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THIS is a liturgical psalm, probably composed for the temple service, and still used in the synagogue as one of the Friday evening Psalms which introduce the sabbath. The Western Church has adopted it into its daily "Order for Prayer"—a position which it continues to occupy in our own Matins. It consists of two parts (verses 1-7 and verses 7-11), so strongly contrasted, that separatist critics suggest an accidental combination of two quite unconnected fragments (Professor Cheyne). But a deeper and more penetrating exegesis sees in the composition two trains of thought, purposely set over against each other—one joyous, the other plaintive; one setting forth the "goodness" of God, the other his "severity" (Romans 11:22); one inviting to joy and thankfulness, the other to self-examination and repentance; one calling to mind God's greatness and loving kindness, the other bringing into prominence man's weakness and danger.
In the Septuagint the psalm is ascribed to David, and this view seems to have been taken by the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews (Hebrews 4:7). But modern critics are generally of opinion that the style is not that of the Davidical psalms.
The song of praise. This seems to terminate with the words, "We are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand."
O come, let us sing unto the Lord. From this opening phrase, which finds an echo in Psalms 95:2 and Psalms 95:6, this psalm has been called "The Invitatory Psalm." As it invited the Jews, so it now invites Christian congregations, to join in the worship of the sanctuary. Let us make a joyful noise to the Rock of our salvation (comp. Psalms 33:3; Psalms 98:4). Loudness of voice was regarded as indicating earnestness of heart (see 2 Chronicles 20:19; Ezra 3:13; Nehemiah 12:42, etc.). The expression, "Rock of our salvation" is taken from Deuteronomy 32:15. It is well paraphrased in our Prayer book Version, "the strength of our salvation."
Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving. Our first duty, when we come before God's presence, is to thank him (see the Exhortation in the Order for Daily Prayer). And make a joyful noise unto him with psalms. A "psalm" is properly a "song of praise"—the natural concomitant of thanksgiving.
For the Lord is a great God. Thanks and praise are due to God, in the first place, because of his greatness (see Psalm cf. 2). "Who is so great a god as our God?" (Psalms 77:13); "His greatness is unsearchable" (Psalms 145:3). And a great King above all gods; i.e. "a goat King above all other so called gods"—above the great of the earth (Psalms 82:1, Psalms 82:6), above angels (Deuteronomy 10:17), above the imaginary gods of the heathen (Exodus 12:12, etc.).
In his hand are the deep places of the earth; the strength of the hills is his also; rather, the summits of the mountains are his also. The meaning is that all the earth is his, from the highest heights to the lowest depths.
The sea is his, and he made it (see Genesis 1:9; Psalms 104:24, Psalms 104:25). And his hands formed the dry land (see Genesis 1:9, Genesis 1:10).
O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel. The outward and visible worship of the body is required of man, no less than the inward and spiritual worship of the soul. Before the Lord our Maker; i.e. "who has made us what we are—created us, redeemed us, taken us to be his people" (comp. Deuteronomy 32:6; Psalms 100:3; Psalms 102:18; Psalms 149:2; Isaiah 29:23; Isaiah 43:21; Isaiah 44:2, etc.).
For he is our God. A second, and a more urgent, reason for worshipping God. Not only is he a "great God" (Psalms 95:3), but he is also "our God"—our own God—brought into the closest personal relationship with us. And we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand (comp. Psalms 74:1; Psalms 79:13; Psalms 80:1, etc.). We are led by him, tended by him, fed by him, folded by him. We owe everything to his shepherding.
The warning against waywardness. This is delivered in four, or rather four and a half, verses, and commences with the words, "Today if ye will hear his voice."
Today. This word, standing prominently forward as it does, is a startling call, intimating that the time is come for a momentous decision. If ye will hear his voice. God is crying to his people—will they hear, or will they forbear? If the former, all will go well; if the latter, than assuredly they shall not enter into his rest. The "voice" intended proceeds to give the warning of Psalms 95:8-11.
Harden not your heart, as in the provocation; rather, as at Meribah (see Exodus 17:2-7). And as in the day of temptation in the wilderness; rather, and as in the day of Massah. The children of Israel "tempted" God, and "chided" with Moses at Massah (or Meribah) in the wilderness, where water was first given them out of the rock. Their descendants are warned not to follow the example of their forefathers.
When your fathers tempted me (see Exodus 17:2, Exodus 17:7). Proved me; or, "tested me"—put my power and goodness to the proof. And (rather, even) saw my work; i.e. "saw the water gush forth from the rock, when at my command Moses struck it" (Exodus 17:6).
Forty years long was I grieved with this generation; rather, with that generation—the generation that tempted God in the wilderness (see the Revised Version). And said, It is a people that do err in their heart; literally, a people of wanderers in heart are these; i.e. "not only are they a people whose feet wander (Psalms 107:4), but their hearts also have wandered and gone astray from my paths." And they have not known my ways. "My ways—the ways of my commandments—are unknown to them, untrodden by them."
