# 252 A journey through the Psalms. Psalm 81. The most significant unprecedented event ever!

What a strange thing it was for me, that first time I sat in a church amongst a group of people singing and praying and listening to a preacher. Singing in a group was not in my experience, praying even less, although listening to a ‘teacher’ up front was ok. But there was so much about what these people were doing that I couldn’t understand, including their motivation and joy. What was so different about these people? Why sing and pray to an invisible God? As I said to my friend on the way home, when she asked why I was so quiet; “I want what those people have.” I later discovered it was Jesus! Their relationship with Jesus was the distinctive thing about them and what a change in my life He has made ever since then. 

This Asaph Psalm 81 begins with an exhortation to worship the Lord. He proclaims:

Sing for joy to God our strength;
    shout aloud to the God of Jacob!
Begin the music, strike the timbrel,
    play the melodious harp and lyre.

Sound the ram’s horn at the New Moon,
    and when the moon is full, on the day of our festival;
this is a decree for Israel,
    an ordinance of the God of Jacob.
When God went out against Egypt,
    he established it as a statute for Joseph.

Did you know that the people in the world who do not worship something/someone are in a very small minority? Worship is a very natural thing for human beings, even if, sadly, the object of their worship may not be worthy of such adoration. And some of this “worship” does not include the positive activities as described in this psalm – singing joyfully, shouting aloud, playing musical instruments, and much more not described here but found in many of the other psalms.

Brueggemann suggests that, in some ways Psalm 81:1-5 is a “close companion to Psalm 50:1-6” in that it is an exhortation to worship The Mighty One, God, the Lord (50:1). The difference being that in Psalm 50, right from the beginning, it is God who speaks and summons the earth to worship Him. It then goes on using language that Brueggemann describes as “mythic awesomeness” to describe who God is. Listen to His words:

The Mighty One, God, the Lord,
    speaks and summons the earth
    from the rising of the sun to where it sets.
From Zion, perfect in beauty,
    God shines forth.
Our God comes
    and will not be silent;
a fire devours before him,
    and around him a tempest rages.
He summons the heavens above,
    and the earth, that he may judge his people:

“Gather to me this consecrated people,
    who made a covenant with me by sacrifice.”
And the heavens proclaim his righteousness,
    for he is a God of justice.
     
(Psalm 50:1-6)

Our God is an awesome God and He alone is worthy of our worship, our adoration, our love, our service. As we read in Psalm 81: 9 (as quoted in the Ten Commandments)

You shall have no foreign god among you;
    you shall not worship any god other than me.

We are once again drawing near to that great celebration we call Christmas, concerning the birth of Jesus Christ and the many implications of that unprecedented event (to use a very common word these days) that we understand from the Bible. One important thing about this event and what follows concerns worship. Let me share some verses with you:

On coming to the house, they [the Magi] saw the child [Jesus] with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.     (Matthew 2:11)

Then those [the disciples] who were in the boat worshiped him {Jesus], saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”  (Matthew 14:33)

Suddenly [after the resurrection] Jesus met them [the disciples]. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him.   (Matthew 28:9)

Who we worship is the most important thing in our lives! At this Christmas time, may you worship Jesus, the One who is described by Paul in his letter to the Philippians 2 as:

Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.   
 
Amen.

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