Maybe you have never really stopped to consider why it is you rejoice over certain things in your life, or perhaps you haven't really stopped to rejoice in a long while. Either way, you are missing the point of praise - it is an expression of your heart, and it is in response to something or someone. Therefore, it has to be intentional and purposeful in order to really be called praise - anything else is really just flattery!
Rejoice out loud to God, our strength! (Psalm 81:1 CEB)
Strength comes from God and is found in him. It is a two-way gift. It comes FROM him - a provision in a time of need. It is also found IN him - a provision which keeps us when we are just plain unaware a need even exists. As we place ourselves at his disposal, in purposeful and intentional worship, we exchange our strength for his. We are moving from a place of weakness to a place of victory - for nothing can stand against what is provided by him!
For this is required by the decrees of Israel; it is a regulation of the God of Jacob. (Psalm 81:4 NLT)
We may not blow the ram's horn anymore in our worship times, but in the time of King David, the ram's horn was not only used to call men to war, alert to danger, but to call attention to the time and place of worship. It was used to announce a festival - or feast - in which time was taken away from the regularly scheduled events of the day and spent focusing on the one who made all things possible for his people. Worship and celebration of God's grace is not optional for a child of God - it is a thing which is to be a regular and consistent part of our walk. We are to have daily times and special times when we set aside ourselves, center our focus, and get purposeful in celebrating God.
“Now I will take the load from your shoulders; I will free your hands from their heavy tasks." (Psalm 81:6 NLT)
If you don't engage in praise and worship for any other reason, this should catch your attention. In response to men and women "centering" themselves on purpose in order to really celebrate God, his response is to remove the load which we carried into that place of worship! Worship actually lifts the burdens of our hearts that would otherwise become unbearable for each of us. The weights of daily life lift as we bow before him in adoration. It never ceases to amaze me how God does this, but if you haven't taken time in a while to "center" on Jesus, you might just be bearing more pressure in your life than you actually need to!
You cried to me in trouble, and I saved you... (Psalm 81:7 NLT)
It never surprises me when I realize some of my "worshipful" moments begin with crying out to God because something is just wrong in my life. The immediate need for his intervention outweighs my desire to worship - I need to unburden and get his perspective - that "brings" me - but his presence "keeps" me! God has an attentive ear and a caring heart. He is moved by whatever "brings" us, but his focus is on "keeping" us there just long enough to actually begin to affect us deep enough so we know we have spent time in his presence. He is tuned into whatever our need is - but he is also tuned into whatever is testing our faith - because he wants to prove the reality and the basis of that faith. One brings us, the other keeps us.
Listen to me, O my people, while I give you stern warnings. (Psalm 81:8 NLT)
The need we have is nothing compared to the solution he has for meeting that need. Yet, we can often avoid having need at all if we would just heed the warnings he gives a little closer. In times of intimate worship, we actually come closer to the heart of Jesus. In those moments, there is a teach-ability he is looking for in each of us. It is his desire for us to be spared the agony of defeat and the damage of the circumstances which would create havoc in our lives. Our obligation is to listen - to heed the signs he has so tenderly placed in our path.
You must never have a foreign god; you must not bow down before a false god. (Psalm 81:9 NLT)
God will have no other God before him - he has pretty well established this fact since the beginning of time. No other focus of our attention is worthy of our attention - yet we struggle so much with all manner of distractions which do little more than direct our attention to anything other than Jesus himself. NEVER is a pretty stern warning - in centering ourselves afresh on a regular and consistent basis, we actually do a much better job coming closer to this "never" reality!
Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it with good things. (Psalm 81:10 NLT)
A child waits to be fed from the parent's hand. Open mouthed, open spirited, and open-hearted - the three conditions of being fed. God expects nothing less of us - he will never disappoint a waiting heart and open spirit.
I let them follow their own stubborn desires, living according to their own ideas. (Psalm 81:11 NLT)
Don't be deceived - living according to our own desires instead of what he plans for our lives is dangerous and barren ground. This is never his ideal - but he will not contradict our will and our internal desires. This is why it is so important to bring those desires to him and to center our will into his care. He desires obedience and a willing service from his kids - we settle for slavery and servitude any time we choose to focus on our own ideas and plans instead of making his central in our focus.
Oh, that my people would listen to me! But I would feed you with the finest wheat. I would satisfy you with wild honey from the rock. (Psalm 81:13, 16 NLT)
We might think worship and praise is all about us doing the talking and proclaiming - it INVOLVES this, but it is not all about this. It is a place and time of feeding - of filling. There is no need for us to linger in hunger - for his graces are at the ready to fill beyond our capacity. It is the hungry and seeking he stands at the ready to fill. Our part is to come, to abide, and to stay. His part is to exchange, fill, and uplift. Just sayin!