Open Your Mouth

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Psalm 81 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
For the choir director; on the Gittith. A Psalm of Asaph.

81 Sing for joy to God our strength; Shout joyfully to the God of Jacob.
2 Raise a song, strike the timbrel, The sweet sounding lyre with the harp.
3 Blow the trumpet at the new moon, At the full moon, on our feast day.

4 For it is a statute for Israel, An ordinance of the God of Jacob.
5 He established it for a testimony in Joseph When he went throughout the land of Egypt. I heard a language that I did not know:
6 “I relieved his shoulder of the burden, His hands were freed from the basket.

7 “You called in trouble and I rescued you; I answered you in the hiding place of thunder;
I proved you at the waters of Meribah. Selah.
8 “Hear, O My people, and I will admonish you; O Israel, if you would listen to Me!
9 “Let there be no strange god among you; Nor shall you worship any foreign god.

10 “I, the Lord, am your God, Who brought you up from the land of Egypt;
Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.
11 “But My people did not listen to My voice, And Israel did not obey Me.
12 “So I gave them over to the stubbornness of their heart, To walk in their own devices.

13 “Oh that My people would listen to Me, That Israel would walk in My ways!
14 “I would quickly subdue their enemies And turn My hand against their adversaries.
15 “Those who hate the Lord would pretend obedience to Him, And their time of punishment would be forever.

16 “But I would feed you with the finest of the wheat,
And with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”

The focus of my message again resides in my deep desire that we as a church would experience God work in mighty way.

I believe that this chapter captures God’s heart, in that there is so much God wants to do for us... if we would only listen to what He has to say.

Last week we talked about some of the experiences the children of Israel had - as God responded to their cry for help and redeemed them from their bondage of slavery in Egypt.

And as I said last week, this Psalm was written for the holiday season that the Israelites are currently celebrating.  They are in the Feast days of the Feast of Tabernacles where the people make small huts outside their homes and dwell in them as a reminder of the great redemption story when they lived in tents in the wilderness as they made their way to the promised land.

Last week I wanted to call your attention to the fact that although these people, according to the Psalm, were celebrating, who were remembering to celebrate their feast day as was God’s command, God was not at all impressed with the celebration because the state of their heart was out of line.

For their hearts were not in complete obedience to Him.

This morning it is my intent to speak to you about why God was willing to leave them to their own devices.  Leave them to their own ways of handling life without him.

For even though God makes it clear that His desire is to satisfy them with everything they need, they are showing the signs of unbelief, showing signs of no faith, showing signs of sin because they are not sold out to God and His provisions for their lives.

Let’s pray

On a weekly basis I am privileged to go to Broome County Jail and have one on one sessions with the men who are struggling to make sense of their blown up world.

And that is truly what it is.  They are experiencing a wide variety of emotions like stress, anxiety, worry, anger, unforgiveness, shame, hurt, confusion, and the list goes on.

In the early moments of the times I see them, I ask them if they would mind telling me their life’s story.  Where are you from?  What was your life like?  In essence, what brings you to my corner of the world - which is jail?

I sit in my chair and listen to these men talk about their lives in almost a “Cinderella” type way.  

You see it begins with some sort of self image statements, like: well I’ve always been a hard worker, I didn’t come from solid home but I created one, I had a wife and kids, I had landed a decent job working for some wealthy people, and so on.

Next they tell me that an event happened in their life which caused a lot of damage, caused a lot of pain, it’s like hurricane Harvey blew through their life and shattered all of the stuff they had worked so hard to obtain.

Either in the storm or after the storm, they attempted to pick up the pieces of their broken lives, but anger set in, or they started to cope with their emotions by using drugs. They may say, “I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and that is why I ended up in here.”

Most of the time, that is where all the tears are, in the retelling of their story.

After some of those emotions settle, I may ask them to tell me about your spiritual journey.  What is your relationship to God like?

And this is where the stories are as varied as they come.  Some men tell me that they have a solid relationship with God... and I have to be very kind because they don’t come across like the version of a God centered person we are used to.  

They may have just told me a story using a swear word in every sentence, that they have three girlfriends at the same time and nobody's the wiser, or whatever.

But as we begin to talk about God, it becomes clear to me... that God has become the genie in the bottle, who they reach for when times get rough.

Most believe that God is someone who blesses them as they do basically whatever they want and whenever they want.  

God is someone who sits on the shelf alongside all of the other gods in their life, and for all intensive purposes, is more like a rabbit's foot bringing them good fortune from time to time.

