Psalm 81

Part 13


Tonight we will examine Psalm 81. Asaph wrote this Psalm, but knowing when it was written or knowing the exact specifics of this Psalm is not known for sure. However, we can learn a lot about it as we will see: Notice the first part of our text:


Psalm 81:1 To the Chief Musician. On an instrument of Gath. A Psalm of Asaph.

ESV Psalm 81:1 To the choirmaster: according to The Gittith. Of Asaph.


This was a Psalm that would be played on the instrument of Gath or as the ESV says according to the Gittith. The same instruction can be found in Psalm 8 and 84. We can learn a little more about this Psalm by looking at the definition of Gath from Thayerís Hebrew Lexicon:


Gittith = "a wine-press" 1) a musical instrument? from Gath? and used in three Psalm titles - 8, 81, 84; a song title used for the Feast of Booths

Since there is several meaning to this word Gittith or Gath, there are several conclusions we can draw:


  1. This was possible an instrument from the region of Gath.
  2. It was a melody from a song from the city of Gath.
  3. Since it can mean winepress, it is possible that it could have been a melody from a vintage song.


Thayer also points out that our word is used as a song title for the Feast of Booths also known as the Feast of Tabernacles. Verse 3 of our Psalm confirms that this Psalm is taking place during one of the Jews 3 annual festivals, but verse 5 implies that the Feast of the Passover is in mind.


I say all this to show the possibilities behind this Psalm, but in the end, we do not the details behind this Psalm other than it was according to the Gath and that it took place at one or possibly all the 3 Feasts of the Jews.


This Psalm can be divided into two parts. In verses 1-5 God is praised, but the remaining 11 verses are written as if God is speaking and His basic message is that He wishes His people would listen to Him.


Psalm 81:1 Sing aloud to God our strength; Make a joyful shout to the God of Jacob.2 Raise a song and strike the timbrel, The pleasant harp with the lute.3 Blow the trumpet at the time of the New Moon, At the full moon, on our solemn feast day.4 For this is a statute for Israel, A law of the God of Jacob.5 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.


Asaph is calling on his people to praise God at their feast day, and he wants them to do so without holding back. Also, he wants them to praise God with joy in their heart. Of course their praise to God under the O.T. included musical instruments, but musical instruments are not commanded or to be used in our worship to God under the N.T., but one thing that has never changed across the covenant is that God does not want us to hold back when we worship Him. When we sing songs of praise, we should sing aloud and with vigor.


God certainly does not want us to worship Him half-heartedly, or because we feel like we have to. He wants us to be full of joy and have the desire to praise Him. When we think about what God has done for us, and that we have the privilege to come together to form the body of Christ and we picture God as looking down on us as we praise Him in song it should cause us to be full of joy and give us the motivation to give God our best.


When the Jews got together for their feast, they used three stringed instruments, the timbrel, harp, and the lute. They also would blow a trumpet at the new moon, which for the Jew marked the beginning of each month since they were on a Lunar Calendar. Since verse 5 implies the Passover feast, the blowing of the trumpet at the beginning of the month would correspond with Passover feast.


Additionally, they were to blow the trumpet at the full moon, which marks the middle of the month, which would correspond with the start of the feast of booth or feast tabernacle. This is one reason it is believed that Psalm was to be sung and played at all their feasts or at least at two of them.


Part of verse is a bit vague. However, the first part based on context refers to when Godcaused the Egyptians to let His people go, which is why it is believed this Psalm can refer to the Passover feast as well. The part that is vague is when the writer says, ďWhere I heard a language I did not understand,Ē some commentaries suggest that the writer is saying that he did not recognize the voice of God, or it could be referring to how he encountered someone speaking a language he did not know. Personally, I think that writer is just referring the Egyptian language because at three different times through out the O.T. the Egyptians are referred to as the nation with a strange language (Deut. 28:49; Ps. 114:1; and Jer. 5:15). Since the context is talking about the exodus from Egypt, it confirms to me that the writer is making reference to the Egyptian language. Whether this is the meaning or not I do know that the writer is about switch gears as he starts writing as if God is speaking directly to His people in the next verse.


Psalm 81:6 "I removed his shoulder from the burden; His hands were freed from the baskets. 7 You called in trouble, and I delivered you; I answered you in the secret place of thunder; I tested you at the waters of Meribah. Selah


With God being the spokesman, He begins to recite how He relieved His people from the bondage in Egypt. The Pharaoh worked the children of Israel hard by having them build bricks and structures for his kingdom. Since they felt so burden by what he was doing to them, they cried out to God to help them and that is exactly what He did for them.


When it says, He freed them from the baskets, this is talking about the baskets or pots they used to carry the bricks and the clay they used to make the bricks.


While God delivered them from the bondage of Egyptian slavery, God delivers us from the bondage of sin. Yes, sin can bring about temporary pleasure, but it always turns into a burden, but if we trust in God and seek after Him, He can and will free us from the bondage of sin.


I am not completely sure what is meant by God answering them out of the secret place of thunder, but it may refer to how God spoke to the children of Israel at Mount Sinai in Exodus 19, or others have suggested that it my refer to the cloud that led them during the day.


When it says that God tested them at the waters of Meribah, He tested them to make them understand that they were totally dependent on Him. The Jews started getting thirsty and that was all it took for them start complaining about God taking them out of Egypt. So, they failed Godís test of their faith.


