A Call To Praise and Obey God
1 [b]Come, let us sing with jubilation to the Lord;
let us cry out to the Rock of our salvation.
2 Let us come before him with thanksgiving
and extol him with our songs.
3 [c]For the Lord is the great God,
the King who surpasses all other gods.[d]
4 In his hands are the depths of the earth,
and the peaks of the mountains are his.
5 To him belongs the sea, for he created it,
and also the dry land[e] that his hands have molded.
6 Come forth! Let us bow down to worship him;
let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker.[f]
7 For he is our God,
and we are the people he shepherds,[g]
the flock he protects.
If only you would listen to his voice today:
8 “Harden not your hearts as you did at Meribah,[h]
as on the day of Massah in the wilderness.
9 It was there that your ancestors sought to tempt me;
they put me to the test
even though they had witnessed my works.[i]
10 “For forty years[j] I loathed that generation;
I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts go astray,
and they do not know my ways.’
11 Therefore, in my anger I swore,
‘They will never enter my rest.’ ”[k]
- Psalm 95:1 This psalm calls upon the Israelites assembled in the temple to worship the Lord: “Come, let us sing with jubilation to the Lord.” All are invited to give praise, and all acclaim the God of the Covenant. He is the Creator and sovereign Ruler of the world; he is the Shepherd who loves and saves Israel, his flock (see Ezek 34:11, 31; Jn 10).
The Prophets address their oracle to the crowd: “If only you would listen to his voice today. . . .” It is an exhortation to faithfulness, placing them on guard against the sins of yesteryear. The spirit of rebellion has no place in God’s land (see Ex 17:1-7; Num 20:13; Deut 6:16; 33:8).
The people tested God in the wilderness by doubting his power to save and deliver them at that moment despite everything he had done for them in the past. This is not the usual kind of doubt that may be experienced by any honest seeker after God in those times and circumstances when we may question the most fundamental truths of the faith. Rather, it is willful refusal to believe despite the evidence.
We refuse to believe in spite of all that we have seen and known about God. We doubt God’s love and goodness despite overwhelming evidence of his care. This second kind of doubt comes from a hardened heart and cuts us off completely from growth in grace. And Scripture likens the sin of the people in the wilderness to this kind of doubt, terming it “refusing to believe” (Heb 4:11).
The Letter to the Hebrews gives a long commentary on this exhortation (3:7—4:11), and this invitation to praise God opens the Church’s official prayer, the Liturgy of the Hours. Like Israel in the wilderness, the Church journeys on earth. Christians know God’s promises, but they are equally familiar with temptation. If we wish to enter into the new Promised Land, that is, share God’s life, we must persevere in the struggle for fidelity. Each day is the “today” in which we must heed the voice of God.
- Psalm 95:1 The first duty of the faithful toward God is one of praise and adoration (see Isa 66:18-23; Zec 14:16-21). Thus, the community of God’s people is summoned to gather together to worship the Lord because of some act of deliverance that he has wrought. Rock: see note on Ps 18:3.
- Psalm 95:3 The Lord is the great God, the King who deserves to be exalted for he alone rules over all creation. He also rules over the gods of the nations. His creative works are the foundation of his kingship.
- Psalm 95:3 As the pagans had different gods for different peoples, regions of the earth and sky, and spheres of life (war, fertility), so, the psalmist indicates, do the Israelites. However, in their case, it is only the Lord who is God of every one of these spheres (who surpasses all other gods) (see Pss 47:3; 96:4; Job 36:22; Dan 2:47).
- Psalm 95:5 Depths . . . peaks of the mountains . . . sea . . . dry land: depths, heights, waters, and dry land—all are God’s as well as everything in them.
- Psalm 95:6 Worship is a concrete expression of the people’s devotion to their God. The reason for it is made clear by its placement between the Lord’s universal kingship (vv. 3-5) and his covenant love for his people (v. 7).
- Psalm 95:7 As the “Maker” of his people (v. 6) because he has brought them into being as his covenant people (see Deut 32:6, 15, 18; Isa 44:2; 54:5), the Lord is also their shepherd, and they are the people he shepherds (see Pss 23:1; 79:13; 100:3; Jer 23:1; 25:36; Ezek 34:21; Jn 10:11-14). If only you would listen to his voice today: see Ps 81:8, 13; Ex 19:5; beginning with these words, verses 7-11 are cited in Heb 3:7-11.
- Psalm 95:8 Meribah: this word means “quarreling” and is the name of the place during the journey in the wilderness where the Israelites “sought to tempt” (v. 9) the Lord; Massah: this word means “testing” and is the name of the place where they tested the Lord (see Ex 17:7; Num 20:13). Scholars assign the first episode to a place near and to the southwest of Sinai and the second to a place near Kadesh-barnea in southern Palestine.
- Psalm 95:9 Had witnessed my works: God’s wonders in Egypt, at the Red Sea, and in the wilderness (see Ex 16; Num 14:11, 22).
- Psalm 95:10 Forty years: Israel was condemned to wander forty years in the wilderness when the people refused to advance into Canaan and opted to return to Egypt instead (see Num 14:1-4, 34). That generation: the adults who were freed from Egypt and made a covenant with the Lord at Sinai (see Num 32:13). Hearts: see note on Ps 4:8. My ways: see note on Ps 25:4-7.
- Psalm 95:11 My rest: where the Lord had his dwelling (see Ps 132:7, 14) in the land of Canaan (see Deut 12:9; Ezek 20:15). In Heb 3:7ff, this rest is interpreted in the spiritual sense of heavenly beatitude.