I had a conversation with someone recently as to whether an old grievance had been healed. It can be hard to restore relationships and even when that has been done there is always the question can it be on the same terms. Memories remain, embarrassment prevents fully open communication and pretending things didn’t actually happen doesn’t work either. We can never be totally sure we know what the other person is thinking and feeling. These same barriers come into play when we know we have grieved God.
It is possible that the pattern of relationship between God’s people and God, spread over hundreds of years, can be worked out in microcosm in our own lives. Psalm 81 is a prophetic hymn calling the people back to covenant faithfulness by recalling the history of God’s relationship with them. It is a harvest hymn to be sung at the feast of Trumpets and the Booths. It therefore opens with verses of musical praise recalling the promises and blessings received through Jacob and Joseph. vv1-4 It resembles the first flush of passion and thrill of knowing the Lord when one becomes a Christian.
The verses recalling escape from slavery by God’s strong hand and then provision in the wilderness years emphasizes how God heard their voice and they heard his. vv4-7 Just as God heard them when they were suffering so he understands our need when we are burdened down with sin and live separated from God. As God said to Moses, ‘I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good land, a land flowing with milk and honey.’ Exodus 3.7-8 This reflects our own experience of salvation through Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection. The parallels in the Exodus account are multitudinous.
However, the people of God although in covenant relationship did not remain faithful. They broke the opening commandments and replaced God in their hearts with other desires. vv8-9 Therefore the psalmist quotes the words of God before the ten commandments to remind them of how their covenant relationship was formed, ‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.’ v10 and Exodus 20.2 Many of us have had a time when we drifted off from our relationship with him, replacing him with other things, passions and relationships. This period for many can last for decades. I spoke to one man who before attending a Christianity Explored Course told me he had made a commitment to Christ when a university student and done nothing about it since, he was now in his 50s and felt the need to find his relationship with God again.
God though did not give up on his people despite hundreds of years of wayward discipleship. Instead his words were, ‘Oh, that my people would listen to me, and Israel would walk in my ways! v14 God was still calling them back. He still wanted to bless them with good things expressed as feeding them with the finest of wheat and with honey. v18 He wanted to satisfy their souls. The man I mentioned above turned again to the Lord and his relationship with him was restored.
It isn’t too late. God is patient and gracious beyond human imagining. If we have walked away from our relationship with him and replaced him with “foreign gods” v9 there is a way back if we turn back to him. He is waiting to bless us with eternally good things. He is able to restore our relationship with him even though we may be embarrassed, awkward, sure we don’t deserve it, unable to forget and not forgiving ourselves. It is because God had done all that is necessary through Jesus’ sacrifice. We are simply told to turn and ask. It is so simple, we are to come as a child. Mathew 18.3 He knows. There is no point in pretending.
No longer slaves