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Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1269

August 28, 2016 Psalm 81

Dr. Ed Pettus John 10:1-18

(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)



“Oh, That My People Would Listen to Me”


  • Listening to God


One of the first great passages of importance to the formation of Israel as a people of God is the Great Shema of Deuteronomy 6:4, Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” Shema is the Hebrew word for hear or listen and it carries in its meaning the command to obey. You know how it is when you are raising a child and you tell them to listen, “Listen to me, this is your chore to help around the house...” When a parent says listen, we mean do! Same holds true for God speaking to Israel, when God says “hear” or “listen” He means do this command. Real listening includes obedient action.


Now, turn with me to Psalm 81 where we find Shema again, starting in verse eight.


8 Hear, O my people, while I admonish you! O Israel, if you would but listen to me! 9 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.

Shema, O my people...if you would but shema! Just listen. The Psalm certainly harkens back to Deuteronomy 6 as a reminder of the God who delivered them from slavery and called them to live in fidelity to the One living God. Shema is foundational to the Jewish identity and even their existence. This is the God who saved you and this is the God who will fill you with good things. Why don't they just listen. It's the same frustration we have with anyone who will not listen to what is best for them. How many times does a parent have to tell a child to listen. They get into trouble and all the parent can say is, “I told you. You should have listened to me.”


What often happens with children is they listen to someone else who knows no better than they do. They listen to other voices who will no doubt lead them down the wrong path. Look at verse 9, it implies that they have listened to other gods, to other voices, to other words that have no life.



  • Not listening to God


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!


Psalm 81:11 But they refuse to listen to God (11). They have refused God’s care and God’s sovereignty and thus rejects God’s redemption and deliverance. Refusing to listen is a rejection of authority and in this case it leads to a painful mess. God give them up to their own ways, their own devises.


It is the same story we see in Romans,

Romans 1:21-25 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.


It may be one of the worst judgments God can give to anyone, to leave them to their own lusts, to leave them to their own wisdom, to leave them to their own stubbornness. It testifies to the doctrine of total depravity, that without God, we are totally incompetent to run our lives.


But there is still hope for Israel and still hope for everyone.


  • God’s Desire


Psalm 81:13 “Oh, that my people would listen to me, that Israel would walk in my ways!”


God so desires for his people to listen and to do what he says. I that little word “Oh,” we can hear the deep desire of God – a yearning born of love for his own. Israel can once again know God's compassion and sovereignty if they would just listen. And the great thing about this Psalm is that there is still time. There is yet another hopeful opportunity for God's people to return to him. God makes the promises to restore them yet again.


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.”


If they would just listen God would destroy their enemies. This may even harken back to the exodus, a repeat performance by God to deliver his people from an oppressor. There is also the promise to feed them, just like the exodus promise for the food of the promised land, flowing milk and honey, now it's the best wheat and honey. This feeding also looks back to verse to, God would feed them if they just listened.


Psalm 81 and the life of Israel itself is wrapped up in the Shema command of God, to listen and live in obedience to the Lord's word of life. I want to suggest some ways and reasons that we might listen to God.



  • Listen to Form Thoughts


The first is to listen in order to shape the way we think.

Look with me at Psalm 1.


Psalm 1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.


The voices we might listen to, other than God, include the wicked, the sinner, and the scoffer. In Psalm 81 the voices are from other gods, here they are people, but no matter the source, those that are not of God are voices that lead to death. Our delight is in listening to God, through his word.


I don’t know that I have ever had a 2½ conversation with my youngest daughter before our ride back from Charlotte recently. Her living in Israel for nearly a year raised a lot of questions from the both of us. Even with constant contact via the internet there are some things that cannot be discussed except on a long drive home. When you talk about all things Israel, it is hard not to constantly begin a response with, “Well the Bible says...” I found myself at least thinking that phrase throughout our discussion. As I have reflected on that time the last few days, I realized that biblical thinking is part of my occupational hazard. It is the only way I know or desire how to think through problems and issues and questions. I would hope that would be the situation for all believers. Can we train ourselves to think in and like the Bible? Yes, we can. And I believe it begins with our listening. By listening I also mean our reading, our study, our prayer, our life, our complete soaking in the Word of God.


This is also a portion of what it means to love the Lord. One of the ways Jesus describes loving God is with all our mind, that is, our thoughts -with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30). Paul tells us to worship God with our mind. It is with the mind that we discern the will of God. It begins when we listen. Shema.


Romans 12:1-2 “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.



  • Listen to Shape Faith


Another reason to listen is to shape our faith. It goes along the same line that the way we think will determine our faithfulness. Turn to Hebrews 11.


Hebrews 11 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the people of old received their commendation. 3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

We know that the universe was created by the word of God. How do we know that? Because we have listened to what is written in God's revelation. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. When we listen to the Lord it gives us the conviction of trust and faith. In faith we receive the word and in the word we grow our faith.


  • Listen to Become Obedient


In John 10 Jesus speaks of hearing his voice. The sheep hear his voice...he calls his own...they do not know the voice of strangers...they will listen to my voice. To say that they will listen to my voice is to say that they will do as Jesus commands and the shepherd desires. We are to listen and do, practice obedience to all that God commands and requires.


Sometimes we have what is called selective hearing. Most wives here know what I am talking about. Selective hearing, sometimes we only hear what we want to hear. We certainly will only do what we want to do. We have to tune our ears to God’s word in order to hear God. We tune in by being in the word. Great musicians can tell immediately when their instrument is out of tune. This comes from many years of listening to the music and hearing the right notes and chords. Some people are tone deaf and cannot hear the right note. We cannot be tone deaf to the Bible. The more scripture, the more of the Bible we know, the better our hearing becomes, the better able to hear and obey what God says. We tune our ears by being in the Bible, reading, memorizing, studying, praying, and learning. As we listen to God we condition ourselves to become more deaf to the gods of the world and we are able to close our ears to the scoffers. When we listen to God's word we are able to discern truth from lies. When we listen to God's word we know the truth that sets us free and keeps us free from the seductions of the world.