Psalm 81


Psalm 81 was sung every Thursday.  One of Asaph strengths was his ability to sing of the past, and make history a learning lesson.  In this Psalm, we have a wonderful example of it.  It is easy to see why he was so prized by David. How joyfully Asaph starts out.  It is time to rejoice and shout for joy.  Strike up the beat of the timbrel and sing a song.  The harp should join in along with the lute.  The trumpet must send forth its voice to announce the celebration of the solemn feast day. 

What is it that inspires such moving worship?  It is the call to celebrate the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt.  Indeed, there is much to celebrate in this, for God takes his stand for his people.  Verse 5 through 8 describe this in a most interesting way.  Asaph describes a testimony which God set in Joseph in their going out of Egypt.  In an interesting way Asaph uses the imperfect verbs to describe what took place.  The use of the imperfects in this manner may seem strange to some, and many translations avoid it, but Asaph uses them to make this testimony very easy to remember. 

"I will hear a language I did not know.  I removed his burden from the shoulder, his hands will pass away from the basket." 

The Psalm draws the reader into its story giving him sights and sounds that develop before his very eyes.  What a tool for memorization.  Much is missed if this is simply translated into the past tense.  God says it as though it is something he will never forget.  Note God's words, "I will hear a language I did not know."

But does God really not know?  God knows all things.  How quickly Jesus' words come to mind, "Many will call upon me in that day and I will say to them, I never knew you.  Depart from me you workers of iniquity."  So God walked among a nation that would not know him nor acknowledge him. How strange the sight and sounds of such obstanance.  In justified rejection God declares, "They speak a language I will not know."  

As a man is, so also he speaks.  Egypt was what they spoke, "Who is this God that I should obey him?  I will not let your people go."  Should God accept such a nation, or acknowledge such speech?  Gently his hand went up and he removed Joseph's burden from his shoulder, then He spoke kindly to him.  God says it as though it is something he will never forget. 

"In distress you have called and I will deliver you.  I will answer you in the hiding place of thunder. I will prove you upon the waters of Maribah."  Selah "Hear my people and I will testify in you, O Israel if you will listen to me.  There will not be a strange god in you and you will not bow down to a strange god.  I am Yahweh your God who brought you up from the land of Egypt.  Open your mouth wide and I will fill it." 

What a message.  Egypt does not acknowledge me, but you ... I freed you.  I blessed you ... I became your God ... I fed you as a bird does its young ... What will the response be from God's people?  Will they be a people whose language he knows?   How will the Psalm close?   What head can keep itself upright?   What heart can keep from being heavy?  We know what is coming.  But my people did not listen to my voice, and Israel would not consent to me.  So I gave him up in the obstinancy of their heart, they will walk in their own counsels. 

Because of this, the Psalm closes with a picture of missed blessings.  Missed blessings! Did you hear that? Missed blessings! How the body cries out when it misses its food or drink.  The body's message we hear … because it has our attention.  But the poor soul, whose mouth should be wide open, closes in stubborn obstinancy.  The result is the same as before.  God will hear a language he does not know. 

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