdue their enemies
and turn my hand against their foes.
15Those who hate the Lord would cringe toward him,
and their fate would last forever.
16But he would feed you with the finest of the wheat,
and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”
First, God starts off reminding them of His provision in their wandering in the desert. He says in verses 6-7, “I relieved your shoulder of the burden; your hands were free 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.”
Then God goes on to warn them and remind them of how they did not listen to God, even though He carried them through the desert and provided for them. He pleads with them and says “If you would just listen to me!” in (vs 8). He says do not have any false God among you….don’t bow down to your false Gods (vs 9)! He reminds them that He alone is their God who provides for them until they have their fill (verse 10).
God then says, in verses 11-13: “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 counsel, Oh that my people would listen to me, that Israel would walk in my ways!”
Do you see the progression in the psalm here? It’s like God is saying, “look how I have provided for you! Look at all I have done for you! Why would you worship any other false God when I am your God and your God alone!” But the nation of Israel just wouldn’t listen, so he gave them over to the desires of their hearts and to their own counsels!
I think one of the scariest things that God will do is to give us exactly what we desire. Look at this text and see how God is pleading with His chosen nation not to go after false gods and to trust Him, but they just won’t listen! So that they will learn, he gives them over to their stubborn hearts! Just like my dad would let me have what I was persistent about having or doing, knowing that it wasn’t the best for me; he knew that once I experienced the hurt, I would learn to trust him more!
I believe right now God is pleading with His people! I think that this pandemic is God shouting, trying to get our attention as the global church! I think God is saying, “look at your false Gods! Do not worship them! Look how quickly I can bring them to their knees!” I believe He is trying to get our attention and that we need to pay attention. People keep saying “I hope things can go back to normal…” I think that if things go back to normal as the global church, we missed it.
Look at what God says in verses 14-16. He says, “that He would take care of their enemies, and he would provide for them with the finest of wheat and honey.”
The grace of God is overflowing with abundance towards His children and in Him only can we truly be satisfied! God is speaking now! He is speaking through His word to you today! Do not persist in following after the passions of you heart unless God gives you exactly what you ask for! But look at how faithful God is! Turn back to Jesus! Throw down your idols now! May we worship the God who provides for us and cares for us, who tabernacles with us and His presence dwells within us!