Psalms 81: Who Is in Control?
I know that there is a large debate regarding whether or not we truly have free will or are predestined. It generally relates to salvation, but it can also relate by extension to our everyday lives. This kind of discussion has caused a lot of controversy over the years, and it is not an easy one to resolve. Psalms 81 is going to take us close to it.
Psa 81:8 Hear, O my people, and I will testify unto thee: O Israel, if thou wilt hearken unto me;
Psa 81:9 There shall no strange god be in thee; neither shalt thou worship any strange god.
Psa 81:10 I am the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt: open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.
Psa 81:11 But my people would not hearken to my voice; and Israel would none of me.
Psa 81:12 So I gave them up unto their own hearts’ lust: and they walked in their own counsels.
Psa 81:13 Oh that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways!
It is interesting, because you actually see a little bit of both disciplines in this passage.
On one hand, you have the people not listening to God. It definitely sounds like it is a decision to not listen to God. Beyond that, it sounds like there could have been a different outcome if we go to the end of the chapter.
Psa 81:14 I should soon have subdued their enemies, and turned my hand against their adversaries.
Psa 81:15 The haters of the LORD should have submitted themselves unto him: but their time should have endured for ever.
Psa 81:16 He should have fed them also with the finest of the wheat: and with honey out of the rock should I have satisfied thee.
The result could have been different if the people made a different decision. God would have subdued their enemies if they had followed Him. It does seem to imply that there was a decision to be made here. It does not sound like the outcome was already known, or there would be no point in saying what God would have done. T evil he people made the decision to not listen to the voice of God, and the results were different.
However, we need to reconcile that with verse 12 then. God gave the people up which implies control over them. In order to follow these evil ways, it seems as if God had to give them up on some level. You’re obviously left with the question, were they really free if God had to give them up?
At the same time, we can go back in the other direction. If they were making decisions that made God want to give them up, then it seems that they were probably doing out of their own free will. If they were doing the will of God, then why would God give them up?
I don’t know about you, but I found this passage very interesting. There are certainly some dimensions of free will in this passage. The people were ignoring God. They were making a choice to do that. However, at the same time, God let them go in order to allow them to truly continue living in this way. He was ultimately sovereign over the entire process.
This is a tough one, and I think I’m going to leave it for today, but keep thinking about this issue. I’m sure that we will see it again.