PSALM 95 TALK: OUR GOD THE KING WHO CALLS US TO WORSHIP AND OBEY HIM

PSALM 95 TALK: OUR GOD THE KING WHO CALLS US TO WORSHIP AND OBEY HIM

 (A Psalm that explores the great truth that the God of the bible is the king of everything who calls us to worship him but also warns us that we should trust and obey him or we will fail to enter heaven where we will worship God forever.)

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INTRODUCTION

Recently a retired minister who is a member of the church congregation I currently attend led the service and stood up the front and read the first six verses of Psalm 95,

“Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him.The sea is his, for he made it and his hands formed the dry land. Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care”.

It struck me very forcibly that this Psalm is an excellent call to worship and from my research of this Psalm I discovered that this has been recognized as a call to worship for a very long time. H.C. Leupold says that,

“From days of old the church has always recognized that this Psalm was an invitation to worship”.

So many church services today just plough straight into what they call worship with a hymn that might have some call to worship in its lyrics or it might not. The congregation then is not really thinking about why they are really there and whom they should be focussing on.

Psalm 95 belongs to the fourth selection or the book of Psalms which we know was put together after the return from the Babylonian exile and Leupold speculates that it was probably originally written at that time for the dedication of the second Temple around the time of Nehemiah and Ezra. We cannot know for sure that Psalm 95 was written for the dedication of the Temple but I do believe it was written after the return from exile and has been used ever since as an excellent call to worship by Jews and Christians.

So how and why should we worship the God of the bible?

Psalm 95 will answer this question but also give us a warning that we must praise and worship God by trusting and obeying him and his word. This is the message of the second half of this Psalm. Some scholars have suggested that this second half of the Psalm, verses 7c – 11 is a separate Psalm tacked onto an original Psalm that was written as a call for worship.

However I believe this is not the case but rather the second half of the Psalm is in fact part of a true call to worship.

So often churches today plough into worship not only not thinking of who and why they are worshipping but also failing to realise who we are and what we are really like. We are sinful beings who easily disobey God and his word. This means that as we approach God in worship we should always recognize this fact as well.

The original writer of Psalm 95 used the example of the disobedience of the people of Israel when they were at a place called Meribah (which means in Hebrew strife) and Massah (which in Hebrew means Testing) to warn his worshippers not to disobey the Lord. Disobeying the God of the bible is sin and sin leads to God’s judgment, as we saw in the previous Psalm.

So we must approach the God of the bible in worship with enthusiastic praise and thanksgiving remembering who he is, what he has done and is still doing and we must seek to do this as people who trust and obey him as commanded by his holy word.

This is how we should approach the worship of the God of the bible and we will look now at fleshing this out by coming to terms with what Psalm 95 is really teaching us.

With the theme of “Our God the King who calls us to worship and obey him” in mind my breakdown for this Psalm is:

  1. 1 – 5   COME WORSHIP GOD THE KING WHO SAVES US AND CREATOR EVERYTHING
  1. 1 – 2   The first call to worship
  2. 3 – 5   Worship God because he is the great king and creator
  1. 6 – 7b COME WORSHIP GOD THE KING WHO MADE AND LEADS HIS       PEOPLE
  1. 6           The second call to worship
  2. 7a – 7c Worship God because he made us and leads his people
  1. 7c – 11 COME WORSHIP GOD THE KING BUT REMEMBER TO TRUST         AND  OBEY HIM
  1. 7c – 9   Worship God by trusting and obeying him
  2. 10 – 11 Worship God with trust and obedience or pay the consequences

 Lets take a close look at what this Psalm is actually saying to us and we will start with the first section.

I have broken this first section into two parts:

  1. 1 – 2   The first call to worship
  2. 3 – 5   Worship God because is the great king and creator

Lets look then at the first part:

  1. 1 – 2   The first call to worship

This Psalm, as I said in my introduction is a call to worship and there are two main calls to worship the God of the bible and this is the first one.

Verse 6 is the second one although verse 2 also starts with a call to worship as well but this is part, I believe of the first call to worship in verse 1.

The call to worship reads this way in verses 1 and 2,

“Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song”.

This first call to worship contains four great elements:

  1. Sing for joy to the Lord (vs.1a)
  2. Shout aloud to the rock of our salvation (1b)
  3. Come before him with thanksgiving (2a)
  4. Extol him with music and song (2b)

Lets have a closer look at each of these four key elements of worship:

  1. Sing for joy to the Lord (vs. 1a)

So the priest or Levite singer first calls his congregation entering the Temple area to sing for joy to the Lord. Old Testament worship was not a drab quiet activity it was noisy and joyful. I read through the books of Ezra and Nehemiah and picked up this very important aspect of the worship of the God of the bible and read this in the book of Nehemiah when they worshipped God at the dedication of the new walls of Jerusalem in Nehemiah 12: 42b – 43,

‘The choirs sang under the direction of Jezrahiah. 43 And on that day they offered great sacrifices, rejoicing because God had given them great joy. The women and children also rejoiced. The sound of rejoicing in Jerusalem could be heard far away”.

