READ PSALM 81
So far this week we’ve seen the Psalmist cry to God to be who He is as Israel’s Shepherd, appeal to His strength to save her from her enemies, and appeal to His compassion to restore the vine that He planted. And today, we will see the Psalmist rejoice in God’s unchanging character.
Read Psalm 81:1-13. Remembering that the Psalms were not written in linear order but arranged and bound in a book of worship, why do you think this Psalm was arranged to follow Psalm 80?
The psalmists – or, those who helped order the Psalms – want the people of God to remember: God is worthy of praise. Psalm 80 may have been later appropriated for prayer when Israelites experienced any kind of distress or were in need of any kind of salvation. But the psalmists want Israel (and us) to know: no matter the situation, whether salvation has come or not, God is worthy of praise.
Read Psalm 81:4-10. Why does the writer believe God is worthy of praise?
The writer is praising God that His character is unchanging. God is being honored for being strong, just as He has always been. God is praiseworthy for His salvation, just as He has always saved. Even though Israel has not experienced the salvation they are requesting in Psalm 80, God is unchanging in His character, and that is a reason to give Him glory.
To what aspects of God’s character does the Psalmist appeal?
What historical events does the Psalmist “remind” God of in this Psalm? Name as many as you can.
Consider the following cross references for each verse. What do they teach you about the unchanging character of God?
Psalm 81:5 – Deuteronomy 28:49
Psalm 81:6 – Exodus 1:11, Isaiah 9:4
Psalm 81:7 – Psalm 50:15
Psalm 81:9 – Exodus 20:3
Psalm 81:10 – Exodus 20:2
Similar to Psalm 80, the writer of this Psalm is reminding God of how He has related to Israel in the past and is using God’s own Words to do so. But, rather than a tone of desperation, these verses carry a tone of praise. He recites back to God how He promised to bring them out of bondage in Egypt and reminds Him of when He promised to heed their cries for relief and meet them in their distress. Though we don’t have time to study this in depth, Exodus 16 & 17 tell of the time God tested the nation of Israel at Meribah, and how He elected Himself to bear the burden of their sin and faithlessness. The psalmist reminds God: “We are Your people! How do we know? Because You Yourself gave us your Law, saying, ‘There will be no other gods among you.’” And the writer rejoices in all of this because God’s character in unchanging.
The tone of desperation in Psalm 80 is rightly followed by a tone of rejoicing in Psalm 81. When we need God to save us, it is easy to recall the ways He has been faithful to us in the past with a spirit of hunger for Him to come and save us again. But, God’s Word is a working Word, and it has its effect on us. As we recount God’s faithful character back to Him, our desperation naturally turns to rejoicing and praise. When we consider God’s goodness, we can’t help but take our eyes off our own desperate situation and fix them on our good and glorious God.
What would it look like for you to look back over your own life, recounting back to God the good things He has done for you, with a spirit of rejoicing?
Lastly, the psalmist concludes by reciting God’s promise to meet every one of Israel’s needs. Read Psalm 37:3-4. What would it look like for you to place all your trust in God, to live in your situation faithfully, and to trust the Lord to be the sole Provider for every desire in your heart?
Psalm 81:10 serves as an excellent illustration of the teaching we find in 37:3-4. Prayerful praise turns desperation into delight. And delight in God’s character enables us to trust Him to be our sole hope and provider.
How can you, today, let your prayers teach you to delight yourself in the Lord as you practice praise?
PRAY & REFLECT
Supplication: Confess to God the situation you find yourself in. What are you needs? What are your desires? Where do you struggle to trust Him? Earnestly bring these needs before Him, asking Him to build your faith in His unchanging character.
Submission: Confess to God that He alone can provide for you, and He alone can cause you to trust in Him.