Instead of trusting in God and waiting on Him to provide for them, the murmuring came before God, and he had Moses strike a rock with his rod to make water flow from the rock. This place was called the water of Meribah, which means water of strife.


This is another great example of how important it is that we trust in God and His timing. When we become impatient and start complaining, God is not going to be pleased with us. This is a big problem in our society today because we want what we want right now, but God does not work that way.


Another thing we can learn from this is that God will allow our faith to be tested from time to time. Question is, Will you pass the test or will you fail? We should not worry about faith being tested because it is designed to make us stronger as James says:


James 1:2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials,3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.


Also Paul says:


2 Corinthians 4:17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,


When your faith is tested, embrace it and use that challenging time to grow stronger in the faith knowing that God will be there to help you through your test.


As I pointed out last week, this word Selah is there for them to pause and to reflect on what has been said.


Psalm 81:8 "Hear, O My people, and I will admonish you! O Israel, if you will listen to Me!9 There shall be no foreign god among you; Nor shall you worship any foreign god.10 I am the LORD your God, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt; Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.


Many of the Psalms we have looked at up to the point usually has the writer wanting God to listen to their plea, but in this verse, God wants His people to listen to his plea. Of course, God does not have in mind hearing Him along, but obeying what He says. If they will listen to Him, He will admonish them or warn them.


One of Godís stipulations is that they must stay away from idols and worshiping false gods. If they start turning to false Godís, then they will no longer be committed to God Almighty. When God took the Jews out of Egypt, they became His people, His chosen nation. He would protect them and use them to fulfill the land promise made to Abraham.


God promised them if they will remain faithful to Him, He will provide them with everything they need. He will give them food and cause them to be able to defeat their enemies. As Paul said:


Romans 8:31 If God is for us, who can be against us?


This same promise is for us today under the new covenant as well. God knows what we need before we even ask it, and He will provide for us and help us to stand against our enemy the devil, but we must be willing to stay faithful to Him. There are many Christians today who just want a handout from God, but they are not willing obey what God tells them to do in His Word. I can promise you that God is not into one-sided relationships. If you show no interest in God, He will show no interest in you. If you are not willing to serve God, then what makes you think He is going to help you out.


Psalm 81:11 "But My people would not heed My voice, And Israel would have none of Me.12 So I gave them over to their own stubborn heart, To walk in their own counsels.


After everything God did to make it possible for the children of Israel to be free from Egyptian bondage, His people would not trust Him enough to take heed to His words. Since God created us with a free will, they chose to set their hearts against God.


God never has and never will force us to love Him or obey His commands, which is why he allowed these Jews to follow their own stubborn hearts and to follow their own wisdom. God did it in the O. T. and He does it today. We can see that God did this with the Gentiles as well in:


Romans 1:20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.22 Professing to be wise, they became fools,23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man -- and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.24 ∂ Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves,25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature.27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.28 ∂ And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting;29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers,30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful;


Of course, the parable of the prodigal††††††††††† son in Luke 15 is a good example of this as well because his father represents God. We know that the father did not hesitate to let his son go do what he wanted, but after his son had hit rock bottom with his prodigal living, we know that his father was watching for him and patiently waiting for him to come home every day. The same thing is true for us. God will allow us to follow our stubborn hearts and live a life of sin. When we do this, He will have nothing to do with us, but He still loves us and hopes that one day we will come back home and heed His voice.


Psalm 81: 13"Oh, that My people would listen to Me, That Israel would walk in My ways!14 I would soon subdue their enemies, And turn My hand against their adversaries.15 The haters of the LORD would pretend submission to Him, But their fate would endure forever.16 He would have fed them also with the finest of wheat; And with honey from the rock I would have satisfied you."


If the children of Israel had not followed their stubborn hearts and had listened to God and trusted in Him, their history would have been much different from what we read today. For example, if they had entered the land of promise the first time with faith in God, they could have avoided wandering in the wilderness all those years. If they had obeyed God and had not murmured and complained, they would not have been punished by God.


If they had kept the faith none of their enemies would have been able to stand against them. Also, He would have punished or removed those who hated Him and pretended to submit to Him. Not only would He take care of their enemies, He would have provided everything they needed to be sustained.


I just wonder how many of our lives would be different today if we had been more faithful to God. How would our history be different? What might have God done for us if we had not taken matters into our own hands? I am sure some of us can look back on the events in our lives when we failed to keep the faith as we should, and we know what results came from it.


It is depressing when we think about what could have been if we had trusted in God. While we cannot change the past, we can do our best change the future by remaining faithful and true to God by trusting in His timing.


This is a short Psalm, but I think it has taught us some valuable lessons. It has taught how we should worship God by giving Him our all, and we should find great joy in worshiping Him in spirit and truth. Just as much as we like God to listen to us, He loves it when we choose to listen to Him. It is easy for us to understand that you cannot have a one-sided friendship, and so it should be easy for us to see that we cannot have a one-sided relationship with God.


I hope this lesson will encourage you to keep your ears open to God and listen to what He has to say in His Word. Yes, we can do what we want, but if we want to please God and have Him in our life, then we must take heed to His Word. Though trials and tribulations may come our way that may test our faith, we can use that difficult times to grow closer to God and learn to trust in His timing.