Sunday, August 10, 2014

Today if You Hear His Voice: A Meditation in Psalm 95

Reading: Psalm 95

Imagine receiving an invitation to eat dinner with the President of the United States—pick your favorite president just to keep politics out of this. What would you do? You'd clear your calendar. Psalm 95 is an invitation from a king. Not just any king, “the great King above all gods...”.

A Voice Calling Us to Worship

Psalm 95 calls us to worship. The speaker is a fellow member of the people of God, presumably a leader of the congregation. The recipients of this call are the people of God—members of the community of God's people. It is an invitation to come and sing joyfully with songs of praise, giving thanks in His presence (Psalm 95:1-2).
The ground or basis of this call to worship is the greatness of our God.
(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. (Psalm 95:3-5)
This invitation is not like invitations which we are accustomed to receiving. We receive invitations to various events (weddings, graduations, etc.) with an R.S.V.P. request. It is optional. If you don't desire to come it is often hoped you might send a gift. Either way, your presence is requested, even desired, but there are no negative consequences for not coming. This invitation, however, appeals to the recipients not to brush it aside. There are consequences for not accepting this invitation.
God, “the great God, the great King above all gods,” the Creator of and therefore Sovereign over the sea and dry land (the whole earth), has invited you to come and worship. He has invited you to come and worship in a certain way: with singing and joyfully. Why? Is this invitation only for those who prefer to worship with singing and joyful noises, but not for those who prefer to worship quietly? No, because the greatness of who He is calls for this kind of worship—worship that speaks to the greatness of God from all—especially those of us who aren't naturally inclined toward this worship.
We are called to come and worship in a way that befits the King; in a way that doesn't belittle the greatness of our God. Worship is about God and His greatness; it is not about us. And since our God is great and above all, our worship should be joyful. (This does not mean there are never times for grieving before God. Even those ought to ultimately lead to joyful worship.)

Today If You Hear His Voice - Worship

There is something that I have often missed when reading this psalm. It is found in the relationship between the first part of the psalm and the second: the call to worship and the warning to heed the call to worship. It can be identified clearly when we see the logical connection of verses 6, 7c-8a, and 11.
INVITATION: (6) Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker...
WARNING TO HEED INVITATION: (7) …Today, if only you would hear his voice, (8) “Do not harden your hearts...
CONSEQUENCE OF REFUSAL: (11) So I declared on oath in my anger, 'They shall never enter my rest.'”
It helps to see that the Hebrew word for “come” in the invitation v 6 is the same as that for the word “enter” in v 11. In English it would be a little more awkward, but to emphasize the point we might read it, "Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker...'They shall never come into my rest.'" The call to come into worship, if refused, is met with the consequence of never coming into God's rest. That doesn't seem odd when we understand that God's rest is found in Him and in glorifying Him.
What does this mean? It means the people of God must take seriously the call to worship our God. The mission of God is ultimately about the nations rendering to God the worship due His name (see Psalm 96:1-3; 7-9). It means that in order to respond to God's invitation to come to Him, we come worshiping Him. It also means that to reject God's call to worship Him in joy is to harden our hearts. That hardening reflects hearts that have gone astray and have not known God's ways (Psalm 95:10).
Psalm 95 is both an invitation and a warning. This invitation and warning are captured in the book of Hebrews. The book of Hebrews reverses the order: it begins with a warning not to neglect such a great salvation (Hebrews 2:1-3), which is restated in the words of Psalm 95 (Hebrews 3:7-13) with an appeal not to allow our hearts to be hardened by sin's deceitfulness, and then appeals to us to draw near (come) and call on the Lord for his mercy (always a part of our worship) (Hebrews 4:16). This appeal to “draw near” and enter God's presence returns toward the end of the book (Hebrews 10:19-22). The writer of Hebrews applied the truths of Psalm 95 directly to those who considered themselves part of the community of faith in Jesus. This means it applies directly to us.
The Hebrew Christians had been around for some time; their faith was not as white hot as it was in the beginning (Hebrews 10:32-39). They needed to be reminded of this call to passionate worship of our magnificent God because of this salvation as great as that wrought by Jesus Christ. What about you and me? I need to be reminded. God is reminding me through Psalm 95. But I need more than a reminder. Today if I hear His voice, I need to respond in worship! Join me. Today, if you hear His voice...sing, sing joyfully, and render the worship due His name. Do not harden your heart.
Love the Gospel, Live the Gospel, Advance the Gospel,