Not all that many years ago, men believed that the earth was the center of the universe. All of the planets were thought to be in orbit about the earth. Modern astronomy has shown this to be in error. This historical view of the universe tells us a great deal about the mentality of mankind. Man wants to believe that everything revolves around himself. We want to be at the center of what is happening.
While we have come to grips with the fact that the sun is the center of our solar system, some Christians still seem to think that in the spiritual realm man is central. We persist in emphasizing what God can do for men, rather than dwelling on man’s duty toward God. We become angry with God or confused when adversity disrupts our lives. It is little wonder that Christians have so much difficulty worshipping God. Worship is God-centered, not man-centered. Worship focuses on God and His greatness, not on man.
Psalm 95 serves as the introduction to a series of Psalms devoted to the theme of worship and praise (Pss. 95–100).166 Psalm 95 has long been regarded as an invitation to worship. It has been a vital part of liturgies from ancient times.167 This psalm helps the believer to reorient his thinking and practice concerning the vital matter of worship. It turns our attention and affection toward God. When our role in worship is addressed, the focus is on obedience and reverence.
In the Hebrew text the psalm lacks a superscription. Thus we are uninformed with respect to the author of the psalm and its historical setting. The Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) names David as the author, but this addition is not taken seriously, even considering the statement in Hebrews 4:7.168
Some scholars have noted the dramatic change in mood from the first half of the psalm to the second and have concluded that this must originally have been two psalms. This view has been ably refuted, for obvious reasons.169 The sudden change in mood is required not only by the nature of worship, but also by the nature of man as we shall shortly attempt to demonstrate. Let us now look to the message of this psalm in order to become better worshippers, as well as to avoid the unpleasant consequences against which the latter part of this psalm warns.
1 O come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation. 2 Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. 3 For the LORD is a great God, And a great King above all gods, 4 In whose hand are the depths of the earth; The peaks of the mountains are His also. 5 The sea is His, for it was He who made it; And His hands formed the dry land. (NASB)
In verses 1-5 we have the psalmist’s first call to worship. Verses 1 and 2 are an exhortation to rejoice, and verses 3-5 provide us with a good reason for rejoicing. We will attempt to capture the essence of these verses by pointing out several characteristics of worship they encourage.
First, the worship that is encouraged is collective in that it is congregational. Four times in verses 1 and 2 we read, “Let us …” While worship may be done privately, it is not viewed as such here. Those who claim to be able to worship God just as easily from a secluded spot on the lake (with a fishing pole in hand) are hard pressed to explain how they can worship in the corporate manner described in Psalm 92. Here and elsewhere in the Scriptures, worship is described as congregational, not merely individual.
Second, the worship promoted here is vocal. Too often we think of worship not only as private, but as silent. We are told to sing a song “worshipfully” and we know that this means we are to sing slowly and quietly. No doubt this stems from such scriptural statements as, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10, AV). Other versions, such as the NASB (“Cease striving”; margin, “Let go, relax”), indicate that “being still” is not commanded in the context of public worship, but refers to the ceasing from strife, addressed more to an unbelieving world than to believers.171 The words employed in verses 1 and 2 all refer to a vocal, public praise of God.
Third, the terms used in the first two verses speak of vocal praise that is vibrant and vigorous. It is a joyful, grateful praise.172 It is not a subdued, somber praise, but an exuberant expression of worship173 The terms employed here describe activity which seems more appropriate in the football stadium than in the church “sanctuary.” The expression “sing for joy” in verse 1 is more properly “shout for joy.”174 It conveys intense feeling, most often joyful, but occasionally that of sorrow (Lam. 2:19).
The expression “shout joyfully” (NASB) in the second line of verse 1 comes from a Hebrew word meaning “to raise a shout.” This was done in anticipation of a battle or a triumph (Josh. 6:10,16,20; 1 Sam. 4:5; 17:20,52). It was done at the coronation of Saul (1 Sam. 10:24). This term is repeated in the second verse of our psalm and again rendered “shout joyfully” (NASB).
Some Christians seem to think that worship cannot and should not be exuberant or noisy. They are often critical of others whose worship is too animated and enthusiastic. While there are extremes, few in our circles come close to being too enthusiastic. Our tendency is to react against such worship, even as Michal disdained David’s enthusiasm before the ark of God, an attitude for which she was divinely disciplined (2 Sam. 6:12-23).
