New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary


Psa 95:1

Oh come, let’s sing to Yahweh, let’s shout aloud to the rock of our salvation!-
The LXX ascribes this to David, and that is confirmed by the quotation of it as from David in Heb. 4:7. I suggest the psalm began as a response to his receipt of grace and forgiveness after the sin with Bathsheba. It is David's invitation to all on earth, especially God's people, to come to Yahweh. But it moves on to lament that God's people hadn't responded, and as Israel didn't enter the promised rest because of unbelief, so the exiles were being prevented from reentering the same land. This was because they had declined to follow in the path of David's repentance and restoration, effectively refusing the invitation to come to Yahweh found in the first half of the Psalm.

David knew his sinfulness, he knew his reliance upon the grace of God, more and more as he got older. One would have thought that after the Bathsheba incident, David would have kept his mouth shut so far as telling other people how to live was concerned. But instead, we find an increasing emphasis in the Psalms (chronologically) upon David's desire to teach others of God's ways- particularly the surrounding Gentile peoples, before whom David had been disgraced over Bathsheba, not to mention from his two faced allegiance to Achish (1 Sam. 27:8-12). There is real stress upon this evangelistic fervour of David (Ps. 4:3; 18:49; 22:25,31; 35:18; 40:9,10; 57:9; 62:8; 66:5,16; 95:1,8; 96:5-8,10; 100:1-4; 105:1,2; 119:27; 145:5,6,12). Indeed, Ps. 71:18 records the "old and greyheaded" David pleading with God not to die until he had taught "thy strength unto this generation". As with Paul years later, the only reason he wanted to stay alive was in order to witness the Gospel of grace to others. David therefore coped with his deep inner traumas by looking out of himself to those around him, eagerly desiring to share with them the pureness of God's grace. He didn't do this as some kind of self-help psychiatry; it came naturally from a realization of his own sinfulness and God's mercy, and the wonderful willingness of God to extend this to men.


Psa 95:2

Let’s come before His presence with thanksgiving, let’s extol Him with songs!-
The "presence" of God likely refers to the shekinah glory seen over the ark. The "songs" in view were the Psalms of David. For this Psalm is written by David (see on :1), inviting all people to share his experience of Yahweh's grace and to join in his ecstasy of praise for His grace. The Psalm was likely used in the liturgy of the sanctuary, and many synagogues still use it to call to the Sabbath on Friday evenings. See on :6.

Psa 95:3

For Yahweh is a great God, a great King above all gods-
So often, the idols aren't in so many words criticized as not existing, but rather, Yahweh is so exalted above them that even if they do exist, they are so relatively powerless that they are show to have no effective existence. It's the same with how the language of demons is used in the New Testament; the Lord's miracles demonstrated that God's power was so infinitely greater, that effectively demons don't exist.

Psa 95:4

In His hand are the deep places of the earth; the heights of the mountains are also His-
This is taken as meaning that Judah could take comfort from the fact that a God of this power would therefore not totally reject His people for all power, despite their sins (Jer. 31:37). 

Psa 95:5

The sea is His, and He made it; His hands formed the dry land-
David realized that as God fashioned / formed the earth (Ps. 95:5), so He can fashion human hearts (Ps. 33:15). His word and Spirit work in doing both things, with the same boundless possibility and power.

Psa 95:6

Oh come, let’s worship and bow down-
See on :2; clearly the Psalm was used in the liturgy of the tabernacle services. The invitation to "bow down" was asking the people to repent. This was so relevant to the exiles, for their refusal to do so placed them in the same situation as the people exiled from Canaan.

Let’s kneel before Yahweh, our Maker-
There are huge implications in believing that God is our creator We will therefore humbly bow before Him in worship, in a way that those who deny theistic creation are not motivated to.

Psa 95:7

for He is our God. We are the people of His pasture, and the sheep in His care-
This is the same message to the exiles as they were given in Ez. 34. The God whom they considered didn't care did in fact care passionately; He was their shepherd, wishing to lead and restore them to the land. But they were disobedient sheep.

