SSL 6 - Psalm 95:1-11
Prayers & Announcements
LAST WEEK: In Psalm 84, called the Pearl of Psalms by Spurgeon, we heard a moving story of a Pilgrim's love and longing for God and His House. The occasion for the psalm was a time when the writer, for apparent reasons not explained, was unable to attend worship services in the Temple. While as NT believers, we understand that we no longer need a sacred building like the OT Temple to be into the presence of God, the lesson did leave us with three points of application that we can apply to our own corporate worship today:
1. The enjoyment and privilege of being in God's house should energize our desire to be in His presence (84:1-4). In this, we can share and appreciate the psalmist's yearning to gather together with fellow believers to be in God's presence corporately. We also should come to church with a sense of excitement and expectation, looking for God to show up!
2. The benefits of experiencing God's strength in our weakness should motivate our need to overcome any obstacles that may keep us from getting to God's house for worship and prayer (84:5-9). Like the pilgrims in the psalm, when we overcome the obstacles of getting to God's house-whether it's things like laziness or inconvenience, or letting recreational activities get in the way-we go from strength to strength, gaining God's strength, not our own, through the practice of corporate fellowship, worship, and prayer. For example, getting to church an hour earlier for Sunday School may be a stretch sometimes. What should you do? Re-read the psalm; take inspiration from it.
3. The sheer happiness of enjoying God Himself and His abundant goodness should excite our desire to be in His house (84:10-12). The psalmist told us being in God's house for one day was better than a 1,000 anywhere else. In this day and time, when many Christians have the means and the time to skip church to pursue recreation, hobbies, and other interests, are these verses still relevant to us? The attitude of the psalmist was that enjoying the presence of God in the company of God's people was greater than anything else the world had to offer. Is that still true for us today?
THIS WEEK: We study Psalm 95. Classified as either a prophetic or a history psalm, it combines a hymn of praise and a warning from God. Though most of us are familiar with the jubilant words of the first two verses, known as the "invocation to praise," we should pay very close attention to the entire psalm, especially God's warning in vv. 7b-11 not to repeat the errors of the previous generation and to commit ourselves to faithfully heeding God's "voice," because, as we will see, this principle also applies to 21st Century Christians as much as the Children of Israel.
Read Ps. 95:1-2 - Worshiping with Feeling, Honor, and Exuberance
1 Oh come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
2 Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
v. 1a: "let us sing to the LORD" - First of all, the psalmist mentions honoring God with a song. Singing is not the only way to give honor and worship to God, but it is a chief and important form because singing expresses human thought emotionally. Also notice inclusion of the plural "us," which mean to not only sing, but to sing in the community of God's people, the church in our own case. And our singing should always be "to the LORD," directed to His ears, not for our private entertainment.
v. 1b: "make a joyful noise" - God deserves to be honored with a happy and enthusiastic heart. This phrase gives us a remarkable picture of the joyful uproar of Temple worship-cries of gladness, shouts of praise, and songs with musical accompaniment ringing through the Temple courts.
v. 1c: "the rock of our salvation" - This title for God has both theological and experiential meaning. It is a metaphor that points to the security we find in God as our Savior and shows that He is unchangeable and strong like a rock, helping us to know Him in both thought and experience.
v. 2a1: "Let us come into His presence" - This means that worship should be offered with a conscious sense of God's presence. God's people don't sing into empty space, because God is in our presence and we are in His presence-a true connection between God and His people in worship.
v. 2a2: "with thanksgiving" - This isn't just mouthing the words or going through the motions but expressing real and honest gratitude for everything God has done and will do for us. To give God sincere thanks is an important way of giving Him the honor he rightly deserves.
v. 2b: "joyful noise...with songs of praise!" - ( repeats v. 1b) This shows the intention of the psalmist that this psalm was to be sung with joy and real enthusiasm. Remember, an invocation (vv. 1&2) is intended to "invoke" the presence of God, so the psalmist is saying to us, "C'mon folks, let's raise our voices and really get God's attention, okay?
Read Ps. 95:3-5 - Who is Our God and How Great is He?
