April 15: Psalm 95


April 15: Psalm 95

O, come let us worship and bow down

Common meter                         Azmon (O, for a Thousand Tongues to Sing), p. 49
Ellacombe (Hosanna, Loud Hosanna), p. 130
try Morning Song for the final three stanzas, p. 30

O come and to Jehovah sing; let us our voices raise;

In joyful songs let us the Rock of our salvation praise.

Before His presence let us come with praise and thankful voice;

Let us sing psalms to Him with grace; with shouts let us rejoice.

The Lord’s a mighty God and King; above all gods He is.

The depths of earth are in His hand; the mountain peaks are His.

To Him the spacious sea belongs; ‘twas made by His command;

And by the working of His hands He formed the rising land.

O come and let us worship Him; let us with one accord

In presence of our Maker kneel, and bow before the Lord.

Because He only is our God, and we His chosen sheep,

The people of His pasturage, whom His own hand will keep.

Today if you will hear His voice, then harden not your heart;

Strive not as those at Meribah, nor Massah’s testing start.

Your fathers tried and tested Me, though they My work perceived;

And with that generation I for forty years was grieved.

I said, “They have a wand’ring heart, and they My ways detest.”

In wrath I swore they should not come into My promised rest.

Psalm 95 has for many centuries been used as one of the first psalms with which to begin the Christian day. It commences, after all, with an invitation to the praise of God: “Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord, the Rock of our salvation.” Because we belong to God in two ways, the psalm gives a double reason for our worship: creation and election. First, creation; the whole of created order belongs to God, and our worship is rooted in God’s sustained act of creation, by which we, and all things, have our being. Second, our special divine election; we Christians belong to God in a most particular way, for He has called and chosen us in Christ (“We are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand”). This is a very consoling doctrine, of course, but our psalm also sees in it a component of danger—namely, the frightful possibility of failure in this matter of our “being in Christ,” should memory fade and heart be hardened. Since God has chosen us, we are summoned to choose God, and because our future turns largely on the freedom of our choice, it is by no means inevitable that we will, in the end, be faithful to the invitation of our destiny. Thus, there is an explicit and real warning in this psalm, a warning born of bitter historical memory (verses 8-11). Our psalm stands as a warning that all of us are capable of infidelity and hardness of heart—what happened in the desert to Israel of old can also happen “today.” The day of decision is always “today.” This is the point of the earliest Christian interpretation of this psalm, found in chapters 3 and 4 of Hebrews, a work addressed to a Christian congregation which, the author feared, was in serious danger of falling away from the faith. These lines of our psalm were quoted, along with a severe warning comment (Hebrews 3:7-13; 4:1-3). The psalm’s warning, then, is always a matter of “today,” as we begin our daily worship. (Reardon, p. 187-188)