Ultimately there is little evidence from most of these men that they have actually read the Bible or know what it says.  Some men, when they speak about God, speak of him in the way one would speak of Kharma.  

In other words, the believe in the moral law of cause and effect governing the future. Bad actions lead to rebirth in the lower orders of being. Good behavior leads to rebirth in the higher orders.  

Or, said another way, If you are good, good will follow.  If you are bad, you get bad things for that is what you deserve.

After hearing from these men, sometimes it troubles me, that there can be all of that same kind of thinking in any Christians life.  

For example, we may be well behaved Christians who know what to do, know what to say, know how to play the part, but down deep the issue is still the same as these guys.  We want to be in control, the gatekeepers of our own destiny.

We want to live on earth and enjoy many of the pleasures of this world while at the same time asking God to bless us with what we hope to do or what we hope to obtain in this life.

We may come to believe that if we are good in this life, that God will bless us for it... with financial stability, good health, and so on…

Church, I cannot in good conscience tell you, that as a Christian you will have money, or you will have power, or you will have your health if you will only obey God.  

You may receive those things, you may not.  

But this I do know, God is sovereign over all things.

2 Corinthians 9:8 describes God this way,  “And God is able.. to bless you abundantly,... so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”

The main issue for us as Christians is... whether or not we are living for ourselves, or are we living for God and His good work.  

It’s the difference between, do I want to experience the power of God providing for my needs as I seek to honor Him, or do I want to compromise how much I obey him so that I can have what I want... when I want it… and yet still ask God to bless I do my own thing?  

I will admit to you, that both options are available…. However, in stark contrast to doing doing your own thing and asking God to bless you…. the message of the Psalm is clear, you cannot experience God’s favor while worshiping any other god.  

There was a day when Israel was faced with this dilemma.  We see it here in Psalms 81.

Israel is God’s peculiar people.  A people He has chosen to display His power in, and a people to teach us more about Him.

In this Psalm, God is communicating to His people that it is His desire to bless them.  He mentions two things in this psalm that He would like to do for this particular people in this time period.

One is that he would like to turn His hand against their enemies, verse 14.  In essence, He would like to be their God of war.  

Second, He would like to fill them with the finest of wheat, verse 16.  He would like to bless them with fruitfulness in their harvest.

Now, we could assume then by contrast, -  that if God wants to do these things for them, then He is currently not doing it for them or He is going to stop doing it in the future.  

And the main reason is, that the people are actually looking to get these two things from somewhere else.    

And to that point, God tells us where they have gone wrong in this area, they have looked to false gods in order to obtain such things as... peace and food.

What the Psalm does not describe, is what false god the people have turned to.  So we need to do some research.

I have come to believe that the false god that He is referring to, is the same god that Israel continually runs to.  The false god Baal.

Over and over in the nation's history, Baal continues to be the false god that they worship.  

What makes it obvious - that it is him however, is that God says I am the true God who actually does what Baal says he does, I will go to battle for you, and I will supply you with wheat.

These two things, are mentioned in history, as Baal’s method of operation.  

The Canaanites, who worshiped Baal, whose name means lord, worshipped him as the sun god and as the storm god—he is usually depicted holding a lightning bolt—who defeated enemies and produced crops. (Remember - those are the two things God specifically mentions as things He will do for them)

But another reason to consider Baal as the god in whom the nation is to repent of -  is found in verse 7 - 7 “You called in trouble and I rescued you; I answered you in the hiding place of thunder;”  (Remembering of course that the Canaanites called Baal the storm god.)

Let me take you to this place in scripture where God displays himself in thunder.

Exodus 19:16

16 “On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. 17 Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain.

18 Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently. 19 As the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him.”

If you were to continue reading you would see the delivery of the ten commandments...

Exodus 20:18

18 “When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance 19 and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.”

20 Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.”

21 The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was.”

So in this text, we can see how God displays himself in Thunder and Lightning, and for that reason, I think God is making a direct reference in the Psalm... that “I am superior to the god called Baal.  He is nothing special… I was speaking to you out of the storm long before you knew who Baal was.”

What is also interesting to me is that of all the commandments... God specifically repeats only one of them… verse 22

22 “Then the Lord said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites this: ‘You have seen for yourselves that I have spoken to you from heaven: 23 Do not make any gods to be
 alongside me; do not make for yourselves gods of silver or gods of gold.”

It is also interesting, that when you return to Psalms 81 and verse 7, these two unique observations about God is also listed in the Psalm.

7 “I answered you in the hiding place of thunder; I proved you at the waters of Meribah. Selah.
8 “Hear, O My people, and I will admonish you; O Israel, if you would listen to Me!
9 “Let there be no strange god among you; Nor shall you worship any foreign god.”

