Before, we begin, let us pray.
Lord God, at the beginning of time, your Spirit moved over the waters. So send your Spirit to us now to open our hearts and minds to receive the re-creating power of your Word. Through Christ, Amen.
Psalm 95 is also a kingship psalm. It is like Psalm 93 an enthronement psalm used during covenant renewal ceremonies or festivals marking it for temple worship.
The first part of this psalm is a praise psalm . When used in worship, this psalm encourage its hearers to praise God for who he is and what he has done. The second part is followed by a warning used during covenant renewal. It speaks about the wilderness generation and each congregation is exhorted to receive the promises of God with persevering faith.
This psalm makes references to various passages from OT and NT. In the Old Testament, Deuteronomy 6 warns Israel against testing God, then in Exodus 17 and Numbers 20 narrates the grumbling of Israel in the wilderness specifically in Massah and Meribah. In the New Testament, 1 Corinthians and Hebrews 3 and 4 alludes this Psalm and offered inspired interpretation.
In sum, the message of Psalm 95 is both an encouragement and exhortation. God commands as to worship Him because he is our Creator and Covenant Lord. He calls as to believe and repent, and exhorts us to persevere in the end.
The sermon is composed of two parts: 1) Encouragement to True Believers; 2) Warning Against False Professors.
Encouragement to True Believers
Let us read God’s word:
Oh come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! 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. Oh 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. (verses 1-7a)
These words from David as testified to us by Scripture (Hebrews 4:7) call its hearers to worship. The call specifically to sing in response God and “make a joyful noise” to the Rock of Our Salvation. The term joyful noise is an extended metaphor for singing. It accounts for the effect “loud voices” singing caused by the roaring voices of a multitude of singers which in our context, our local worshipping congregation. Then the psalmist David directs our attention to the proper object of worship the “rock of our salvation”. We will go back to this later. It speaks of God and specifically points to Christ’s divinity (1 Corinthians 10).
Now, the psalmist further inform us about this Call of Worship. He summons us to come to God’s presence. This is theologically neglected today because everyone thinks they can worship God by their own accord. A lot of Christians today worship God thinking they can do so by their own will and power and yet clear from this verse, God calls us to worship him, not because we choose it for ourselves, rather because he summons us through his Word.
At the same time, Scripture teaches us that our worship of God comes with our response of thanksgiving. Our answer to God’s summon is a response of gratitude. Thanksgiving is a metaphor for our willful reply to God brought to us by our conversion to faith and repentance. It is by the inward work of the Holy Spirit. So the psalmist summarizes “let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!”
Now the command to worship is grounded by the indicatives of who God is and what he has done. We worship God not because of some condition on our part but rather it is simply are recognition of everything about God for us.
Verse 3 repeats the attribute “great” to describe God. And verse 4-5 expounds on this greatness in terms of God’s creative and providential power. The merism of depth and height conveys comprehensive power. There is nothing in creation which beyond his reach and control. The merism of seas and land on the other hand covers the significant power of God over all creatures. He is the Creator and there is nore like him. Idolatry or worship of false god crumbles as God calls us to worship him. Why? He alone has the power to call you to do because you are his creation all He is our Creator God.
Verses 6-7a further grounds reasons for worshipping God. Aside from being our Creator which we all share in common even with unbelievers. David reminds professing believers of their covenantal relationship with God. He is the shepherd-King of God’s people. We are his sheep and he not just calls us to worship but also leads us to it.
Going back to verse 1, the psalmist refers to God as the rock of “our” salvation. Paul made an explicit statement in 1 Corinthians 10:4, “….and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.” The spiritual drink refers the Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence. The Paul said Christ was the Rock. This means the same Triune God who saves us is also the same God who accompanied Israel in their wilderness journey. It means in some sense both relates typologically and at the same time enforces the psalmist call to worship even until us now. Scriptural context demands we worship God in Christ by the Spirit. We are also called to worship God for who he is and what he has done. He is both our Creator God and Covenant Lord.
Let this serve as an encouragement to us believers. Our worship comes in Christ and by the Spirit. He is our Great Shepherd and he together with the Father send to us the Spirit. He gives as encouragement and comfort. He enables us to respond to the proclamation of the Gospel with faith and repentance.
Warning Against False Professors
However, the word of God comes to is a two-edged sword. Yes, it brings comfort to believers but it also speaks warning against unbelievers, those who experience temporary apostasy, and hypocrites.
Let us continue reading God’s word:
Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, when your fathers put me to the test and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work. 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.” Therefore I swore in my wrath, “They shall not enter my rest.” (Verses 7-11)
David applies the psalm prophetically to Israel’s future generation but at the same time, the Holy Spirit inspired text informs us eschatologically about the church. Paul and the preacher of Hebrews uses these texts to exhort the NT Church against idolatry and wilful disobedience.
The voice speaking “Do not harden your hearts” is a warning from God against unbelief. As in Meribah and Massah, God call us to receive his promises with trust and obedience. The psalmist warns us against for forfeiture. You see, the Covenant of Grace belongs to the universal visible church whose members include professing believers with their children. And while a true visible church is discerned objectively by the three marks laid down by our confessions, it remains a mixed assembly of wheat and tares, sheep and goats, true believers and false professors.
What separates true believers and false professors? Faith! True believers are not only professors of true religion but more so they are possessing of saving faith. They listen to God in his word and were given by the Holy spirit a heart of flesh and not a heart of stone. They listen to the warnings against idolatry and wilful disobedience and finally they will receive the rest God promise to give those who trust in him.
False professors do the opposite they despise God’s laws and they trample the promises of God. They have nothing but contempt for God and make a mockery of everything he made done, they even charge God of evil and accuse him of making them sin. False professors eventually fall and if not they will suffer the wrath of God in eternal death. They will not receive God’s rest.
A word to all sinners in doubt and unsure about their status before God. Christ, our Rock, bids us to come to him and rest on Him by faith. He calls you to believe and invites you to Come to him. His yoke is easy and His burden is light.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” – Matthew 11:28-29
This is the gospel call of Christ to all believing sinners. This is the message Psalm 95 wants us to understand. Let us encourage one another with these words.
ZCRC (Imus), our Triune God calls us to worship him and respond to him with faith and repentance. Let us believe the gospel message of Christ who is our Rock, Restorer, and Rest. Amen.
Rev. Lance Filio is a minister of the Word and Sacraments at Zion Cornerstone Reformed Church (Imus). He finished his Bachelor Degree in Electronics Engineering at Mapua Institute of Technology and He is currently taking his Master of Arts in Theological Studies (MATS) at MINTS. He lives in Taguig City, Philippines with his wife and three children.