A CALL TO WORSHIP AND A WARNING AGAINST UNBELIEF
Scholars usually group the six psalms from Ps. 95 through Ps. 100 as liturgical psalms, designed for use by the Israelites as they gathered for Sabbath day worship. "This group of psalms seems to have been composed for use in the services of the second temple."F1 Despite such opinions, there is a genuine possibility that David is the author, as it is so assigned in the LXX, and besides that, the author of Hebrews in the New Testament quoted this psalm, stating that it was "in David." This is alleged to mean merely that the psalm is "in the Psalter"; nevertheless, we accept the real possibility that David did indeed write it.
This writer claims no skill in evaluating such conclusions as those suggested by Yates (above), but they are included here as the convictions of dependable scholars.
INTRODUCTION TO THESE SIX PSALMS
McCaw stated that the six suggest the possibility of an annual "Enthronement Festival," but refrained from accepting such an "Enthronement Festival" as any kind of certainty, declaring rather that, "Their abiding value is to enter into the riches of Old Testament teaching regarding God, the Creator and King."F2 This writer cannot find sufficient supporting evidence of anything like "An Enthronement Festival" in the whole compass of Old Testament worship. If there was really any such thing, why is it never mentioned in the Old Testament?
Ps. 95 begins with the knowledge of God imparted exclusively to Israel, with the second portion of it providing a warning that Israel should not become unbelievers as did their ancestors.
In Ps. 96, the exclusiveness of Israel is replaced with a universal call for all nations and the whole creation to worship God. In this psalm, God appears, not exclusively as the covenant God of the Hebrews, but as the Creator of the whole world and the source of all truth and righteousness.
Ps. 97 stresses the knowledge of God as presiding over his whole Creation, and, "As the faithful One whose goodness and holiness are always being disclosed to all mankind through Zion."F3
Ps. 98 is a song of praise, extolling the fact of salvation being known to the ends of the earth.
Ps. 99 stresses the preeminence of Zion and honors great leaders such as Moses, Aaron, and Samuel.
In Ps. 100, "We have an appeal for universal adoration of the Lord, Israel's position as his chosen people, and the enduring quality of the Lord's mercy and kindness."F4
AN INTRODUCTION TO PSALM 95
O come, let us sing unto Jehovah;
Let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation.
Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving;
Let us make a joyful noise unto him with psalms.
For Jehovah is a great God,
And a great King above all gods."
Although it is a fact that everyone is "always" in the presence of God in the ultimate sense, yet there is a special way in which men who are assembling for worship do indeed "come into God's presence." In this light, these verses are a beautiful and proper call to worship in churches all over the world even today.
Coming before God with praise and thanksgiving is the very essence of worship.
Oh come, let us sing unto Jehovah; Let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving; Let us make a joyful noise unto him with psalms. For Jehovah is a great God, And a great King above all gods.
(Psalms 95:3). This is the overriding fact, the epic truth, that justifies the call to worship God. He is the One and Only Deity, the First Cause, The First and the Last, Jehovah, Rock, Refuge, High Tower, Salvation, Most High, the Beginning and the Ending, the Creator and Sustainer of Everything in the Universe. All of the pagan deities of antiquity are as a mere colony of insects in comparison with the true God of Heaven and Earth.
In his hand are the deep places of the earth;
The heights of the mountains are his also."
Ocean caves and mighty mountain peaks alike are God's. The mighty palm trees of the desert as well as the tiniest flowers that grow at the snow-line are God's; He made them all, protects them all and uses them all. The evidence and unmistakable witness of God's limitless intelligence and glory are seen alike in the sub-microscopic wonders of the tiny atom and in the measureless light-year distances of the universe, so large and limitless that even the imagination of men cannot reach to the farthest edge of it.
The sea is his, and he made it;
And his hands formed the dry land."
When Jonah was confronted by his fellow ship-mates who demanded to know who he was, he replied, "I am a Hebrew, and I fear Jehovah the God of heaven and earth, who made the sea and the dry land" (Jonah 1:9). These words of God's praise were often used in Israel.
Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
Let us kneel before Jehovah our Maker:
For he is our God,
And we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.
Today, oh that ye would hear his voice."
Verses 6, 7
Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before Jehovah our Maker: For he is our God, And we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. To-day, oh that ye would hear his voice!
(Psalms 95:6) in the Latin is Venite, adopted as the opening word of the chorus in the famed Latin hymn, Adeste Fideles, Oh Come All Ye Faithful,F5 in which hymn the line, Venite Adoremus, is repeated three times.
The people of his pasture
(Psalms 95:7). We might have expected sheep of his pasture here, since it is sheep and not people who need pasture. However, such mixed metaphors are very common in scripture. Moreover, in this arrangement, the metaphor of the Lord himself as The Good Shepherd automatically comes to mind.
