A. Summons to the celebration (81:1–5)
81:1–2. The psalmist called the congregation to sing aloud to the Lord their Strength, and to praise Him with musical accompaniment.
81:3–5. Then the psalmist exhorted them to appear at the festival because it was a statute for the nation to keep. The Law stipulated that adult males were to make pilgrimages three times a year to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feasts of Passover (in association with the Feast of Unleavened Bread), Weeks, and Tabernacles (Deut. 16:16). The Feast of Tabernacles began on the 15th day of the seventh month (Lev. 23:33) when the moon was full. The seventh month was September–October. Israel began to hear God’s commandments in Egypt (in His instructions to her regarding the Passover). It was like a voice they had never heard before.
B. Report of God’s revelation (81:6–16)
These verses record God’s communication to Israel as if He spoke directly to the nation.
81:6–7. First, the psalmist wrote that God said that by the Exodus He relieved the Israelites of their burden (in the Egyptian bondage when they had to carry bricks in baskets), and in the wilderness He tested them at Meribah (Ex. 17:7; Num. 20:13). The Feast of Tabernacles reminded Israel of the wanderings.
81:8–10. The psalmist then recalled God’s revelation of Himself and His Law to His people. He had promised if they would hold their allegiance to Him (Ex. 20:3–6), He would provide their needs bountifully since He had brought them up out of Egypt (Ex. 20:2). They should not turn to any foreign god because only He could satisfy them abundantly.
81:11–12. Asaph then reported God’s words about their disobedience. Because they did not submit to Him, He let them run to their own destruction.
81:13–16. The psalmist recorded God’s promise that if they would obey Him He would subdue their enemies and give them prosperity. The words in Psalm 81:6, 11–15 address Israel in the third person (their) whereas the words in verses 7–10, 16 are in the second person (you). The abrupt change in verse 16 introduces the blessings that come to God’s people who obey Him.