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Psalm 81

This psalm could be the type of worship song we might sing in our church. There is encouragement to sing, a reference to the director of music and mention of various musical instruments, (although I am still waiting for a worship song that includes the exhortation “Turn up the bass!”)

Typical of many psalms and other prophetic passages in the Old Testament, it contains:

[A] A warning to Israel from God that they should follow his ways.

[B] A historical reminder of what God has done for them in the past.

[C] A promise that if only they would be obedient then God would defeat their enemies and supply their needs.

Nothing unusual here as this has occurred repeatedly throughout the Old Testament and could probably be generalised to various gods throughout the history of religion citing what was expected of, and promised to their adherents.

But, do not translate this as relocatable to our situation and relationship with God in the current age. Has God promised to Australia, The British Commonwealth, Western Christian countries in general or groups of Christians in any society that he will defeat their enemies? Not unless you mean their spiritual enemies, and you are referring to eternity. So expect to live among enemies; expect to live without all your needs being met; expect that although Donald Trump declares “May God bless the United States of America” that God may not!

One last point, the psalm refers to the God of Jacob. It also addresses remarks to the nation of “Israel”. Yes, Israel and Jacob are the same person, as God changed Jacob’s name to Israel, just as he changed Abram’s name to Abraham. This person Jacob was so favoured by God that the whole nation was named after him (Israel) and the twelve tribes were descended from his sons. No one in biblical history could be more feted than Jacob. And yet, Jacob had 2 wives (Rachel and Leah) and he also had children by their handmaidens (slaves perhaps as they could be apparently assigned as surrogate mothers by their mistresses).

So could this indicate that polygamy is OK? Could this indicate that surrogacy is OK? Is slavery OK if the slaves are in agreement with the social customs and treated well? I would urge any anyone reading the Old Testament in particular, or any part of the Bible in general, not to assume that because a practice was carried out by the Israelites or even by early Christians for that matter, that it automatically determines God’s will. And therein lies a great test for us in a rapidly changing society.

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