To the chief Musician upon Gittith, A Psalm of Asaph. Sing aloud unto God our strength: make a joyful noise unto the God of Jacob.
It cannot be doubted that very often when people get into wrong courses they think they shall be able to stop when they please. And this notion tends very much to quiet their consciences, and to make them tolerably easy and cheerful even whilst they are doing things they know to be wrong or neglecting duties they know to be right.
I. This life is a course of trial, proof, and preparation for a lasting state of good or evil beyond the grave. God having put it in our power to choose for ourselves, leaves it to ourselves to make the choice, at the same time plainly warning us that if we choose the right path and follow it on, He will help us, but if we choose the wrong path and refuse to listen to His voice, He will, however unwillingly, give us up, leave us to go our own way.
II. The notion that a wrong habit is not dangerous, because we may reform it when we please, seems to have its root in want of love to God, the Author of all good, want of pure, devoted charity, that without which "all our doings are nothing worth." If true religion consisted in the mere outward performance of certain good actions or the mere inward indulgence of certain good feelings, if this were all that is required in the true Christian, then our need of watchfulness and self-suspicion would not be so great. But is it not true that the law of the Christian is love, devoted love to his God and Saviour; and that for the want of this love nothing can make up? Is it not also true that we have no way of evincing this our love to be sincere but by a thorough and earnest anxiety to give up our whole wills, under all circumstances and on every occasion, to the will of Him who is our only hope? This, then, is the question: Are we sincerely obeying Him? do we give up our wills to His? will we and do we submit to any loss, shame, or mortification rather than grieve His Holy Spirit? If not, we have reason to fear lest God should give us up to walk in our own counsels, and at length should "swear in His wrath that we shall not enter into His rest."
Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times" vol. i., p. 134.
References: Psalm 80:2.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. xvii., p. 338. Psalm 80:8.—A. P. Stanley, Sermons in the East, p. 9. Psalm 80:14.—F. Delitzsch, Expositor, 3rd series, vol. iii., p. 67. Psalm 80:14, Psalm 80:15.—C. C. Bartholomew, Sermons chiefly Practical, p. 507. Psalm 80:15-17.—J. G. Murphy, The Book of Daniel, p. 49. Psalm 80:19.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. v., No. 284. Psalm 81:2.—J. B. Heard, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xix., p. 87. Psalm 81:10.—S. Baring-Gould, One Hundred Sermon Sketches, p. 101.
Psalm 81:12-13I. God showed His love to the Israelites by giving them a law more strict than any which had gone before it; He revealed Himself as a jealous God, who would be obeyed; He curbed all their actions, and He punished them severely for all transgressions of His law. It was only as a last step, when the people were determined to rebel, that He granted to them that prime blessing, as a worldly mind would consider it, namely leisure to follow their own hearts' lust and to do according to their own imaginations.
II. God's principles of government are ever the same; He changes not: and if it was only in being governed by Him, in wearing His yoke, in carrying His burdens, that the people of Israel could escape bondage, and be lifted up, and be noble and free, then beyond doubt the same is true of ourselves, and we too shall be slaves as long as we are free, and shall only be free when we become in heart and soul the servants of God.
III. The man who wears Christ's yoke feels that he must keep a watch over his life and over his thoughts. (1) He bridles his tongue; (2) he is particular in the choice of his company; (3) he puts a curb upon his appetite; (4) he thinks it right to be particular about his devotions and his attendance on ordinances.
Bishop Harvey Goodwin, Parish Sermons, 2nd scries, p. 50.
References: Psalm 81:13.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxi., No. 1221. Psalm 81—J. R. Macduff, Communion Memories, p. 159.
Take a psalm, and bring hither the timbrel, the pleasant harp with the psaltery.
Blow up the trumpet in the new moon, in the time appointed, on our solemn feast day.
For this was a statute for Israel, and a law of the God of Jacob.
This he ordained in Joseph for a testimony, when he went out through the land of Egypt: where I heard a language that I understood not.
I removed his shoulder from the burden: his hands were delivered from the pots.
Thou calledst in trouble, and I delivered thee; I answered thee in the secret place of thunder: I proved thee at the waters of Meribah. Selah.
Hear, O my people, and I will testify unto thee: O Israel, if thou wilt hearken unto me;
There shall no strange god be in thee; neither shalt thou worship any strange god.
I am the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt: open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.
But my people would not hearken to my voice; and Israel would none of me.
So I gave them up unto their own hearts' lust: and they walked in their own counsels.
Oh that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways!
I should soon have subdued their enemies, and turned my hand against their adversaries.
The haters of the LORD should have submitted themselves unto him: but their time should have endured for ever.
He should have fed them also with the finest of the wheat: and with honey out of the rock should I have satisfied thee.