The One Year Chronological Bible, NKJV (Tyndale, 2013), May 19
Numerous chapters of the book of Genesis cover Jacob’s 136 years, chronicling the beginning of his life in utero until his death in Egypt. Jacob begins his life poorly as a schemer and suffers the consequences of self-reliance. He only learns to trust God and submit to God in his later years.
God is for the psalmist who He was for Jacob, “Sing aloud to God our strength; make a joyful shout to the God of Jacob” (Ps. 81:1) and, “For this is a statute for Israel, a law of the God of Jacob” (81:4). Just as God gave Jacob over to his stubborn heart to follow his own plan until he was the wiser, so He gave Israel “over to their own stubborn heart, to walk in their own counsels” (81:12).
Obviously the writer of Psalm 81 has spent a great deal of time meditating on God’s ways with a stubborn Jacob and a stubborn nation. He applies truths he had learned and receives comfort.
Several encouraging truths and warnings emerge from Psalm 81:
- No man is stronger than God. Real strength comes from submitting the Lord God, maker of heaven and earth, “Sing aloud to God our strength” (81:1).
- God hears and answers those who call out to Him in distress, “I removed his shoulder from the burden; his hands were freed from the baskets. You called in trouble, and I delivered you; I answered you in the secret place of thunder” (81:6-7a). No distress is too big for God to handle, but all distress is too big for man to handle.
- God allows His people to do without so that they will understand just how small they are: “I tested you at the waters of Meribah” (81:7b). Both individuals and nations go through droughts of life; it is how they respond to those droughts that matters. God allows droughts to bring people to the end of themselves so that they can see their inability and experience God’s ability.
- Man naturally defaults to idolatry instead of trusting God: “Hear, O My people, and I will admonish you! O Israel, if you will listen to Me! There shall be no foreign god among you; nor shall you worship any foreign god” (81:8-9), and, “But My people would not heed My voice, and Israel would have none of Me” (81:11). Man must willfully, intentionally set his heart to seek the Lord.
- God waits to bless an obedient people, “Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it” (81:10); “Oh, that My people would listen to Me, that Israel would walk in My ways! I would soon subdue their enemies and turn My hand against their adversaries” (81:13-14); and “He would have fed them also with the finest of wheat; and with honey from the rock I would have satisfied you” (81:16). He also responds to their disobedience, “So I gave them over to their own stubborn heart, to walk in their own counsels” (81:12). The problem is not God, but man’s evil heart of unbelief.
The psalmist, reflecting on Jacob’s life and God’s interaction with him, recognizes the futility of self-reliance and disobedience. Running is a part of life; either running in your own strength, running from an enemy, running from God or running to the God of Jacob.
God is the God of Jacob for His people today. Run to Him!
Questions from today’s chronological Bible reading (Psalms 79-82):
Psalm 79 records the pillage of Jerusalem, which would have occurred in the late Divided Kingdom Era or early Captivity Era. What is the basis of the writer’s prayer regarding the defilement of the temple and the siege of Jerusalem?
Psalm 80 records the burning of the vineyard, which symbolizes Israel throughout the Scriptures, placing this psalm in the same time period as Psalm 79. How does the writer of this psalm intercede for Israel?
Why does the writer of Psalm 82 ask God to judge the nations?