>Open Your Mouth, Psalm 81

>The almighty God who spoke into being the swirling universe is the same God who whispers into our hearts through his vibrant Word.

It’s been almost three weeks since I posted reflections on a Psalm, but God’s perfect timing brought me to Psalm 81 this morning.

The weather has been beautiful here in the Midwest this fall; weeks of warm sun and cool air have been deepening the gorgeous colors. But much of the time I’ve been burdened with concerns and unable to appreciate the beauty.

I’ve been working on recognizing negative thoughts about personal problems and reorienting my thinking to praise and thanks to God. The first verse of Psalm 81 fits right in.

Sing aloud to God our strength;
shout for joy to the God of Jacob!

The next two verses are an apologetic for using instruments in worship:

Raise a song; sound the tambourine,
the sweet lyre with the harp.
Blow the trumpet at the new moon,
at the full moon, on our feast day.

God then recounts what he did for Israel when he delivered his people from Egypt:

I relieved your shoulder of the burden;
your hands were freed from the basket.
In distress you called, and I delivered you;
I answered you in the secret places of thunder;
I tested you at the waters of Meribah (6-7).

Because God’s deliverance from Egypt represents the deliverance of each believer from the power of sin, these words apply to Christians today just as much as they applied to the Old Testament nation of Israel. We may drink many bitter waters, but they are part of God’s providence in our lives. He is the One who relieved our shoulders from the burden of our sins; he freed our hands from carrying the heavy basket fill with sin; he delivered us when we called on him in our distress; and he answers our prayers in each personal and secret place of thunder.

God calls his people to listen to him and reminds them of his commandments:

There shall be no strange god among you;
you shall not bow down to a foreign god.
I am the LORD you God,
who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.
Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it (9-10).

While verse nine reiterates the first commandment, while verse ten repeats the prologue to the Ten Commandments. But then God does an amazing thing; he inserts into this commandment repetition powerful and personal imagery that is a promise.

Who can read, “Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it,” and not think of a baby bird opening its beak while a parent stuffs it full?

The same image has come to me often in recent weeks while I’ve been feeding my youngest grandson his “solids” (a euphemistic and slightly inaccurate descriptor). He opens his mouth wide and I quickly shove in a plastic-coated spoon containing a small glob of super pureed baby food.

If he’s cooperative and opens his mouth, it can be a quick and neat process. But if he’s not all that hungry or doesn’t really like the taste or texture of a new food, it can be a lengthy and messy experience. It can make me think, “This is one thing I don’t miss about being a parent.”

This morning I wonder how often I hold my mouth closed or turn my head, making God’s good food smear on my face or get up my nose.

God’s promise in Psalm 81:10 is not to give me just a little, but to “fill” my mouth. All I need to do is unlock my jaw and open my mouth, not just a little, but “wide” open.

In verse 11, God bemoans his people’s lack of submission:

But my people did not listen to my voice;
Israel would not submit to me.

Whenever I’m unhappy with my lot in life, am I actually not being unhappy with God? Am I not tuning out his voice? Am I not failing to submit to his will for my life?

When Israel hardened its collective heart and failed to submit, God “gave them over to their stubborn hearts, to follow their own counsels” (12).

My failure to submit to God’s will often results in my stubborn heart following its own counsel.

If God’s people would turn their hearts to him, he promises to destroy their enemies and fill their mouths with wonderful food:

Oh, that my people would listen to me,
that Israel would walk in my ways!
I would soon subdue their enemies
and turn my hand against their foes.
Those who hate the LORD would cringe toward him,
and their fate would last forever.
But he would feed you with finest of wheat,
and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you (13-16).

Even though we may not always see our enemies immediately subdued, God promises that those who hate him one day will cringe in fear before him. Their fate is literally sealed forever in hell. But those who listen to God and walk in his ways will be filled to the point of satisfaction with bread made from the purest and best wheat, dripping in honey that God miraculously provides from a rock.

Open your mouth! Open it wide!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s