Psalm 81: The Big “If”

Conditional Covenant, Psalm 81

Read Psalm 81:1-16

The Big “If”

“If my people would but listen to me,
if Israel would follow my ways,
how quickly would I subdue their enemies
and turn my hand against their foes!
(Psalm 81:13-14)

We often speak of God’s unconditional grace, unlimited love and undeserved mercy—for which we are all unspeakably grateful. But let’s not forget that God does have some conditions for us; there is a sense in which his unlimited love is limited; there are some things we must do to deserve his mercy. There are some big “if’s” to this relationship we enjoy with God.

God is a conditional God. Did you notice how the psalmist put it? “If” God’s people listen to him, “if” God’s people obey him, then, and only then, will he fight on their behalf and give them victory. The psalmist is only echoing what is taught in a hundred other places throughout Scripture: The blessings of the covenant that God has made with us are conditional—God’s unconditional, unlimited, and undeserved favor flows to us only as we walk in loving surrender to his rulership over our lives.

In our Christian culture there has been a tendency to emphasize grace in a way that is not balanced by truth, love that is not balanced by obedience, and mercy that is not balanced by authentic repentance. That has led to “easy believism”—an unhealthy and risky view of salvation. It is time for us to reexamine what the Scriptures tell us rather than to mindlessly allow current preaching trends to adjust what the Bible teaches to what our culture finds acceptable. We must adjust our beliefs and behaviors, as painful and costly as that might be to what God’s Word says, not vice versa.

So on this particular day, as you examine your heart, honestly and openly ask yourself if you are living up to your end of the bargain. Check to see if you are meeting the conditions of the covenant. The painful part of doing that may be that you are required to do some costly realigning of your life.

The upside is that if you are fulfilling the big “if’s” in your relationship with God, then you can expect an unimaginable supply of unconditional grace, unlimited love, and undeserved mercy.

“Will is to grace as the horse is to the rider.”

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