DUNCAN/You wouldn’t listen

DUNCAN/You wouldn’t listen


If you have your Bibles, I’d invite you to turn with me to Psalm 81. In this great Psalm, we find three calls or summons. The first call is in verses 1 – 5. It’s a summons to rejoice. It’s literally a call to worship. Then in verses 6 – 10 we find a summons to remember the deliverance that God had given to Israel in Egypt and in the wilderness. And then in verses 11 – 16 there’s a third summons, and this is a call to repent.

I. A Summons to Rejoice 

First, in verses 1 – 5 we find this summons to worship. It’s the call to worship used at the Feast of Tabernacles. You can see this because of what is said in verse 3: “Blow the trumpet at the new moon [this is when the Feast of Tabernacles began] at the full moon, on our feast day. For it is a statute for Israel, an ordinance of the God of Jacob.”

And notice in verse 1 how this worship is described as worship with gladness of heart, with all that we are, to the Lord. Listen to the language of the psalmist: “Sing for joy to God our strength; shout joyfully to the God of Jacob.” Here the people of God are being exhorted to gather everything they have and give it to the Lord joyfully in worship. They are being called upon to give a worship which reflects the rejoicing depths of their hearts. 

This is something that we should remember, because it’s very easy, Lord’s Day after Lord’s Day, to get into a routine in which we, in a pro forma way, simply come to the Lord’s house, sing through some songs that we’re not paying much attention to, listen to a Scripture reading that we’re not paying much attention to, hear a sermon that we’re not paying much attention to, sing one more song, and go home without ever engaging God with our hearts — without ever giving to Him the glory due His name.

But notice also what he says in verse 4 and 5: “It is a statute for Israel, an ordinance of the God of Jacob.” He has first asked you to worship God joyfully. That entails your delighting in God, and your freely and willingly worshiping God. But now he reminds you that worship is in fact a duty; it is something that is commanded. Now those things might not seem to go together, but we know that they do. God commands us to worship, but He also asks us to worship willingly and joyfully. The psalmist is just reminding us that worship is a duty. As creatures made by God, we owe Him worship. It is a responsibility that we have, to ascribe to Him the glory due His name.

II. A Summons to Remember

But there’s a second thing I want you to see in verses 6 – 10, and it’s this summons to remember God’s deliverances. In verses 6 and 7, God reminds His people that He rescued them. He brought them out of the land of Egypt. He answered their prayers. You remember their cries going up to the Lord in Exodus 2? We read that, “The Lord heard their cries, and He remembered the promises that He had made to Abraham, and He came to their rescue.” 

But He also tests them in the wilderness to see if they will trust Him. He tests them to see if they will believe in His providence and to see if He is the one who is first and foremost in their hearts. Everything that happens in the wilderness is a test of character. Indeed, everything in life is a test of character. God proves us, He tests us, by prosperity and adversity; by joy and sorrow; by sickness and health. By all His providences, God tests us.

And Israel learned some things about herself in the wilderness. She was impatient; she was untrusting; she didn’t believe in the Lord; she turned to idols. So it was important for Israel to remember not only God’s deliverance, but also for them to remember how they had forgotten God in the wilderness. In fact, this reminder for Israel is a reminder for Christians of every generation. Like Israel, we often fall into a kind of idolatry where our ultimate desires are on things other than God. We cannot say God is first with our lips and not with our lives. And the psalmist is reminding us of that. God calls upon us to love and worship Him only.

III. A Summons to Repent

In verses 11 – 16, we see the summons to repent. In this section we see two things in bold relief. Firstly, the ungratefulness of Israel. But secondly, God’s readiness to forgive. In verse 11 we read: “But My people did not listen to My voice.” God had called upon them to listen to His voice, and here’s the verdict: “They wouldn’t listen! My people did not listen to My voice; Israel did not obey Me.” And so Israel had decided to follow the way of disobedience.

And then in verse 12 we read God’s terrifying verdict: “So I gave them over to the stubbornness of their hearts, to walk in their own devices.” What does that remind you of? It reminds me of Romans chapter one. “God gave them over.” In other words, when they chose the way of disobedience, God’s judgment was simply this: “Fine, do it your way.” And that is the most terrifying judgment that I can imagine. To be given over to the desires of our own hearts is the deepest of God’s judgments, and yet in this passage the Lord tells us that He longs to forgive and bless His people.

Listen to the poignant language: “O that My people would listen to Me, that Israel would walk in My ways!” Do you remember Jesus looking over Israel and saying, “O Jerusalem! How often have I wanted to gather you under My wings like a hen gathers her chicks, but you would not have it.” His longing is to bless and forgive! And so, listen to what the Lord says, “Oh, that My people would listen to me, that Israel would walk in My ways! I would quickly subdue their enemies and turn My hand against their adversaries. I would feed you the finest of wheat; and honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”

There is the Lord saying to the sinner who is wondering, “If I repent, can I really expect the Lord to forgive me, given what I have done?” And before the thought can enter the sinner’s mind, the Lord is assuring the sinner, “It is My deepest desire to show mercy. It is My greatest longing to bless. It is My delight to receive sinners who have turned from their way.” Oh, that God would turn our hearts to repent, that we might find Him willing and ready to bless. 

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