Today, oh that ye would hear his voice
(Psalms 95:7). These words form the opening line in Heb. 3:7, where this passage is used as the background of what is written there, Ps. 95:11, being quoted directly. The passage in Heb. 3:7--4:13, expounding this psalm, forbids us to confine its thrust to Israel. The `Today' of which it speaks is this very moment; the `ye' is none other than ourselves, and the promised `rest' is not Canaan, but salvation.F6
One of the most important revelations in the New Testament turns upon this very passage. Heb. 4:4 ties the "rest" mentioned in Ps. 95:11 with God's "rest" on the seventh day of creation, demanding that the present time, "this very moment," as Kidner expressed it, be identified with God's resting "on the seventh day." The meaning of this is profound. H. Cotterill, the bishop of Edinburgh, declared that from this passage in Hebrews (Heb. 7:3--4:13), "We must conclude that the seventh day of God's rest which followed the six days of creation is not yet completed."F7 The general lack of understanding this has led to many errors of interpretation. When God told Adam and Eve that they would surely die "on the day" that they ate of the forbidden tree, it could not have meant "within twenty-four hours," but during the current dispensation of God's grace. Thus Adam and Eve shall yet perish in the person of all their posterity, excepting only the redeemed. (For further comment on this, See Vol. 1 (Genesis) of my Pentateuchal commentaries, pp. 30,31.)
Harden not your hearts, as at Meribah,
As in the day of Massah in the wilderness."
Harden not your heart, as at Meribah, As in the day of Massah in the wilderness;
(Psalms 95:8). These two names are applied to only one place in Exo. 17:7; and in the passage here, as in Deut. 33:8, they are used as parallel statements. Ewing referred to them as, Double names for the same place.F8
The unfaithfulness of Israel was principally that of their complaining and murmuring against God, a behavior that was actually due to their unbelief.
When your fathers tempted me,
Proved me, and saw my work."
When your fathers tempted me, Proved me, and saw my work.
(Psalms 95:9). This tempting of God was their complaining against God in the words, Is God among us, or not? (Exodus 17:8); and the work of God which the people saw was the miraculous gushing of the water from the rock which, at God's command, Moses had smitten in the presence of the multitude, especially the elders of the people.
Forty years long was I grieved with that nation,
And said, It is a people that do err in their heart,
And they have not known my ways."
Alas, the tragic story of the wilderness sojourn of Israel is prophetic of the church of Christ itself. The current dispensation of God's grace corresponds in many ways to the probationary journey of Israel from the Red Sea to the Jordan, typical, as they are, of the Christian's journey from the waters of his baptism to the Jordan of death.
Only two exceptions survived the death of that generation, namely, Caleb and Joshua, and these two symbolize the "few" that shall be saved among the legions of alleged believers in Christ. Christians, in ordering their walk before God, should ever remember that, "Narrow is the gate, and straitened the way, that leadeth unto life; and few there be that find it" (Matthew 7:14).
Those scholars who like to dwell on the liturgical use of this psalm, generally assign it to the great Jewish Festival of Tabernacles. At Ps. 95:7, above, a priest is supposed to have interrupted the singing with the blunt warning of Ps. 95:7-11, recounting the disaster that came to Israel in the wilderness, resulting in the loss of an entire generation of them.
Kidner pointed out the appropriateness of this warning to such an occasion as the Feast of Tabernacles. That great Jewish feast commemorated the stirring events of the Wilderness Wanderings; and the people, recalling those days of the homelessness of the people, re-lived those eventful times by constructing brash arbors (as we would call them) and living in those make-shift residences during the week of the festival.
Kidner noted that, "If Israel, in holiday mood, remembering the history of the Wilderness, and perhaps romanticizing it (as all of us are tempted to do for `the good old days'), actually received this warning at the Feast of Tabernacles, it would have been a cold douche of realism."F9 It would have starkly reminded the whole nation of how utterly displeased was the Heavenly Father with that first generation that he led out of Egyptian slavery. Let it be noted that this psalm's being identified with the feast of Tabernacles cannot exclude its Davidic authorship.
Wherefore I sware in my wrath,
That they should not enter into my rest."
THE REST OF GOD
This is no mere reference to the land of Canaan; It refers to the Great Salvation which God has provided for all mankind. Heb. 4 exhorts all of us to take care that we should enter into that glorious rest. The author of Hebrews' tying this rest in with the "God's resting on the seventh day of creation" is one of the most instructive revelations in Holy Writ. The rest of God on the seventh day of creation is a reference to the entire dispensation of God's dealings with the Adamic race; it also reveals that God's "principal business" of that whole era is the salvation of people. The implication is that all of the wonderful works of God's creation (from which he is now resting) are, in some sense, held in abeyance until the sum total of the redeemed from Adam's race has been achieved.
There remaineth therefore a sabbath rest for the people of God ... Let us therefore give diligence to enter into that rest, that no man fall after the same example of (Israel's) disobedience (Hebrews 4:9,11).
Footnotes for Psalms 95
1: Wycliffe Old Testament Commentary, Old Testament, p. 530.
2: The New Bible Commentary, Revised, p. 512.
3: The New Bible Commentary, Revised, p. 511.
5: Great Songs of the Church, No. 452.
6: Derek Kidner, Vol. II, p. 343.
7: The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 1, p. xxvii.
8: International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (Chicago, Illinois: The Howard-Severance Company, 1915), p. 2007.
9: Derek Kidner, op. cit., p. 345.