Wednesday of Pentecost 2 – Psalm 81:1-10

Sing for joy to God our strength;
    shout aloud to the God of Jacob!
Begin the music, strike the timbrel,
    play the melodious harp and lyre.

Sound the ram’s horn at the New Moon,
    and when the moon is full, on the day of our festival;
this is a decree for Israel,
    an ordinance of the God of Jacob.
When God went out against Egypt,
    he established it as a statute for Joseph.

I heard an unknown voice say:

“I removed the burden from their shoulders;
    their hands were set free from the basket.
In your distress you called and I rescued you,
    I answered you out of a thundercloud;
    I tested you at the waters of Meribah.
Hear me, my people, and I will warn you—
    if you would only listen to me, Israel!
You shall have no foreign god among you;
    you shall not worship any god other than me.
10 I am the Lord your God,
    who brought you up out of Egypt.
Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.

Peter Brown, the eminent historian of late Roman antiquity estimates that for most of the centuries prior to the industrial revolution about 90% of human labor was dedicated to the production and processing of food. Today in the United States about 2% of the population are farmers. Food processing is mostly automated. Many wars in the ancient world ended not because of a victory or a peaceful resolution but because the soldiers had to return to their fields and plant or harvest them. If they did not, the nation would starve.

God’s command to observe the sabbath, which forms the basis for this psalm, was a call for people to trust Him. Farming in the ancient world was a great deal of work. People rarely took a day off, but God asked them to rest every week. Do nothing for a day. That required a great deal of trust. There was always a weed which needed pulling, a fence which needed mending, something which needed doing. But God commanded them to rest, so they might remember that it was His doing, not theirs.

My father served congregations in rural Iowa, Nebraska, and Missouri. They were mostly farmers in those congregations. He had wanted to be a farmer himself when he was growing up. God had other ideas for him and called him to another sort of cultivation. My father knew what meant to see those men sitting in the pews on Sundays in the frenetic season of harvest and planting, when weather and other things meant that the window of opportunity was small. It took trust to put on your best clothes, get in the car, and come to church, when the sun was shining and there were fields to plant or harvest.

“Open wide your mouth,” says the Lord, “I will fill it.” God calls us to trust Him as well. He is the One who fills your pantry and sees to your needs. He may use your job and your bank accounts and the rest of the resources you have, but remember this and relax. God is the one who feeds you.

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