Today, oh that you would hear His voice!-
The Hebrew word for ‘hear’ is also translated ‘obey’ (Gen. 22:18; Ex. 19:5; Dt. 30:8,20; Ps. 95:7). The context is of sheep hearing the shepherd's voice. The exiles were being called to obedience to the prophetic word, so that they might be restored to their land. We can hear God’s word and not obey it. But if we really hear it as we are intended to, we will obey it. If we truly believe God’s word to be His voice personally speaking to us, then we will by the very fact of hearing, obey. The message itself, if heard properly and not just on a surface level, will compel action. We can delight to know God’s laws and pray daily to Him, when at the same time we are forsaking Him and His laws; if we are truly obedient, then we will delight in God’s law (Is. 58:2 cp. 14).

All Scripture is recorded for our learning and comfort (Rom. 15:4). The exhortation of Prov. 3:11 “speaks unto you as unto children...” (Heb. 12:5). Hebrews 3 quotes  Psalm 95 as relevant to all readers. The warnings there for that "today" were also be a warning for the first century "today", and yet likewise we can still take hold of the past word of God and relate it to the needs of our "today". We can fail to personalize God’s word, in the sense of realizing that it speaks to us personally.

The quotation of this in Heb. 3:7 emphasis upon "today" is in the context of appealing for confidence right now in the certain hope of future salvation (Heb. 3:6). We should be able to say with confidence that "today" if the Lord comes or if we die, we shall be saved. This is the meaning of the emphasis upon "today"; Peter has the same idea when writing of our rejoicing in "the present truth" (2 Pet. 1:12), the ultimate truth that today at this moment we shall be saved if the Lord returns or we die. In this sense "now is the day of salvation" (2 Cor. 6:2). At this moment we can seek and find the Lord, "while He may be found" (Is. 55:6). 

Psa 95:8

Don’t harden your heart, as at Meribah, as in the day of Massah in the wilderness-
The events of the rebellion of Ex. 17 are the basis for this part of Ps. 95. This is largely a Psalm of praise for what God did for Israel in the wilderness, whilst also commenting on the way they tragically put God to the test, and complained about His care for them. Now the words of Ps. 95:7- 11 are directly quoted in Heb. 3:7- 11 concerning the experience of the new Israel. The simple conclusion from this is that we are really intended to see the events of Ex. 17 as directly relevant for us.

The exiles had gone into captivity for hardening their hearts as Pharaoh had done (s.w. Jer. 7:26; 17:23). And they would stay there until they stopped hardening their hearts, and accepted the work of the Spirit upon their hearts as promised to the exiles in Jeremiah and Ezekiel- if they were repent.

The quotation in Heb. 3:8 is in the context of how the Jews had hardened their hearts when Paul preached to them (Acts 19:9).

Psa 95:9

when your fathers tempted Me, tested Me and saw My work-
The testing was the worse because they "saw My work". But despite that, didn't want to believe that God could bring them into the land. The same was the case with the exiles. They had gone into captivity for refusing to 'see My work' (s.w. Is. 5:12). But even when they did perceive it, they doubted whether God's work was strong enough to save them. And this can be an abiding temptation for the new Israel; not becoming atheists, recognizing God "is" and has power; but refusing to believe He can save us personally.

The entire period of wilderness wanderings was characterized by Israel putting God to the test; they were not confident of their final salvation, and were ever looking for evidence from Him. He had brought them out of Egypt through the blood of the Passover lamb; and there were daily miracles of provision in the bread and water which pointed forward to the Lord Jesus. This desire for yet further proof is seen in various guises today; from the phlegmatic, wavering believer who wants more 'scientific proof' of God to those in the Pentecostal movement ever seeking visible evidence that the Lord is amongst them. The word of promise regarding salvation is to be believed and that faith and joy held on to (Heb. 3:6).

They continually tested God even though they saw His works daily; the manna, water from the rock, shekinah glory over the tabernacle, the cloud by day and the fire by night. But still they tested Him. This is our warning against ever seeking 'hard proof'. Even if we were to be daily given it, this would not take away the desire to test God. It is total faith in the word of promise which is required (Heb. 3:6), and the confirmation is not in petty experimentation day by day which 'proves' God, but rather has it already been provided in the Lord's death and resurrection.