Now that is loud and joyful worship and I wonder if people who walk past our churches on a Sunday would hear that kind of joy pouring out of our church buildings. I remember going to Sunday morning services on the Cook Islands years ago and hearing loud but beautiful joyful singing in those churches. The people sang with great joy and beautiful harmonies and many non- believing westerners were drawn to come to these church services purely to hear the joyful beautiful singing and music.

I also read in the book of Nehemiah the reading of the book of the law to the people publically for the first time since the Jews returned from exile and as Ezra read it the people were lead to cry or weep, probably because it convicted them of their sins but Nehemiah says this to the people in Nehemiah 8: 10,

“Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

 God’s love and forgiveness should cause us to be joyful not sad and his joy, or undeserved love for us is our strength. This joy of God and joy in God should be a cornerstone of our worship of him.

Paul spoke of a lot about having joy in the Lord and always rejoicing in the Lord and he says this in Romans 15: 13,

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit”.

The call to worship actually says “Sing” for joy and we saw in Nehemiah 12: 42b,

‘The choirs sang under the direction of Jezrahiah”

Old Testament worship involved a lot of singing and used massive choirs, which led the people in joyful song to the Lord. David spoke a lot about singing joyfully to the Lord and we read him saying this in Psalm 33: 1,

“Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him”.

Paul wrote to churches about making joyful music with song to the Lord in Colossians 3: 16 and Ephesians 5: 19 – 20,

“Speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”.

I am a musician and a singer and the writer of new songs so I treasure the gift of music God has given me. At this present time I am a key person in the leadership of music for the congregation I currently attend and I believe the promotion and leading of joyful singing is a vital part of our regular worship services.

Some churches sadly don’t believe in or at least don’t value music and this is a sad and very unbiblical state of affairs. It is my prayer that our churches will be like that great congregation in Jerusalem all those years ago who made such a joyful noise to the Lord that people heard it far away as the King James version translates Psalm 98: 4,

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.

  1. Shout aloud to the rock of our salvation (1b)

The idea of a loud noise continues in the second part of verse 1 with the words,

“ Let us shout aloud to the rock of our salvation”.

 I must also caution here that I don’t think this verse is speaking about being just loud. I have been to many church services both here in Australia and overseas where the organ or guitars or both were hitched up to an amplifier and the volume was turned up so loud it drowned out the singing and distorted the words of the songs being sung.

The opening phrase says sing for joy or make joyful music and this second half of the verse speaks of shouting out a message, God is our rock and our salvation. If you cannot harmonize with other people around you or if you cannot understand the words being sung because the music is to loud then we are not making a joyful noise to the Lord we are just making a very large din or gross vile noise. Turn the music down and let the voices make the loud joyful praise to the Lord.

So the second part of verse 1 says when we worship our God we are to shout out a message and that message is God is the rock of our salvation. The metaphor of God being a rock has appeared countless times in the book of Psalms and it is a favorite concept of David in his Psalms.

His most famous rock reference is Psalm 18: 1 – 2,

“I love you, Lord, my strength The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;

 my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold”.

Tremper Longman 111 says that,

“Rock is a common metaphor for protection”

The Psalm 18: 1 – 2 reference is a good “rock” reference because it gives us four other protection metaphors, fortress, refuge, shield and stronghold. Here the God of the bible is our rock of our salvation. The bible clearly says over and over again we cannot save ourselves. David makes this clear in another of his rock reference when he says in Psalm 61: 2b,

“Lead me to the rock that is higher than I”.

In this Psalm David is in deep trouble yet again and he realises that he cannot save himself and only God who is greater and higher then him has the power to save him.

Paul makes this clear in the famous bible reference Ephesians 2: 8,

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God”.

God and God alone has saved us and therefore he is,

“The rock of our salvation”.

 Some even say that God is our rock refers to the foundation on which our salvation is founded and of course that rock is Jesus Christ as it was through him alone that we have salvation through his death for us on the cross. Through his dearth he has given us forgiveness of our sins and new life in God that is eternal.

This is what we as Christians are to shout out about in our worship of him. As Darlene Zschech modern song of worship called “Shout to the Lord” puts it,

My Jesus, my Saviour
Lord there is none like You
All of my days I want to praise
The wonders of Your mighty love

 My comfort, my shelter
Tower of refuge and strength
Let every breath, all that I am
Never cease to worship You

 Shout to the Lord all the Earth, let us sing
Power and majesty, praise to the King
Mountains bow down and the seas will roar
At the sound of Your name

 I sing for joy at the work of Your hand
Forever I’ll love You, forever I’ll stand
Nothing compares to the promise I have
In You.

  1. Come before him with thanksgiving (2a)

The note of praise in worship continues in this first call to worship in verse 2a, with the words,

“Let us come before him with thanksgiving”.

