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Psalms 81, 88, 92-93 Listen
Praise God for his benefits (Psalm 81)
To the chief Musician upon Gittith, A Psalm of Asaph.
1 Sing aloud unto God our strength: make a joyful noise unto the God of Jacob.
2 Take a psalm, and bring hither the timbrel, the pleasant harp with the psaltery.
3 Blow up the trumpet in the new moon, in the time appointed, on our solemn feast day.
4 For this was a statute for Israel, and a law of the God of Jacob.
5 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.
6 I removed his shoulder from the burden: his hands were delivered from the pots.
7 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.
8 Hear, O my people, and I will testify unto thee: O Israel, if thou wilt hearken unto me;
9 There shall no strange god be in thee; neither shalt thou worship any strange god.
10 I am the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt: open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.
11 But my people would not hearken to my voice; and Israel would none of me.
12 So I gave them up unto their own hearts’ lust: and they walked in their own counsels.
13 Oh that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways!
14 I should soon have subdued their enemies, and turned my hand against their adversaries.
15 The haters of the LORD should have submitted themselves unto him: but their time should have endured for ever.
16 He should have fed them also with the finest of the wheat: and with honey out of the rock should I have satisfied thee.
Asaph in the introduction here was one of David's musical Levites. He is mentioned frequently in the Psalms. This Psalm has some punch to it. Notice in verse 4, "For this was a statute for Israel, and a law of the God of Jacob." We also see a disdain for Egypt and false gods. Israel is admonished to turn back to God.
The message of this Psalm is classic; note verse 9, "There shall no strange god be in thee; neither shalt thou worship any strange god." That was always the deal breaker for Israel all through the Old Testament, and there it is in verse 11, "But my people would not hearken to my voice; and Israel would none of me." The result is found beginning in verse 12, "So I gave them up unto their own hearts lust: and they walked in their own counsels." Israel should have listened to God.
Perhaps Paul was reflecting on this Psalm when he wrote Romans 1:21 (see notes), "Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened." Because of this rejection, Paul writes in verse 24, "God also gave them up to uncleanness." In verse 26 he writes, "God gave them up unto vile affections." In verse 28 he wrote, "God gave them over to a reprobate mind." Isn't the parallel between Psalm 81 and Romans 1 interesting. If it shows nothing else, it tells us this: when people reject God, their affections are filled with the perverted ones of the world.
Regarding the use of this Psalm in Israel's worship, here's a note from Adam Clarke's commentary:
There are various opinions concerning the occasion and time of this Psalm: but it is pretty generally agreed that it was either written for or used at the celebration of the Feast of Trumpets, which was held on the first day of the month Tisri , which was the beginning of the Jewish year; and on that day it is still used in the Jewish worship. According to Jewish tradition, credited by many learned Christians, the world was created in Tisri, which answers to our September . The Psalm may have been used in celebrating the Feast of Trumpets on the first day of Tisri, the Feast of Tabernacles on the fifteenth of the same month, the creation of the world, the Feasts of the New Moons, and the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt; to all which circumstances it appears to refer.
Nothing but sorrow (Psalm 88)
A Song or Psalm for the sons of Korah, to the chief Musician upon Mahalath Leannoth, Maschil of Heman the Ezrahite.
1 O LORD God of my salvation, I have cried day and night before thee:
2 Let my prayer come before thee: incline thine ear unto my cry;
3 For my soul is full of troubles: and my life draweth nigh unto the grave.
4 I am counted with them that go down into the pit: I am as a man that hath no strength:
5 Free among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, whom thou rememberest no more: and they are cut off from thy hand.
6 Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the deeps.
7 Thy wrath lieth hard upon me, and thou hast afflicted me with all thy waves. Selah.
8 Thou hast put away mine acquaintance far from me; thou hast made me an abomination unto them: I am shut up, and I cannot come forth.
9 Mine eye mourneth by reason of affliction: LORD, I have called daily upon thee, I have stretched out my hands unto thee.
