MOUTH AND EARS
“Listen, dear ones…” (Psa. 81:8, The Message). Master, speak: I am listening!
Read PSALM 81
1 Sing for joy to God our strength;
shout aloud to the God of Jacob!
2 Begin the music, strike the timbrel,
play the melodious harp and lyre.
3 Sound the ram’s horn at the New Moon,
and when the moon is full, on the day of our festival;
4 this is a decree for Israel,
an ordinance of the God of Jacob.
5 When God went out against Egypt,
he established it as a statute for Joseph.
I heard an unknown voice say:
6 “I removed the burden from their shoulders;
their hands were set free from the basket.
7 In your distress you called and I rescued you,
I answered you out of a thundercloud;
I tested you at the waters of Meribah.
8 Hear me, my people, and I will warn you—
if you would only listen to me, Israel!
9 You shall have no foreign god among you;
you shall not worship any god other than me.
10 I am the Lord your God,
who brought you up out of Egypt.
Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.
11 “But my people would not listen to me;
Israel would not submit to me.
12 So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts
to follow their own devices.
13 “If my people would only listen to me,
if Israel would only follow my ways,
14 how quickly I would subdue their enemies
and turn my hand against their foes!
15 Those who hate the Lord would cringe before him,
and their punishment would last forever.
16 But you would be fed with the finest of wheat;
with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
It is so true that only emergencies make us serious about the Lord (7). A lot of the time we tone down the challenges of the cross, making them manageable, undemanding.
Anniversaries matter. In the tedious tumble of days, the whirlwind of weeks and months, we need dates in the calendar when we halt, ponder and celebrate. Cakes and cards, fireworks and meals all function to say, “Stop! Enjoy! Look back, take stock, and consider the future!” Psalm 81 is a liturgical equivalent. Its context is probably the harvest Feast of Tabernacles. It calls Israel to joyful remembrance, gratitude and recommitment.
With the sound of the ram’s horn (3), we are taken back to that thundering moment at Mount Sinai, when a rabble of slaves stood before the holy God who had rescued them from Egypt (Exod. 19:9–19). There, they acknowledged how he had provided for them. There they received the Law which shaped them into his people. At the basis of this covenant was an exclusive relationship, based on God’s character and compassion (9,10). The Feast of Tabernacles is an annual opportunity for Israel to return imaginatively to that awesome encounter, to marvel at the One who had heard their cries, set them free, provided them with water in the desert—and, most importantly, given them the Law so that they could follow him. It is also sobering, as history recounts their ancestors’ unfaithfulness. God’s sadness and jealousy, born of passion, bring a poignant challenge as they rededicate themselves.
“I can be a much happier Christian outside the church than being battle-scarred inside it,” you may hear people say. Yet if we are to be faithful to Christ, regular gatherings, services and anniversary celebrations are where we help each other to recall what he has done for us, how he has traveled with us and saved us. It is where, by his Spirit and through his Word, we are encouraged in prayer and song and communion to be faithful.
Four times the Lord of heaven and earth pleads with his people to listen to him. Today, as you gather with other worshippers, what will help you hear his voice?
Faithful One, as I look back, I can see how You have been so faithful to me. Forgive my fickleness and infuse me with grace and strength as I anticipate grasping Your future for me.