 The American’s celebrate a special “Thanksgiving” every year on the fourth Thursday in the month of November, which apparently started in 1621 after the first harvest of the Pilgrim Fathers in that year in Plymouth. They believed God blessed them to survive these difficult early years of their settlement in a foreign often-hostile land.

Our call to worship in Psalm 95 is saying that “Thanksgiving’ should characterize every worship service of the God of the bible. I’m not saying its wrong to have a special thanksgiving celebration as I saw the value of these as I grew up in a semi – rural church and attended many harvest festivals in that church. Thanksgiving as the Americans celebrate or harvest festivals as others celebrate are special one off thanksgivings but they should not replace a regular coming together of God’s people to give thanks to our God for what he has done for us.

Paul says this in 2 Corinthians 4: 15,

“All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God”.

Our worship services should be overflowing with thanksgiving to the God of the bible who through the Lord Jesus Christ gave us the gift of new life through the grace of God in his death and resurrection for us.

The act of thanksgiving is not just for Sunday worship services but Paul says in Colossians 3: 17 that it is a attitude of life we should practice daily,

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him”.

  1. Extol him with music and song (2b)

The fourth and final great element in this first call to worship is,

“Extol him with music and song”.

 It is as clear as the nose on my face, as the expression goes, that music and song formed a vital role in Old Testament worship. This music had one great aim, which this element of worship at the end of verse 2 simply says “Extol him” or “Extol God”.

You can get a good idea what this word extol really means by comparing how the Hebrew word has been translated in different versions of the bible over many years.

Here are three good examples of this:

  1. New Living Translation

 “Let us sing psalms of praise to him”.

  1. New English Translation

“ Let’s shout out to him in celebration!”

  1. Jubilee Bible 2000

“And sing unto him with joy”.

So to extol someone is the sing there praises to lift them up and as the different translations put it “praise him”, “Shout out to him in celebration” and “sing unto him with joy”.

All this is to be done with music as we read in some of David Psalms like Psalm 57: 7,

“My heart, O God, is steadfast, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music”.

David was a singer and musician and God had obviously blessed him with these great gifts and he used them to “extol” the Lord he loved and served and so should all of us who have the gift of music and our “extolling” or lifting in praise should also be used to lead others to do the same.

In preparation for this Psalm talk I checked out how others had turned this wonderful Psalm into music. I was impressed as I always am with the soulful Sons of Korah’s version of this Psalm but the one I liked the most was a version by a group of Hebrew Christians also called “Jews for Yeshua (Jesus). This version was full of great energy and had a lead singer, a band with all kinds of instruments and a great choir and the audience sang with them as well. Even though the words were in Hebrew this did not detract from the great version of the first half of this Psalm and I recommend you look it up on YouTube yourself.

The “Jews for Yeshua” group lifted up great praise to a great God and I hope your church does the same as they seek to come and worship our God who is the king of everything and who deserves our worship.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10: 31, that whatever we do in God’s service should be done to glorify God,

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God”

So if your gift is music, use it to glorify God, if it is preaching, do it to glorify God, if it is acts of friendship, do it to glorify God and even if it is a simple as serving morning tea at church, do it to glorify God. To extol him and not ourselves which is a great danger with a gift like music.

  1. 3 – 5   Worship God because is the great king and creator

The second part of this first section moves on to spell out three reasons why we should come and worship God. Those three reasons are:

  1. He is a great God (vs. 3)
  2. He controls all nature (vs. 4)
  3. He made this world (vs.5)

Lets have a close look at each of these:

  1. He is a great God (vs. 3)

The reason we know that these next three verses are going to tell us the reason why we should worship the God of the bible is the little word, “For”. This word tells us that we are going to hear or read some reasons why we should come and worship the Lord.

The first reason is expressed this way in verse 3,

“For the Lord is the great God, the great king above all God’s”

 When we bow to the Queen we are acknowledging her superior position to us. The same goes that if an important person enters our church we make special efforts to greet them and sit them usually in a special place in our church building. When I was 11 years old my church had a 150-year anniversary service and some very important people attended the anniversary service. We had the Governor General of Australia and the Prime Minister of Australia of that day at that service.

They were greeted in a special way when they entered our church and I can remember looking across and down to them from the choir stalls I was in and thinking these two men were really giants of my day and I spoke of meeting them for many years to come.

Well when we come to worship the God of the bible we are in the presence of someone far greater than a Governor General or Prime Minister of Australia we are coming into the presence of the Lord of Lords and king of kings, non other than Jesus himself.

We have the assurance that Jesus is in our presence in church or at any meeting of Christian believers because Jesus tells us in Matthew 18: 20,

“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

Other translation use the words, “In there midst” and I have often thought of this great promise of Jesus when I have been in Church to worship The Lord Jesus that he is somehow with us as we do it.

The phrase,

“The great king above all God’s”

 Is a tricky one for at first glance it seems to be saying, yes there are other God’s but the God of the bible is above them.

However the bible clearly says there is no other God but the one true God, Deuteronomy 4: 35,

“You were shown these things so that you might know that the Lord is God; besides him there is no other”.

