Sincere thanks to David White for filling in for me while I take some time off due to illness. David will be preaching on Psalm 95 today, which you can read by clicking here: Psalm 95.
Psa 95:1 Oh come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Psa 95:2 Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
If those words sound more familiar than the rest of the psalm, it could be because you have heard them used as a call to worship in a Church service.
Where else might this psalm have been used where might it have been used when it was first written? Scholars have suggested that it might have been used at a festival celebrating God’s enthronement. The people could have recited this on the way up to the temple. However in her commentary on psalm 95 Beth Tanner says that “little of the details of such a festival are recoverable”. What she is saying is that they are only guessing but they are guessing based on what they see in the psalm.
If we look at the psalm in that light we can see where they are coming from. If you were to visit a king in one of the countries that surrounded Israel at that time you would have had to get through the army then find a gate to get through the walls. It would have been a frightening experience. Once inside when you saw the kings garden and the lavishly decorated rooms you would experience a different set of emotions. You might be impressed by what you saw. You might feel privileged to be allowed in.
This psalm recreates those feelings; the terror while you approach the castle and the delight on seeing what is inside. It shows us what it is like when we go up to worship God and it warns us of the danger of putting God to the test
What is the psalm about?
It is primarily answering two questions.
Why would we want to come to God? And How can we come to God
A few years ago we went to England where we visited Windsor. On the street going up to the castle was a souvenir shop. In the door was an Irish Guard. He was made of plastic but there were two tourists having their photograph taken with him. We went up to the castle. When we got in We saw the nice gardens at the homes of the people who worked and lived in the castle and the church where some of the royal family got married. While walking around the castle I saw a tunnel. It could have been a drain or it could have been for ventilation. It was closed with iron bars. Beside it was an Irish Guard. This time he was real and surrounded by a large group of tourists.
The Guard at the castle was real, the guard at the shop was not. This is the first reason we are given in the psalm for wanting come to God. God is real. If we were to look around at the time this psalm was written and see all the pagan nations with all of the different gods that they worshiped. They are false gods but this psalm assures us that God is real.
Verse 3 tells us that He is the great God and on that level we are given nothing to compare him with. We are then told that He is the great king above all the gods. The kings of the pagan nations all followed and served false gods. God is above these false gods, the pagan kings serve them. God cannot be compared to anything in the created world. He is beyond compare.
We are then told in verses 4 and 5 that he owns this world. He owns it because he made it. This not just telling us that he is the creator. It is telling us that he is bigger then creation. The false gods that the nations served each had their own sphere of influence. Some claimed to be in control of the sea some controlled the rivers some were in control of different nations. They were all inside creation. God made it all. He is bigger than creation.
Why would we want to come to God? Because there is nothing that compares to him.
How can we come to such a powerful God? The answer is found in at the beginning of the psalm. “Let us shout aloud to the rock of our salvation.”
Who is the Rock of our salvation?
As the Children of Israel were crossing the wilderness on their exodus from Egypt they got thirsty. God told Moses to strike a rock. When Moses struck the rock water came out.
Commenting on this story Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians
1Co 10:3 and all ate the same spiritual food,
1Co 10:4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.
Jesus is the rock of our salvation.
The psalmist gives us another reason for wanting to come to God. We are told that God is our God. We are the flock under his care. He wants a personal relationship with us. He wants to lead us as a shepherd leads his sheep. He wants to be our shepherd. He wants to guide us so that we don’t get lost. Had the children of Israel allowed God to lead them in to the promised land they could have been building their houses and their nation instead they were left wandering around the wilderness for 40 years.
How can we come to God to be led by Him?
If we are the flock under His care then he is the shepherd. Jesus said in John 10:11
“I am the good Shepherd, the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
Jesus laid down his life for us.
Jesus is the good shepherd.
The last reason we see in this psalm for coming to God is a bit different from the others. We are told about the punishment the Israelites received for putting God to the test. We are given reasons to be fearful. If we turn to proverbs chapter 9 and verse 10 we read “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”
If the fear of the Lord drives to God then it has achieved its purpose.
We are also in this section told how we can come to God. Look at the last verse. God judged the Israelites by refusing to let them enter into his rest. God is the one who can grant rest. If we turn to Matthew 11:28 Jesus says
Mat 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Why would want to come to God? Because He is real
Why would want to come to God? Because He wants a personal relationship with us
Why would want to come to God? The fear of the Lord should drive us to Him
How can we come to God?
Through Jesus the Rock of our salvation.
Through Jesus the Good shepherd.
Through Jesus the one who can give us rest.