3 For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods.
4 In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also.
5 The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.
V. 3a: "the LORD is a great God" - First, identifying Him by His covenant name, Yahweh (= LORD) served to eliminate any doubt about who God is. It is necessary for us to understand the greatness of God in order to properly worship Him.
v. 3b: "great King above all gods" - God reigns as king not only over false, man-made deities, but is sovereign over all else, the entire universe, because His throne is "everlasting" (Ps. 93:2), meaning that it is both eternal and infinite. Spurgeon said, "No doubt the surrounding nations imagined [Yahweh] to be merely a local deity, the god of a small nation and therefore inferior; the Psalmist utterly repudiates such an idea."
v. 4: "In His hand...depths of the earth...the mountains" - Note the two extremes: the "depths," going 3,950 mi. from the surface to the center of the earth and the "mountains," rising over 29,000 feet above it, and God simply spoke it into existence, formed everything. And the creation, which includes the entire universe beyond us, is itself insignificant compared to its Creator; it all belongs to Him, fits in His hand-awesome power, authority, and control that exceeds our puny imaginations.
v. 5a: "sea is His...He made it" - The "sea" portrays a hidden mystery, and even in our age of technology, the oceans still hide a multitude of unexplored secrets. The sea also adds a dimension of unknown danger to the creation. In ancient times (and still today) sea travel was dangerous (remember Paul's shipwreck in Acts 27 and 28?), yet the oceans are an element of God's sovereignty; He created them, controls them, and is aware of every drop of water in them. Can you imagine such all-knowing? To even begin to contemplate God's sovereignty, we must think way outside the box.
v. 5b: "hands formed the dry land" - "Hands" is used figuratively, as part of a body which enables people to make and form things, and here, in the context of God, is an idiom for His power and authority to create. It does not contradict Gen. 1:9, where God spoke the world into existence, but supplements it with imagery that humans relate to. Like the seas, He owns and controls the land.
Read Ps. 95:6-7a - Invitation to Humble Worship
6 Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!
7 For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.
v. 6a1: "Oh come" - The opening words are a gentle plea that impart a sweet sense of emphasis, beckoning readers to do not only what is right before God but what is good for them as well.
v. 6a2: "let us worship and bow down" - Again, note the "us," expressing the idea of a community of God's people worshiping God. The Hebrew word for worship means to "prostrate yourself" and bow down means to "fall on your knees." Taken together, they convey a posture of worship that project an appropriate expression of humility and reverence toward God-our helplessness without Him.
v. 6b: "kneel before the LORD our Maker" - In Hebrew, kneel literally means to "bless," and 'before the LORD" literally translates to "the face of Yahweh, our Maker." As vv. 4 and 5 told of God's mastery over all creation, the word "our Maker" in this statement includes humanity with everything else. We owe God humble worship because He made us and made every generation that has preceded us. Think of the billion upon billions of humankind over the ages-He created them all, knew every hair on their heads!
v. 7a: "He is our God" - With the baals and other pagan deities in the regions surrounding Israel, this is a deliberate statement of allegiance. All through the OT, God (Heb. Elohim) is proclaimed as the One God and the Living God-there are no other gods, just pagan inventions, inanimate idols. God Himself told us that, "I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me," Isa. 45:5. And note, He is not only a great God; He is our God, our own God, brought into the closed personal relationship with us.
v. 7b: "people of His pasture...sheep of His hand" - The relationship between God and Israel can be likened to that of a shepherd and his sheep. A shepherd protects his sheep from predators and other dangers, waters them, feeds them, and even treats their injuries to restore their health. The term "hand" can be understood as a metaphor for government and laws. Thus, God covers everything we need and continues to actively work as our shepherd. Everything we are and have must be attributed to Him. In Jn. 10:14-15, Jesus tells us, "I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. We will be the people of his "pasture" in eternity, the ultimate and perfect provision.
Read Ps. 95:7b-11 - Warning to Those Who Reject Worship
7b Today, if you hear his voice,
8 do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,
9 when your fathers put me to the test and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.
10 For forty years I loathed that generation and said, "They are a people who go astray in their heart,
and they have not known my ways."
