Realistic Call to Worship
Father God, as I walk through this world, remind me that life is a privilege to be lived to the fullest in gratitude to You.
Read PSALM 95
1 Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord;
let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
2 Let us come before him with thanksgiving
and extol him with music and song.
3 For the Lord is the great God,
the great King above all gods.
4 In his hand are the depths of the earth,
and the mountain peaks belong to him.
5 The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land.
6 Come, let us bow down in worship,
let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;
7 for he is our God
and we are the people of his pasture,
the flock under his care.
Today, if only you would hear his voice,
8 “Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah,
as you did that day at Massah in the wilderness,
9 where your ancestors tested me;
they tried me, though they had seen what I did.
10 For forty years I was angry with that generation;
I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts go astray,
and they have not known my ways.’
11 So I declared on oath in my anger,
‘They shall never enter my rest.’”
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“Yet a time is coming… when the true worshippers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks” (John 4:23,24).
When I took a silent retreat at the Abbey of Gethsemani, the only time we were allowed to talk was during The Liturgy of the Hours, seven short worship services throughout the day (beginning at 3:15 a.m.!) where we chanted the psalms. Our passage today is designed for just that kind of situation; it’s the first in a set of six liturgical psalms used by ancient worshippers to express joyous praise to God (Psa. 95–100). What’s interesting is that it begins on a positive note, “Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord,” but ends on a very negative one, “They shall never enter my rest.” What happened?
The key is found in the names of two places from Israel’s journey in the wilderness: Meribah, which means “quarrelling,” and Massah, which means “testing” (8). Those were more than just bad habits: they described the forty-year sin of God’s people as they plodded towards the Promised Land (Exod. 17:1–7). The writer of Psalm 95 refers to this tribal history as a warning. It’s as if he’s saying, “Praise God, but… don’t make the same mistake!” (7,8). In other words, worship that pleases God involves both an expression of praise and a commitment to obey (John 14:23).
Perhaps the best commentary you’ll find on Psalm 95 is in the New Testament. Take a moment to read Hebrews 3:7—4:13 now. There, the writer makes clear that this psalm applies to our “today” and that the “rest” is more than just the land of Canaan, it is our eternal salvation. That makes the psalmist’s admonition, “Today, if only you would hear his voice, ‘Do not harden your hearts…’” (7,8), a realistic call to worship. Forgiven sin is both a reminder and a source of joy.
Try something different today. See if you can chant or softly sing the words of verses 1–7a.
Rest-giving God, life can leave me rattled and stressed. Flood me with Your rest, assuring me that I am Your child, now and forever.