The Pulpit Commentary

Psalms 81:1-16 (Psalms 81:1-16)

Psalms 81:1-5 appear to be the preface of a song of thanksgiving, intended for public recitation at one of the great public festivals—either the Passover or the Feast of Tabernacles.

Psalms 81:6-16 are part of a psalm of complaint, wherein God expostulates with his people.

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Psalms 81:1 (Psalms 81:1)

Sing aloud unto God our Strength. "Loud" singing is regarded as indicative of earnestness and sincerity (see 2 Chronicles 20:19 ; Nehemiah 12:42 ; Psalms 33:3 ; Psalms 98:4 , etc.). (On God as Israel's "Strength," see Psalms 27:1 ; Psalms 28:8 ; Psalms 46:1 ; Psalms 111:7 .) Make a joyful noise unto the God of Jacob. The word translated "make a joyful noise" is especially used of the blare of trumpets (Le 23:24; Numbers 29:1 ).

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Psalms 81:1-3 (Psalms 81:1-3)

The consecration of music.

Instrumental music was associated with the Mosaic festivals; but the organization of music for ordinary religious worship is supposed to have been the work of David. The important differences between ideas of music in the ancient East and in the modem West needs to be carefully shown. Noise is chiefly considered in the East, harmonies are most valued in the West. Even the chanting at religious services was more like that which we call "Gregorian" than like the double tunes ordinarily used. Public services gained a new and attractive feature when music was introduced into them; and those gifted with the power of singing and playing were allowed to take part in them. Then public services rose from being bare duty to become personal pleasure. Perhaps David's work in consecrating to God's worship poetical and musical gifts has never been worthily estimated. Thomson tells us that "the Orientals know nothing of harmony, and cannot appreciate it when heard." He went to a grand concert of instrumental musicians. "Seated on a raised platform at one end of the room were half a dozen performers, discoursing strange music from curious instruments, interspersed with wild bursts of song, which seemed to electrify the congregation. They had a violin, two or three kinds of flutes, and a tambourine. One man sat by himself, and had a large harp." "No doubt the temple service, performed by those who trained for it, stirred the deepest fountains of feeling in the vast assemblies of Israel, at the great feasts."

I. THE CONSECRATION OF MUSIC AND SONG TO GOD . All man's talents, gifts, and endowments can be devoted to the service of God. Man has no power—poetical, artistic, musical, dramatic, or practical—in the use of which he cannot or may not serve God. Very strange was the notion once entertained that instrumental music was not becoming to God's worship. And even yet there is a strange limitation to particular instruments, which alone are regarded as appropriate. We need to see more clearly that every gift has its Divine sphere of service.

II. THE CONSECRATION OF MUSIC AND SONG TO MAN . Especially to man's artistic culture, and to man's pleasant and healthy recreation. The gifted in this direction are human benefactors. But we need to secure consecration to the highest and best interests of man. The gifted should never pander to low tastes, or help to degrade their fellows.

III. THE CONSECRATION OF MUSIC AND SONG TO THE SERVICE OF GOD THROUGH THE SERVICE OF MAN . This should be the high aim of all the gifted. In the use of their gifts so to serve their fellow men, as that God should be glorified through their ministry.—R.T.

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