Week of September 12

“Wait for Him!”

Read: Daniel 3-4; Psalm 81; Revelation 17
“I am the Lord your God,
who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.
Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.”
Psalm 81:10, ESV


I watch short videos that people post on social media. They are usually captioned with “Wait for it,” which means that there is a surprise ending. In a sense, this psalm may be captioned with the words, “Wait for Him!” The hymn writer wanted those worshipers to grasp the importance of longing for and waiting until God fills us with the full blessing. How wonderful it is to serve such a God!

The psalmist begins Psalm 81 as a hymn, but then he turns his focus toward an oracle of exhortation from God. One wonders how this song was used in worship at one of Israel’s great festivals. Perhaps the first part was sung by the congregation and second was used as a lesson or exhortative homily. We do not know, but the point is clear—hearing God’s words must be followed by practicing them or we have failed to truly worship (see James 1:22)!

Let's See What the Bible Says

The Background to the Psalm
This song may have been used at a Passover celebration or at the Feast of Tabernacles where it served to remind the people of remaining steadfast in their loyalties to God. We may easily see the hymn’s divisions: a song for a festival (vv. 1-5b) and a message from God for the people (verses 11-16).

If the song was sung at the Feast of Tabernacles, the people would ascend the hill to the temple and would worship, once inside, to the sound of lyres (v. 2). The people would sing joyously, and the use of tambourines suggests that they also danced while singing praise (v. 2)! The purpose of the celebration was to proclaim aloud the mighty acts of the Lord throughout Israel’s history (v. 5). The latter section recalls God’s goodness (vv. 6-10) as well as the frequent disobedience of the people (vv. 11-16). It occurs to me how often we sing of God’s goodness and pledge to remain loyal to Him in our worship, then leave and practice the opposite! We will focus on verses 6-10 today.
God frees us from our burdens
We may learn much today about how to live out of the celebration of God’s goodness to us. Israel considered in its worship the freedom from Egyptian slavery that God gave them (vv. 6-7). “Baskets” would have been used for carrying clay and bricks in Pharaoh’s building projects. Like Israel, you and I have groaned beneath such a burden and have cried out to God for deliverance (v. 7). It also does not hurt us to recall testing times that were part of the pathway that we took out of our oppression. God certainly delivers us miraculously, but He also grows us spiritually (testing at Meribah; Exodus 17:1-7; Numbers 20:1-13)! Give thanks to God in all your struggles, both for deliverance and development.
God’s word guides us toward faithfulness
It is no secret that I often pray using the scriptures, as many of you also do, but we have not made some spectacular discovery. The psalmist and even our Lord did the same thing. Notice here in verses 8-10 that this section resembles Deuteronomy: “Hear, O my people (v. 8; Deuteronomy 4:1; 5:1; 6:4; 9:1; 20:3); “I will warn you” (lit. “I will testify against you”; Deuteronomy 31:19, 26, 28); “if you would but” (Deuteronomy 5:29; 32:29); “You shall have no . . ./you shall not bow down” (v. 9; Deuteronomy 5:7); “alien god” (Deuteronomy 32;12, 16); “I am the Lord your God” (v. 10; Deuteronomy 5:6; EBC).

God uses His word to help us to conform to His likeness. We do this by hearing and obeying His commands. God had supplied all of their needs in the wilderness, and He promised rich blessings for those who would respond wholeheartedly to Him (Deuteronomy 29:5-6; 32:10-14; 30:1-20). The Lord had consecrated Israel to be His chosen people, and this came with responsibilities on their part, which they often neglected to fulfill. Even so, He supplied their daily needs and promised untold blessings for those who gave Him their wholehearted obedience (Deuteronomy 30:1-20). God is always ready to “fill” our needs (v. 10; cf. John 6 and feeding of 5000; EBC).
Seek the food that lasts
You and I will certainly miss the main point of the psalm if we only think, “O, how wonderful! God feeds us and provides for us.” Indeed, He does provide for our every need, but there is more here. To “fill” our mouths does have spatial meaning, such as filling the houses in Egypt with locusts (Exodus 10:6), or a winepress full of juice (II Kings 4:6), or even our stomachs with food (cf. John 6:11), but it has temporal significance as well (cf. completion of a fixed period like a pregnancy; Genesis 25:25). God did not have Israel climb the hill in worship and sing and dance in the temple for thanksgiving over food alone (cf. Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:4).

There is also a theological meaning in the text. The word means God’s omnipresence (Jeremiah 23:24) and His glory (cf. Exodus 40:34-35). God’s word is likely that which was to fill the lives of His people because it was the very thing that would satisfy their deepest need (cf. v. 5c and v. 10). It was His voice that they heard in Egypt, and it was through those words that they were ultimately delivered by following them.

Let's Deepen Our Walk

George Mueller, the powerful man of faith who literally built and sustained orphanages in Bristol, England, by prayer and faith alone, comes to my mind just now. In Bonnie Harvey’s biography of his life, Mueller used this passage of Scripture as a text that he relied upon for God’s provision. There were times when the children literally had no bread or food to eat, and Mueller would fall to his knees in prayer. The house parents at the orphanages would seat the children for the meal even when there was no food to feed them (cf. John 6:10). By prayer and faith, a knock would come at the door and milk and bread would be delivered at just the moment of deepest need (John 6:11a; cf. Luke 9:16). It was not Mueller’s prayer of faith that brought the miracle, but God’s promise to provide for His children (John 6:27). Their stomachs were filled (spatial), the mealtime was complete (temporal), and God’s presence in power was experienced (theological).

Here is a thought for our spiritual growth. The point? We are to open our mouths and hearts daily and He will fill them, but we must also learn to wait for Him. A man at a gas station asked me if I would please provide him with just enough gas to get him to a nearby destination. I filled it to the point that he had requested and went beyond. He was deeply moved by the gesture. Friends, God will fill our daily needs beyond what we ever imagined, if we are willing to wait for Him. Too many times we rush away after we feel satisfied. “He that takes truth for his guide, and duty for his end, may safely trust God’s providence to lead him aright” (Blaise Pascal).

Let's Think and Discuss

1. Write down the top three needs in your life right now. Do not ponder too long because you know what they are. Pencil next to each need whether it is temporal, spatial, or theological. Lay the pen down for a while and ask God to impress upon your heart the need for His presence to indwell your life and His word to become your deepest hunger. Add those areas of need that God presents to you. Seek His help to fulfill them.

2. For families: Parents, have you ever had a time in your marriage or family life when there was a deep need that you could see no way to provide? Did you ask God to meet your need and did He do just that? One evening around the table, talk about those times when God heard your cry for help and delivered you. Children need to hear recounted those times of God’s provision, and to know that if we trust and obey Him, He promises to bless us first with His own presence, and then with the other things we need. We can pray, trust, and wait on Him!

May all your paths be straight,
Larry C. Ashlock