Psa 95:10

Forty long years I was grieved with that generation and said-
The parallel was with the 70 year exile of Judah. Those years were "long" to God, because He so wanted to restore His people. He was "grieved" at His heart for them. He takes no pleasure in punishing the wicked. And yet despite their impenitence, at the end of the forty years, God did bring His people into the land. By grace, God saw no iniquity in Israel (Num. 23:21). He fulfilled His promise at Sinai that if they were obedient, He would make them His people; and He did, counting them as obedient. Yet the events of the intervening forty years hardly sound like Israel being obedient; He "suffered their manners" forty years (Ps. 95:10; Acts 13:18). And yet at the end of that period, they were counted as having been sufficiently obedient to be made God’s people (Ex. 19:5 cp. Dt. 27:9). This 'displeasure' or 'grief' lasted 40 years (Heb. 3:17 s.w.); it was a daily grief that they did not trust Him. To believe in God is to trust Him. In Hebrew, belief is trust. And no amount of petty testing of God will give us that trust.

It is a people that errs in their heart. They have not known My ways-
Just as the state of human hearts was the reason for the flood (Gen. 6:5), so in essence it was a state of heart which meant Israel couldn't enter the Kingdom. The importance of the spirit / heart, of spiritual mindedness, could not be more strongly emphasized. They saw God's work, but refused to know His ways. To recognize God's existence and work is one thing; but to know God in the Hebraic sense of relationship is quite another.

 Psalm 95 gives us a unique insight into God's internal thought processes. He "said" within Himself that they problem was in Israel's hearts. They had seen "His way in the [Red] Sea" (Ps. 77:19), He had "made known His ways to Israel" (Ps. 103:17), but their heart was far from Him. But "My ways" refers so often to God's commandments; Israel were repeatedly asked to "walk in His ways" as they walked through the wilderness (Dt. 10:12; 11:22; 26:17 etc.). He sought not so much total legalistic obedience to His ways / commandments as to "know" them, to appreciate them, to perceive them in their hearts. The Hebrew word translated "err" is that used for Israel's "wandering" in the wilderness for 40 years (Ps. 107:4). They wandered in their minds, just as humanity does today- from this passing passion to that, toying with that principle or fantasy and then with this... and that mental lack of stability was reflected in how they literally wandered. This aimless wandering through life is the parade characteristic of the unbelieving world. Only a firm hope in Christ and our future salvation can give us this mental and emotional stability which is the work of the Holy Spirit.

Psa 95:11

Therefore I swore in My wrath, They will not enter into My rest-
This appears a strange end for the Psalm which began with inviting God's people to come into His presence. But the abrupt and negative closure is left as a stark reminder of the realities we face. Those who do not believe shall not enter into God's rest. Heb. 3 interprets this as meaning that those who trust in their own works cannot enter God's "rest"; whereas those who trust in His work through the Lord Jesus and not in their own works can in one sense enter the rest right now, although there remains an entry into rest at the Lord's return.

God has emotion. The generation that were promised the rest, permanence and stability of the promised land were not given it, because in their hearts they wandered. And this was reflected in their wandering in the wilderness. This implies that God changed His mind about letting Israel enter the land; for He had promised that generation "rest" in that He promised them the land (Josh. 1:15). Or as Num. 14:34 (A.V. mg.) says: "Ye shall bear your iniquity, even forty years, and ye shall know the altering of My purpose". These were the words of the Angel to Moses. The apparent change of plans could be seen as more appropriate if it concerned the Angel which led them; and yet the Angel all the same was manifesting God. This oath they would not "enter into My rest" was solely because they did not believe (Heb. 3:18). The immorality, idolatry etc. were relatively incidental to the essential issue- that they did not believe He would give them rest in the promised land. And therefore He did not give it to them. The context of all this is Paul's appeal for confident hope in our future salvation (Heb. 3:6). It is unbelief and a constant demand for 'proof' which was their problem which cost them salvation.