11 Therefore I swore in my wrath, "They shall not enter my rest."
v. 7b1: "Today" - The psalmist doesn't say "whenever," he means at present, now. In fact, God requires us to be listening, expecting to hear from Him in every conscious moment. Where this verse is quoted in Heb. 4:7, God's voice is attributed to agency of the Holy Spirit.
v. 7b2: "if you hear my voice" - According to Jesus in Jn. 10:16, as God's sheep, we "listen" for His voice; and "if" is used here in the sense that we will only hear His voice if we are listening for it. The message behind this is that God's presence, protection, and favor as our shepherd is not a permanent fixture but is conditioned on obedience. Delayed or postponed obedience is disobedience.
v. 8: "Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah...Massah" - As used in the OT, the term "hardened heart" means stubborn refusal, having a closed mind, as in rebellion. Meribah (Heb. = quarreling) and Massah (Heb. = trial) both refer to a place in the Wilderness where on two occasions the people criticized Moses and Aaron over the lack of water (Ex. 17:1-7; Num. 20:1-13).
v. 9a: "fathers put Me to the test..." - Note that from this point, God is speaking, not the psalmist. This wasn't an attempt to induce God to sin-that's impossible; but to put His patience to the test. The people acted faithlessly by making arbitrary demands that God show them His power. In a modern analogy, Spurgeon said, "To reject God's invitation surely means to test Him." As we recently learned in the Parable of the Wedding Feast (Mt. 22:1-14), God invites everyone to a personal relationship with Him, but only those who respond with obedient faith in Jesus Christ will be "chosen," thus, all are invited but not all are chosen.
v. 9b: "put Me to the proof...had seen My work" - The work of God's judgment on their enemies during the Exodus-the plagues, the defeat of Pharoah and his armies at the Red Sea, raining manna, water from rocks, etc.-they saw this over and over again. How could they doubt Him?
v. 10a: "forty years I loathed that generation" - The Heb. word for loath used here doesn't mean hate, but is closer to being disgusted with or totally sick of someone. It described 40 years of distrust, grumbling, complaining, and ingratitude.
v. 10b: "people who go astray in their heart" - An interesting expression. It means people who are insincere and inconstant in their faith, not so much in terms of yielding to temptations, but doubting and untrusting. In modern times, we might call this backsliden or double-minded.
v. 10c: "they have not known My ways" - This is meant in a practical sense: the people did not seriously try to understand God and his ways. By choice, they remained ignorant. Like some Christians today who proclaim, "I believe every word of the Bible," but don't know what's in it. A "way," as used here, means a path or a road to be followed, but is also a metaphor for God's laws, statutes, and the works they had witnessed. As many judges over the centuries have been heard to rule, Ignorantia juris non excusat-ignorance of the law is no excuse. Today, we don't have to be Bible scholars to understand God and His ways, but we have to be diligent in our study of His Word and how it should apply to our lives.
v. 11: "swore in my wrath, 'They shall not enter my rest'" - "Rest" is a metaphor for the Promised Land, so because of God's righteous anger against them, they would not enter it and "rest." They had tested and insulted God and so had paid the price.
NOTE: We dare not take the message of this psalm lightly, because the NT makes it clear that the warning of this text applies as much to us today as it did in ages past.
1. Psalm 95, taken as a whole, teaches us that worship is not incidental; it is fundamental. It is not peripheral but primary. We should worship God because He is worthy of it. We should worship God because He desires it (Jn. 4:23-24). We should worship God because He commands it (Ps. 95:1-7a). And finally and importantly, we should worship God because the failure to do so will lead to hardened hearts (= stubborn, close-minded), dissatisfaction, disobedience, and ultimately, to God's discipline.
2. Notice also that worship is not only to be primary, it is to be persistent. Every day of our lives is "today" (Ps. 95:7b; cf. Heb. 3:13-4:7). It is not enough to initially choose to trust in God and to follow Him. And it is not enough to see God's power or to hear His promises. No, we must persist in worshiping, trusting, and obeying Him today and every day. We can't rest on the past but must continue in that work which God had begun in us. Those who benefit from God's promises must persist and persevere in His Word by diligent study, reflection, and prayer.