Finally, the joyful, exuberant praise of verses 1 and 2 is God-centered. There is a preoccupation with God, not with excitement, enthusiasm or expression. The congregation is not encouraged to “get high” (or, in the words of one contemporary song, “get all excited”) with some kind of self-energized enthusiasm. The source of their joy and the recipient of their praise was to be their God. Worship that is biblical is that praise and adoration which has God as its source and its subject. As the sun is the center of our solar system, so God is to be at the center of our adoration and praise.
While our worship should be fervent, it must also be founded on truth. In verses 3-4 the sovereignty of God is given as a basis for our worship. Verse 3 expresses God’s sovereignty in general terms: God is great, indeed He is above all gods. This statement does not in any way imply that the psalmist believed there were other gods. He means that Israel’s God is greater than the false “gods” which the heathen worship. Thus, after God’s defeat of the “no-gods” of Egypt at the exodus, we find Israel singing: “Who is like Thee among the gods, O Lord? Who is like Thee, majestic in holiness, awesome in praises, working wonders?” (Exod. 15:11)
Verses 4 and 5 depict God’s sovereignty more specifically. God is sovereign over His creation. He is the Creator of all the earth. He is the owner of all His creation. He is the controller of all that He has created and possesses. What God made is His and what is His, He controls. The expressions “depths” and “peaks” (v. 4), and “sea” and “dry land” (v. 5), emphasize the totality of His creation and control of the earth. He made it all. He is sovereign over all. The world is not only the work of His hands, it is in His hands now. In the words of one song: “He’s got the whole world in His hands.”175
6 Come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker. 7 For He is our God, And we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand. … (NASB)
The second call to worship is contained in verse 6, and its basis is given in verse 7. Notice especially the change of tone, from exuberant, enthusiastic praise to awe-inspired prostration. The worshipper is seen standing in God’s presence, shouting forth praise in verses 1 and 2. Now, in verse 6 the worshipper falls on his face before God in humbled silence.
The key word that characterizes the first five verses is praise, while the theme of verses 6 and 7 is summarized by prostration. These words, incidentally, are the basic nuance of the original terms for worship, both in Hebrew and Greek.176 Worship, then, involves both animated praise and speechless prostration.
The basis for this prostration is introduced in verse 6 and explained in verse 7. God is “our Maker.” Not only is God the Creator of the heavens and the earth (vv. 4-5), He is also man’s Creator. I believe by this the psalmist reminds Israel that God is her Maker.177 This is clearly stated elsewhere: “Thus says the Lord who made you and formed you from the womb, who will help you, ‘Do not fear, O Jacob My servant; and you Jeshurun whom I have chosen’“ (Isa. 44:2; cf. Deut. 32:6,15,18; Isa. 51:13; 54:5; Pss. 100:3; 149:2).
Just as God controls the earth which He created (vv. 4-5), so He also Shepherds His people, which He brought into existence as her Maker. God is not just the God of creation, but our God (v. 7a). He stands in intimate relationship with His people, just as a shepherd does to his flock (Ps. 74:1; cf. John 10). As the creation is handmade and hand-held,178 so are God’s people the “sheep of His hand” (v. 7b).179
7c Today, if you would hear His voice, 8 Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, As in the day of Massah in the wilderness; 9 “When your fathers tested Me, They tried Me, though they had seen My work. 10 For forty years I loathed that generation, And said they are a people who err in their heart, And they do not know My ways. 11 Therefore I swore in My anger, Truly they shall not enter into My rest.” (NASB)
I understand the last line of verse 7 as a transition. On the one hand, it serves to conclude verses 1-7. In effect, we could punctuate it this way: “For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand, today, if you would hear his voice.” Punctuated in this way, we would find an Old Testament parallel to our Lord’s words in John’s gospel: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27). The Lord is our Shepherd when we obey His command to worship and to praise Him. We prove ourselves to be one of the sheep of His pasture as we follow Him as our Shepherd.