To make this clearer verse 39 says,

“Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other”.

So why then does verse 3 speak of “all gods”?

The first thing to say is that in the time of the writing of this Psalm all nations claimed allegiance and worship their own gods and they would always have many. Israel then stood out from all other nations because they claimed they worshipped one God who was the one true God.

Allan Harman gives the answer to that question with these words,

“The mention of such gods does not assume their existence, they are only figments of there imagination”.

 As Isaiah points out in his famous passage on the futility of the making of idols to represent these many gods in Isaiah 44: 9 – 17,

“All who make idols are nothing, and the things they treasure are worthless. Those who would speak up for them are blind; they are ignorant, to their own shame. 10 Who shapes a god and casts an idol, which can profit nothing? 11 People who do that will be put to shame; such craftsmen are only human beings. Let them all come together

and take their stand;  they will be brought down to terror and shame. 12 The blacksmith takes a tool and works with it in the coals; he shapes an idol with hammers, he forges it with the might of his arm. He gets hungry and loses his strength; he drinks no water and grows faint.13 The carpenter measures with a line

and makes an outline with a marker; he roughs it out with chisels and marks it with compasses. He shapes it in human form, human form in all its glory, that it may dwell in a shrine. 14 He cut down cedars, or perhaps took a cypress or oak. He let it grow among the trees of the forest, or planted a pine, and the rain made it grow. 15 It is used as fuel for burning; some of it he takes and warms himself, he kindles a fire and bakes bread. But he also fashions a god and worships it; he makes an idol and bows down to it. 16 Half of the wood he burns in the fire; over it he prepares his meal, he roasts his meat and eats his fill. He also warms himself and says  “Ah! I am warm; I see the fire.”17 From the rest he makes a god, his idol; he bows down to it and worships. He prays to it and says, “Save me! You are my god!”

Some ancient rulers or kings had their power go to there heads and they claimed to be gods on earth. So the God we come to worship is greater than any earthly king who claimed to be a god and greater thsn any other alternative so called god or idea about God.

 Paul commends his young understudy, Timothy to fight the good fight of faith and to do it in the presence of Jesus Christ who he describes as the King of kings and Lord of Lords in 1 Timothy 13 – 16,

“13 In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you 14 to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which God will bring about in his own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honour and might forever. Amen”.

 It is this same Jesus who promises to be in our midst when we come together to pray and worship him, as it says,

 “The great king above all God’s”

  1. He controls all nature (vs. 4)

The second reason why we should worship the God of the bible is expressed well in the old Negro spiritual that says:

“He’s got the whole world in his hands”

 I think verse 4 literally makes the claim of this song in its opening statement that says,

“In his hand are the depths of the earth”

 We should worship him because he controls even parts of the world we cannot and will never see, “the depths of the earth”.

Some people believe that there is a God but he is distant and removed from this world. They believe that God is not involved in this world on a day-to-day basis. They believe that God is like a clock maker who has made a clock and then he walked away from it leaving it ticking. It seems that this was the view of God that Albert Einstein favoured but his views on God seemed to change during his long life.

Verse 4 of Psalm 95 does not agree with this view of God and it clearly says that God has this world in his hands, an image that is saying to us that God is firmly in control of this world on a day-to-day basis. Paul makes it clear that God is in control of this world in a verse like Romans 8: 28,

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”.

Then the verse says,

“And the mountain peaks belong to him”.

 The contrast between the depths of the earth and mountain peaks is so great that we can only conclude that no matter how deep you go God’s control is there and equally no matter how high you go on this earth, God’s control is still very much there. This implies that God is in control from the depths of the sea to the highest mountaintops and everywhere else in between.

This idea reminds me of the famous Psalm 139, sometime called “The hound of Heaven Psalm” and we read this in verses 7 – 10 of this Psalm,

Where can I go from your Spirit?  Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,10 even there

your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast”.

This Palm is saying we cannot get away from God and his control of this world.

This idea then is another reason why we must worship our God who is King of everything and everyone.

  1. He made this world (vs.5)

The final reason in this first section of the Psalm for worshipping God is simply the fact that he made or created this world expressed poetically in verse 5,

“The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land”.

The sea was a powerful poetic image in the ancient world of chaos and things we as human beings have no control over. We saw this image used in Psalm 93 verses 3 and 4,

“The seas have lifted up, Lord, the seas have lifted up their voice; the seas have lifted up their pounding waves.Mightier than the thunder of the great waters,

mightier than the breakers of the sea— the Lord on high is mighty”.

Particularly verse 4 of this Psalm relate to the mighty raging seas or oceans that terrified ancient people causing most boats or ships to keep in touch with the coast unto much more modern times when effective navigation was developed to cross great oceans. Even in modern times the ocean represents great danger as many ships and their passengers have been lost to the uncertain often chaotic nature of ocean voyages.

