I came across this particular psalm this morning and found it so encouraging. Isn’t it amazing that we can be going through something in our lives, a trial perhaps, and when randomly flipping to a psalm, God will lead us to a word specifically meant for us? Yes, our Abba אבא cares for us.
These particular verses out of Psalm 81 stuck out to me:
“I removed his shoulder from the burden;His hands were freed from the baskets.
You called, and I delivered you;
I answered you in the secret place of thunder;
I proved you at the waters of Meribah.”
This entire psalm is an exhortation to the Israelites, the people so dear to the psalmist’s heart, to remember the God who delivered them from the miserable fate of slavery in Egypt. The psalm opens with a call to worship, a command to “sing aloud to God” and “make a joyful shout to the God of Jacob.” Why? We praise Him because He has made us free. As the Israelites were freed from literal bondage, the Savior Christ has set His children free from slavery to sin and self. What a marvelous truth! It makes one want to sound a cry from the rooftops!
The part that struck me the most was the first verse in my selected passage: “I removed his shoulder from the burden.” I found it interesting that God does not say, “I removed the burden from his shoulder,” but the other way around. If you picture the image in your head, it is rather unusual, unorthodox for our human minds to understand. God did not magically make Egypt a better place, turning pharaoh into a benefactor who would eventually say, “My apologies for all of your discomfort—from now on, live in freedom, peace, and prosperity in my kingdom! Stay awhile!” God did not intend for Egypt to be the home of His people—He called them to bigger, better pastures. He called them to the Promised Land. In our own lives, we are still surrounded by the world, living in the reality of sin, whether externally or internally. We will have self-inflicted burdens of shame, or simply the burdens of everyday life. Jesus did not promise an easy road. But in this verse we see that, although God does not remove the burdens, the trials, the ugly realities of the world around us, He removes us from the bondage they might inflict upon us. He saves us from unnecessary pain. And he uses the pain that is sometimes so natural a part of our lives to purify us … and to draw us closer to His side.
He delivers us when we call upon Him—and He delights in doing so. As an earthly father beams with pride and joy when his child humbles his or herself to seek him for guidance, so our Heavenly Father desires us to come to Him, for whatever the reason. He knows our humanity. Our human natures are laid bare before him when we complain and murmur for water, when Moses smote the rock in anger as the waters of Meribah poured forth. In Numbers 20:13, it says that at Meribah “the children of Israel strove with the Lord, and He was sanctified in them.” We often times provide the perfect foil to reflect God’s perfect character. When we fall according to our human nature, we become a stark contrast to His holiness. Hence, He is “sanctified” in us. In reading a commentary from David Guzik, I see how Moses failed to adequately represent God’s character when he smote the rock. He tied his actions with those of God and portrayed God as easily angered, irrational, and impatient. Because of this, the Israelites’ chosen leader could not enter into the Promised Land with them. Why? Because God is jealous for His Name and will not suffer His perfect, loving, just, holy nature to be defiled in any way. He is ever trustworthy. And thank God for that! If He was not, well then, we would have nothing and no one left to hope for in this world, would we? And we have the privilege to play a small part in testifying of His greatness. He uses even our weaknesses for His glory. Again, הללויה!
Our God is so great. No wonder why David made it a command to his people to sing aloud to God, to shout at the top of their lungs to the One who delivered them and gave them strength! One more verse which impacted me:
“He would have fed them also with the finest of wheat;
Not only will our God sustain us with the finest wheat, abundant blessings and joys upon the road of faith which we walk, but He also promises honey from the rock—joy in the midst of hardships, hope in the midst of trials. He will provide for every need as we dwell in the Promised Land. As my pastor pointed out, the Promised Land is not meant to represent heaven in the grand archetypal redemption story. Remember the Promised Land was not entirely perfect: not only did it not last forever, but upon entrance, there were giants to be conquered. The Promised Land, as a symbol of the Spirit-filled life of a child of God, still presents giants, from deepest sorrows to thorns in the flesh. But God will give us the strength to face our giants. He will remove our shoulders from immense burdens. And He will feed us sweet honey from hard places. How amazing that we can know the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—Israel? Can such a heritage truly be ours? Can such a God be our Father? Our אבא?
“Sing aloud to God our strength;Make a joyful shout to the God of Jacob.
Raise a song and strike the timbrel,
The pleasant harp with the lute.”
Excerpts taken from Psalm 81:6-7; 16; 1-2 NKJV