Psalm 81

The Word Made Fresh

(To the music director, to the tune of “Gittith.” Of Asaph.)

1Sing loudly to God who is our might!
Shout for joy to the God of Jacob!
2Raise the melody. Shake the tambourine.
Strum the lovely lyre and harp.
3Blow the trumpet to greet the new moon,
and blow it again at the full moon on our festival day.
4This is a rule for Israel. This is a law from the God of Jacob.
5God demanded it among the people of Joseph
when they were sent to the land of Egypt
and heard a language they did not know.
6God said, “I removed your burden
and freed your hands from your labors.
7You called out in distress, and I rescued you.
I answered you out of the thunder.
I tested you with the water at Meribah.”
8Hear me! You are my people! I give you this warning,
Israel, but you must pay attention!
9You must not have other gods among you.
You must not worship foreign deities.
10I am the LORD your God. I brought you out of Egypt.
When you were hungry, I fed you.
11But my people wouldn’t listen to me.
Israel would not obey me.
12So, I let them do as they wished,
and allowed them to follow their own counsel.
13If only my people would listen to me!
If only Israel would follow my instructions!
14Then I would quickly overcome their adversaries
and turn my hand against their enemies.
15Yes, those who hate the LORD would cringe
and their fate would always be their failure.
16Then I would feed you with the finest wheat
and with honey until you were satisfied.”


Superscription: three of the psalms (8, 81, and 84) are headed “according to the Gittith.” See the note at Psalm 8 regarding the Gittith. This is the 10th of Asaph’s psalms.

1-4: The psalmist calls the nation to gather at the feast of the new moon. The new moon observance dates back to the time of Moses – see, for example, Numbers 29:6.

5-7: The rest of the psalm is presented as an appeal from God to Israel to return to the covenant God made with them. God traces their relationship to the time of their slavery in Egypt and the provisions God made for them while they wandered in the wilderness.

8-10: God recalls the promise they made to not worship any other gods.

11-12: God is grieved that the people would not listen. Because they would not listen, God let them go. What else can a parent do when grown children decide on a life course that is contrary to everything they were taught?

13-16: And yet God is willing to take them back. I would not be surprised if this psalm formed the basis of the parable Jesus told about the father and two sons – the one we call “The Parable of the Prodigal Son.”


It is a good spiritual discipline to review our relationship with God every now and then. Have we been faithful? As we remember times when things weren’t going so well for us, we might also find that they were times when we were not tuned in to the will of God for our lives.