On the other hand this final line of verse 7 also serves as an introduction to the following verses. It can be rendered either as a wish, “Oh that you would obey ...” (margin, NASB), or as a condition, “Today; if you would hear His voice, ...” (NASB, text). When the writer to the Hebrews cites this passage (Heb. 3:7-11) he uses this latter translation. Viewed as a transitional statement, this line can be understood both as a conclusion and as an introduction.
Two general observations should be made before we begin to study verses 8-11 in greater detail. First, note that there is a dramatic change of mood. From the jubilant praise of verses 1 and 2 we have come to a solemn warning in verses 8-11. This passage cannot be taken lightly.
Notice next that in verse 8 there is a change of speaker. In the first seven verses the psalmist has spoken. Now, God Himself speaks to the psalmist’s generation. This makes the message of warning even more awesome. In Psalm 90:14-16 the security of the individual who takes refuge in God is guaranteed by God Himself. Now in Psalm 95:8-11 God personally warns men of the danger of hardening their hearts, as did those in the day of Moses.
The danger about which God warns Israel is that of hardening their hearts (v. 8). To more fully define just what this means God illustrates this evil from the history of Israel. He refers to the conduct of their forefathers who escaped from Egypt but who failed to possess the land of Canaan. Massah and Meribah are not just geographical names, but names which designate two evils, both of which characterized the conduct of God’s people who had hardened hearts. Massah, as the marginal note in some of your Bibles indicates, is a name derived from the Hebrew word for test. Meribah is derived from the Hebrew word for strife or contention. Let us refresh our memories by turning back in our Bibles to two passages which describe two events designated by these terms Massah and Meribah.
The first instance of Massah and Meribah is described in Exodus 17:1-7. God had recently accomplished the release of His people from Egyptian bondage by means of ten plagues and the parting of the Red Sea (Exod. 5–14). In Exodus 15 the people sang a song of praise to God for His redemption (15:1-21). When the Israelites thirsted and began to grumble at Marah, God provided a means of sweetening the water (Exod. 15:22-25). Shortly afterwards when they grumbled for lack of food, God gave them both manna and meat (Exod. 16).
In chapter 17 the nation camped at Rephidim, where there was no water (17:1). The people began to quarrel with Moses (vv. 2,7). Moses then tried to point out to the people that their grumbling was really against God, whom they were testing, “Is the Lord among us or not?” (v. 7). The people were so angry they were about to stone Moses (v. 4). In response to Moses’ plea for help, God instructed him to strike the rock at Horeb with his rod. When Moses did so, water gushed from the rock and the people were able to drink (vv. 5-6). The place was then named Massah and Meribah (v. 7). These names which we have said mean “testing” and “contention” are particularly appropriate since we find the verbs “to test” and “to quarrel” twice in this passage (vv. 2,7).
The second account is found in Numbers 20:1-13. Here the term Massah is not used, only the word Meribah (20:13). The event is quite similar to that described in Exodus 17, so much so that some liberal scholars have thought the two passages to be differing accounts of the same incident. There was no water (v. 2). The people grumbled and complained against Moses and Aaron (vv. 2-5). They accused Moses of leading Israel from Egypt only to let them perish (v. 4). They complained that the place of their encampment was wretched (literally, “evil,” v. 5). Clearly implied is the people’s belief that Egypt was a far better place than the wilderness.
As Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before God, His glory appeared to them (v. 6). He instructed Moses to take his rod and to speak to (not strike) the rock180 before the congregation. In anger, Moses scolded the people and twice struck the rock. While water came forth for the people to drink, Moses and Aaron were indicted by God for their unbelief and their lack of reverence before the people. As a result, they were not permitted to lead the Israelites into Canaan (v. 12).
Although there are many similarities between these two accounts, there are also some significant differences. The first incident occurred at Rephidim, in the wilderness of Sin (Exod. 17:1); the second happened at Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin (not Sin, Num. 20:1). The first event involved the generation which had just passed through the Red Sea (Exod. 14). The second event involved the next generation, nearly 40 years later, who were about to enter the promised land (note the death of Miriam in Num. 20:1, also Num. 21ff.). Furthermore, in the first account it was the people who sinned, while in the second it was their leaders, Moses and Aaron (Num. 20:9-12).
These two accounts, when viewed in the light of their similarities and differences, lead us to several important conclusions. First, the two events, removed in time, and involving, by and large, different people, reveal a problem common to men of every generation. Both before and after the first incident at Rephidim, the same basic problems are exposed. This leads to the conclusion that in any age God’s people suffer from the same problems. We should also realize that both leaders and followers are plagued with the same problems and suffer the same consequences.
Massah and Meribah are not just historical incidents, they are manifestations of a persistent problem. They reveal attitudes and actions (testing and contending) which result in the loss of certain blessings. Massah and Meribah are both typical and the “tip of the iceberg.” In Numbers Moses speaks of the sins of the Israelites as beginning in Egypt (“from Egypt even until now,” 14:19) and frequently recurring (“these ten times,” 14:22). Again in the ninth chapter of Deuteronomy, Moses stresses the persistence of Israel’s sin:
“Again at Taberah and at Massah and at Kibroth-hatta-avah you provoked the Lord to wrath. And when the Lord sent you from Kadesh-barnea, saying, ‘Go up and possess the land which I have given you,’ then you rebelled against the command of the Lord your God; you neither believed Him nor listened to His voice. You have been rebellious against the Lord from the day I knew you” (Deut 9:22-24).
Asaph also wrote: “How often they rebelled against Him in the wilderness, and grieved Him in the desert! Again and again they tempted God, and pained the Holy One of Israel” (Ps. 78: 40-41).
Massah and Meribah are historical events which expose a deep-seated and recurring tendency to become hardened in heart. That is why the psalmist wrote, “Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as in the day of Massah in the wilderness” (Ps. 95:8). The word “as” indicates that it is a Massah-like attitude of heart which God despises. Massah and Meribah reveal an attitude and its resulting actions which God loathes and which result in a failure to experience the promised blessings of God (Ps. 95:11). Kadesh, the incident which was, so to speak, the straw that broke the camel’s back, is not specifically referred to in Psalm 95, although the penalty described in verse 17 was the result of Israel’s failure to take possession of the land (Num. 13–14). The psalmist seems to see Kadesh-Barnea as a piece of the same cloth, another example of the Massah and Meribah mentality.
Just what are the problems which Massah and Meribah reveal? Perhaps these can best be seen in contrast to the purposes of God as outlined in Deuteronomy 8. Here, Moses explained what God was doing in the lives of His people in the wilderness. An understanding of God’s purposes exposes Israel’s problems as typified at Massah and Meribah. Let us briefly review God’s purposes for the wilderness experience of His people.
(1) God led Israel into the wilderness and into adversity. Moses explained that God not only led Israel into the wilderness, but that He purposely created adverse circumstances.
“And you shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. And He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord” (Deut. 8:2-3).
Israel saw their sufferings as sufficient grounds for questioning both God’s presence and His power. They challenged, “Is the Lord among us or not?” (Exod. 17:7). Adversity suggested God’s absence, but Moses taught otherwise.
(2) God led Israel into adversity in order to humble them. The purpose of the hardship God brought upon His people was to humble them, teaching them to depend on Him (Deut. 8:3). Israel, rather than becoming humble, became hard in heart (Ps. 95:8). Rather than depending on God they became independent, even rebellious.
(3) God led Israel into adversity to teach them obedience. Even more important than satisfying their physical needs, God’s people needed to learn the importance of obedience to His word (Deut. 8:3). Instead of believing God’s promises and obeying His commands, they refused to believe and they disobeyed His word. Rather than follow Moses, they were about to stone him (Exod. 17:4), and even proposed that another leader be appointed who would lead them back to Egypt (Num. 14:4).
(4) God let Israel hunger and thirst in order to provide for their needs. Not only did God say that He let Israel hunger and thirst, He also reminded them that in every hour of need He provided for them, in spite of their grumbling and disobedience (Deut 8:3). Never did God fail to provide for His people. He purposed times of need so that He could prove Himself to be faithful to His promises. Israel interpreted every crisis as the occasion for their death, not their deliverance. “But the people thirsted there for water; and they grumbled against Moses and said, ‘Why, now, have you brought us up from Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?’” (Exod. 17:3).
(5) God brought unpleasant circumstances into the lives of His people in order to do them good. God’s purposes for His people were always for their best interest. “In the wilderness He fed you manna which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do good for you in the end” (Deut. 8:16). Israel saw every instance of adversity as evil. They referred to Kadesh as this “wretched” (lit. evil) place (Num. 20:5). God said every calamity was an occasion for good.
(6) God led Israel into adversity to test them (cf. Exod. 15:25; 16:4; Deut. 8:2). The best way to test either people or things is by putting them through the most adverse conditions. This is true of cars, electronic equipment, and people. The real question was not, “Can God provide for His own?”, but “Will God’s people trust Him and obey His word?” Instead of seeing their circumstances as a test of their character, Israel viewed adversity a test of God’s presence and power. They tested Him, thereby sinning (Deut. 6:16; cf. Psalm 95:9).181 As a result of Israel’s refusal to trust and obey, they failed to experience the blessings which God had promised, “His rest.”182
We dare not take the message of this psalm lightly, because the New Testament makes it clear that the warning of this text applies as much to men and women of our time as it did in ages past. In 1 Corinthians 10 Paul speaks of the sins of Israel in the wilderness (vv. 1-10) and tells us that these have instructional value for us (vv. 6, 11-12). No trial is unique, but is common to mankind (v. 13). We are therefore warned against committing the very same sins as Israel practiced in the wilderness (“do not … as some of them did,” vv. 7,8,9,10).
Second, the writer to the Hebrews takes up the warning of Psalm 95:7-11 in chapters 3 and 4 of his epistle, showing that the “rest” of Psalm 95:11 is still future and the warning of verses 7c-11 is still in effect (“today,” Heb. 4:7-11).
What, then, is the message of this psalm, both to its original audience and to us? Positively, it is that we should worship God as a congregation, both by our rejoicing (vv. 1-2) and by our reverence (v. 6). Our worship is to be based both on God’s sovereignty as our Creator (vv. 3-5) and His sufficiency as our Shepherd (vv. 6-7).
Verses 7c-11 remind us that we must also worship God by our obedience. It is not just the repetition of rituals, not just the shouting of praises or the acts of reverence, but our persistent trust and obedience which is evidence of our true worship. If we would worship God as our Shepherd then surely we must follow Him as the sheep of His pasture. At Massah and Meribah the Israelites renounced not only Moses, but God as their Leader. They refused to follow. Worship without obedience is worthless to God. Indeed, it is loathsome (Ps. 95:10; cf. also Rev. 3:15-16).
Let us take very careful note of the relationship between the exhortation to worship God in verses 1-7 and the warning of verses 8-11. The warning is basically that we dare not fail to worship. In other words, failure to worship is one of the principal causes of a hardened heart. When we fail to worship, the hardening of our hearts begins, which is repulsive to God and is destructive to us.
In his stinging words to those who rejected Christ, Stephen showed those who stoned him that defective worship was at the heart of Israel’s disobedience and the grounds for divine discipline:
“This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness together with the angel who was speaking to him on Mount Sinai, and who was with our fathers; and he received living oracles to pass on to you. And our fathers were unwilling to be obedient to him, but repudiated him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt, … But God turned away and delivered them up to serve the host of heaven; as it is written in the book of the prophets, ‘It was not to Me that you offered victims and sacrifices forty years in the wilderness, was it, O house of Israel? You also took along the tabernacle of Moloch and the star of the god Rompha, the images which you made to worship them. I also will remove you beyond Babylon’” (Acts 7:38-39, 42-43).
Those forty loathsome years of Israel’s testing and disobedience were years typified by the events at Massah and Meribah. During that time Israel did not worship God who made and shepherded them with His hands (Ps. 95:4,5,7). Rather, they worshipped the gods of Egypt, which they made with their hands (Acts 7:41-43; cf. Jer. 1:16).
Psalm 95 teaches us that worship is not incidental; it is fundamental. It is not peripheral, but primary. We should worship God because He is worthy of it. We should worship God because He desires it (John 4:23-24). We should worship because God commands it (Ps. 95:1-7). We should worship God because to fail to worship hardens our hearts, leads to dissatisfaction and disobedience and ultimately to discipline.
