"Open wide your mouth and I will fill it." (Psalm 81:10) This is the Scripture that came to my mind as I looked at a video posted by Franklin Graham, leader of Samaritan's Purse. Every summer this organization invites wounded veterans and their spouses to a three-week stay at their camp in Alaska. It is a time for these vets to enjoy the majestic surroundings of Alaska, heal from pain and trauma of their past, and draw closer to God. One of the groups of vets came across a wide, fast-moving stream with a bear stationed right in the middle of it. A multitude of salmon were jumping up stream. As the bear opened his mouth a fish jumped right into it.
Let's look at the context of Verse 10 in Psalm 81, a poetic Psalm written by Asaph. There seems to be four streams of thought in this Psalm. It begins with a note of celebration. I like the way The Passion Translation describes what is happening: "Lord, just singing about you makes me strong! So, I'll keep shouting for joy to Jacob's God, my champion. Let the celebration begin...Blow the jubilee trumpet to begin the feast...For God has given us these seasons of joy." (Psalm 81:1-4)
Next, the Psalm reminds God's people of what He has done: "He has given these feasts to remind us of His triumph over Egypt." (Verse 5 - TPT) God says through the Psalmist, "You called to me in your trouble and I rescued you...I came down to save you." (Verse 7 - TPT) Then comes a warning from God interspersed with instructions and promises. "Hear, O my people, and I will warn you--if you would but listen to me, O Israel! You shall have no foreign god among you; you shall not bow down to an alien god. I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it." (Verse 8-10 - NIV)
The problem that the Lord presents next is that his people were not listening to Him or following His ways. They were being put down by their enemies because they had not followed the ways of the Lord. God was telling His people that if they would obey Him, their enemies would be subdued, and they would be rewarded. The last verse of Psalm 81 says, "But you would be fed with the finest of wheat; with honey from the rock I would satisfy you." (Verse 16 - NIV) Now let's look at Verse 16 in The Passion Translation: "But I will feed you with my spiritual bread. You will feast and be satisfied with me, feeding on my revelation--truth like honey dripping from the cliffs of the high places."
The interpretation of Verse 10, "Open wide your mouth and I will fill it," is further explained in Verse 16. It is interesting to note that the New International Version seems to have a physical bent, while The Passion Translation has a spiritual one. The Lord is a god of more! He wants to fill us with riches from heaven that come in the form of physical needs (e.g. wheat and honey) and spiritual truth that builds us up and gives us the strength we need to overcome, and the desire to worship the Lord as described at the beginning of this Psalm.
What is required of us? Listen to the Lord. Have no other gods before Him. Follow His ways. Then, we must station ourselves in the strategic place of worship and wait for our mouths to be filled with delicacies from heaven.
A particular specie of cicada emerges from the ground yearly. We have been hearing them this past week because of the intense heat and steamy environment. They are sometimes called "dog day" cicada since they make their sound during the hot summer days. These cicadas depend upon the heat to warm them up so that they are able to jointly sing. Their "song" is made as they rapidly flex and relax the muscles of their tymbals, ribbed membranes at the base of their abdomens. In part, their sound is a mating call, but it is also meant as a sound of protection against the birds who would consume them. The birds find the sound of the cicadas painful to their ears, so they fly away.
I was reminded as I listened to the sound of the cicadas that we can also depend upon the Lord to show up in the heat of a battle or storm. In fact, one of the names of God is Yahweh Shammah: “The Lord is There.” Our faithful God has plans for us, plans to prosper us and not to harm us, plans to give us hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11) Isaiah 4:6 describes a canopy of the Lord as protection. "It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain." There is no one like our God!
A unique story in the Bible demonstrates these thoughts perfectly. Daniel, Chapter 3, gives the account of three Jewish men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who had been taken from their homeland to Babylon. They, along with all the officials and people in the land, were commanded by King Nebuchadnezzar to bow down and worship a huge gold image set up on the plains of Dura. However, these Jewish men drew a line in the sand, refused to worship the idol, and found themselves in a battle for their lives. King Nebuchadnezzar threatened to have them thrown "immediately" into the blazing furnace and asked, "Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?" (Daniel 3:15) The response from the three men tells us the level of their faith. "If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if He does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up." (Daniel 3:17-18)
The king was so furious that "he ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual." (Verse 19) Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were bound and thrown into the furnace that was so hot it killed the soldiers who threw them in. God joined the three men in the flames. As the four of them walked around in the fire, the king was amazed and called for them to come out. All could see that they were not harmed in any way and realized that the god of the Jews was all powerful. The king decreed that no one could speak against Him and declared: "No other god can save in this way." (Daniel 3:29)
What can we glean from this story? God rewards those who trust in Him and delights in joining us in the heat of battle. It is here that He can demonstrate His power and faithfulness. He never changes, and we can count on Him to help us in our battles when we trust Him for the outcome. There are times when we may think He will not show up, but His timing is perfect. I call Him the God of 11:59. In the heat of battle, our God will be there!
The Gospels report that Jesus frequently taught in parables. (Mark 4:2) The parables He told were stories that make a point by using illustrations from everyday life to explain the Kingdom of God or a godly principle. Since the crowds that surrounded Jesus were diverse and included Pharisees that wanted to criticize or kill Him, sinners who needed help, and disciples who were growing in their understanding of God's Kingdom, this method of communication allowed Him to address all who listened. Parables were meant to draw in His audience through thought-provoking stories that let one draw their own conclusion about the Kingdom of God and its King.
