Thirsty Thursday- Psalm 81

I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt.
Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it. 
(Psalm 81:10)

My wife Heidi and I are blessed with five beautiful and energetic little grandchildren between the ages of one and six. When they were babies, they all had certain things in common—each one of them needed to eat, sleep and fill their diaper—that was their job description. But each of them was remarkably different in just how they went about those tasks. Take napping, for example. One baby might view naptime as a dear friend, while another fought against it tooth and nail as a sworn enemy!

In the arena of eating, our youngest grandson Jesse is the undisputed champion of the family. That kid can put away food! He figured out early on, that the food will keep coming, spoonful after glorious spoonful, if he just opens his mouth wide…again and again. For some babies, eating is a necessity—for Jesse, it was more like a religious experience!

In Psalm 81, the psalmist Asaph begins his worship song by inviting his congregation to praise God loud and long. Wait, did I say “invite?” It’s actually a series of five sharp, imperative commands in quick succession: “Sing aloud! Shout for joy! Raise a song! Strike the tambourine! Blow the trumpet!” (vs. 1-3)  Asaph is like a confident worship general, barking out orders to his army of potential praise warriors!

 What’s the urgency? First of all, Asaph tells his “army” that worship is their job—it’s a “decree…an ordinance…a statute” established by God. (vs. 4-5) But there is something else going on here. Asaph explains at the end of verse 5, “I heard an unknown voice say…” What voice? Whose voice? In verses 6-16 it becomes clear that this “unknown voice” is the voice of God. The voice seems strangely unfamiliar to Asaph because God has been tragically unfamiliar to Israel for too long. But now, finally, God’s long “silence” has been broken! (Refer back to Psalm 79 and Psalm 80). Asaph perks up—what does God have to say to us?

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

God hadn’t really stopped speaking to his people; He hadn’t stopped leading them. The people had just stopped listening and following! And now Asaph is listening to this “unknown voice.” Now Asaph wants his people to hear it too…to listen to every word…to follow every instruction.

This “unknown voice” of God reminds the people that His job is to “remove their burden” and to “set them free.” (vs.6) And their job is simply to “open your mouth wide” so that God can do His job,“and I will fill it” (vs. 10). Receiving what God has for us—spoonful after glorious spoonful…for some it may seem like a necessity, for Asaph it was indeed a religious experience. And so, responding to God in worship wasn’t just a job, it was a joy!

Everything that goes into us is a gift from God—every need, every breath. And so, everything that comes out should be a gift to God—every word, every song, every praise. For everyone, what goes into our mouths is an essential necessity of life…but for those who belong to God what comes out is the joyful song of our life. We “sing, shout, raise and song, strike the tambourine!” We worship and praise Him, we obey Him and follow him—not because it’s our job, but because it is our joy and our life! Keep opening your mouth wide, God says, and I will keep filling it with good things.

What are those “good things?” In his famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells his disciples “Happy [blessed] are those who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6) In John’s gospel we read that Jesus’ breath filled those same disciples with the Holy Spirit (John 20:22). When those “good things” feed us and fill us, what comes out of us are words of grace and truth and wisdom…songs of praise and worship…prayers of thanksgiving, confession and intercession. Even when we don’t think we have the “right” words to say, God reminds us, “Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.”

Are you hungry and thirsty for the all best things of God? Do you want to be filled and satisfied and overflowing with those things? Will you offer yourself (and your mouth) to the joy of singing and shouting and praying to the Giver of those good gifts?  It’s more than our job, it’s our joy. Jesus Christ is the one who has come to give us that kind of real life. He is the Living Water. Let him fill you, and fill you, and fill you again—until your mouth overflows with his praise. And always stay thirsty for him!

Pastor Philip


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