March 29 – Devotion

Date: March 29

Scripture: “O Israel, if you would but listen to me!” Psalm 81:8b ESV

The setting of Psalm 81 is probably in celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles, that harvest festival in commemoration of the wilderness wanderings of the Israelites. As you read the psalm you can hear echoes of Israel’s story: the exodus and wilderness wanderings (vv. 6-7), and the giving of the Law at Mt. Sinai (v. 10). Also notice that this is a very auditory psalm in which the psalmist uses a lot of sound images: “sing aloud,” “shout,” “sound,” “called,” “raise a song,” “blow a trumpet,” “hear” (2 times), and “listen” (3 times). This theme of listening is crucial.

Ancient Israel was an oral culture. They were trained to listen well and remember well because they did not have notepads and iPads to aid their memory like we do. There is a biblical principle: we become like what we worship. The Israelites often worshiped idols of silver and gold, wood and stone, which had ears but could not hear; sadly, the Israelites became like their idols—deaf to the voice of God.

According to the Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, “Hearing symbolizes the proper response to God in the Bible” (Ryken, Wilhoit, & Longman, InterVarsity Press: Illinois). Three times we hear God’s poignant cry:
“O Israel, if you would but listen to me.” (v. 8)
“But my people did not listen to my voice.” (v. 11)
“O, that my people would listen to me.” (v. 13)
God loves us, pursues us, but will not coerce us into relationship with Him. This is illustrated by verse 12, “So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts,/to follow their own counsels.” This idea is restated in the New Testament in Romans 1:24,26,28. Are we any different from the Israelites? Do we have idols?

In his book, Counterfeit Gods, Tim Keller defines an idol as “anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give” (UK: Penguin Publishing Group, 2011). In his list of idols he includes the usual suspects of money, sex, and power, but he also lists some unexpected idols: moral living, ministry success, spiritual gifts, and doctrinal accuracy. Even good things can become idols when we try to make them the ultimate thing. No created thing can replace our Creator. So where does this leave us? Right where we started—at the foot of the cross, dependent as always on the grace of God and the love of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit.

He who has ears to hear, let him hear!

Prayer for the Journey: Father, I pray that you will open our ears so that we may hear your voice clearly in the midst of the noise in our daily lives.

Prepared by: Gary Bolton

3 Responses to “March 29 – Devotion”

  1. Vicki Williams says:


  2. Bob Mohr says:

    Great reminder Gary!

  3. Debbie Keen says:

    Well done, Gary! Thank you for this poignant devotion!

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