There are two sides to everything when we think about it. Rarely is anything always as it seems, always (or should I say all ways). Psalm 95 is wedged in amongst a special group of psalms which laud the LORD God for his great works and nature. It starts out joyously, celebrating God for just some of these great attributes; but in its ending there’s a sharp and sombre reminder.
Praise and thanksgiving, two great responses of the people in the context of the psalms, are both displayed in the initial seven verses. These commemorate the fact that the LORD is above all gods (v. 3), and not only did he create all things, but he indeed holds the depths of the earth in his hands (v. 4). He is in sovereign control--the King of kings, Lord of lords. He is the great God.
Though this psalm is vividly anthropomorphic it doesn’t stop there. In a matter of two snappy verses the psalmist sets up for another mood, as he completes a picture of the objective of worship in verse 6-7, extolling the fact that God is the great Pastor (Shepherd) over us, his sheep; he cares for all our needs.
However, the only One worthy of our worship requires something of us...
By far the most important part of the song of this psalm is the sharp reminder of the mentality of the gospel--for us to remain open-minded and open-hearted--as we enter the tests and trials that inevitably come in this life.
We’re reminded of the rebellion of Moses’ day where Yahweh was furious with the cowardice of his holy nation to enter the land he’d prepared for them. Numbers tells us he left the Israelites to ‘turn circles’ for forty years, one year for every day they explored this land, for their stubborn disobedience (Numbers 14:34).
It’s here that we see a lack of unification in God and a weakening of resolve of faithfulness to him who can achieve for us so much more abundantly than we can achieve of ourselves.
When we harden our hearts in life, we alone stand to be condemned in the action. We indeed condemn ourselves, for we know that a proud and stubborn heart is unworkable in the sight of God as he’ll always ask of us things that test our desires such that they’d be given over for his will to be done (and how often do those results transform us incredibly?!).
As our hearts go astray, seemingly following the gist of the warnings of Hebrews and Jude to name just two, we enter a place that somewhat resembles hell--a place devoid of God’s Spirit. When we reach this place in our hearts we quickly realise we’ve sacrificed the long-earned rest for something quite unsatisfying.
We are thankful, however, that since the New Covenant in Jesus Christ, we’re but a moment away from re-entering God’s rest as we submit, finally, our hearts and minds to his authority and direction. We find here, finally, a place of real expansive empowerment and we realise, at last, the world of God is a huge place with copious freedoms.