Psalm 81 is a festival psalm where God is praised for His faithfulness. The trumpet is blown, and the people are gathered together to worship the Lord and to remember His lovingkindness:
- “Blow the trumpet at the time of the New Moon, at the full moon, on our solemn feast day. For this is a statute for Israel, a law of the God of Jacob. This He established in Joseph as a testimony, when He went throughout the land of Egypt, where I heard a language I did not understand” (Psalm 81:3-5).
The Lord is reminding His people how He liberated them from Egypt, where they were once enslaved, and how He gave them the Law in the wilderness so that they would be people set apart to Him. The Lord delivered them from a land immersed in the worship of false gods and brought them into the wilderness to teach them how to walk with Him, to trust Him, and to obey Him. The Lord commanded them time and time again not to live like the people around them who were steeped in idolatry:
- “Hear, O My people, and I will admonish you! O Israel, if you will listen to Me! There shall be no foreign god among you; nor shall you worship any foreign god. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt; open your mouth wide, and I will fill it” (Psalm 81:8-10).
However, the Israelites continued to reject the Lord in spite of the marvelous works He performed on their behalf. The Lord longed to pour out His blessings upon His people as He says “open your mouth wide, and I will fill it”, but the people lacked faith; therefore, the Lord gave them over to themselves:
- “But My people would not heed My voice, and Israel would have none of Me. So I gave them over to their own stubborn heart, to walk in their own counsels” (Psalm 81:11-12).
The Lord’s warnings were ignored by the Israelites as their hearts went after the idols of the nations around them, so the Lord gave them over to “their own stubborn heart, to walk in their own counsels”. Being left to ourselves is a death sentence. Jeremiah will later say, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). An unrestrained person acting out of the lust of his own heart will always default to evil and wickedness. The Lord knows this and that is why He pleads for His people to obey His good commandments because He knows what is best for them:
- “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 adversaries. The haters of the Lord would pretend submission to Him, but their fate would endure forever. He would have fed them also with the finest of wheat; and with honey from the rock I would have satisfied you” (Psalm 81:13-16)
The Lord wants only good for His people – “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). However, we must cooperate with the Lord, as Paul will later say, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:1-2). In order to be transformed, we must spend time in the presence of the Lord and in His word — we must be people of discipline and self restraint.
Tomorrow, Solomon sits on the throne as the new king of Israel. Just as the Lord has warned His people against idolatry and commanded them to walk in obedience all throughout the story, He will soon give the same charge to King Solomon – “Now if you walk before Me as your father David walked, in integrity of heart and in uprightness, to do according to all that I have commanded you, and if you keep My statutes and My judgments, then I will establish the throne of your kingdom over Israel forever, as I promised David your father, saying, ‘You shall not fail to have a man on the throne of Israel.’ But if you or your sons at all turn from following Me, and do not keep My commandments and My statutes which I have set before you, but go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel from the land which I have given them; and this house which I have consecrated for My name I will cast out of My sight. Israel will be a proverb and a byword among all peoples” (1 Kings 9:4-7).
Solomon, like everyone else, will have a choice to make — obey the Lord and walk in His ways or don’t. Keep reading to see the life of King Solomon unfold. (Psalm 79-82)