Opening Prayer

Heavenly Father, as I begin this Sunday morning and meditate on your Word, renew my mind and transform my thoughts. Show me your good and perfect will.

Read PSALM 81

Psalm 81[a]

For the director of music. According to gittith.[b] Of Asaph.

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.

I heard an unknown voice say:

“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.[c]
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.”


  1. Psalm 81:1 In Hebrew texts 81:1-16 is numbered 81:2-17.
  2. Psalm 81:1 Title: Probably a musical term
  3. Psalm 81:7 The Hebrew has Selah (a word of uncertain meaning) here.

New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


‘O Love that wilt not let me go, / I rest my weary soul in thee.’1

Think Further

This is a psalm in two parts. It starts on a note of exuberant worship, with a call to celebrate a corporate festival marking God’s action in freeing the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. Then, from verse 6 onward, our attention shifts. It’s as though we have been raised up, out of the throng of noisy praise, to a place where we can hear the very voice of God.

God’s words are extremely revealing. The difficulty he pinpoints is that the Israelites do not seem to understand, or even want to know, what they were saved for. Having been rescued from captivity in Egypt, they are refusing to listen to God (v. 11). It’s as though they think they no longer have any need for him, now that he has ‘removed the burden from their shoulders’ (v. 6); ‘would not submit to,’ in verse 11, may be more accurately rendered ‘did not want.’2 God, however, longs for them to know the full nature of their salvation: to live with him as his people, to listen to him, and to follow his ways (v. 13). Do you hear the voice of God, longing for you to listen to him, yearning for you to enter into the fullness of life with him that Christ has given so much to obtain?

God lays out before the people a vision of what would happen if they ‘would only listen’ to him (vv. 8, 13). He would quickly ‘subdue their enemies’ (v. 14) and they would be fed with ‘the finest of wheat’ and honey from wild bees (v. 16), echoing the song of Moses.3 Ultimately, however, God wants his people to be motivated not by what he can do for them but simply by who he is: ‘I am the Lord your God’ (v. 10).


Come before God in silence and recommit yourself to listen to his voice.

Closing prayer

Lord Jesus, help me to abide in you and know the fullness of your joy—the joy that only you can give. Help me to remember all you have done, follow you in obedience, and cling to your promises.

Last Updated on February 11, 2024 by kingstar

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