There it is again almost like God copied and pasted one section of scripture to the next.  To me, it sends another clear message that this Baal worship is what God specifically foresaw coming, and therefore warning them to obey His commands and get rid of it when they see it.

Unfortunately, as we have read in Psalms 81:9 Israel is not listening and had set another god “alongside”… God.  

This god of Baal has transformed himself into a god that appears like our God, he has stolen God’s glory (if you will) by being described as a god of thunder who supposedly defeats enemies and is believed to provide harvests,  all of which our God can actually do, and wants to do for that matter...

So the real question, is why?

Why is this people turning to this false god?

What drives a people to place other god’s along side the one true God?

The simple answer is sin.  But let me show you where idolatry is mentioned in the new testament to clarify this question of why, why would they want another god?

Keep a bookmark here and turn to Ephesians 5:5
5 “For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.”

Think about that for a moment, a covetous man is an idolater.  

I like how Merriam Webster defines covetous:  It means - “feeling or showing a very strong desire for something that you do not have and especially for something that belongs to someone else.”

So if you have a strong desire for something that you do not have… what are you looking at?  Where are your eyes and thoughts?  

They are first on to others... what other people have... and then back onto yourself… they have what you don’t have...right?

A coveter is someone who says, give me what they have!  

Friends, there is ample opportunity to fall into this kind of experience all the time.  We see other people who have large gorgeous homes and we say to ourselves… I want that someday.

We see families with 5 healthy kids and we say, why don’t I have that?  I am not complete until I have 5 healthy children.

Our friends come over, they are physically fit, they are taking trips around the world, they are rolling in dough, and we say… I would like that, how do I get that?  Where do you work?

Likewise, Israel is falling into a covetous sin.  They desire to be like other nations who have the God of Baal in their midst.

Or they desire for more land and more power than God intended for them to have, so they bring in Baal to give it to them.

Perhaps they desire to be more powerful, the most powerful nation in the world, and that means the strongest economy, the most money, so they bring in Baal to give it to them so that they have good harvests..

Whatever their reason was, it is clear that they coveted more than one god.  They desired what others had.  They took from their neighbors to obtain what God did not have in mind for them.

Church, let’s move into the 21st century... what should our eyes and our hearts be set on?  The Lord.

Flip to Colossians 3 New Living Translation (NLT)

Verse 1 “Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand.

2 Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.

3 For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.

5 So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.”

Did you catch that?  Verse 2 “Set your mind,”- set your thoughts, set your affections, set your hopes and dreams...where?  “on the things above, not on the things that are on earth….” WHY?   3 “For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”

Have you literally died, no, but you have died to self, died to being enslaved in this world’s system, and you are alive unto Christ.

Friend, we  - collectively even - like Israel - are not immune to idolatry!  In principle we can look very much like what Israel was struggling with to God.

As a church, we can take our eyes off of God and look around at other churches who are bigger and “better” and drawing in lots of people, and we can say… I want that!  Why aren’t we like them?

A covetous church is one whose eyes are not fixed on doing what God is doing, or going where God is going, rather a covetous church is one who says, we will not be satisfied by you God unless we have a worship band…  Or until we are a big church, like the church down the road!

Friends we need to be careful.  What we want, does not mean... it may be what God wants to give us.  We need to be actively listening for God’s directions, and then praying according to His will.

Let me direct us to Luke 12.

Luke 12:13 Forgive me, but let me again read from the Living Bible  

13 “Then someone called from the crowd, “Sir, please tell my brother to divide my father’s estate with me.”

That’s not an off request.  If Dad is dead, part of the estate is due to him.  It is his right.

14 But Jesus replied, “Man, who made me a judge over you to decide such things as that? 15 Beware! Don’t always be wishing for what you don’t have. For real life and real living are not related to how rich we are.”

16 Then he gave an illustration: “A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. 17 In fact, his barns were full to overflowing—he couldn’t get everything in. He thought about his problem, 18 and finally exclaimed, ‘I know—I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones! Then I’ll have room enough.

19 And I’ll sit back and say to myself, “Friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Wine, women, and song for you!”’

20 “But God said to him, ‘Fool! Tonight you die. Then who will get it all?’ 21 “Yes, every man is a fool who gets rich on earth but not in heaven.”

22 Then turning to his disciples he said, “Don’t worry about whether you have enough food to eat or clothes to wear. 23 For life consists of far more than food and clothes. 24 Look at the ravens—they don’t plant or harvest or have barns to store away their food, and yet they get along all right—for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than any birds!