So God is not only in charge of that which seems chaotic as he made it. This would have been the ultimate statement of a god’s power if it is saying he controls chaos itself represented by the image of the chaotic seas.

However the verse says that God not only controls chaos and does this because he made it but he also controls the very dry land we stand and walk upon because he made it also. Genesis 1: 9 – 10 makes a very simple but profound statement of how God made the sea and dry land,

“And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good”.

This simple statement of how God made the seas and the dry land is telling us God has complete control over all of his creation as he made it.

This then is the third great reason why we must come and worship our God who is king of everything. Revelation 14: 7 simply says,

“He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.”

Allan Harman reminded me of a great modern hymn written by Michael Perry, “Come, sing praises to the Lord above” and the second half of verse 1 is a great summary of the part of the Psalm we have just looked at, which says,

God is king above the mountains high,
the ocean deep, the land and sky;
mighty continents and islands lie
within the hollow of God’s hand.

  1. 6 – 7b COME WORSHIP GOD THE KING WHO MADE AND LEADS HIS

                 PEOPLE

The second section contains a second call to worship and further reasons why we should come and worship our God who is king of everything.

I have broken this second section into two parts:

  1. 6           The second call to worship
  2. 7a – 7c Worship God because he made and leads his people

 Lets have a close look at these two parts:

  1. 6         The second call to worship

The Psalmist continues to give his leading priest or Levite singer a call to worship but this time it has a different emphasis. It continues the idea that we should worship God because he is our maker but its emphasis is on the worshippers relationship with the God he or she is worshipping.

The second call to worship goes like this in verses 6,

“Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker”.

 This second call to worship changes as it seems to me to focus straight away on the individual worshipper by speaking of that worshippers preferred posture in worship which is simply,

“Let us bow down in worship”

 And

“Let us kneel before”

 I grew up in an Anglican church that had kneeling rails and cushions on those rails so you could kneel. The present Anglican church I have been attending for over 30 years now has three church buildings in the one parish and only one of those buildings has kneeling rails and cushions to kneel on as its is an old traditional church building.

I attend a worship service in one of the non – traditional buildings and therefore I do not kneel in worship anymore. Of course we all bow in prayer in all of our buildings. While I find some kind of value in kneeling still, I agree with Allan Harman’s view on what this verse is really telling us,

“While the words may give some indication of the posture in prayer, the real emphasis is on the attitude towards the Lord”.

 When we come into the presence of Royalty even today we are expected to bow as a bodily symbol of the respect and honour we give to the position the Queen or King holds. In ancient times some Kings would not allow people to get off the ground as people came into their presence such was the honour and respect they demanded from their subjects.

If God is the great King of everything then when we come into his presence to worship him we should come at least in an attitude of heart which is reverent and respectful to him because as the verse goes on to say, he is,

“The Lord our Maker”.

 The writer to the Hebrews speaks of reverent and respectful worship this way in Hebrews 12: 28 – 29,

 “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our “God is a consuming fire.”

  1. 7a – 7c Worship God because he made and leads his people

 Then this second call to worship makes a very clear connection to how the God of the bible has made us in a special way, he has called us into being his special people, the first part of verse 7 says,

“For he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care”.

 We have then in this verse two more reasons why we must worship our God who is king of everything and those two reasons are:

  1. He is our God who made us his people
  2. He is our God who cares for us like sheep

Lets then have a close look at each of these two final reasons why we should worship the God of the Bible as our God and king.

  1. He is our God who made us his people

Israel was a unique nation on earth as they and they alone were chosen to be God’s special people and he actually not only called them to be his people he but made them his people. We read this way back in Exodus 19: 3 – 6,

“Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”

There are other references to God choosing the tiny nation of Israel to be his special people but I like this passage the most because it speaks of why God made Israel his people.

They were to be priests or go betweens, to go between God and man in the rest of the world. Israel in one sense failed to do this because they often are seen in the Old Testament as an exclusive nation who acted like they were better than everyone else because God chose them.

However despite the nation of Israel acting in such a non- priest like way to the world God still used them to do just that. They were used by God to bring to the world his word and then his Son who would offer everyone Jew and non – Jew alike the way back to God through his death and resurrection.

I like the underlining message of the prophet Jonah who acted, as the Jewish people had become an exclusive nation of people who did not care for anyone other than themselves. Yet God literally forced Jonah to the pagan city of Nineveh to preach the message of repentance and faith in the one true God of the bible.

Yet when Nineveh actually responded to Jonah’s message he was not happy as he seems to have wanted Nineveh to fall under God’s judgement but even he had a sneaking suspicion that God would save Nineveh as he prays in Jonah 4: 2 – 3 seems to say,

“He prayed to the Lord, ‘O Lord, is not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love’, a God who relents from sending calamity”.

Jonah’s exclusiveness is seen very clearly here as he is saying he resisted preaching to the people of Nineveh because he knew there was a good chance they would be saved from God’s judgment and destruction.

However what Jonah and many Jewish people forget is that God is ‘a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love’ and this is in fact is why he even called them to be his special chosen nation.

