How do you celebrate special occasions?
Some of us celebrate quietly by ourselves, while others celebrate with loud, wild parties. Sometimes these celebrations can get out of control, especially when the outside world tries to influence us.
We are not alone. The ancient people of God were exposed to other influences because of wars with other nations and through their times of defeat, exile and forced social integration. In spite of this, many people led ordinary lives of worship and praise. Special Psalms were created to be used in religious festivals. One of these is Psalm 81.
Psalm 81 challenges us to be faithful to God. It starts with the sad fact that sometimes we refuse to listen to God’s voice. This has led to sad consequences and irreversible life circumstances, even when we have been forgiven. If we refuse to listen to God, he will leave us to walk in our own counsel. We will have to accept the consequences of our decision. Our desires can’t be fulfilled by earthly means, and our plans won’t prosper in the long run. God will abandon us, but he will always leave the door open for us to return to him. If we return to him, he will reverse our fortunes.
The church is not immune from this problem either. Churches sometimes mourn the loss of spiritual fervour or “the old time religion” that was enjoyed years ago. Instead of being brought to repentance for sin and neglect, the excuse is made that we live in difficult times. There is often a lack of power in preaching. Sermons designed to make people feel good have become more important than sound biblical preaching and teaching.
God’s response of rescue, freedom and relieving the people’s burden, is complicated by the people’s continuing rebellion. God has fed them with the tears of his sorrow over their rebellion, but his desire is to feed them with the finest wheat and honey from the rock. Wheat and honey are symbols of enjoyment and prosperity. Honey from the rock could mean wild honey or, more probably, honey supplied miraculously, like the water from the rock in the desert as recorded in Exodus 17:6.God will bless us beyond our wildest dreams, but we have to willingly receive what he gives. The only way to do that is for us to obey God. He wants us to know that the good life comes to us only through him, and not by any other means.
The marvellous promise, “Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it” has sometimes been used to wrongly justify a lack of sermon preparation by some preachers. They believe that all they have to do is open their mouths and the Lord will give them a message. The true meaning is that if God’s people come to him with great petitions, he will grant them. God never gives up. He gives us opportunities to listen to him, embrace his laws and walk in his ways. When we take advantage of these opportunities, we will have victory over all of our enemies. We will also be fruitful for God. As we regularly come to the communion table, we remember God’s promise to feed us, what it cost God, the dire circumstances of the cross, and the ongoing call to repentance and discipleship.
If we turn to God and follow His ways, He will take care of our needs. We are not to try to meet our needs by going to the refrigerator and eating any food that might temporarily satisfy our needs. God wants us to go to him to meet what really is a spiritual need. When we declare who God is and what he has done, we will be open to hearing His voice and doing His will, because we know that God only wants the best for us.
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible, NKJV (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; pp. 760-761)
- ESV Study Bible. Part of Wordsearch 11 Bible software package.
- Williams, D. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vil. 14: Psalms 73-150 (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1989, pp. 87-89)
- MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible, New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
- Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible, New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles; 2005)
- Lucado, M.: The Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson; 2010)
- Ron Moore, “Stubborn Hearts.” Retrieved from www.ronmoore.org
- Joan Stott, “A Personal Meditation: Pentecost 15C (Ordinary 22C or Proper 17C).” Retrieved from http://www.thetimelesspsalms.net
- Howard Wallace, “Year C: Pentecost 14: Psalm 81:1-2,10-16.” Retrieved from http://hwallace.unitingchurch.org.au/WebOTcomments/OrdinaryC/Pent14Psalm81.html
- Dale Fletcher, “Let God Satisfy Your Deep Hunger.” Retrieved from http://www.faithandhealthconnection.org/psalm-811016-deep-hunger-is-satisfied-by-god/
- Bible Study, Prover 17 C-August 28, 2016. Retrieved from http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/stw/2016/08/01/bible-study-proper-17c-august-28-2016