Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Yahweh Your God, Who Brought You Up from the Land of Egypt

I am the Yahweh your God,
Who brought you up from the land of Egypt.
Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.
(Psalm 81:10)
This is a liturgical psalm, calling for the celebration of a solemn feast day, with loud singing and joyful shouts to “God our strength” (v. 1). It was instituted by God (v. 5):
This He established in Joseph as a testimony,
When he went throughout the land of Egypt,
Where I heard a language I did not understand.
A testimony is not only a reminder of what God has done in the past, but is also a witness of what God will do again in the future (see the Ark of Your Testimony). The reference to Joseph speaks of the days when the children of Israel were in Egypt, the land where Joseph became the rescuer of his family — Jacob and all the tribes of Israel. Their long sojourn eventually devolved into slavery, though, until God called Moses to lead them out of bondage.

“Where I heard a language I did not understand.” It is unclear who heard the “language” and what that language was. Some commentators believe the psalm writer is speaking for the children of Israel in Egypt, and that the language was therefore Egyptian, a tongue that was foreign to them. Others believe he speaks in the place of Israel as they heard Moses speak the revelatory language he received from God about their deliverance. It was certainly new to Moses himself, and he struggled to know what to make of it. God introduced Himself to Moses as, “The God of your father — the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Exodus 3:6). Or perhaps the psalm writer is speaking out of his own revelatory experience of the voice of God. The next section of this psalm, verses 6-15, is God Himself speaking.

“I removed his shoulder from the burden; his hands were freed from the baskets,” He says (v. 6). “You called in trouble, and I delivered you; I answered you in the secret place of thunder; I tested you at the waters of Meribah” (v. 7). God freed them, rescued them, heard their cry and answered them. At Meribah (which means “quarreling”), God tested them. Would they trust Him to take care of them in everything? See Exodus 17:1-7 and Numbers 20:1-13.

Next are words of caution as God recalls how He had spoken to Israel in the past: “Hear, O My people, and I will admonish you! O Israel, if you will listen to Me! There shall be no foreign god among you, nor shall you worship any foreign god” (v. 8-9). They had dwelt in the land of Egypt for so long they had begun to think like Egyptians, and though the language had been foreign to them, they had begun to speak to it. At times in their wilderness journey, they even longed to go back to Egypt. And they were influenced by the idolatry of the Egyptians, to worship the way the Egyptians did —see, for an example, how Aaron fashioned the gold calf for Israel to worship in Exodus 32.

Now we come to the declaration of who God was to them, a name by which He revealed Himself as their God. “I am Yahweh Your God Who Brought You Up from the Land of Egypt.” It was He, and none other, who delivered them. It was certainly no the gods of Egypt who did this, nor those of the surrounding nations. Yahweh alone did it. He did not just deliver them from their bondage; He brought them up from the land of the bondage. He lifted them out and caused them to go up to a higher place. He exalted them, taking them unto Himself as His own people.

What is the appropriate response to this? The answer is in the second half of the verse, where God says, “Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.” In the wilderness, the children of Israel worried about what they would eat, what they would drink and whether God would take care of them. When they opened their mouths, it was not in faith, but in murmuring. At Meribah, they quarreled and complained against God instead of trusting in Him.

God wanted to fill their mouths, to satisfy them with good things, but they would not have it. “But My people would not heed My voice, and Israel would have none of Me. So I gave them over to their own stubborn heart, to walk in their own counsels” (v. 11-12). They would not listen, their hearts were stubborn and they preferred their own words to those of God. God’s judgment on them was that He let them have their own lusts, which is the worst of punishments.

Oh, what God longs to do for His people, if only we would listen to His voice and walk in His ways. “I would soon subdue their enemies, and turn My hand against their adversaries,” He says (v. 14). He would feed us with the finest wheat and satisfy us with honey from the rock (v. 16). Sustenance and sweetness!

In Jesus the Messiah, God has lifted us up out of the “land of Egypt,” the place of our captivity and shame. He has exalted us and brought us into the “Promised Land,” just as He did with Israel. Open your mouth wide in expectation and let Him fill it with the language of faith.

Don’t worry about what you shall eat, what you shall drink, what you shall wear, as the rest of the world does, but seek first the rule and reign of God, and His way of doing things, and all these things will be taken care of (Matthew 6:31-33) and He will satisfy you with good things.