Another reference of God choosing the nation of Israel as his special chosen people says this, Deuteronomy 7: 7 – 9,

“The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments”.

Israel then as a nation of priests actually failed to be just that but as I said before God still used them to achieve that and more through the coming of the Son of God born as a Jew and yet both God and man and through him the world and not just the Jews can be saved as John 3: 16 – 21 teaches us,

“ For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God”.

This is the bold claim of the New Testament which Jews today still reject which many have done since the coming of Jesus Christ, John 1: 11, says this,

“He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him”.

However from the beginning and right through to today many Jews do accept Jesus for who he is as John goes on to say in John 1: 12 – 13,

12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God”.

So we, who believe is Jesus as God’s Son who died on the cross for our sins are now God’s children as John 1: 12 and many other scriptures present and so the words of Psalm 95: 7 apply to us,

“For he is our God and we are the people of his pasture”.

 Both Jewish believers and non- Jewish believers alike should worship God as the king of everything because he is our God and king who has made us his people. When I was a young man in Bible College I remember the first time I attended a Christian convention in the Katoomba at the Christian convention centre 120 K from Sydney and not far from where I now live and seeing up the front of that large tin shed hall the sign that reads, “All One in Christ” taken from Galatians 3: 28 – 29 that says,

“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise”.

There in Katoomba I joined with Christians of many different churches and experienced true worship of the Lord, which is an experience that still remains with me to this day as one of the most uplifting experiences of my life.

 According to Galatians 3: 28 – 29 we can also join with young people like I saw on “Youtube” who call themselves “Jews for Yeshua (Jesus)” and with them too we can worship the Lord as one. But we to must remember not to become exclusive like the Jews unfortunately did but instead be God’s true priests to the world as Peter says we should be in 1 Peter 2: 9 – 10,

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy”.

It is my prayer that Christians will learn to drop their exclusiveness and worship God together as one and as one take his message to the world as God wants us to do as Jesus even commanded us to do in passages like Matthew 28: 18 – 20,

“Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

  1. He is our God who cares for us like sheep

Then we read these words that represents the final reason why we should worship God as the king of everything,

“The flock under his care”.

All through the Old Testament God’s people are depicted as sheep and God is their shepherd who cares for his sheep. No finer example of this can be found in the bible than, David’s famous Psalm 23 verses 1 – 4,

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me”

Jesus makes it clear in John 10 that we are his sheep and he is our shepherd even though we are not of his flock, the Jews as he says in John 10: 16 – 18,

“I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

So Jesus claims to be the Good Shepherd who God sent to lay down his life for his sheep in John 10 and then in verses 27 – 29, he makes this wonderful claim,

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand”.

This is then is great grounds for praise and worship as Peter puts it in 1 Peter 2: 25,

“For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls”.

  1. 7c – 11 COME WORSHIP GOD THE KING BUT REMEMBER TO TRUST         AND OBEY HIM

 We come then to the final section of Psalm which comes as a bit of a shock or surprise and as I said in the introduction some scholars over the years have suggested that the break or change from the first half of the Psalm is so great that this last section of the Psalm is a separate bit of writing crudely tacked onto the original Psalm.

I don’t agree with this but rather see it as a very important part of being called to worship the Lord as it reminds us of the fact that we must always see ourselves as sinful people prone to disobedience and we must always be warned not to turn away from the Lord.

Also we only can worship the God of the bible because he has forgiven us of our great and many sins and that is something we must always remember as we come into the presence of God in worship.

I have broken this final section of the Psalm into two parts as well:

  1. 7c – 9   Worship God by trusting and obeying him
  2. 10 – 11 Worship God with trust and obedience or pay the consequences

 Lets then look at these two parts of this final section of the Psalm:

  1. 7c – 9   Worship God by trusting and obeying him

As I said before the last phrase of verse 7, which we call 7c represents as Bob Deffinbaugh describes as a,

“Dramatic change of mood, from the jubilant praise of verses 1 and 2 we come to a solemn warning in verses 8 – 11”.

This change is made with the words of 7c,

“Today, if you hear his voice”

Bob Deffinbaugh also picks up the other shift these words and the words that follow has made, when he writes,

“Note there is a change of speaker. In the first seven verses the psalmist has spoken, now, God Himself speaks to the psalmist’s generation”.

Today, God is saying if you hear my voice and of course as the people came into worship in the Temple they must expect to hear God’s voice as there the very word of God is read aloud so the voice of God will be heard.

When I was in Bible College many years ago I remember one lecturer asking us;

“What is the most important part of a churches service of worship?”

Most went for the sermon but he said, no, the most important part of the service is when God’s word is read aloud. He said that this is the most important part of a worship service because that is when God himself is speaking without and doubt or confusion caused by our explanation of it.

Of course true biblical preaching should seek to only make the word of God clearer to the listener and also be able to apply it to the lives of their hearers.

So what are we not to do when we hear the word of God?

