Psalm 95 (ESV)
1 Oh come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! 2 Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! 3 For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods. 4 In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. 5 The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. 6 Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker! 7 For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.
Today, if you hear his voice, 8 do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, 9 when your fathers put me to the test and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work. 10 For forty years I loathed that generation and said, “They are a people who go astray in their heart, and they have not known my ways.” 11 Therefore I swore in my wrath, “They shall not enter my rest.”
Day 1: Loving God
There is a threefold repetition in verses 1-7 to “sing,” “make a joyful noise,” and “worship and bow down.” First, we are simply exhorted to to “come” and sing in verse 1, then to “come into his presence with thanksgiving” (literally “come before His face with thanksgiving”) in verse 2, and finally to “come … worship and bow down.” There is a progression here of entering more deeply into the worship of God, with increasingly levels of intimacy and humility. And we have good reasons to worship God joyfully in this way. This Psalm gives us two. First is in verses 3-5, “for the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.” The LORD is the great God who is above all gods, and He is the creator and ruler of the depths and the heights, the sea and the dry land. Second reason is in verse 7, “for he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.” The almighty Creator is our Shepherd, the one who leads us by “his hand” to good his good pasture. If we not only know these truths in our heads, but believe them in our hearts, our relationship with God, and how we approach Him in worship would be characterized by “joyful noise,” “thanksgiving,” and reverent humility (“bow down; let us kneel”). Does this characterize your posture toward God? Or is it more characterized by apathy, complaining, lethargy, and irreverence?
Israel’s relationship with God in the wilderness was more like the latter. Meribah and Massah were place where the Israelites “quarrel[ed]” with God and “tested [Him] by saying ‘Is the LORD among us or not?’” (Exod. 17:7). This is referenced in Psalm 95:8-9. The Israelites “tested” God, doubting His providence and provision over their lives; and they “put [God] to the proof,” accusing God of wrongdoing and bringing a charge against Him. Instead of the “joy” and “thanksgiving” that should characterize worshippers as in verses 1-2, the Israelites were characterized by bitterness and grumbling. For this reason, they could not enter the rest of God. Are you resting in God’s love and care for you today? Or are you filled with bitterness and grumbling toward God?
- Renounce any anger, mistrust, or resentment that you harbor toward God, and the subsequent apathy of your worship. Spend some time making a “joyful noise” and in “thanksgiving.”
- Praise God that He is not only the Creator of the universe, but the Shepherd of you.
- Pray that God would restore to you the joy of salvation.
Day 2: Loving One Another
“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” (vv. 7-8). Psalm 95:7-11 is quoted in Hebrews 3:7-11, and serves as the basis for the exhortation in Hebrews 3:12-12, “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.” The word “today” connects our present lives to the past history of God’s people, and conveys a sense of urgency. This day, we are at risk of hardening our hearts as Israel did in the wilderness, and in order to avoid this, we need each other, we must “exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of [us] may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” Do you live with the awareness that you, personally, need the regular exhortation of your brothers and sisters in Christ? Do you exhort other church members in the same way?
- Pray for specific Christian brothers and sisters that the Holy Spirit brings to mind, pray that they would not “be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” Pray that God would strengthen them in their fight for holiness, and ask God for opportunities to exhort them.
- Pray for church members and attendees who are on the fringes that they would be integrated into the church community so that they could receive and give the kind of daily exhortation that we all need.
Day 3: Loving Our Neighbors
All people must worship God, “For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.” He is the Creator of all humanity, and therefore deserves to be worshipped by all humanity. Yet, not everyone in the world can worship God as their Shepherd and say, “For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.” This is a tragedy. Due to their unbelief, God says of them, “’They are a people who go astray in their heart, and they have not known my ways.’ Therefore I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’” Hebrews 4 continues its commentary on Psalm 95 and says, “For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. For we who have believed enter that rest.” It’s only those who believe the “good news” Jesus Christ who will enter the rest of God.
- Pray that God would increase your love and compassion for unbelievers, who are perishing apart from God.
- Pray for the salvation of specific family members, friends, and neighbors who have not yet been brought into the flock of God.
- Pray that God would empower and embolden you to be His witness.