1 Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. 2 Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.
3 For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. 4 In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. 5 The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.
6 Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; 7 for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.
Today, if only you would hear his voice, 8 “Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah, as you did that day at Massah in the wilderness, 9 where your ancestors tested me; they tried me, though they had seen what I did. 10 For forty years I was angry with that generation; I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they have not known my ways.’ 11 So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’”
(Psalm 95 NIV)
Key Observation: The Lord is our true King and Shepherd, so we must worship him alone and live faithfully as his people.
Building on Week One’s lessons, this week’s psalms (95–99) celebrate the Lord’s kingship. Book IV opens with a set of psalms to help God’s people chart a way forward after the disaster of exile. By centering on God’s kingship and eternal reign, God’s people are able to find a sure footing for moving forward as a community.
Psalm 95 has long served as a call to worship within the Christian church. The psalmist praises God as the divine King and calls his people to faithfulness by reciting the history of the exodus generation. It unfolds in two sections: an exhortation to praise (vv. 1–7c) and an exhortation to obedience (vv. 7d–11).
The psalm opens in the first-person plural as the psalmist calls on the community to join him in singing praise and thanksgiving to God (vv. 1–2). Verse 1 describes God as the rock of our salvation. This is a portrait of permanence and immovability. These are good traits for a savior.
Verses 3–5 present the reasons for praise. Verse 3 anchors worship in the Lord as the great God and King above all gods. Talk of other gods may sound strange to our ears depending on where we live and how old we are. Many of us have grown up in a culture that assumes there is only one God. Yet this was not the reality in Israel’s day as God’s people were surrounded by nations who did not know the Lord. Increasingly today, alternative spiritualities abound. It is relatively easy to encounter believers from most of the world religions in any major city. Observe how this psalm addresses the existence of other gods. It doesn’t deny them, but simply asserts the Lord’s prominence and greatness over all others. In other words, there is only one God worthy of our praise. To worship any other is to practice unfaithfulness and idolatry. Psalm 95 bases this claim in the recognition that the Lord alone is the Creator of all that is (vv. 4–5).
Verses 6–7 add a second call to worship and rationale for praise. God’s people should join in worship because the Lord is “our God and we are the people of his pasture.” God is no mere distant king and creator. The Lord is a shepherd who cares for his flock (Psalms 23; 77:20; 100:3). What good news!
At the end of verse 7, the psalm shifts to directly calling the congregation to hear the voice of the Lord. In verses 8–11, the Lord himself calls his people to faithful obedience, which is in contrast to the exodus generation that was disobedient in the wilderness before and after the journey from Egypt to Sinai. The stories of rebellion at Meribah and Massah (Exodus 17:1–7; Numbers 20:1–13) serve as a warning about the necessity of faithfulness. As a result of their unfaithfulness, the exodus generation did not inherit the land. As God’s people, we must worship the Lord as our true King and Shepherd and serve him faithfully. In the New Testament, Jesus models faithfulness in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1–11), and Hebrews uses this psalm as the basis for its exhortation to stay true to the gospel (3:7–4:11).
Questions for Reflection
- How do the images of God as King and Shepherd impact you?
- Why do you think that the psalmist connects the worship of God with faithfulness to his voice?
Are you interested in learning more about the Psalms? Consider taking a deep dive into the book with a dynamic teacher, Brian Russell. The book of Psalms is often quoted and clichéd, but much less often contextualized. When we understand the Psalter relative to the circumstances in which it was written, we find a rich resource for God’s people. Through these prayers, God both speaks to us and models how we might speak back to Him. At its core, the book of Psalms is an instructional guide to a moment-by-moment walk with God through the world. We have three separate Bible studies & videos on the book of Psalms. Get the books and accompanying videos in our store here.
In these pages you’ll:
- Discover how the psalms of the Bible can translate to your daily life
- Allow the psalms to help you find words to express yourself to God when you are unsure of how to pray
- Learn the historical context in which the psalms were written, adding to their richness