# 253 A journey through the Psalms. Psalm 81 Don’t waste your life in 2021. Listen!

I remember a friend telling me his story – the story that almost broke his father’s heart. Despite his father’s teaching, positive lifestyle and love, my friend went his own way and after a life of drugs and alcohol addiction ended up a broken man living in a hostel for “down and outs”. I guess, many times the father said to himself and others, “he knew better, and although he heard my words warning him, pleading with him, he ignored me and continued on destroying himself”.

As we continue reading in Psalm 81 we discover the heart of God, similar to my friend’s father, sad at the response of his wayward children of Israel. Listen to what He says:

I removed the burden from their shoulders;
    their hands were set free from the basket.
In your distress you called and I rescued you,
    I answered you out of a thundercloud;
    I tested you at the waters of Meribah.
Hear me, my people, and I will warn you
    if you would only listen to me, Israel!
You shall have no foreign god among you;
    you shall not worship any god other than me.
10 I am the Lord your God,
    who brought you up out of Egypt.
Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.

11 But my people would not listen to me;
    Israel would not submit to me.
12 So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts
    to follow their own devices.

13 “If my people would only listen to me,
    if Israel would only follow my ways,
14 how quickly I would subdue their enemies
    and turn my hand against their foes!
15 Those who hate the Lord would cringe before him,
    and their punishment would last forever.
16 But you would be fed with the finest of wheat;
    with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”

My friend told me that one day his father came to visit him in the squalor of the hostel, not having given up on him. As he looked around him, taking in the broken lives, including his son, he did not condemn, but he wept. A grown man, standing before all these men, including his son, weeping at what could have been. As it turned out, I’m happy to tell you, this was the turning point for my friend, who when I met him was free from the burden from [his] shoulders. Finally, he had seen and listened and responded appropriately!

Brueggemann comments on this psalm:

“The history of covenant begins with an invitation to hear, but the course of that history is a refusal to hear… [in fact] Israel listens to other voices… [leading] to other obediences and the end result is slavery… [because] in refusing to listen, they refuse sovereignty and therefore God’s saving. Let there be no lingering doubt about why there is trouble or judgement or disorientation. It is very simple: ‘not listening leads to death.’ … The people who are faithless are abandoned to the gods they have served and trusted.”

If this was the end of the story, then how very sad! But like my friend’s father who never stopped loving his wayward son, God does not give up on Israel and He also doesn’t give up on you and me.

Brueggemann continues:

“The remarkable thing about this psalm is that Yahweh moves on (vv. 13-16) … by the mercy of God… Israel need not forever linger in the mess of verses 11-12, which Israel has made for itself. The wonder of Yahweh and the news of this psalm is that Israel is again invited to hear (v. 13). It is a wistful urging, a yearning with pathos on the part of Yahweh. Yahweh does not want Israel left to its fate. Yahweh is ready to move on to a new life together.”     (# 2)

And so comes God’s word to Israel, to you and to me:

13 “If my people would only listen to me,
    if Israel would only follow my ways…
16 … you would be fed with the finest of wheat;
    with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”

The choice is ours! Whose voice are we listening to today and where is it leading us.

And whose voice will we listen to in 2021? Only in listening and responding in obedience to the voice of God will we ever know true satisfaction in life.

Jesus said: I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows]. (John 10:10 Amplified Bible)Father, as we enter yet another new year, enable us to hear your voice and live life to the full. Help us not to waste our lives by listening and obeying voices that will only lead us into slavery. Amen.

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