I am the Lord your God,
who brought you up out of Egypt.
Open wide your mouth and I will fill it (v. 10)
In my corner of the world, Lent coincides with spring and, often, with spring cleaning. We scrub winter boots clean of dirt, wash coats and snow pants, toss broken toys lurking at the bottom of the toy box, and rid fridge shelves of their mysterious stickiness. Windows are opened to invite fresh spring air in. All that is dirty is cleaned, all that is broken is tossed or fixed, all that is old is gone. The dirt, the old, is cleared away so that the new may come.
Reading Psalm 81 during Lent, we see a God who longs to be the center of his people’s lives. A God who has rescued them, and wants His people to love Him. Hear me, my people—I have rescued you, not some other god. It was me. Don’t worship anyone (or anything!) but me. As you read, set aside what distracts. Clear away all that keeps you from following God’s ways.
I removed the burden from their shoulders;
their hands were set free from the basket (v. 6)
The Psalm evokes memories of Israel’s dark days of slavery in Egypt, toiling day in and day out making mud bricks by hand: their lives made bitter by harsh Egyptian masters, who worked their slaves ruthlessly.
In your distress you called and I rescued you
I answered you out of a thundercloud (v.7)
God reminds the people who He is and what he has done—I set you free. I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt. I set you free. I removed the burden from your shoulders. In the words of singer Adele, God sings here to his beloved people, “Let me be your, your one and only.”
Passionate about his people, God wants them to be focused upon Him. In the poetic lines of Psalm 81, we see a God who desires to give his people good things. We see a God who wants his people to give up their stubbornness, and to follow God’s ways.
During Lent, people may fast or “give up” things for 40 days (TV, social media, meat, etc.); in this season, people fast from something that distracts them from God. Others “take on” a spiritual practice or discipline for Lent; they commit to pray daily, to read Scripture with a friend, to eat simple meals and give the money saved to a charity. The simple practices of Lent can remind us to not have “stubborn hearts, to follow our own devices” (v. 12) instead of God’s ways. Not satisfying every hunger we have can make us more aware of our hunger for God, and aware of God’s desire to be in relationships with us.
Like spring cleaning, the season of Lent helps us pause and take an honest look at our own lives. What needs to be cleaned out within us? What is distracting us from God? What is cluttering our lives? What do we need to set aside for God to be our, our one and only?