But My People ~ Psalm 81


wood thrush with worm in beak

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 forever.
He should have fed them also with the finest of the wheat:
and with honey out of the rock should I have satisfied thee.
Psalm 81:10-16

If the “But God” phrases of the Bible are all wonderful, the “But My people” phrases are all pitiful. God delivered His people out of bondage, He kept His promises to them to make of them a great nation, He drove out the enemy from before them, and He gave them a land flowing with milk and honey—but they would not listen to His voice. They wanted nothing to do with Him. They wanted a human king like all the other nations; they wanted to worship a god they could see with their eyes and handle with their hands; they wanted to go and come as they pleased; they wanted to do things their way. God gave them their request, but sent leanness into their souls. My heart breaks when I read, “He should have fed them also with the finest of the wheat, and with honey out of the rock should I have satisfied thee.” God only ever wanted what was best for them, and they rejected Him.

This makes me think of my husband and his role of father with our children. There have been times when they have walked all over him, and he allowed it. There were times when he gave them a job to do, and instead of obeying, they said they didn’t want to, and he said “fine,” and he did it himself. I would be infuriated that he did not invoke his rightful authority over them as their dad. But perhaps he was being more God-like than I was aware. How often did God allow the children of Israel to have their own way? Over and over the Bible says that man chooses his own way over God’s way. He allows it, yes, but only for a season.

Judges 2:19 And it came to pass, when the judge was dead, that they returned, and corrupted themselves more than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them, and to bow down unto them; they ceased not from their own doings, nor from their stubborn way.

Isaiah 56:11 Yea, they are greedy dogs which can never have enough, and they are shepherds that cannot understand: they all look to their own way, everyone for his gain, from his quarter.

God allows us to go our own way because He created us with a will to choose Him or reject Him. He could have made us all as programmable robots, but He did not. He could have created us with instincts like the animals, but again He did not. Why not? Because just as He chose us, He wants us to choose Him. That is why we have a choice. But making the wrong choice does have its consequences.

Ezekiel 36:17 Son of man, when the house of Israel dwelt in their own land, they defiled it by their own way and by their doings: their way was before me as the uncleanness of a removed woman. [on her cycle]

Ezekiel 11:21 But as for them whose heart walketh after the heart of their detestable things and their abominations, I will recompense their way upon their own heads, saith the Lord GOD.

Ezekiel 22:31 Therefore have I poured out My indignation upon them; I have consumed them with the fire of My wrath: their own way have I recompensed upon their heads, saith the Lord GOD.

This sounds harsh, doesn’t it? God is very patient and long-suffering, but He will only wait for so long. Are you prepared for this kind of judgment? Everyone who rejects Christ will have to suffer the wrath of God. But that is not what God wants. Listen to His heart.

Isaiah 65:2 I have spread out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people, which walketh in a way that was not good, after their own thoughts.

Picture a father with his arms open wide, waiting for the rebellious child to come back to him so the father can hold him and hug him and tell him that he is forgiven. That is what God longs to do for each and every one of us.

Isaiah 53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

God cannot just pretend that we never sinned; our sin still needs to be dealt with. And so He placed it on His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, who Himself never committed sin. Jesus bore our sins on the cross so that we could take on His righteousness. Now God sees us without seeing our sin.

In the book of Proverbs, wisdom is personified. Listen to her cry:

Proverbs 1:20-33 Wisdom crieth without; she uttereth her voice in the streets: She crieth in the chief place of concourse, in the openings of the gates: in the city she uttereth her words, saying, “How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge? Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you. Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh; When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me: For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the LORD: They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof. Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices. For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them. But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil.”

Will you eat of the fruit of your own way and suffer destruction? Or will you listen to the voice of wisdom and be quiet from the fear of evil? It’s your choice. Imagine you are thirsty and there are two glasses on the table, one with water and the other with your favorite beverage, whatever it may be. The catch is that your favorite beverage has one drop of poison in it, and you know it because the poison was added in your presence. Which one will you drink? The one that will quench your thirst, or the one that tastes good but will kill you? And I’m not trying to suggest that serving God is as boring as a glass of water, for indeed it is not. It is as satisfying as a glass of water and as fulfilling as my favorite beverage—without the poison!

God does not force us to obey Him, just like my husband did not force our children to obey him, but there are still consequences for disobedience. Our children may have thought they were off the hook, but they paid in other ways—by loss of privileges, loss of allowance, and often by a cloud of unhappiness in the home. Oh, we have wonderfully happy moments, don’t get me wrong, but it is not always like that. I suppose we are no different from any other family. Every family is made up of sinners, and sin produces strife, which leads to broken fellowship. The best thing about broken fellowship is that it can be restored when forgiveness is sought and given. I believe that is the best way an earthly father can show the nature of our heavenly Father, and my children’s father does that well. I didn’t write this to praise him, but I myself am just now seeing it, so I am writing about it to let it sink in to my own heart, and I do thank God for showing this to me. I hope you readers will pardon me for getting a little personal today.

❧          ❧          ❧

Photo taken in Milton, Florida, 2018

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