Salvation ... comes from the Lord ... because they take refuge in him. (Psalm 37:39-40)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Return to Refuge with Psalm 81

For this particular Psalm 81, I think the language used by the New American Standard version of the Bible explains the themes very well. May I encourage you to read Psalm 81 in several translations (including the NASB).

The literal meaning of the Psalm has the writer Asaph leading worshipers into praise of God as Refuge. They are reminded of the oppressive clavery in Egypt, and of the many miracles God performed as He brought them into their land of promise. They are also reminded of the many times they forgot about the mighty acts God did on their behalf and strayed from authentic obedience to God's ways. In times of waywardness God lifted his hand of blessing and allowed bad things to happen to them. But he was always right there, hoping and waiting for them to turn their hearts back to him.

This Psalm was written many years before the arrival of Christ Jesus. Now we can look back on this Psalm through the events of Christ's death and resurrection. We now have the Holy Spirit to breath new meaning. Figurative interpretation and application yields some incredible parallels between God's peoples' wayward hearts spoken of in Psalm 81, and our rebellious hearts today.

As the Psalm begins with an exhortation to sing and make music on every kind of instrument imaginable, we are reminded that a heart devoted to God is a worshipping heart. Picture your heart (inner person) becoming the instrument itself that makes music for God and people to hear. When your heart is tuned to his tuning fork, you are able to play harmonious sounds in perfect pitch. When you stray from the pitch of the Master orchestra leader, your instrument becomes harder and harder to play.

Sometimes we tune our hearts to the wrong kind of sounds, away from God's voice. Verses 11 & 12 read,
"But My people did not listen to My voice,
And Israel {you} did not obey Me.
So I gave  them over to the stubbornness of their heart,
To walk in their own devices."
In verse 9, we are warned against following "strange gods" (idols). An idol is anything that takes your affections away from the rightful place God desires (to have for himself) in your life. An idol is any person, place, or thing that becomes a counterfeit comfort, false refuge, or controlling behavior that steals your heart-allegiance to God. An idol is basically anything that you believe (ever so subtly) is so important, if it were suddenly taken out of your life, you would have difficulty trusting God to be able to fill the void.

If we're honest about it, that pretty much implicates all of us (to one degree or another). If we are trusting Christ as our Savior and Refuge, we are in a process of sanctification; a process of having our hearts transformed (changed) into the likeness of Christ (2 Cor 3:18). Change is something our human nature resists, but is absolutely necessary to break free of encumbrances. This change is all about yielding more and more parts of our heart that are yet "stubborn," for them to become tuned to the Master's voice. "Oh that My people would listen to Me," (v13) says the Master, that you "would walk in My ways!"  In the next two verses God promises to provide Refuge from adversaries, and the final verse of the Psalm says, "I would feed you with the finest of the wheat, And with honey from the rock I would satisfy you” (v 16). This symbolizes not only a life of survival, but of abundant provision and deep satisfaction. Does this remind you of what Jesus Christ proclaimed of  himself? "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly" (John 10:10). 

When our hearts are free from idols, we are free to hear God's voice in the clearest way possible, and live the most fulfilling life possible. We are symbolically free of Egypt's slavery to patterns of behavior that seem to control us instead of us controlling them. When idols are removed, our hearts are also free to make the most melodious music possible.

Are there any idols in your life right now, that are keeping you from making beautiful music (in your heart)? Do you feel close enough in your relationship with God  to ask him that question? Do you fear the answer? Let me assure you, (and God wants you to know), He loves and accepts you where you are, but He loves you too much to let you stay where you are. In his grace and mercy there is power to change. You can return to Refuge! 

My forthcoming book Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart addresses these topics in much more detail.

by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry