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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary
Psalms 95

 

 

Verses 1-11

INTRODUCTION

"This Psalm is one of a series intended for the Temple worship, and possibly composed for some festal occasion. Both the joyfulness of its opening verses, and its general character, in which it resembles the 81st Psalm, would render it suitable for some of the great national feasts.

"As to the date of its composition nothing certain can be said. The LXX call it a Psalm of David; and the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, in making a quotation from the Psalm, uses the expression ‘in David,' but this is evidently only equivalent to saying ‘in the Psalms.' In the Hebrew it has no inscription.

"It consists of two very distinct parts:—

"I. The first is an invitation to a joyful public acknowledgment of God's mercies. Psa .

"II. The second (beginning with the last member of Psa to the end) is a warning to the people against the unbelief and disobedience through which their fathers had perished in the wilderness."—Perowne.

AN INVITATION TO WORSHIP

(Psa )

The Psalmist, in this invitation to worship, brings before us—

I. The method of worship. "O come, let us sing unto the Lord," &c., Psa ; Psa 95:6. We are exhorted to worship—

1. Joyfully. "Let us make a joyful noise." "Spiritual joy is the heart and soul of thankful praise." In drawing near to God in worship we have many and forcible reasons for rejoicing in Him. By holy delight in His worship we honour Him, and commend His service to others.

2. Readily. "Let us come before His presence." Margin, as in Heb., "Let us prevent His face." Hengstenberg: "Let us anticipate His presence." Perowne: "Let us go to meet His face." He says, "Such is the proper and strict rendering of the word. ‘Come before' does not sufficiently express the forwardness, the ready alacrity, which are really denoted by the verb." The exhortation of the Psalmist presupposes unreadiness to worship, and implies that worship should be offered with pleasure and zeal.

3. Gratefully. "With thanksgiving." In worship we should gratefully recognise God's gracious dealings with us. For all the blessings which God in His mercy bestows upon us, He expects and requires to be thanked. He bestows them freely and generously for our good, and He would have us give the glory to Him. Thankfulness of heart is one of the great impulses to worship.

4. Reverently. "Let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker." "All the expressions here employed denote a posture of profound reverence in worship, and the passage is a standing rebuke of all irreverent postures in prayer."—Barnes. Reverence of feeling should be expressed in reverent attitudes. If we are duly sensible of the immeasurable distance between us and God, humility and sacred reverence will fill our hearts and be expressed in our words and attitude in worshipping Him. In the worship of God joy should be wedded to seriousness, gratitude to humility, confidence to reverence, and zeal to holy awe.

II. The motives of worship. "For the Lord is a great God," &c. The Psalmist invites to worship—

1. Because Jehovah is Supreme. "The Lord is a great God, and a great King above all Gods." The word "gods" is sometimes applied to angels, sometimes to judges, and sometimes to heathen deities. It is used in this place to designate the latter. We are not to suppose that the Psalmist credited these heathen deities with any real existence or power. "For all the gods of the nations are idols." "He is merely contrasting heathen objects of worship, clothed in the imagination of their worshippers with certain attributes, and the one true supreme Object of worship, who is really all, and more than all, which the heathen think their gods to be."—Perowne. Probably the surrounding idolatrous nations regarded Jehovah as some small local deity, far inferior to their "gods." The Psalmist here declares that in His perfections He is exalted far above the highest position ascribed to the gods of the heathen. Let us worship Him because He is supreme over all, the Ruler over all.

2. Because He is the Creator and Proprietor of all things. "In His hand are the deep places of the earth," &c. The second clause of Psa is variously rendered. Alexander says, "The word translated ‘strength' is plural in Hebrew, and seems properly to mean fatiguing exertions, from which some derive the idea of strength, others that of extreme height, which can only be reached by exhausting effort." Margin: "The height of the hills are His." Perowne: "The heights of the mountains are His." So also Hengstenberg. "The exertions," or "heights of the mountains" is parallel with "the searchings," or "deep places of the earth;" and it "is a poetical expression for the highest summits of the mountains, which can be reached only by exertion." Here are two ideas

(1) Jehovah is Creator of all things. Mountain summits and cavern depths, sea and land, all were made by Him.

(2) He is the Proprietor and Sovereign of all things. Creatorship affords the highest and most valid claim to Proprietorship and Sovereignty. By indisputable right Jehovah is the absolute Owner and Ruler of all things. "However deep man may penetrate into the depths, or however high he may ascend into the heights, he is still within the dominions of God, and never comes beyond His boundaries."

3. Because of His relations to His people.

(1) He is their Creator. "Jehovah our Maker." He has made us capable of worship, and to Him alone our worship should be offered.

(2) He is the Source of their salvation. "The Rock of our salvation." "God is called the Rock of salvation as being its unchangeable foundation and faithful author." Our salvation is entirely owing to Him. Its origin, its outworking, &c., are all due to Him. Therefore gratitude urges us to worship Him.

(3) He is in covenant relation with them. "He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture." God had covenanted with them that they should obey Him, and promised them, saying, "I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be My people." We who have "made a covenant with Him by sacrifice" are under special obligations to worship Him. We have special manifestations of His presence, special communications of His lovingkindness, &c. We have made promises of consecration and service, &c.

(4) He exercises the most watchful care over them. They are "the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand." He is their Shepherd,—a relation involving guidance, government, protection, and provision. (See an outline on Psa .)

CONCLUSION. Worship such as this—spontaneous, joyous, grateful, reverent—is not only our duty, but our precious and exalted privilege. It calls into exercise the noblest faculties of our being; it engages the thoughts and affections upon the most sublime themes; it brings the spirit into the presence of the Supremely Great and Good; and it transforms it into the Divine image. Therefore, "O come, let us worship and bow down," &c.

A WARNING AGAINST UNBELIEF

(Psa (last clause) to 11)

The Psalmist, speaking by the Holy Ghost, here holds up the unbelief and disobedience of the Israelites in the wilderness as a warning to their descendants in his day. Consider—

I. The ensample of human sin. "Your fathers tempted Me," &c. Notice,

1. The sin itself. The root-sin of which Israel was guilty in the wilderness was unbelief. This is distinctly stated by the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews. (Heb .) Here it is spoken of as

(1) Tempting God. Two instances of this are mentioned in Psa . "Harden not your heart, as at Meribah, as in the day of Massah (trial) in the wilderness." "Meribah, ‘striving' or ‘provocation;' Massah, ‘temptation,' or ‘trial.' From Exo 17:1-7 it would appear that both names were given to the same locality. But according to Num 20:1-13, the names were given to two different places on different occasions. Comp. also Deu 33:8."—Perowne. (See Alford on Heb 3:8.) "Your fathers tempted by way of trial—'tempted (Me) in trying' or ‘proving (Me.)'"—Alford. "Unbelief of every kind and every degree may be said to tempt God. For not to believe on the evidence which He has seen fit to give, is to provoke Him to give more, offering our possible assent if proof were increased as an inducement to Him to go beyond what His wisdom has prescribed. And if in this, and the like sense, God may be tempted, what can be more truly said of the Israelites, than that they tempted God in Massah?"—H. Melville. And Spurgeon: "Not to acquiesce in the will of God is virtually to tempt Him to alter His plans to suit our imperfect views of how the universe should be governed." "They tempted the Lord, saying, Is the Lord among us or not?"

(2) Disobedience of God. "They have not known My ways." God's ways are the ways which He prescribed for them to walk in. In matters of practical religion, not to know the ways of God implies the not walking in them. The Israelites were guilty not only of disobedience, but of oft-repeated acts of rebellion in the wilderness. Unbelief is the parent of disobedience.

2. Their persistency in sin. "It is a people that do err in their heart." Heb.: "A people of wanderers in heart." "I understand καρδία here," says Stuart, "as used according to the Hebrew idiom (in which it is often pleonastic, at least it seems so to us), so that the phrase imports simply, They always err, i.e., they are continually departing from the right way." Or, if it be taken to mean that their sins were deep-rooted, not mere errors of judgment, but the utterances of a heart far estranged from God, still their persistency in evil comes into view. Disobedience and rebellious murmurings were not exceptional in their case. Strong, indeed, were their proclivities to evil. Nor are we aware of any improvement, until the adult population that came out of Egypt had passed away by death.

3. The aggravation of their sin. "Saw My work." They had seen His wonders in Egypt and His marvellous doings for them at the Red Sea. In the miraculous supply of manna, and in the stream from the rock that followed them, they had incontestable proofs of God's powerful and gracious presence with them, and yet in their unbelief "they tempted the Lord, saying, Is the Lord among us, or not?" The works of the Lord which they had seen should have inspired them with an all-conquering faith. But through their perversity His works aggravated their sin, increased their guilt. (Num .)

II. The ensample of Divine judgment. The Lord was not unmindful of their sin. He saw and was grieved. "Forty years long was I grieved with this generation." The word rendered "grieved" is expressive of loathing and disgust. Hengstenberg renders it "disgusted." For forty years their conduct was such that the Lord could not but regard them with displeasure and aversion. And in His anger He sware that they should not enter into the promised land. In God's wrath there is nothing revengeful, passionate, or stormy. It is a calm, just, holy anger against sin. Their rebellions had been many and heinous. All the means used for their moral improvement had grievously failed. Warnings and entreaties, the richest mercies and the most startling and solemn judgments, had produced no lasting impression for good. So Jehovah solemnly resolves and declares that they shall not enter into His rest. (Num ; Num 14:28-35; Deu 1:34-35.) Meditate on this judgment. Think of the wondrous works wrought on their behalf, the design of which they entirely frustrated, so far as that generation was concerned; the years wasted in apparently fruitless wanderings; the expectations which perished; the rest which they forfeited; rest from slavery and from wandering, rest as a free people in a goodly land, &c.

III. The improvement to be made of these ensamples. "To-day if ye will hear His voice," &c. Consider—

1. The import of hearing His voice. It is not mere hearing; but hearing with attention, faith, and obedience. Hearing is of no avail without believing, and faith which is not followed by action in harmony therewith is unreal, dead. Attend to, believe, and obey His voice. The Holy Ghost, by the Psalmist, indicates one sin as particularly incompatible with proper attention to the Divine voice. "Harden not your heart." In this case, to harden the heart, is to disregard the Divine precepts and warnings, to neglect the Divine voice, and persist in disobedience. "An old man, one day taking a child on his knee, entreated him to seek God now—to pray to Him, and to love Him; when the child, looking up at him, asked, ‘But why do not you seek God?' The old man, deeply affected, answered, ‘I would, child; but my heart is hard—my heart is hard.'"—Arvine. "The pirate Gibbs, whose name for many years was a terror to commerce, was finally captured, and executed in the city of New York. He acknowledged before his death, that, when he committed the first murder, his conscience made a hell within his bosom; but, after he had sailed for years under the black flag, his conscience became so blunted, he could rob a vessel, murder all its crew, and then lie down as peacefully to rest as an infant in its cradle."—Dict. of Illus.

2. The time for hearing His voice. "To-day." Now. This day of grace, which may be lost. "If we put off repentance another day, we have a day more to repent of, and a day less to repent in."—Mason. "He that hath promised pardon on our repentance hath not promised life till we repent."—Quarles. "You cannot repent too soon, because you know not how soon it may be too late."—Fuller.

3. The arguments for hearing His voice.

(1) Inattention to God's voice excludes from His rest. A glorious rest is provided for the people of God. Rest from guilt, sin, sorrow, suffering, anxiety, wearisome toil. The rest of holiness, love, delightful activities, satisfied affections, &c. Heaven. Unbelief excludes from this rest. "There can be no rest to an unbelieving heart." Heb ; Heb 3:18-19.

(2) God is deeply solicitous that we should attend to His voice. He says, "To-day, oh that ye would hear His voice!" He knows the worth of the soul, the blessedness and glory of the rest, the loss and sin and woe involved in exclusion from it; and hence His solicitude that we should hear His voice, &c.

CONCLUSION.—

1. Let the people of God beware that they provoke Him not by their unbelief or ingratitude, &c.

2. Let the unbeliever hear God's voice, believe, and be saved to-day, now.

SINNERS ENTREATED TO HEAR GOD'S VOICE

Psa . "To-day, if ye will hear His voice, harden not your heart."

I would press the importance, the necessity, of immediately becoming religious:—

I. Because of the shortness and uncertainty of life. You are mortal; it is appointed to all men once to die. You are frail, and may die soon and suddenly. Those who enjoy the most vigorous health are most exposed to many of those diseases which arrest their victims by surprise, and cut short the thread of life as in a moment. See the risk of delay. You stake your soul without any equivalent; for if life should be spared you gain nothing; but should it be cut short, you lose all, you are ruined for eternity.

II. Because you cannot properly, or even lawfully, promise to give what is not your own. To-morrow is not yours; and it is yet uncertain whether it ever will be. To-day is the only time which you can properly give to God.

III. Because if you defer the commencement of a religious life, though but till to-morrow, you must harden your hearts against the voice of God. God commands and exhorts you to commence a religious life immediately. If you do not comply, you must refuse, for there is no medium. And this act of disobedience to God's commands tends most powerfully to harden the heart; for after we have once disobeyed, it becomes more easy to repeat the disobedience. If you disobey, you must assign some excuse to justify your disobedience, or your consciences will reproach you and render you uneasy; if no plausible excuse occurs, you will seek one; if none can readily be found, you will invent one.… This tends most powerfully to harden the heart.

IV. If you do not commence a religious life to-day, there is great reason to fear that you will never commence it. The very causes which induce you to defer its commencement, render it highly improbable that you will ever become religious. You allege, perhaps, that you are not able to become religious, or that you cannot give your minds to it, or you know not how to begin. Now, all these causes will operate with equal force another day.… Every day's delay will render it more difficult.

V. Because, after a time, God ceases to strive with sinners and to afford them the assistance of His grace. He gives them up to a blinded mind, a seared conscience, and a hard heart. Thus He dealt with the old world; the wicked sons of Eli; the Jews in the time of Isaiah (Psa ); and the inhabitants of Jerusalem in our Saviour's time (Luk 19:41-42).

VI. Because you are, while you delay, constantly making work for repentance; you are doing what you mean to be sorry for; you are building up to-day what you mean to throw down to-morrow. How irrational and absurd is this! I will not now hear God's voice, but I mean to mourn, to be grieved for it hereafter. Could you say this to your fellow-creatures without blushing?

VII. Because it is the express command of God. "God now commandeth all men everywhere to repent." And the Holy Ghost saith, Obey God's command, hear His voice to-day, and do not harden your hearts against it. Dare any of you trample on a known command of God?

CONCLUSION.—What, after all, is there so very irksome, or disagreeable, in a religious life, that you should wish to defer its commencement? If you must begin some time, why not begin today?—Dr. E. Payson.—Abridged.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Psalms 95:4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/phc/psalms-95.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, November 21st, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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