Psalm 95 and the Worship of God’s People

Today, I’ve been spending some time in the Psalms, specifically Psalm 95. It’s a relatively short psalm with only 11 verses. In the Latin traditions, it’s often called the Venite, a word meaning “Come,” and used twice in the psalm as a call to worship.

Psalm 95 forms part of an argument for walking by faith in Hebrews 3-4. In the Hebrew text, the author of this psalm is unnamed. The Greek version names attributes it to David and perhaps the writer of Hebrews does the same in Hebrews 4.7. Regardless of who wrote this psalm, I’m amazed that worship isn’t defined, it’s merely described – and I love the description!

Breaking this psalm into its main thoughts, here’s what stands out to me: 1) We have a description of true worship; 2) we have reasons to worship the one true God; and 3) we are reminded that worship flows from a heart of obedience to God’s Word. This reminder is followed by some strong admonition as well.

The description of biblical worship

In verses 1-2 (and again is verse 6), the psalmist sounds out a clear call for God’s people to worship. Throughout the Old Testament, Jehovah has made it clear that He alone is worthy of worship. Embedded in His covenant with Israel is the command to “have no other gods before Me.” Throughout Isaiah 42-48, He continually reminds them that there is no other god but Jehovah.

What does biblical worship look like? Though Psalm 95 isn’t a prescriptive passage, it does describe some of the ways God’s people worshipped Him.

  1. Singing – In verses 1-2, this song is a response that comes from a heart of joy and gratitude
  2. Shouting – In verses 1-2, the “making a joyful noise” is a word descriptive of a loud shout, a battle cry. It’s a shout of triumph, of jubilation. It’s an emotional celebration from a place of joy and gratitude.
  3. Music – In verse 2, this joyful song is offered up “with psalms.” Implicit in this description is that musical instruments were used. Whatever instruments available in ancient Israel, these were put to use in offering up a heartfelt song of worship to the one true God.

The phrase with psalms doesn’t just refer to a song offered about the greatness of one’s God, it also includes the sacrifices that were offered to that God as well. I love this thought because in Hebrews 13:15, the New Testament writer describes our songs of praise as one of the spiritual sacrifices we can offer in worship to our God as believer-priests.

The reasons we worship God

As believers, this may seem self-evident. Yet, it’s a good exercise to consider why our God – and He alone – is worthy of our worship.

  1. He is a great God – vs. 3
  2. He is a great King – vs. 3
  3. He is over all gods – vs. 3
  4. His domain is all inclusive, the depths, the heights, and seas of earth – vs. 4-5
  5. He is the great Creator – vs. 6
  6. He is the personal Shepherd – vs. 7

Our only response to such a great God can only be what is commanded of us in verse 6. There, the psalmist captures our movements with a series of hortatory verbs. The imperative is “Come.” What then? We worship, we bow down, and we kneel before the Lord.

A crucial response to God’s Word

In light of this “call to worship,” the ending of verse 7 seems abrupt. God has been who He is for all of eternity – He will never change. In light of eternity, God is in control. Yet, the Spirit of God emphasized “today.” Then, the heart of God is expressed – that His people would hear, obey, His voice – His Words.

The heartbeat of our Father is for His children to walk in obedience. As earthly fathers and spiritual leaders, we know this intuitively. John said it this way, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth,” (3 John 4).

This wish, this desire, of God is followed by a strong series of admonitions. Ponder what He says:

  1. Don’t harden your heart – a hard heart cannot offer worship from a heart of joy and gratitude.
  2. Don’t grieve Me – a life that is lived in willful disobedience to God’s Word cannot worship as it ought.
  3. Don’t ignore Me – God gave His Words to them and they still didn’t know His Ways.

When we provoke God or seek to put Him to the test, we are allowing our hearts to become hardened. When we read through the Scriptures as though it were only a mental checkbox, we will not know His ways. I’m sobered when I think that this generation saw His Works for 40 years – forty long years! – and still didn’t know His Ways. I don’t want that to be my epitaph.

Psalm 95 is a call to worship. Worship is always connected to God’s Words, for there we learn about the One worthy of worship. We are to hear it, obey it, and then praise God for what it shows us about Him.

Here’s some good news: You don’t have to wait until Sunday to worship!

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