Listening to God’s Voice
All-encompassing God, daily You envelope me in Your grace. Thank You for Your ever-circling vigilance, watching over me.
Read Psalm 81:1-16
 For the director of music. According to
Scripture taken from the THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, NIV Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“Attentiveness is not simply a path to self-fulfillment but is the very essence of our journey to the Center–as a way home to our own heart, the way of making our heart a home for God” (Leighton Ford).
Have you ever heard a song or poem, or even a turn of phrase, and thought it sounded familiar? Much of what God had to say to Israel through Isaiah should have sounded acutely familiar, as their poets and songwriters had been communicating similar messages for generations. If you have time, read through this psalm again and notice the many themes and phrases that parallel ideas from Isaiah 46-55. We will hint at some of them.
The historical backdrop to the psalm is the Exodus. There is, first, an exuberant expression of joyful (and musical!) celebration of God’s affirmation of the nation’s foundations. It seems to have been a liturgical introduction to worship on the occasion of one of Israel’s Exodus-related festivals, possibly the Feast of Tabernacles (Lev. 23:33-36). However, the content not only embraces the positive aspects of their history, but also includes reminders of less-worthy dimensions of their past. While God had actively rescued them from Egypt, they had not been an obedient and grateful people. They had been warned against worshiping foreign gods and urged to recognize the saving actions of the Lord, but instead they had gone their own destructive way.
A recurring theme is the counterpoint between God speaking and the people failing to listen. While this is illustrated historically, it also provides a relevant lesson for later generations. The crunch comes at verse 13: “If … only” (Isa. 48:18). God had been speaking all along, but Israel had not always been listening. He had been teaching his people his ways, but they had not been submitting. He was continuing to offer rescue from oppressive circumstances and the promise of a secure, satisfying future–if only the nation had listening ears and obedient hearts. God’s “if onlys” are not his condemnations but his deep yearnings for our well-being (2 Chron. 7:14).
Are you missing out on the joy and satisfaction that comes from learning of and from God and submitting to his ways? How can you be more attentive to God?
Lord, enable me to move beyond the “if onlys” of my life and focus anew on the “but nows.” I am listening!
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