The disciples did not always understand the underlying message of the parables of Jesus. For example, after sharing the parable of the sower with a large crowd, "His disciples asked Him what this parable meant. He said, 'The knowledge of the secrets of the Kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables so that though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.'" (Luke 8:9-10) Jesus used the parables to reveal and conceal truth. Those who were seriously seeking truth could "dig deeper" and find spiritual insight.
In private Jesus gave His disciples more detailed explanations of His parables. I love how this is reported in Mark 4:34. "...But when He was alone with His own disciples, He explained everything." Did you catch that? Jesus waited until He was alone with them to share the mysteries of the Kingdom. This "jumped off the page at me" as I was reading it last week. It is such an encouragement to us because we are the Lord's disciples. This portion of Scripture should give us the incentive to pursue more alone time with the Lord, directing our focus onto Him. As we do this, we will see more things from God's point of view, and as He sees that we can be trusted with revelation, He will give us more.
Jesus felt safe in giving deeper insight to His disciples. As Believers, we can receive the truth of Proverbs 8:17. "I love those who love me; And those who diligently seek me will find me." (NAS) The prophet Isaiah gave the words of God to His children in Isaiah 45:3. "I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name."
Look what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 8:3. "But the man who loves God is known by God." In Colossians 1:25 & 27 he says that Jesus was commissioned by God "to present the Word in its fullness" and that God "chose to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory."
Jesus recognized that the children of God would need ongoing revelation after He returned to heaven to be with His Father. That is why we have the Holy Spirit. "But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." (John 14:26) The Spirit works in us to help us obtain the full inheritance that God made possible.
John 3:34 says, "For the one whom God has sent (Jesus) speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit." Jesus is our model for receiving the fullness of God and understanding of His Word. (Ephesians 4:13) We have the keys to receiving this. Schedule alone time with the Lord. Pursue Him for the greater revelation and wait for the manifestation of His promises.
It was during the month of Tammuz, the fourth month on the Hebrew calendar, that Moses sent the spies into the Promised Land to explore it. He appointed one leader from each tribe to investigate the situation. They were to check out how the people lived and the soil conditions and the kind of trees that grew in it. If possible, they were to bring back some fruit. Twelve men returned on the eve of the ninth of Av, the next month, with a mixed report. All acknowledged that the land was flowing with milk and honey and that the fruit was huge. However, ten of the twelve men insisted that the giants who lived in the land, descendants of Anak and part of the Nephilim described in Genesis 6:4, would be too much for them to overtake. Even though Joshua and Caleb reminded the Israelites that God had promised to go before them and give them the land, fear overtook them, and they were unwilling to move forward into their destiny.
Since we are now in the month of Tammuz, it would benefit us to look at the story in Numbers 13 and 14. It was the giants in the land and the belief of the ten spies that they could not overcome them that kept the children of Israel, with the exception of Joshua and Caleb, from receiving their inheritance. God had promised His children that they would overcome the giants and take possession of the Land. (“Then the Lord said to Moses…'Go up to the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying, I will give it to your descendants.’” - Exodus 33:1) They were on the threshold of victory but allowed fear and oppression to overtake them.
At a recent Global Awakening conference, Sean Smith, prophetic evangelist and Director of Point Blank International, spoke about this situation and suggested our present generation is in a battle with the spirit of Anak. That spirit causes us to doubt and accept mediocrity. It erodes our resolve to fight and keeps us from occupying our promises and producing fruit. The spirit distorts our goals so that we do not want to take on a challenge and desire to return to "Egypt." Anak piggybacks onto trauma and disappointment and causes us to become complacent, apathetic and passive. In essence, that spirit puts a cap on us.
Sean gave us some truths to remember in order to deal with Anak. Bill Johnson, lead pastor at Bethel in California, inspired this one: "When you come into agreement with the principles of the world, you come under the authority of the principality that released it." Do not believe in the magnitude of the problem, but in the certainty of God's promise. Sean says we must be aware of the spirit of Anak and develop a game plan to overcome it. Why? "You face your greatest obstacle when you are on the doorstep of your greatest miracle."
Let's be aware of this challenge and push ourselves to move forward instead of regressing into the territories we have already won! We must make the month ahead of us a time to stand on the promises of God and a time to worship Him. Evaluate your situations through the eyes of Christ. I would like to suggest that Rita Springer's song "Defender" articulates a strategy for success in our battles to take the ground that God wants to give us. Soak in her words and let them inspire us to have confidence in our God and every promise He has given to us:
"You go before I know that You've gone to win my war. You come back with the head of my enemy; You come back and You call it my victory. (1st Verse)
You go before I know that You've gone to win my war. Your love becomes my greatest defense; It leads me from the dry wilderness. (2nd Verse)
You know before I do where my heart can seek to find Your truth. Your mercy is the shade I'm living in; You restore my faith and hope again. (3rd Verse)
All I did was praise; All I did was worship; All I did was bow down; All I did was stay still. Hallelujah, You have saved me; So much better Your way. Hallelujah, Great Defender; So much better Your way."
Hallelujah indeed! Our Great Defender goes before us to prepare the way and give us the victory. He is worthy of all praise and honor!
Joan E. Mathias