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Psalm 81

Rachel Mason

1 Sing aloud to God our strength;
shout for joy to the God of Jacob!

Raise a song; sound the tambourine,
the sweet lyre with the harp.

Blow the trumpet at the new moon,
at the full moon, on our feast day.

For it is a statute for Israel,
a rule of the God of Jacob.

He made it a decree in Joseph
when he went out over the land of Egypt.
I hear a language I had not known:

“I relieved your shoulder of the burden;
your hands were freed from the basket.

In distress you called, and I delivered you;
I answered you in the secret place of thunder;
I tested you at the waters of Meribah. Selah

Hear, O my people, while I admonish you!
O Israel, if you would but listen to me!

There shall be no strange god among you;
you shall not bow down to a foreign god.

10 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.

11 “But my people did not listen to my voice;
Israel would not submit to me.

12 So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts,
to follow their own counsels.

13 Oh, that my people would listen to me,
that Israel would walk in my ways!

14 I would soon subdue their enemies
and turn my hand against their foes.

15 Those who hate the Lord would cringe toward him,
and their fate would last forever.

16 But he would feed you with the finest of the wheat,
and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”

The psalms often start with worship. In worship, you declare with your mouth who God is. "God our strength" declares this psalm, as well as "God of Jacob". Who is God? Who do other people say God is? Where do they get this view? 
Then, more importantly, who is God for you personally? 
Jesus and Peter discuss this in Matthew 16: 13-17. 
He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; andothers, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.”15 He said to them,“But who do you say that I am?”16 Simon Peter answered, “You arethe Christ, the Son of the living God.”17 And Jesus said to him,“Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.
We must start here. If we have a wrong view of God, everything else will be wrong, as well. 
Then:
Salvation. Obedience. In that order. 
First, God saves us. Before we act the right way, do the right things, and even before we want God - indeed, while we are still rejecting Him - He saves us. In the Old Testament this is modeled when God saves the Israelites from the Egyptians (v. 10). "You called in trouble and I rescued you", verse 7 declares. God saves us without any prerequisites. 
After God saves us, we obey Him out of love and adoration of Him. He is our Father and we want to please Him. He saved the Israelites and only then did Moses issue the 10 commandments (the law); He did not first require that the Israelites obey all of the commandments before deeming them worthy of being saved. And yet this is the easy trap for us to fall into - if I do the right thing, check the right box, serve in these places, then I will be worthy of God's love. Truth is, our works will never be enough to make us worthy. 
Love and salvation, then obedience.
It doesn't work the other way around. 
At the end of the psalm, Israel is being disobedient, like we so often are (v.11 -13). They ignore God's voice, and God gives them over to their disobedience. When we love Jesus and realize (in our heart, not just our head) what it means that He saved us, and when we realize how much we are worth to Him, we couldn't bear ignore His commands. We love Him, so we obey with joy.
Why do you do what you do? Is it to earn God's acceptance and love? Or is it out of the vast, immeasurable love of the Father who will never let you go or let you down?  
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