Notice also that worship is not only to be primary, it is to be persistent. Every day is “today” (Ps. 95:7; cf. Heb. 3:13; 4:7). It is not enough to initially choose to trust in God and to follow Him. It is not enough to see God’s power or to hear His promises. We must persist in worshipping, in trusting and in obeying Him. Every day is “today.” We cannot rest on the past, but we must continue in that which God has begun. It is not enough to hear. Those who benefit from God’s promises persist and persevere in His word:
Therefore, let us fear lest, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you should seem to have come short of it. For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard (Heb. 4:1-2).
It is my prayer, my friend, that you have already come to trust in Christ as God’s provision for your salvation. If not, I urge you to acknowledge your sin and to accept Christ’s sacrificial death as God’s provision for your salvation. If you have already done this, I urge you to persevere in your faith. In keeping with the words of this psalm I urge you to worship God as though your well-being depended upon it, because it does.
166 “There can be no question the Psalms 95-100 have a common theme in that they begin with a summons to sing praises unto the Lord though each has its distinctive note of praise. This psalm may be regarded as striking the keynote.” H. C. Leupold, Exposition of Psalms (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House [reprint], 1979), p. 675.
167 “In appointing this Psalm, sometimes called the ‘Invitatory Psalm,’ for daily use as an introduction to the Psalms for the day, the English Church follows a primitive and general usage. ‘Before the beginning of their prayers,’ writes Athanasius of the practice of the Church of Constantinople, ‘Christians invite and exhort one another in the words of this Psalm.’ In the Western Church the whole Psalm appears to have been generally used. In the Eastern Church an invitatory founded on it is used at the commencement of service.” A. F. Kirkpatrick, The Book of Psalms (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House [reprint], 1982), p. 572.
168 “The LXX ascribes the psalm to David, but here it outruns the Hebrew text, which leaves it anonymous like its immediate companions. Hebrews 4:7 quotes it as the word of God ‘in David’ (not ‘through David’, which is RSV’s interpretation), but this need mean no more than ‘in the Psalter’.” Derek Kidner, Psalms 73-150 (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1975), pp. 343-344. Although the citation of Psalm 95 in Hebrews, ‘in David’ (Heb. 4:7), may merely be a reference to the Psalter, one cannot emphatically deny that David penned this hymn.
169 Kirkpatrick quickly brushes aside this view: “Some critics hold that this Psalm, like Ps. lxxxi, with which it has much in common, is a combination of two separate fragments; but in neither case is such a hypothesis necessary.” Kirkpatrick, p. 572.
170 I have chosen the title employed by Kidner for this section. As usual, Kidner concisely captures the essence of this psalm with these titles: “Rejoicing,” vv. 1-5; “Reverence,” vv. 6-7b; “Response,” vv. 7c-11. Kidner, pp. 344-345.
172 It is worth underscoring a comment by Derek Kidner which reminds us that while joy and gratitude are one occasion for worship, there are others as well: “To come singing into God’s presence is not the only way—cf. the ‘silence’ of 62:1; 65:1; or the tears of 56:8—but it is the way that best expresses love.” Kidner, p. 344.
173 “The verbs that are employed urge men to use more than tame terms and methods of praise. The familiar, ‘O come, let us sing,’ is not forceful enough. The verb that is used involves the idea of a ringing cry. The second verb suggests loud shouts. Tepid praise defeats its own purpose. In the Old Testament Temple worship may often have been characterized by a vigor and forcefulness that we are strangers to. The Oriental nature is more inclined toward a certain demonstrativeness than we are.” Leupold, p. 676.
174 The primary nuance of the word ranan is to “cry out” or to “give a ringing cry” (BDB). It may refer to jubilant singing, but not necessarily so, in fact, not frequently so. William White writes: “In Ps the root is developed to its fullest. Ranan appears in parallel poetry with nearly every term for ‘joy,’ ‘rejoicing’ and ‘praise’ but not clearly in any strict grammatical relationships. … The jubilation which is the main thrust of the root is elsewhere also in a context of music (II Chr 20:22, cf. v. 21), and singing may well be indicated. In many cases the jubilation could equally well be expressed in shouting or song—either would suit the context. The KJV translates by ‘sing’ half the time. In any case, Israel’s song would have been somewhat different from ours and perhaps more similar to jubilant shouting.” William White, “Ranan,” Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), II, p. 851.
