Open Mouths, Open Hearts

When Yahweh gave the Israelites the Law of Moses, besides the civil and moral codes, the religious rites, and the health regulations, He also included instructions for the new nation to gather yearly at appointed times to participate in various feasts (Lev. 23:1). These festivals served an important function in the LORD’s plan for Israel, though they rarely appreciated and kept them throughout much of their history until their return from captivity when they took on greater meaning, as the Pharisees’ attitude toward the Sabbath implies (Lev. 23:3). Most people are familiar with the Passover and its roots in Israel’s deliverance from Egypt (Ex. 12-13; Lev. 23:4-14), and Christians are usually aware of Pentecost due to its significance in Acts 2, even if the particulars of the feast remain a mystery (Lev. 23:15-22). However, the later feast, sometimes called The Feast of Trumpets due to the action that called the holy convocation on the first of the month, which paved the way for the Day of Atonement (Lev. 23:23-32) is sometimes forgotten. Therefore, it is no surprise that people also remain unaware of the Feast of Tabernacles that followed shortly after this holy day (Lev. 23:33-34). Besides the sacrifices and feasting (Lev. 23:35-41), the Jews were to set aside the week and dwell in booths to commemorate their time traveling from Egypt to Canaan (Lev. 23:42-43)—a time that was extended to forty years due to their obstinacy. This background is essential to appreciate the message found in Psalm 81.

When the Jews would travel to Jerusalem for the feast, they would sing as they prepared their minds and hearts for the assembly and festival (Psa. 81:1-2). Thus, the reflections offered in this psalm call to mind their worship while journeying to Jerusalem and their preparation for the final major gathering of the people in the year. The references to the trumpet, the times, the Law, and the land of Egypt leave no doubt as to the purpose of the song (Psa. 81:3-5), but the further commentary of remembrances demonstrates lessons learned the hard way. God had led them out of slavery in Egypt when they cried out to him but quickly forgot his provision in complaining of their thirst (Psa. 81:6-7). The psalm alludes to the covenant relationship Yahweh had with Israel, pleading with the Jews to appreciate Yawheh’s words: “Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it” (Psa. 81:8-10). This bold offer called to mind the sending of manna and quail, the provision of water in a dry land, but also the very word of God by which they could truly live (Deut. 8:3). Sadly, they would not listen and refused to learn (Psa. 81:11-12), and this also was their Jewish heritage. But God still cared and wanted them desperately to return and listen, for then he could bless them over and over again (Psa. 81:13-16).

What hope this might offer a people removed from the original events by hundreds of years! But how much more should it mean to God’s people today, for we have seen His faithfulness not only toward Israel but in sending Jesus and the gospel. However, the principles of faithfulness still apply (Rev. 2:10). Therefore, my friends, open your mouth wide! Listen to what God has said and obey, for in fulfilling this there are multitudes of blessings awaiting from a God who can care for our every need.

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