PSALM 81 OVERVIEW
Title. To the Chief Musician upon Gittith. Very little is known of the meaning of this title. We have given the best explanation known to us in connection with Psalm 8 in Vol. 1 of this work. If it be intended to indicate a vintage song, it speaks well for the piety of the people for whom it was written; it is to be feared that in few places even in Christian countries would holy hymns be thought suitable to be sung in connection with the winepress. When the bells upon the horses shall be holiness unto the Lord, then shall the juice of the grape gush forth to the accompaniment of sacred song. A Psalm of Asaph. This poet here again dwells upon the history of his country; his great forte seems to be rehearsing the past in admonitory psalmody. He is the poet of the history and politics of Israel. A truly national songster, at once pious and patriotic.
Divisions. Praise is called for to celebrate some memorable day, perhaps the passover; whereupon the deliverance out of Egypt is described, Psalms 81:1-7 . Then the Lord gently chides his people for their ingratitude, and pictures their happy estate had they but been obedient to his commands.
Verse 1. Sing, in tune and measure, so that the public praise may be in harmony; sing with joyful notes, and sounds melodious.
Aloud. For the heartiest praise is due to our good Lord. His acts of love to us speak more loudly than any of our words of gratitude can do. No dulness should ever stupefy our psalmody, or half heartedness cause is to limp along. Sing aloud, ye debtors to sovereign grace, your hearts are profoundly grateful: let your voices express your thankfulness.
Unto God our strength. The Lord was the strength of his people in delivering them out of Egypt with a high hand, and also in sustaining them in the wilderness, placing them in Canaan, preserving them from their foes, and giving them victory. To whom do men give honour but to those upon whom they rely, therefore let us sing aloud unto our God, who is our strength and our song.
Make a joyful noise unto the God of Jacob. The God of the nation, the God of their father Jacob, was extolled in happy music by the Israelitish people; let no Christian be silent, or slack in praise, for this God is our God. It is to be regretted that the niceties of modern singing frighten our congregations from joining lustily in the hymns. For our part we delight in full bursts of praise, and had rather discover the ruggedness of a want of musical training than miss the heartiness of universal congregational song. The gentility which lisps the tune in well bred whispers, or leaves the singing altogether to the choir, is very like a mockery of worship. The gods of Greece and Rome may be worshipped well enough with classical music, but Jehovah can only be adored with the heart, and that music is the best for his service which gives the heart most play.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Title. It is remarkable that as Psalm 80 treats of the church of God under the figure of a vine, so the present is entitled, "upon Gittith," literally upon the winepress. Whether the expression was meant to refer to a musical instrument, or to some direction as to the tune, is uncertain. In our Saviour's adoption of the figure of a vineyard to represent his church, he speaks of a winepress dug in it, Matthew 21:33 . The idea refers itself to the final result in some sense, in a way of salvation of souls, as the same figure of a winepress is used in Revelation 16 of the final destruction of the ungodly. W. Wilson.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 1. Congregational singing should be general, hearty, joyful. The reasons for this, and the benefits of it.
- Praise should be sincere. It can come from the people of God only.
- It should be constant: they should praise God at all times.
- It should be special. There should be seasons of special praise.
- Appointed by God, as Sabbaths and solemn feasts.
- Demanded by providence on occasion of special deliverances and special mercies.
- It should be public: "sing aloud:" "bring hither," etc. G. R.