Sing a Psalm of Joy


Performance Notes:

Text Information:

An exhortation to Israel to renew their faithfulness to God as they celebrate the LORD's deliverance out of Egypt.

Scripture References:
st. l = vv. 1-2
st. 2 = vv. 3-5
st. 3 = vv. 6-7
st. 4 = vv. 8-9
st. 5 = v. 10
st. 6 = vv. 11-15
st. 7 = vv. 8, 16

The psalmist addresses the people of Israel at an annual festival celebrating their deliverance from slavery in Egypt. He begins with a call to joyful celebration (st. 1) and praise of the LORD (st. 2), remembering God's saving answer to the people's cry in bondage and God's test of their faith in the wilderness (st. 3). As God's spokesperson, the psalmist calls Israel once again to be faithful to the LORD and to reject all false gods (st. 4). In remembering the Exodus, Israel is reminded of its own unfaithfulness in the wilderness and how God dealt with them. The LORD, who brought them out of Egypt and who has supplied all their needs, will surely bless the people if they wholly trust in him (st. 5). God's great desire is for the people to obey and trust him, so that they may enjoy his protection and abundant blessings (st. 6-7).

In singing this psalm we too need to respond obediently to God's call. In the post-exilic temple liturgy this psalm was sung during the morning sacrifice on the fifth day of the week. Marie J. Post versified Psalm 81 in 1984 for the Psalter Hymnal.

Liturgical Use:
Call to commitment or rededication.

Tune Information:

GENEVAN 81 was first published in the 1562 edition of the Genevan Psalter; Dale Grotenhuis composed the harmonization in 1985. This bright tune in Ionian mode (major) has short phrases, two of which are repeated (AB, AC, CD), making it one of the simplest in the Genevan Psalter. For that reason, generations of Dutch children started their weekly school program of memorizing psalms with this one, beginning with the stanza that included "Open wide your mouth, surely I will fill it." The psalm should be sung with much energy, though the mood shifts between stanzas 5 and 6. The text suggests antiphonal performance: stanzas 1 and 2 to be sung by everyone, stanzas 3 through 7 by a solo voice or smaller group (possibly ending with a unison repeat of stanza 1 by all).

Other Resources:

  • Visit for more information on this song and additional resources.
Song Audio: 
Psalm 81
Song Number: 
Projection and Reprint Information: