I removed his shoulder from the burden; His hands were free from the baskets.
You called in trouble, and I delivered you; I answered you in the secret place of thunder; I tested you at the waters of Meribah. (Psalm 81:6-7, NKJV)
Am I reading this right? Verse 6 of Psalm 81 repeats the familiar story of the exodus: God freed the hands of the Israelites from the "baskets," from the task of making the building blocks of the pyramids and perhaps pulling them in place. Verse 7 repeats that story: You called. I answered. I delivered you.
But then . . . there is always "but." Asaph elaborates on that deliverance. I believe I've mentioned before that Hebrew poetry often works either with expanding and restating the original idea; or stating the opposite. This is an example of the first kind of poetry.
First he says God answered them in the secret place of thunder. I'd say Mt. Sinai qualifies. After God delivered them from slavery, the first order of business was giving the laws to live by. Mostly Israel experienced God through thunder and lightning. Moses spoke ordinary words; God answered with thunder, perhaps the "language they didn't understood." (although I suspect Asaph was referring to the local Egyptian dialect.)
The law doesn't feel so much like deliverance as it feels like the regulations needed for an orderly society.
The next description of deliverance doesn't feel like deliverance at all: "I tested you at the waters of Meribah."
Twice during the Wilderness Wanderings, the Israelites ran out of water. Both times God provided water from a rock. The second time became the breaking point for Moses. He struck the rock instead of speaking to it as God had commanded him, and for his disobedience, he was denied entrance into the promised land.
Not a happy place.
I know Asaph is referring to those two occasions because both times, they named the place Meribah.
So the testing at Meribah, the lack of water, the people's lack of faith, perhaps even Moses's disobedience--all of that in some way built on God's deliverance from slavery.
So, deliverance may lead to further testing. Deliverance doesn't mean we get to live in on the Mountain Top, thunder and all, for the rest of our lives. No, we go back into the valley, where we face tests on a regular basis.
But where sin and slavery weigh us down with its heavy yoke, life in harness with Christ lightens the load--tests and all.
Today's favorite verse: Fill their faces with shame, that they may seek Your name, O Lord. Let them be confounded and dismayed forever; Yes, let them be put to shame and perish, That they may know that You, whose name alone is the Lord,are the Most High over all the earth. (Psalm 83;16-18, NKJV)