Listening to Sad Songs

Asaph wrote a sad song in Psalm 81, though not every verse sounds sorrowful. He ended by noting the kinds of things the Lord would do: “he would feed you with the finest of wheat, and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you” (verse 16). The Lord provides. He also protects. “I would soon subdue their enemies and turn my hand against their foes” (verse 14). These sound fantastic. What is the basis for God’s people to believe these great promises?

The first half of the song works through a short account of Israel’s exodus. “I relieved your shoulder of the burden” (verse 6), “in distress you called, and I delivered you” (verse 7). So, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide and I will fill it” (verse 10). So far, this all sounds great. Why say that the song is sad?

The Lord continues. “But my people did not listen to my voice. Oh that my people would listen to me” (verse 11). They didn’t, and the Lord said, “So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts, to follow their own counsels” (verse 12). Maybe the most dreadful thing in the world is for God to give us what we think we want while we disregard Him.

For Christians, God delivered us from a greater slavery, from slavery to sin and the wages of eternal death. He has given us not only great promises, but also personal copies of His counsel to read and He sent His Spirit to illuminate the truths of His Word. He decreed generations of His faithfulness for us to survey. Are we paying attention? Are we appreciating our advantages? Are we hearing and obeying? He would satisfy us with honey if we would listen to this sad song and walk in His ways.