Reflections on Psalm 95
Reflections on Psalm 95
Psalm 95 (NASB)
O come, let us sing for joy to the Lord, let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation.
Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.
For the Lord is a great God and a great King above all gods.
In His hand are the depths of the earth, the peaks of the mountains are His also.
The sea is His, for it was He who made it, and His hands formed the dry land.
Come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.
For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand.
Today, if you would hear His voice,
Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as in the day of Massah in the wilderness,
“When your fathers tested Me; they tried Me, though they had seen My work.
“For forty years I loathed that generation, and said they are a people who err in their heart, and they do not know My ways.
“Therefore I swore in My anger, truly they shall not enter into My rest.”
This psalm is in two sections. The first section is from verses 1-7, and the second section is from 7b-11. There is a sudden ‘turn’ in verse 7; what begins as a paean of praise to the Lord, ends with a serious warning to the children of God.
The psalm begins with a note of great joy. Read the first two verses. There is high praise for the LORD (Jehovah, who is none other than Jesus Christ). He is a great God, a great King, our great Creator (verses 3-6), and it is clearly implied in verse 7 that He is our great Shepherd. We are the people of His pasture, and the sheep under His loving hand.
Then there is a sudden shift of tone, from verse 7b onwards. Why this warning? It is a warning to the believers, the children of God. Though Israel was redeemed from Egypt by the blood of the Lamb, the overwhelming majority of those redeemed by the Blood perished in the wilderness. We all know that only Joshua and Caleb survived from that entire generation.
We observe that the Lord Himself is speaking in the second section of this psalm. ‘Do not harden your heart’ is the warning. Do not provoke Me! You saw My miracles in the wilderness. Every morning you gathered the manna that fell from heaven. You saw what I did at Marah; I made the bitter water sweet. You know how I delivered you from Pharaoh at the Red Sea. Did you not sing a marvelous song of praise, with Moses, when you saw how Pharaoh and his chariots were destroyed?
Yet we know how the heart of Israel was hardened in the wilderness. Their heart was not changed; they still hankered for the food of Egypt. They rebelled against Moses. They murmured and complained, instead of thanking and praising God. They lived not by faith in the Lord, but by ‘sight’, by looking at the circumstances that surrounded them.
There is a ‘turn’ in Psalm 7. ‘Today, if you will hear His voice.’ Remember, John 10:3,4. My sheep hear My voice. Every child of God should read the Bible daily upon his/her knees. Then, when you humble yourself before God, you will surely hear His voice. The Bible is a living Word, that speaks to our heart. But sadly, though the children of Israel saw the wonderful works of God in the wilderness, they failed the tests at Massah and Meribah. They did not have the Holy Spirit residing in their hearts. They made a covenant with the Lord at Sinai, but failed to keep God’s law. Why? Because by human strength, no man can keep the Law. Our heart has to be set right with God. And furthermore, it is only the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit, who can fulfil the law. ‘Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit', says the Lord of hosts.’ Zech 4:6.
The psalmist points to three great truths about the Lord Jesus in the Psalm. First, he says that the Lord is the ‘rock of our salvation’. Read Deuteronomy chapter 32, the song of Moses. The Rock points to Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord. He saved us with His mighty outstretched arm; by the power of His shed blood He delivered us from bondage to Satan, and from sin, death and hell. The Rock is unchanging; He abides forever. What He has done remains through eternity. His faithfulness endures forever. Great is His covenant faithfulness; He is true to His word and His work. It is a finished work, this salvation of ours. Once saved, we are forever saved. That is the assurance of salvation.
But He not only saves us, He sustains us through the wilderness of this world, through the long and sometimes weary journey of the Christian life. He is our loving Shepherd. He feeds us in His pasture; we are His flock, kept secure in His fold. We are in His grip; nobody, not even Satan, can snatch us out of His hand, John 10.28, 29. All the blessings of Psalm 23 are available to His people, the sheep of His pasture, those saved by His precious blood and indwelt by the Holy Spirit. So the second blessing is that He is the good and great Shepherd.
But what follows? That terrible warning in the latter section of the psalm! Where have we failed? Read the last line of this Psalm: ‘They shall not enter into My rest.’ We have not realized the beauty of His rest, Heb 4:10. When will we learn to rest in Christ; rest from our strivings and strugglings, our ‘pulling and pushing’, our worries and anxieties. ‘My peace I give unto you.’ John 14.27. Are we enjoying this ‘faith rest’? Are we resting in the Lord [Psalm 37.7]?
Jesus said, ‘Abide in Me’. I believe that this ‘abiding’ is resting, trusting, depending, leaning upon, waiting upon and casting all our cares upon the One who cares for us. We have to ‘be still and know that He is God’ [Psalm 46.10]. We have to ‘let go and let God’ do what He knows best to do. Until we come under His Lordship, realizing that the Lord’s will is best for us and ‘in His will is our peace’, we will not be able to enjoy the fullness, finality and victory of our great salvation. Let us realize that the Lord, who is the Rock of our salvation and the loving Shepherd who cares for His sheep, preserving every one of us unto His heavenly kingdom, is also our Rest and Satisfaction.
May we rest from our own works, and trust in His finished work, knowing that He who has begun the good work in us will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ [Phil 1.6]. Remember this: God is fully satisfied, not with us, but with the Person and Work of our Lord Jesus Christ. ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.’ And remember: we are ‘accepted in the Beloved’, Eph 1:6. We are not accepted because of anything in ourselves, not even our best efforts to please God. As we hear the voice of the Lord, and are led by the Spirit of God (who is the Lord of our lives), we learn to ‘abide in Christ’, ‘rest patiently in Him’ and ‘rejoice in Him’. Only then can we worship and serve the Lord!
© Roland Oliver/Pratonix