Psalm 95 ~ 20110522 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
05/22 Psalm 95 – Worship and Warning
This Psalm is a Psalm of worship and warning; it is a call to worship and caution against unbelief. It looks back to the God who created all things and is worthy of our worship, back to the God who saves us, and back to the Exodus account of the grumbling at Massah and Meribah and the consequences of unbelief, and it looks forward to the joy of entering into the presence of God. The book of Hebrews in the New Testament picks up this Psalm and warns and encourages us to take a sober look at our own hearts to be sure that we don't miss out.
This is a corporate call to worship. It is an invitation to the group to sing, to make a joyful noise, to come into God's presence, to offer thanksgiving and songs of praise to him together. There is such a thing as private worship. In your car or in your closet, you can get alone with God and speak to him, sing to him, give thanks and praise to him. That is good. Private worship is necessary. You can worship God as a family. Husbands, we need to lead our wives to know Jesus better. Fathers and mothers, we need to teach our children to follow the Lord. God must be the center of our homes. We should sing together and pray together and read the bible together as families in our homes. The responsibility for the Christian education of children falls primarily to families. Whatever the church does to instruct children is only intended to supplement what families do at home.
But this is a public call to worship. This is an invitation to join the assembly of believers in corporate worship. Private worship is critical. family worship is essential. But neglect of corporate worship is also forbidden in scripture.
It is true that Jesus loves each of us individually, specifically. 'The Son of God loved me and gave himself for me (Gal.2:20) It is also true that:
The church is the collective group of believers. Jesus said:
The church Jesus builds is not a structure with walls and roof. What Jesus builds is a living organism made up of people.
The bible does not talk about when you come to the church (building), but rather:
The church is the group of believers meeting together to worship God. This Psalm is a call to public worship.
As a group, we are invited to sing to the LORD. Singing is one primary expression of worship that we do as a group. We sing to YHWH, the LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Singing is making a joyful noise. Worship is an expression of joy. We have much to be joyful about. We will get to some of that as we go through this Psalm. The Rock smitten for us, out of which life-giving water flows, is Christ Jesus. We are invited to make a joyful noise to Jesus, the rock of our salvation.
The Presence of God
We are invited into his presence. That is staggering if we stop to think about it - the presence of God himself, absolute holiness and righteousness. The most righteous men we know were undone and loathed themselves when confronted with the absolute holiness of the presence of the living God. At the end of time, the kings of the earth flee from the presence of the Lamb.
It is because sinners cannot stand in the presence of a holy God without justice being done to them. When we are around people that are worse sinners than we are, we can feel pretty good about ourselves. When we are in the presence of the holy, holy, holy God, that all goes away and we recognize how desperately far we fall short.
The presence of God for a sinner is the most terrifying place imaginable. But the presence of God is also the most desirable thing. The pornography industry plays on our desire to look on perfect beauty, a beauty that will satisfy our deepest longings. We always come up empty wanting more because only God can satisfy the human soul. The human soul is hungry for God.
That which only will satisfy is out of reach for us because to be in the presence of God means judgment for sinners. That is why we make a joyful noise to Jesus, the Rock of our salvation. We are in a hopeless situation, and Jesus, the perfect God-man comes to our rescue by bearing our sin and enduring the wrath of God in our place, washing us clean so that we can enjoy his perfect presence forever. That is something to make noise about! That calls for songs of loudest praise! We approach with deep thanksgiving for what Jesus has done for us.
More Grounds for Worship
This Psalm goes on to give us more grounds for praising him:
YHWH, the God of the Hebrews, is a great God. In a pluralistic polytheistic society where the Egyptians have their gods and the Canaanites have their gods and the Midianites have their gods, the God of Israel is not merely one God among many. He is great, he is greater in magnitude, he is greater in importance, he is greater in age – he comes before all other gods. He is the king or sovereign over all other so-called gods. They are under him and answer to him and serve him.
This God owns all things. The deepest mines in the earth are in his hand. He owns the highest peaks. The sea was a terrifying unknown when this was written, dangerous uncontrollable unpredictable chaos, and he owns it because he made it. His hands formed the land. Everything belongs to him. Everything, including us:
We are called to corporate worship because we are owned by our Creator. It is what we are made for. He has creative rights over us. He is our Maker. We worship, we bow down, we kneel and pay homage to him. He is our God. This, too, is an amazing statement. Not only is he Creator God, but we have a relationship with him. He is our God. We are his people. He is our shepherd. He cares for us. We are the sheep of his hand. This is personal, intimate, tender.
Now comes the warning:
There is a danger to be avoided. Today! Today! Today! Right now, right here, pay attention! This is urgent. This demands an immediate response from us. Do not procrastinate. Do not put this off. The voice of the Shepherd is calling. Will you listen? Will you heed? Will you obey? There is a tendency, a historical tendency to harden our hearts against the voice of the Lord. There is a tendency to harden against the call to worship.
Massah and Meribah
We are pointed back to the history of the Exodus as a warning. Remember Meribah? The word means strife, contention, complaining, quarreling. The people grumbled against their leader. They quarreled. They had a need that wasn't getting met in their time and in their way and so they complained. It was a legitimate need. But there was an undercurrent of discontent primarily directed at the leadership, and God took it personally. Massah means testing. God said 'you are testing me.' All complaining, all grumbling is ultimately directed at God. If God is in control of all things and orchestrates all circumstances, and he promises to work them for our good, then when we are discontented with our situation, it is an arrogant affront to his wisdom and goodness. We are demonstrating a lack of faith, a lack of trust in him as our sovereign provider. This is why the New Testament has so much to say about grumbling and complaining.
Words come from the Heart
God takes our words so seriously because they indicate our heart condition. Jesus said:
God is not interested in mere external conformity to his standards. He wants our hearts. He wants to capture our wills. He wants to consume our thoughts. He wants to be the center of our affections. In the Psalm his accusation is “They are a people who go astray in their heart, and they have not known my ways.” God uses very strong language against this; 'I loathed them,' 'I swore in my wrath.' Grumbling, complaining, quarreling is evidence of a deeper sin. These sheep had gone astray in their hearts. They had abandoned God. They had hardened their hearts toward the voice of their Shepherd. James, who has a lot to say about what comes out of our mouths, also makes the connection between heart and tongue:
Paul addresses the heart issue positively:
We were created to worship. We are invited to come into the presence of God united in praise to his great name. But we have an awful tendency to become callous toward God and contentious with each other. Today, we must be on our guard. Today we must guard our hearts from going astray. Today, we must choose to worship.