10 Wilt thou shew wonders to the dead? shall the dead arise and praise thee? Selah.
11 Shall thy lovingkindness be declared in the grave? or thy faithfulness in destruction?
12 Shall thy wonders be known in the dark? and thy righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?
13 But unto thee have I cried, O LORD; and in the morning shall my prayer prevent thee.
14 LORD, why castest thou off my soul? why hidest thou thy face from me?
15 I am afflicted and ready to die from my youth up: while I suffer thy terrors I am distracted.
16 Thy fierce wrath goeth over me; thy terrors have cut me off.
17 They came round about me daily like water; they compassed me about together.
18 Lover and friend hast thou put far from me, and mine acquaintance into darkness.
Psalms just don't get any sadder than this one. You'll notice in the introduction a reference to Heman and to the sons of Korah. Korah himself was the rebel priest who had a face off with Moses back in Numbers 16 (see notes). That was a tough day for him. However, the descendants of the sons of Korah who did not participate in the rebellion afterwards rose to eminence in the Levitical service. Heman was one of David's musicians. Regarding the rest of the terms found in the introduction of this Psalm, refer to the information box on the right of this screen. The writer (not specified) declares God's faithfulness and expresses his own despair - definitely not a very cheerful Psalm. It expresses an intense plea for God's favor.
What wise people know that a fool doesn't (Psalm 92)
A Psalm or Song for the sabbath day.
1 It is a good thing to give thanks unto the LORD, and to sing praises unto thy name, O most High:
2 To shew forth thy lovingkindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness every night,
3 Upon an instrument of ten strings, and upon the psaltery; upon the harp with a solemn sound.
4 For thou, LORD, hast made me glad through thy work: I will triumph in the works of thy hands.
5 O LORD, how great are thy works! and thy thoughts are very deep.
6 A brutish man knoweth not; neither doth a fool understand this.
7 When the wicked spring as the grass, and when all the workers of iniquity do flourish; it is that they shall be destroyed for ever:
8 But thou, LORD, art most high for evermore.
9 For, lo, thine enemies, O LORD, for, lo, thine enemies shall perish; all the workers of iniquity shall be scattered.
10 But my horn shalt thou exalt like the horn of an unicorn: I shall be anointed with fresh oil.
11 Mine eye also shall see my desire on mine enemies, and mine ears shall hear my desire of the wicked that rise up against me.
12 The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
13 Those that be planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God.
14 They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing;
15 To shew that the LORD is UPRIGHT: HE IS MY ROCK, AND THERE IS no unrighteousness in him.
The author here is not known. The introduction says that this is a song for the Sabbath day. This is the only psalm that is designated for the Sabbath. There is little indication in the Old Testament of any special community worship ceremonies on the Sabbath. Some have suggested that this psalm accompanied the daily offerings on the Sabbath.
The message of this Psalm is quite clear. Notice verse 9, "For, lo, thine enemies, O LORD, for, lo, thine enemies shall perish; all the workers of iniquity shall be scattered." Now, contrast that to verse 13, "Those that be planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God." The Psalmist points out that serving God has eternal rewards. The fool may prosper here and now, but faces everlasting destruction.
Are we talking a tsunami here? (Psalm 93)
1 The LORD reigneth, he is clothed with majesty; the LORD is clothed with strength, wherewith he hath girded himself: the world also is stablished, that it cannot be moved.
2 Thy throne is established of old: thou art from everlasting.
3 The floods have lifted up, O LORD, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their waves.
4 The LORD on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, yea, than the mighty waves of the sea.
5 Thy testimonies are very sure: holiness becometh thine house, O LORD, for ever.
The author for this Psalm is unknown; he focuses on the reign of God over the earth in this short Psalm (just 5 verses). The world may rebel, but God reigns anyway. It is interesting that the power of God is compared to "floods" and "waves" in this Psalm. Seismologists agree, the Eastern Mediterranean Sea has historically experienced a significant number of earthquakes and devastating tsunamis as a result. When you've seen the damage of a sizable tsunami, this Psalm takes on a whole new proportion regarding God's power. Perhaps one of these tsunamis was in recent memory when this Psalm was written.