This morning I’m meditating over Psalm 81, and I’m amazed at how some things seem to never change. One of them is man’s inability to fully break out of the cycle of sin. I shouldn’t be amazed at this. Logically I understand that we are born into sin and sin is borne within us, thanks to the whole episode in the garden with the serpent and Adam and Eve and the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (not an apple, by the way – probably some more nefarious vegetation like asparagus which, I know, does not grow on trees but…).
What is illogical to me is why we keep jumping on this merry-go-round of sin when we know the spinning makes us sick. You know the routine: commit sin, feel guilty / ashamed / convicted / condemned (etc.), go to God, repent (or have the intention thereof), ask for God’s forgiveness, receive God’s forgiveness, thank God for His forgiveness, and love, and grace, and mercy, and provision, and wisdom…, feel better, get comfortable, somehow manage to forget all the wonderful things of the Lord, get tempted by sin (like a cat glaring at a shaking, shiny toy), pursue said shiny toy, commit sin, realize we just did it again, and round-and-round we go…
Shouldn’t we know better by now?
If you think you’re alone in this, you are not. We all struggle. We always have. And, if you love God, you will continue to. At least as long as you draw breath on this earth. Why? Because we all sin. Its in our very being. The curse is so pervasive that it is almost as if it is part of our DNA. If we truly love Christ, we recognize and feel remorse for our sin. If we do not love Him, we simply go about our merry way doing whatever without any real care about eternity.
In other words, we are all sinners. If my sin bothers me, good. It better bother me. If it doesn’t… time for a major heart and head check / change.
The Israelites were caught up in this cycle. Psalm 81 opens with the declaration that we are to praise God – noisily and joyously! – for He is “our strength.” Then there is the reminder of what the Lord has done, directly saving His children from bondage in Egypt (“I relieved your shoulder of the burden; you hands were freed from the basket”). Once enslaved in this godless place, the people of God are now walking in His freedom. They cried out in their “distress,” and He came to their rescue.
And yet… “But my people did not listen to my voice; Israel did not listen to me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts, to follow their own counsels” (Psalm 81:11-12, ESV).
As history has shown us time and again, this repeated pattern has resulted in repeated disastrous results. But, if God’s people would only pursue Him, seek His will and His ways, “I would subdue their enemies and turn my hands against their foes” (Psalm 81: 14, ESV). And that is one of those “thus sayeth the Lord” moments.
And, lest you think this merely applies to the Israelites… think again. I find the wording of the concluding verse of Psalm 81 to be particularly interesting: “But he would feed you with the finest wheat, and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you” (Psalm 81:16, ESV, italics added for emphasis). The immediate image that comes to my mind is of Peter (“the rock”) and the church. The imperfect community of the absolutely perfect Jesus Christ, God incarnate. These admonitions, warnings and blessings all apply to the body of Christ as much as it did to the Israelites. We are God’s children, and He wants us to live in His light – to be salt and light, a light atop a hill, a beacon to the world.
Understand where you are, and who you are, in Christ. You are cleansed. You are forgiven. You are blessed and loved. You are a child – an heir – of the Living God, Creator and Sustainer of All! Remember where you have been, the sinful places where you batted at the shiny object, but only so you do not go back there – or even look back longingly. You may desire – or even crave – “the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic” (Numbers 11:5, ESV). But, trust me, it isn’t worth it. It is all asparagus. Nasty, mushy, stringy, bitter, sinful asparagus.
“Trust in the Lord and do good…” (Psalm 37:3). “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you” (Matthew 6:33). “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” (Psalm 81:10, ESV).