Psalm 95:1-11 (NLT2)1 Come, let us sing to the LORD! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.2 Let us come to him with thanksgiving. Let us sing psalms of praise to him.
3 For the LORD is a great God, a great King above all gods.4 He holds in his hands the depths of the earth and the mightiest mountains.5 The sea belongs to him, for he made it. His hands formed the dry land, too.6 Come, let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the LORD our maker,7 for he is our God. We are the people he watches over, the flock under his care. If only you would listen to his voice today!8 The LORD says, “Don’t harden your hearts as Israel did at Meribah, as they did at Massah in the wilderness.9 For there your ancestors tested and tried my patience, even though they saw everything I did.10 For forty years I was angry with them, and I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts turn away from me. They refuse to do what I tell them.’11 So in my anger I took an oath: ‘They will never enter my place of rest.’”
A Call To Worship
This psalm seems to have been composed for worship at the second Temple the one built after the Babylonian exile.
Ezra 1:1-4 (NLT2)1 In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, the LORD fulfilled the prophecy he had given through Jeremiah. He stirred the heart of Cyrus to put this proclamation in writing and to send it throughout his kingdom:2 “This is what King Cyrus of Persia says: “The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth. He has appointed me to build him a Temple at Jerusalem, which is in Judah.3 Any of you who are his people may go to Jerusalem in Judah to rebuild this Temple of the LORD, the God of Israel, who lives in Jerusalem. And may your God be with you!4 Wherever this Jewish remnant is found, let their neighbors contribute toward their expenses by giving them silver and gold, supplies for the journey, and livestock, as well as a voluntary offering for the Temple of God in Jerusalem.”
The author of this psalm is unknown but it begins with a call for the worshipers to make a joyful exuberant noise of praise. The reason for this exuberant joyful praise id because the greatness of Yahweh the King, Creator, and Shepherd.
The call to worship is repeated this time with a reminder to the worshipers of Israel's special relationship to Yahweh. That reminder includes Israel’s sin in the wilderness and serves as a warning against doubt and disobedience. Those who disobeyed were not allowed to enter the rest of the Promised Land.
Promised Rest For God’s People
The writer of Hebrews quotes this psalm when he writes about the rest believers enter at salvation. It is a rest both present and future that depends not upon "works," but upon the faith of the believers.
Hebrews 3:7- 4:11 (NLT2)7 That is why the Holy Spirit says, “Today when you hear his voice,8 don’t harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled, when they tested me in the wilderness.9 There your ancestors tested and tried my patience, even though they saw my miracles for forty years.10 So I was angry with them, and I said, ‘Their hearts always turn away from me. They refuse to do what I tell them.’11 So in my anger I took an oath: ‘They will never enter my place of rest.’”12 Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God.13 You must warn each other every day, while it is still “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God.14 For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ.15 Remember what it says: “Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled.”16 And who was it who rebelled against God, even though they heard his voice? Wasn’t it the people Moses led out of Egypt?17 And who made God angry for forty years? Wasn’t it the people who sinned, whose corpses lay in the wilderness?18 And to whom was God speaking when he took an oath that they would never enter his rest? Wasn’t it the people who disobeyed him?19 So we see that because of their unbelief they were not able to enter his rest. 1 God’s promise of entering his rest still stands, so we ought to tremble with fear that some of you might fail to experience it.2 For this good news—that God has prepared this rest—has been announced to us just as it was to them. But it did them no good because they didn’t share the faith of those who listened to God.3 For only we who believe can enter his rest. As for the others, God said, “In my anger I took an oath: ‘They will never enter my place of rest,’” even though this rest has been ready since he made the world.4 We know it is ready because of the place in the Scriptures where it mentions the seventh day: “On the seventh day God rested from all his work.”5 But in the other passage God said, “They will never enter my place of rest.”6 So God’s rest is there for people to enter, but those who first heard this good news failed to enter because they disobeyed God.7 So God set another time for entering his rest, and that time is today. God announced this through David much later in the words already quoted: “Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts.”8 Now if Joshua had succeeded in giving them this rest, God would not have spoken about another day of rest still to come.9 So there is a special rest still waiting for the people of God.10 For all who have entered into God’s rest have rested from their labors, just as God did after creating the world.11 So let us do our best to enter that rest. But if we disobey God, as the people of Israel did, we will fall.
The central theological message of Psalm 95 is that "the Lord is a great King". To recognize God's kingship is to recognize that God created us and sustains us. For that reason God is worthy of our praise. The psalm also suggests that our praise is more than words lifted heavenward. It is an expression of faith and it should be lived out in faithfulness and trust. This is precisely what the Israelites in the wilderness did not do. To learn from their mistakes and to connect praise and obedience is our calling.
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Donald Jacobs is an ordained minister with the spiritual gift of teaching. He is the Associate Pastor of a non-denominational church in Los Angeles, CA.