The answer to that is in the next two verses that read like this,

“Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah as you did that day at Massah in the desert, where your fathers tested and tried me, though they had not seen what I did”.

To understand what these two verses are saying I have broken them into three aspects:

  1. Do not harden your hearts
  2. Like the people did at Meriba and Massah
  3. As your fathers tested me (God)

Let me now explain what I think these aspects are actually saying,

  1. Do not harden your hearts

Daryl Evans writes in an article I read on the NET entitled “What does it mean to have a hardened heart”,

“So when the writers of Scripture talk about a hardened heart they are not obviously talking about the physical heart but a hardness of our inner soul that is resisting the will of Almighty God”.

 Evens then answers the next question people usually ask;

Why then do people harden their hearts?

His answer is sin and particularly pride which is at the root of sin and he gives verse 3 of the one chapter book Obadiah as a reference, which says,

“The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rocks and make your home on the heights, you who say to yourself, ‘Who can bring me down to the ground?’”

A great example of this sin of pride and stubborn disbelief whch another way of describing, “hardening our hearts” is Pharaoh in Egypt in the story of the Israelites Exodus from Egypt and how he after seeing a clear demonstration of God’s power and might refused to acknowledge this and instead we read words like we find in Exodus 7: 13,

“Yet Pharaoh’s heart became hard and he would not listen to them, just as the Lord had said”.

Paul speaks of the hardening of the heart in Ephesians 4: 18 when he is describing what his readers were like before they came to faith in Christ,

“They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts”.

Non- believers say Christians will believe anything to justify their faith but I think it is actually the other way round non- believers will believe anything to deny the truth of God and his Gospel message.

So the big warning of Psalm 95 is that as you come into the presence of God in worship make sure your hearts are not set on disobedience. Make sure you do not harden your hearts to what God might be saying to you from his word.

Note this is said to believers not non – believers so the sin of pride that shows itself in hardening our hearts is something even believers must be warned about as we are still sinful fallen beings and Satan can and will tempt us to look away from God and his word and harden our hearts to its message.

  1. Like the people did at Meriba and Massah

 The writer of Psalm 95 then says to his listeners in his great call to worship to remember what happened to the people of the past, particularly the people of Israel in the 40 -year wanderings. The first part of verse 9 actually says this,

“Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah as you did that day at Massah in the desert”.

To understand these words we need to go back to the two accounts of what happened at Meribah and Massah which is found in Exodus 17: 1 – 7 and Numbers 20: 1 – 13.

Briefly then this is the story of the people in the wilderness grumbling and not showing faith in God to provide water for them when they needed it.

Both accounts speak of the people saying words like we read in Numbers 20: 4 – 5,

“Why did you bring the Lord’s community into this wilderness, that we and our livestock should die here? Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!”

These people had already seen the miraculous plagues in Egypt which led to their ability to flee the slavery of Egypt, they had seen God leading by cloud at day and the pillar of fire at night and they had seen how God opened up the red sea so they could cross and then saw how it closed to kill and Egyptian army. Then they saw and heard the prescience of God on Mount Sinai and then the provision of miraculous food in the desert but now they could not believe that God could provide them water in the desert.

We sense even the frustration of Moses in his words to the people in Exodus 17: 2,

“Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the Lord to the test?”

The people got their water from God when he miraculously provided water out of a rock but the people had failed the test that day. The Hebrew word Massah actually means “Testing” and Meribah means “Strife”

So when the people faced strife they did not put their faith in God, rather they grumbled and showed disobedience to the Lord so they failed the test.

Peter says this about God’s testing of our faith through hardship or difficulty in 1 Peter 1: 6 – 7,

“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed”.

The next time you face difficulty in your life what will you do grumble and complain with a hardened heart or have faith in God and pass the test of strife.

This is something then we must always consider as we come to worship God that we are sinners who are prone to hardening our hearts to God and his word. So many people rush into worship in their churches with the wrong attitude in their hearts and they might wonder why God does not seem alive and real in their worship of him.

  1. As your father tested me (God)

At Meribah and Massah God was testing the faith of his people through the provision of water but the people failed and as this phrase in the verse says they ended up testing God. Albert Barnes makes it clear what this phrase actually means,

“They tried my patience, to see how much I would bear. This does not mean, as it commonly does now with us, to place inducements before one to lead him into sin, but to try one – to put his patience to the test. This they did, in the case referred to, by their obduracy (stubborn) and evil conduct”.

 We saw how the people’s reaction to lack of water and grumbling words to Moses tested or tried the patience of Moses and now we see how much more it tried the perfect patience of our Lord and maker.

We see how God viewed the actions and words of the people in Exodus 17: 7,

“And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the Lord saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”

 We see the terrible lack of faith these people had in God with those words they are reported to have said,

“Is the Lord among us or not?”

 As I said before they had seen so much of God’s miraculous deeds yet they grumble and say is the Lord really with us.

