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Psalm 81

Worship and obedience go together.  If we worship without obedience, we celebrate God only when He does what we want how we want it.  If we obey without worship, we respond to God’s Word and Spirit begrudgingly.  One without the other soon cancels the other out.  If we only attempt to worship or obey on our terms, we will become frustrated and find that we cannot do either.  Worship and obedience require surrendering our will and emotion, trusting the Lord’s sovereignty and goodness, and crucifying our flesh.  To do one well, you must do the other well.  Halfhearted worship leads to halfhearted obedience.  No worship leads to no obedience.  Disobedience is not worship at all!  However, when we fully submit ourselves to the Lord, we will find that worship and obedience strengthen and enrich each other.  When I worship the Lord, I have found that my perspective and attitude change.  He changes my heart!  My desire to obey Him increases.  I have also found that my worship increases when I obey the Lord even though I don’t fully understand and desire to comply in the moment.  Worship and obedience are married, and we must never divorce the two!

In Psalm 81, Asaph instructed God’s people to “sing for joy” and “shout aloud” to God (v. 1).  He said they should also “begin the music” and strike, play, and sound instruments (v. 2).  Both singing and playing instruments in a group require unity and harmony.  It requires working together.  The mention of the full moon and festival (v. 3). suggests it is a time where the people came together in community worship.  Oh, how God loves it when we worship Him with our brothers and sisters in Christ!  While we should worship God in private, we must not neglect community worship as it causes us to lay down our preferences and grow in the Lord with others.  Community worship reminds us worship isn’t really about our preferences at all.  Worship is about how God wants us to worship Him, not how I like to worship!   When I worship Him to please and honor Him, I am most satisfied.

Asaph also heard the Word of the Lord during worship (vv. 5-10), and it required responses like listening (verse 8) and opening his mouth (v. 10).  Hearing the Word of the Lord in worship is vital as it shapes our heart, soul, and actions.  The Word instructs and produces worship.  Some like to raise hands and some don’t, but He wants us to lift holy hands (Psalm 134:2; 1 Timothy 2:8).  Some like to sing, and some don’t, but He wants us to lift our voices (Psalm 68:4; James 5:13).  We must obey the Word of God as that also is worship unto the Lord. We may have private preferences in our private worship, but we should never force them upon others or judge others when they don’t worship like us.  When we come together to worship, we must remember that however God wants to be worshipped should be our preference!   If His Word says, “worship like this”, then that is how we should worship Him.  I’ve seen people destroy community worship because some didn’t lift hands high enough, bow low enough, or even sing loud enough to please others.  Is pleasing others the goal of worship?  We must remember He is the object of worship, not our style, preference, or opinion! 

Sadly, Asaph reported God’s disapproval and disappointment in their lack of worship and obedience.  They did not listen or submit (v. 11), and their hearts followed their desires (v. 12).  Listening is worship!  Sometimes we stop singing to hear better what the Lord is saying to us. Doing what you hear God say is worship!  Thinking through what His Word says and laying down your opinion to do His will is worship!  Sometimes we lift our hands or fall on our face as a submissive response to obeying what He has told us to do.  As a result of disobedience to the Lord’s Word, it hindered God’s answer to their prayers in protection (v. 14-15) and provision (v. 16).  If we listened, submitted, and obeyed through worship, we would receive God’s best! Oh, how we miss out on God’s best when we do not worship and obey the Lord! 


  1. Have you noticed how disobeying the Lord has affected your worship?
  2. Have you seen how your lack of worship has affected your obedience to the Lord?
  3. Are you listening, submitting, and obeying in your worship?


Lord, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing and acceptable to You.  May my worship result in obedience.  May my obedience reflect my worship.  Help me to worship You like Your Word says, including worshipping with God’s people.  I desire to listen, submit, and obey Your Word with a joyful heart of worship.  I want Your best blessings and promises from true worship and obedience.  In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

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Stephen and his wife Haley have called Arkansas home all of their lives. Stephen has served in several ministry roles over the last 25 years and as a lead pastor for the last 8 years. Stephen attended Williams Baptist College and earned a BA in Biblical Studies from Ouachita Baptist University, an MA, MDiv, and DMin in Christian Leadership and Pastoral Ministries from Liberty University. When not pastoring, Stephen enjoys running, cycling, reading, writing, camping, fishing, and spending time with his family.

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