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Psalm 95 - Shout for Joy! And Enter Into His Rest!

INTRODUCTION: The study of this psalm generated a healthy helping of New Testament references, and notably the passage from Hebrews 3:13-4:20 was an excellent cross reference for contemplation. The prophetic nature of the psalms is not just in respect to a coming Messiah, but sometimes simply shows the consistency of God's grace and mercy that will be supplied to the saints until all promises are fulfilled.

Psalms 95:1-5 in amplified paraphrase

1 O come, shout for joy unto the LORD, the Existing One: let us make a joyful sound to the rock, that unshakable foundation, of our eternal salvation.
2 Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, praise, confession, and make a joyful sound unto him with psalms.
3 For the LORD is an unsurpassed, incomparable, God, and a great King, the sovereign of his people, above all else that would be called gods.
4 In his hand are the fields, valleys, and dark recesses of the earth; as are the hills and lofty peaks of the mountains.
5 Every body of water is his, for he made them: and his powerful hands formed all dry land.

COMMENTS: Verses 1 and 2 entreat us to come to present ourselves before the sovereign of all creation, who has complete authority and is worthy of utmost respect and honor. There is also however, the element of joy, expressed even in jubilant manner. This expression of joy is directed to our Lord in praise, thanksgiving, and confession because verse 3 explains that he is without equal as the king of his people, and surpasses any god of man's invention. Some other selected verses give testimony to our LORD as the creator of all: Isaiah 42:5 "Thus saith God the LORD, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein:", John 1:3 "All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.", Ephesians 3:9 "And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:", and Revelation 4:11 "Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created." And that verse from Revelation provides an excellent summary of the object of, and reason for, our praise.

Psalms 95:6-7 in amplified paraphrase

6 O come let us worship and bow down: let us kneel IN PRAISE before the LORD our maker.
7a For he is our God; and we are the people of his flock and the sheep of his open hand.

COMMENTS: Verse 6 of Psalm 95 is a refrain following verses 3 through 5, and these actions are not borne out of just religious formality! The verbs in that verse indicate a continual personal practice, and suggest a progression to increasing honor in offering our praise: worship -- bow don -- then kneel. Verse 7a establishes the personal and attentive relationship between the LORD and his people, as with a shepherd and the flock which is his own. The Hebrew word used here for hand implies an open hand as opposed to a closed fist, because it is the hand of provision and care. Psalm 100:3 shows the Lord as both creator and shepherd, "Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture." Then, the New Testament clearly identifies our shepherd Lord as Christ Jesus: John 10:15-16 "As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd." Then John 10:27-28 further explains that the shepherd is also the Savior referenced in verse 1 of Psalm 95, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand." These New Testament verses underscore the importance of "hearing" the voice of the shepherd in obedient response, which results in blessings.

Psalms 95:7b-11 in amplified paraphrase

7b Today, if you will, obediently hear his voice,
8 Harden not your heart as in the provocation and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness:
9 When your fathers tested me, proved me, and saw my work.
10 Forty years long was I grieved with this generation and said, It is a people that vacillate in their heart, and they have not known my ways:
11 Unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest.

COMMENTS: Verse 7b then makes the key statement of the immediate need to hear his voice today, and it is combined with verse 8 when it is quoted in Hebrews 3:15. It is not enough simply to hear the Word of God, but hearing correctly requires a response in obedience as God had instructed in Deuteronomy 4:30-31 "When thou art in tribulation, and all these things are come upon thee, even in the latter days, if thou turn to the LORD thy God, and shalt be obedient unto his voice; (For the LORD thy God is a merciful God;) he will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them." Most who came out of Egypt with Moses did fail to obey the Lord's voice, and became foolish. Scripture tells us in Job 9:4 "He is wise in heart, and mighty in strength: who hath hardened himself against him, and hath prospered?", and from Proverbs 28:14 "Happy is the man that feareth always: but he that hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief." The New Testament reveals that even the disciples needed to guard against a hardened heart as in Mark 8:17 "And when Jesus knew it, he saith unto them, Why reason ye, because ye have no bread? Perceive ye not yet, neither understand? Have ye your heart yet hardened?" And for those who persist in unbelief John's gospel says, 12:40 "He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them." And this is righteous judgment, as stated in Romans 2:4-5 "Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God;"

So then, who does enter into his rest? The history of Israel in the centuries while they were under judges and kings, indicates temporary cycles of rest for Israel, such as Joshua 28:1 "And it came to pass a long time after that the LORD had given rest unto Israel from all their enemies round about, that Joshua waxed old and stricken in age.", and 1 Kings 8:56 "Blessed be the LORD, that hath given rest unto his people Israel, according to all that he promised: there hath not failed one word of all his good promise, which he promised by the hand of Moses his servant." The LORD's promises did not fail, but the people continually failed to obey his voice, and the result was the loss of their periods of rest, until they were finally even removed from the land. So, as the failure in the wilderness trek was an example for the ensuing centuries in Israel's history, so should all of Israel's erratic history of wavering loyalty be an example to any of us who would desire his rest. An inspired writer of the New Testament provides an excellent commentary, and a charge for us: Hebrews 3:13-19 "But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end; While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation. For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses. But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness? And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief." Hebrews 4:1-11 Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works. And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest. Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief: Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts. For if Jesus {that is Joshua} had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.

We should continue in the labor the Lord has given, until he provides an undisturbed and perfect rest for our souls, for it is Christ who works in us. Matthew 5:16 "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." Matthew 16:27 "For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works." Those works are the works of Jesus wrought in us: as the Father is in Jesus, so is Jesus in us. John 5:17 "But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work." John 10:37-38 "If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him." John 14:20 At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.

--- Reflections in prayer ---

LORD, I come to you with joy, which wells up inside of me, as I consider that you alone are that solid rock of personal salvation! I offer praise for my passage from death to life, thanksgiving for the mighty works of nature which declare your glory as they provide wonder and enjoyment, and I confess that all righteousness comes from you. You LORD are the unsurpassed, incomparable, God, and a great King, the sovereign of your people, above all else that would be called god in the foolishness of men. In your hand are the fields, valleys, and dark recesses of the earth; as are the hills and lofty peaks of the mountains. Every body of water is yours, for you made them, and your powerful hands formed all dry land. I must come, and encourage other believers, to worship and bow down: to kneel in praise before you LORD, our maker. For you are our God; and we are the people of your flock and the sheep of your providential hand.

Today, and each day, may I hear and obey your word: exhorting other believers as I myself strive against Hardening of the heart through the deceitfulness of sin, as can easily happen in both times of plenty and times of want. Thank you for your exceeding forbearance with me, as you stabilize the vacillation in my heart and make me a partaker in Christ as I become more steadfast in faith. Lord grant me your grace that I not be counted among those who test you, proved you, and see your work with no change of heart. Guide me to labor and be always abounding in the work of the LORD, until I enter into that promised rest. Amen.

Published 2 June 2004, First issued 25 October 2002