25 “And besides, what’s the use of worrying? What good does it do? Will it add a single day to your life? Of course not! 26 And if worry can’t even do such little things as that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things?

27 “Look at the lilies! They don’t toil and spin, and yet Solomon in all his glory was not robed as well as they are. 28 And if God provides clothing for the flowers that are here today and gone tomorrow, don’t you suppose that he will provide clothing for you, you doubters?

29 And don’t worry about food—what to eat and drink; don’t worry at all that God will provide it for you. 30 All mankind scratches for its daily bread, but your heavenly Father knows your needs. 31 He will always give you all you need from day to day if you will make the Kingdom of God your primary concern.”

-Show Bird Picture - I’ve been thinking about this picture a lot.

Psalms 81:10  “I, the Lord, am your God, Who brought you up from the land of Egypt;
- Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.”

What do you see when you look at this picture?

“The picture is one of simple dependence and trust.”

By contrast, can you see how “Proud self-sufficiency shuts out the fulness of God?”

One commentary I was reading says it this way:  

“The more hungry, the better fed. “Open thy mouth wide.”  The Great Father wishes His children to have the profoundest cravings, the largest expectations; for He has an infinity of blessings which it is His happiness to bestow. The more you desire from Him, the more you shall have.” (Homilist.)

This is the real lesson Israel did not get in Psalms 81.  Instead of turning to idols, they should have turned their mouths to God to be filled.  

(C. H. Spurgeon.) ”The story goes that the Shah of Persia, a strange man altogether, on one occasion said to a person who had pleased him very greatly, “Open your mouth,” and when he had opened his mouth, the Shah began to fill it up with diamonds, emeralds, rubies, and all sorts of precious stones.

I feel morally certain that the man opened his mouth wide. Would not you do the same if you had such an opportunity? Now, the Lord says to each of His own people, whom He has so highly favoured, “Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.”

Suppose you open your mouth wide in prayer. “I cannot,” says one. Well, open your mouth, and God will fill it with prayer; and then, when you have prayed the prayer that He has given you, He will fill it with answers.

God gives prayer as well as the answer to prayer. Only open your mouth, and, as it were, make a vacuum for God to fill. God loves to look for emptiness where He may stow away His grace.”

I love that.  Friend let me end about where I started.  That is with the men I speak to in jail.

One of the things I love about jail ministry, is that I get to see hearts and minds who are hungry for something that will fill their empty lives.

They are like birds with their mouths pointed up in the air saying, God I’m finally ready to listen.  

Church my hope is that you will not also be so focused on this temporary world, that you would miss out on the experience of God’s goodness.  Hold your mouth open in simple trust and dependance, and let God pour into it all His grace, as you refocus on doing His will for your life.

This week I experienced God filling up my life as I received a monetary gift for almost $500 dollars, it was unexpected, but a huge blessing.

In that moment, there is always two choices.  First I can humbly accept the gift, and bow my head in gratitude to the fact that yet again my God has provided for me as he said he would.

The second option is to turn the gift away.  To say, I’m ok, I don’t need the help, I will find a way on my own.  

Let me say it another way, an idolater, covets riches outside of what God has given for him.  They will work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to obtain the level of wealth that they desire to have.  They are filled with greed.

But a content person, trusts in God, and learns to be satisfied with what he has been given.  A Content person allows God to fill his life whenever he decides to do so rather than relying on himself to obtain it.

Paul said it this way, Philippians 4:10 “How grateful I am and how I praise the Lord that you are helping me again. I know you have always been anxious to send what you could, but for a while you didn’t have the chance.

11 Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to get along happily whether I have much or little. 12 I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of contentment in every situation, whether it be a full stomach or hunger, plenty or want;

13 for I can do everything God asks me to with the help of Christ who gives me the strength and power. 14 But even so, (Listen to this) you have done right in helping me in my present difficulty.”

Church, we need to be both - like Paul and we need to be like this church - doing what is right by helping people in their present difficulty.  

It is the reason for why we take a Deacon's fund offering.  As a body of believers, we need to be eager to give to others.  

And if you are the person presented with the gift, take it.  I know it is hard but don’t fall into false pride, don’t refuse it as an insult to your incapacity to provide for yourself.  It is not that you are not content, but that it is right for people to serve each other in love.

God fills us, as we trust in him for our every need. 

And sometimes, his love for you will seem like too much!  He will amaze you with his blessings if you will only open your mouth wide to him and let him pour goodness into your life.

Psalms 81:10

10 “I, the Lord, am your God, Who brought you up from the land of Egypt;
Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.”