Psalm 81/Open Your Mouth

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There is only one God, and so for a creature there are only two ways to go—toward Him or away from Him. We can listen to Him, or we can ignore what He would tell us. We can surrender to Him, or rebel against Him. This psalm describes the consequences of each kind of choice.plant-from-bible

The Text:

“Sing aloud unto God our strength: Make a joyful noise unto the God of Jacob . . . ” (Psalm 81:1-16).

Summary of the Text:

The superscription to this psalm is “upon Gittith,” which is literally upon the winepress. The psalm is possibly a vintage song, but the meaning is ambiguous. The God of Jacob is our strength, and we should make noise before Him (v. 1). Do it with a psalm, a tambourine, and a psaltery (v. 2). Celebrate the new moon, celebrate with solempne (v. 3). Such celebration was a statute in Israel (v. 4). When God led Israel out from the land of Egypt, God heard a language He didn’t understand (v. 5)—in other words, God does not speak the language of idolaters. God delivered them from their burdensome toil (v. 6). They called out, and He answered them (v. 7). Listen, Israel . . . if you will just listen (v. 8). If you listen, there will be no strange gods (v. 9). God is the one who saves. Open your mouth, and God will fill it (v. 10). But even with God poised to be good to them, Israel would have none of Him (v. 11). Therefore God let them run headlong (v. 12). God then laments—oh, that His people would just listen (v. 13)! Then He would have subdued their enemies (v. 14). God-haters should have submitted to Him, and He would have blessed them (v. 15). Then they would have been fed with refined wheat, and with honey from the rock (v. 16).

A Language God Doesn’t Understand:

It is not the case that there is an intelligible language that God doesn’t know. God knows everything that can be known. But idolatry is insanity. It is incoherence. In every form of idolatry, man sinks to the level of brutes and below. We become like what we worship, and when we are worshiping anything other than the infinitely ordered mind of God, we are in the process of losing our minds. When Nebuchadnezzar lifted himself up, he was cast down into lunacy. The language of idolatry is inchoate, contradictory, and shapeless. God Himself does not know what triangular circles look like, and this is not a limitation in God.

Open Your Mouth:

Our God is the God of gracious promises. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it, He says (v. 10). We are taught in Scripture to look to God for the fulfillment of everything we need. The Lord required us to pray to His Father for our daily bread. So when the people of Israel are invited to open wide, we also are being invited to open wide.

Now if we are His children, God’s promises are given to us with regard to what we need, and not with regard to what we may want in any given instance. The gulf between those two can be vast, and God gives to us in different ways. Keep in mind what we will be learning from v. 12. God grants us our requests, and God grants us our lusts. When it is the former, we are finding God to be the great covenant-keeping God. When it is the latter, we are coming under the chastisement of the Lord.

The Curse of a Granted Lust:

“And he gave them their request; But sent leanness into their soul” (Ps. 106:15). In the first chapter of Romans, we see that the wrath of God is described as God “giving them up.” When God lets go the reins and lets the horses run themselves into a lather, this is not a blessing. We see the same principle here.

God “gave them up” to their own hearts’ lust. This meant that they got what they wanted, and rejoiced (at least initially) in having obtained it. They had the sensation of fulfillment, liberty, satisfaction. They rejected all those tired old doctrines and ethical scruples, and the day after they had done so, the sky was still blue and the grass still green. The prodigal son did not run out of money on his first harlot.

But it was not just a matter of being granted the judgment of sticking their hand into the piranha tank of their own lusts. That happened, and was bad enough. But Israel was also given the judgment of being given over to her own delusional counsels. “They walked in their own counsels.” This means that, in the first place, you destroy yourself and, in the second place, you are given over to the illusion that destroying yourself in this way was a good idea. You destroy yourself and then feel vindicated.

Honey from the Rock:

You either listen to God, or you listen to man. You either approach God, or you flee from Him. If you approach Him, He invites you to be blessed by Him. “I would have subdued their enemies” (v. 14). God would have filled you when you opened your mouth wide.

But the covenant blessings of God are not a vending machine in the hallway of the hotel—located at the same place on every floor, with the same products in the same slots, all costing the same amount of money. Do not try to domesticate your God. He is your covenant-keeping, promise-fulfilling God. He is not your lackey.

The blessing you are offered is honey from the rock. A rock is about as barren a thing as you imagine, and honey is about the sweetest thing you can imagine. And so the bees found a crevice in the rock, and there they fill it up with their goodness. The rock is the rock of affliction, and honey is what God provides for us from it.

This is true in the lesser things, and it is true in the greater things. It is true in the day-to-day afflictions, and it is true in the great affliction, the death of Christ on the rock of Golgotha. And what is that rock? It is the place where all the honey in the world comes from.

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Jeremy Ottens
Jeremy Ottens
5 years ago

Thank you, I have found this blog particularly encouraging, as I notice my own ability to reason for my own desires and in some ways give them a spiritual dialect. In giving them over to their lusts, is this in some way connected to love not insisting on its own way? But in some mystery of God’s love, he wants us to choose him?

5 years ago

Good article. My mouth is open. :)