175 Perhaps I should pause for a moment here to address the creation theme in the light of the current controversy concerning evolution. There are several factors involved here. The first is how literally we are to take the creation account of the first two chapters of Genesis. Any creation account which does not view Adam and Eve as actual, historical persons (the first ones!), contradicts both our Lord and Paul (cf. Matt. 19:4-6; Rom. 5:12-21; 1 Cor. 15:22,45) and strikes at the heart of man’s depravity which commenced at the fall.
Second, the creation of the world is a biblical truth which must be believed by faith (Heb. 11:3). In man’s fallen state he is much more disposed to worship the creation rather than the Creator (Rom. 1:18-23). To refuse to believe that God created the world is to fail in faith. Any issue that is a faith issue is a vital one.
Third, any handling of the creation account which fails to regard God as the sovereign Creator, who was intimately involved in creation (not just passively), who personally possesses it, and who is actively in control of it (e.g. Col. 1:15-17), undercuts the basis for worship which underlies not only this Psalm (95:3-5), but many other passages as well. God’s creation of the world is one of the dominant themes of Scripture (cf. Exod. 20:11; Pss. 102:25; 115:15; 121:2; 124:8; 134:3; Neh. 9:6; Acts 14:15; Rev. 4:11; 14:7).
A faulty view of creation undercuts our view of Scripture, our faith, and our worship. Let us carefully consider creation in the light of its crucial role.
176 Kidner remarks: “Each of the three main verbs of verse 6 is concerned with getting low before God, since the standard word for worship in Scripture means to prostrate oneself: cf., e.g., Abraham in Genesis 18:2. … A public act of homage is urged on us here as part of the service we owe to God, accepting our own place and acknowledging His.” Derek Kidner, Psalms 73-150, p. 345.
Cf. aslo, H. Schonweiss and Colin Brown, “Proskyneo,” The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976), II, p. 876.
177 “It is the ‘making’ of Israel into a nation, rather than the creation of individuals, that is meant. Cp. Deut. xxxii. 6, 15, 18; Is. xliv. 2; li. 13; liv. 5; Ps. c. 3; cxlix. 2.” Kirkpatrick, pp. 573-574.
179 I must admit to being puzzled by what form our worship is to take in the light of its basis. The exuberant praise of verses 1 and 2 is based upon God’s sovereignty as the Creator. The prostrate praise of verse 6 is based upon God’s creation of Israel and His care of her as her Shepherd. Why is it that the most enthusiastic worship of verses 1 and 2 is not based upon the most intimate relationship of verse 7? The greater the intimacy with God, the greater man’s reverence. Apparently familiarity does not breed contempt. This seems to have been the case with the disciples of our Lord: the more they came to know Him, the greater their love and their awe (cf. Mark 4:41; Luke 5:8-9). Knowing God is the means to fearing Him. Experiencing God’s caring hand in our lives should induce us to greater submission and reverence. Those who have little reverence for God may also have little intimacy with Him.
181 It is a worthwhile study to compare the failure of Adam in his test in the garden which also involved physical denial (Gen. 2:16-17; 3:1-24) and the failure of Israel in the wilderness. Even more enlightening is to contrast the way our Lord successfully resisted Satan’s temptations in the wilderness. It is very evident that our Lord was, in a sense, reliving the wilderness wanderings of Israel, but victoriously. Both the circumstances and our Lord’s biblical responses demonstrate the parallelism which Matthew and Luke intend for us to understand. Since our Lord endured the tests which Israel failed, He alone is qualified to accomplish the work of redemption as the sinless Lamb of God who died in the place of the sinner.
182 The concept of “rest” is both complex and controversial. While it included entrance into the promised land, it was not fully realized, even when the nation did possess Canaan. The writer to the Hebrews emphasized this, noting that the psalmist would not be speaking of the promised rest as yet future if the promise of rest were already realized (cf. Heb. 4:8-9). We dare not equate the promised “rest” with salvation either, for let us recall that neither Moses nor Aaron entered Canaan. Paul says of those who fell in the wilderness that with “most of them God was not well pleased” (1 Cor. 10:5). While I personally need to study this subject much more, I am inclined to agree with my friend and collegue, Craig Nelson, who has suggested that the promised “rest” has to do with reigning with Messiah in His kingdom. Rest therefore has more to do with rewards than with salvation.