Read Psalm 81:1-16
There is a definite change of tone and spokesman that we observe in this psalm as we move from verse 5 to verse 6. Whereas verses 1-5 seem to be Asaph’s invitation to worship (probably at the historic celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles), verses 6-16 communicate God’s voice of admonition. Why such a contrast?
Is it possible that people had dutifully gathered to go through the motions? They had put on expressions of joy. They had raised their voices and struck up the band to celebrate a feast commanded by God at the time of exodus centuries before (Lev. 23:33-44). They were to remember God’s gracious provision of shelter for His people in the wilderness. Indeed, it seems that Asaph has called the people to respond to God’s invitation, and they seemed willing to respond.
But their celebration of the feast hundreds of years after the reality it symbolized had more parallels than God wanted. At that time, God’s people complained. They doubted. They went after other gods. They disobeyed His voice. The same stubborn heart reflected at the time of their release from Egypt was also present in Asaph’s day. Sure, they were celebrating with voices and instruments, but they had not submitted their lives to God.
When it comes to some of the disciplines and celebrations of the Christian life, have you ever seen yourself going through the motions on the outside? Have you ever felt the tension of a voice saying the right things while your heart was not really part of the experience? Listen to the longing voice of God again in verse 13:
“If my people would only listen to me,
if Israel would only follow my ways,”
You see, God wanted to pour out protection, abundance, and true satisfaction upon them. Their wayward, perhaps even passive hearts prevented that.
How can you make sure that you unite heart and voice, attitude and actions, spirit and body as you seek to obey God today? It will require a conscious effort. If some of your life has been characterized by “going through the motions,” you will have to act and think differently than you normally do. Begin right now by intentionally submitting to God in prayer.