Psalm 81

Psalm 81 Devotional
by Pastor Mark Hudson

            Robert Godfrey in Learning to Love the Psalms writes, “In a sense, it (Psalm 81) is the central psalm in the book of Psalms.  Of course, it does not stand at the numerical center of 150 Psalms.  But it is the central psalm in the central book of the Psalter.  And at the center of Psalm 81 are these words: “O Israel, if you would but listen to me!” (v. 8b).  p. 143.

            This Psalm could easily have been used at the Feast of Booths or Tabernacles.  Verse 3, “Blow the trumpet at the new moon, at the full moon, on our feast day.” Whenever this was used in worship, the message is clear.  God’s people do not listen to God but should.

            See how God provides for His people in v 6-7.  I relieved your shoulder . . . your hands were freed . . . This deliverance is so personal.  God seems so close to His people when they are burdened.  God delivers them when the call during their distress.

            Israel failed to listen to God,  “Hear, O my people, while I admonish you!  O Israel, if you would but listen to me!”  Then again in v. 11, 13 the theme of listening to God occurs.  How often we read about God calling His people to listen.  “Hear, O Israel,”  (Deut. 6:4).  In Matthew 17:5, God speaks to Peter, James and John immediately after the transfiguration, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him” 

            With their refusal to listen to God, Israel slid into idolatry  v. 9.  They refused to submit to God v. 11.  Why?  What does God do to them?  Take away good things?  Harm them?  God is the one “who brought you up out of the land of Egypt” v. 10

            Look at verse 10c, “Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.”  This is exactly what God wants to do.  God wants to give us all we need.  Only God can satisfy our deepest longings.  No one can do that.  A wife or husband, a child, a family, a great job, awards, beautiful homes or expensive cars could ever satisfy us.  God wants to “feed you with the finest of wheat, and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you”  v. 16

            John Piper’s oft quoted sentence: ‘God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him’ rings true with this Psalm as well as the tenor of the entire Bible.  We open our mouths wide to the world, which fills us with worldly pleasures and those things do not satisfy.  So we crave more of the same and get the same result.  God put these desires in us so we will seek for great, eternal, spiritual, heavenly things. 

            Bible readers have an advantage in spiritual matters over those who do not know the Scriptures.  You know, if you read the Bible, that the people of Israel were turning away from God at almost every moment.  They refused to listen, and they drank their fill of this world.   Instead of feeling satiated, quenched, or satisfied, the world leaves us ashamed, dissatisfied, and empty.  Then why do we go back for more of the same? 

            Here is a quote from John Piper to chew on, “The greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison but apple pie.  It is not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetite for heaven, but endless nibbling at the table of the world.  It is not X-rated video [we may differ with Dr. Piper here] but the prime-time dribble of triviality we drink in every night. For all the ill that Satan can do, when God describes what keeps us from the banquet table of his love, it is a piece of land, a yoke of oxen, and a wife (Luke 14:18-20).  The greatest adversary of love to God is not his enemies but his gifts.  And the most deadly appetites are not for the poison of evil, but for the simple pleasures of earth.  For when these replace an appetite for God himself, the idolatry is scarcely recognizable, and almost incurable” (A Hunger for God.  Wheaton: Crossway 1997, 14.). 

            Please read this quote and this Psalm carefully.  Be fearful of your sinful cravings.  Don’t think you can’t fall away.  Guard your heart with all diligence for from it flows the issues of life according to Proverbs 4:23.  You must be on guard.  Are you getting colder toward God and His Word?  Are you more interested in other things?  It is so easy to start slipping.  A nibble here, a look there.  A desire for this house, a second look at that bit of security.  Busy on Sunday, distracted during the week.  All good things yet they are freezing you out.

            Father, we live with such abundance.  We are surrounded by food, entertainment, comfort, and safety.  We are more dulled by this world than we admit.  We are so lulled to sleep we don’t even recognize our drowsiness.  Light a fire under our cold, cold hearts.  Help us see your eternal, invaluable worth and how passing and trivial this life is.  May Your Holy Spirit help us to see the beauty and endless joy of knowing Christ.

We pray this to the Lord who gives us joy unspeakable and full of glory.