Verse 9 says just that right at the end,

“Though they had seen what I did”

The Jews had not changed even in Jesus day as in a number of places in the Gospels they asked Jesus for a sign or a miracles even after he healed a deaf man and provided a miraculous meal for a large crowd out a small boys lunch we read this in Mark 8: 11 – 13,

“The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven. 12 He sighed deeply and said, “Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to it.” 13 Then he left them, got back into the boat and crossed to the other side”.

Jesus rises from the dead yet they still refuse to believe in him, now that’s real hardening of the heart and testing of God.

Even today people want signs miracles to believe but as I said to a high school scripture class years ago who said “show us God and we will believe”, even if it was possible for me to pull God out of my bag and he stood in front of you I believe you would still would not believe in him.

I went on to explain that God is so great and different from us he could not be pulled out of a bag. However he has revealed himself in a way we can see and understand and that was through The Lord Jesus Christ who is God become a man who reveals God to us.

I had others say then why does God need a book to speak to us and I said what do you want a constant booming voice from the sky, no a book is a far better way of communicating as anyone anywhere can either hear is read or read it for themselves.

The reality is if people don’t wont to believe in God they will find plenty of things or arguments to convince themselves and others not to believe in him.

  1. 10 – 11 Worship God with trust and obedience or pay the consequences

The Psalm end on a rather sad and blunt note in the last two verses that simply say,

“For forty years I was angry with that generation; I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they have not known my ways. So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest”.

 These words would have been a serious warning to their original hearers who I believe had just come through 70 years of exile in Babylon owing to the sin or hardness of heart of a previous generation. Now they are reminded of the wilderness generation who also experienced the discipline and suffering caused by disobedience to the God of the bible.

This grumbling unbelieving generation at Meribah had another time of disobedience when they rejected God’s leading to enter the Promised Land because of a bad report from some spies they had sent into the Promised Land. Numbers 14: 1 – 4 records their reaction to the spies report,

“That night all the members of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this wilderness! Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.”

 Numbers 14 goes on to record how two of the 12 spies, Joshua and Caleb had shown faith in the Lord to help them take the land for them and when they tried to convince the rest of the people to do the same the people picked up stones to kill them.

God reacts to this in a very righteous angry way and wants to kill this faithless generation but after Moses pleads for forgiveness for them based on God’s abounding love and forgiving nature. Then we read God’s answer to Moses in Numbers 14: 20 – 25,

“The Lord replied, “I have forgiven them, as you asked. 21 Nevertheless, as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the Lord fills the whole earth, 22 not one of those who saw my glory and the signs I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times— 23 not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their ancestors. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it. 24 But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it. 25 Since the Amalekites and the Canaanites are living in the valleys, turn back tomorrow and set out toward the desert along the route to the Red Sea.”

 So Caleb and Joshua end up being the only member of this generation to see the Promised Land and for 40 years one by one this generation dies in a difficult wilderness wandering.

As the last verse says,

“So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest”.

 The concept of rest here is entering the Promised Land but the writer to the Hebrews quotes this last section and, I think refers to a far great sense of “Rest” which is entering our eternal home in heaven. His application of this passage is in Hebrews 3: 12 – 19,

See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. 14 We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.

 15 As has just been said:“ Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.”

 16 Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? 17 And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies perished in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? 19 So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief”.

 The ending of the Psalm on the blunt and bleak note of God’s judgement for disobedience and hardness of heart shows us that worshipping the God of the bible should be done joyfully but yet it is a serious enterprise but if we have faith in Christ and show that in our lives in with obedience to him then we can enter into God’s presence in the way the writer to the Hebrews speaks of in Hebrews 4: 16,

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need”.

 I close as usual with an original poem / song and a prayer:

 COME NOW AND WORSHIP THE LORD

(Based on Psalm 95)

 Come let us sing to the Lord

Joyfully shout to our Rock

For he saves us and protects us now

By his love and his mighty power.

 

Come to the Lord with praise

Lift up his name with a song

Yes our God is the king the mighty one

For he made this world and every one.

 

Bridge 1:

Do not harden your hearts

Like the Israelites of long ago

Who turned from the Lord they did know

When from Egypt he had helped them to go.

 

Come to the creator God

Come now and worship the Lord

Who controls the land and the sea

For he formed them by his word you see.

 

Come let us bow and worship our God

Who is the one who made us all.

For he is our God and we are his sheep

And his care and love for us is so deep.

 

Bridge 2:

You must trust in the Lord

And not stray from his word

For Jesus died for your sins on the cross

And to turn from him would be your loss.

 

Come now and worship the Lord

Come now and joyfully sing.

For our God is a great and mighty King

And he calls us now to follow him

Yes he calls us all to follow him.

 

By: Jim Wenman

PRAYER:

 O Lord above help us to come into your presence with a song of praise for you are a great God and king above all kings and you love us so much. You showed this love to us by sending Jesus Christ into this world to die for our sins on the cross. Help us to never turn away from following him and may we worship only him all the days of our lives. In Jesus name I pray, Amen

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