Unto whom I sware in my wrath; rather, so that that I sware in my wrath, or "wherefore I sware in my wrath" (for the oath itself, see Numbers 14:21-23; and comp. Deuteronomy 1:34, Deuteronomy 1:35). That they should not enter into my rest. The "rest" originally intended was that of Canaan, when "the Lord gave rest unto Israel from all their enemies round about" (Joshua 23:1). But Canaan was a type of the heavenly rest; and the warning given to the Israel of his day by the present psalmist is to be regarded as a warning that, if they followed in the steps of their forefathers, they might miss of that final and crowning "rest," which, after the wilderness of this world is traversed, still "remaineth for the people of God" (see Hebrews 3:7-19; Hebrews 4:1-9).
"O come, let us worship." This sublime psalm belongs to the Christian Church no less than to ancient Israel; in a sense, more. For the series of psalms to which it belongs have a prophetic character—they look forward to the kingdom and gospel of Christ. Times without number chanted by white-robed priests and Levites in the temple court, to the clang of trumpets, harps, and cymbals, they nevertheless outstretch the narrow bounds of the old covenant. In Psalms 100:1-5 (the crown of this series) the widest invitation is given to all nations to join in worshipping Jehovah as their God.
I. AN INVITATION TO WORSHIP. What is worship? Our English word means honour and reverence paid to worth—worth-ship. It stands here for a Hebrew word, literally meaning "to fall" or" prostrate one's self;" i.e. (according to Eastern usage) by kneeling, and touching the ground with the forehead. So Abraham before the angels; Joshua (Joshua 5:14); the heavenly worshippers in St. John's vision (Revelation 4:10). So when our Lord was on earth (Luke 5:12); and elsewhere. So it follows: "bow down … kneel before the Lord." Bodily movements are the natural expression of inward emotions. So then spiritual worship is the corresponding feeling; prostration of soul—the knees of the heart. It is the acknowledgment of our dependence; we must add, our sinful unworthiness; and of the infinite worth, majesty, glory, holiness, of our Maker. It is reverence, homage, admiration, carried to the highest pitch—adoration. Other feelings, affections, motives, may enter into worship—wonder, gratitude, joy, love, obedience, trust. But worship takes all these, and lays them on the altar, as a whole burnt offering, consumed in the flame of holy awe. All the sentiments which go to make up worship may be claimed by fellow creatures; but only in measure and limit. Not only self-respect, but jealous regard for God's supreme claim, place such limits. Therefore Cornelius was rebuked by St. Peter, and St. John by the angel (Acts 10:26; Revelation 22:8, Revelation 22:9). But when we behold all good and glorious attributes united in the One Infinite, Self-existent, Eternal Being, the Source of all other being, life, joy, goodness, perfection, reason itself tells us that our worship should be unlimited, absolute. Only blindness, coldness, hardness of heart, and unbelief can prevent the full response of our souls to this invitation. "O come," etc.
II. AN INVITATION TO PUBLIC UNITED WORSHIP. "Let us worship." Worship is worthless if not spiritual (John 4:22-24). Outward forms without spiritual reality may even be hurtful, dangerous, deadly. And perhaps silent worship may be the highest worship: "groanings which cannot be uttered" (Romans 8:26). But public, united, vocal worship has great advantages. It prevents our worship from sinking into mere contemplation and meditation. These are most important aids. But worship is not truly worship unless it is actual converse with God—calling on him, drawing near to him, bowing our souls in his glorious presence. Vocal united prayer or praise greatly helps this—helps us to feel the reality of his presence, and that not only are we thinking of him and addressing him, but that he hears and answers.
III. THIS INVITATION HAS A MEANING AND POWER FOR CHRISTIANS, immeasurably transcending all that it could have for saints of old under the old covenant. Worship has regard not only to what God is in himself, but what he is to us. The pious Israelite worshipped him as "our Maker," the Judge of all the earth, the God of Israel—of Abraham and his children. Christian worship takes in all these considerations. But think what it adds! After this manner pray we, "Our Father, who art in heaven!" We worship the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. We see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. We have fellowship with the Father and the Son. We have received, not the spirit of fear, but the spirit of sonship, teaching us to say, "Abba, Father!" We have access with boldness through the blood of Jesus. The darkness is past, and the true light shineth (Ephesians 1:2, Ephesians 1:3; Ephesians 3:14; 2Co 4:6; 1 John 1:3; Romans 8:15; Ephesians 3:12; Hebrews 10:19; 1 John 2:8). Wonderful is the longing desire, holy boldness, nearness to God, of many of the ancient saints (Psalms 42:1, Psalms 42:2, and many other passages)! What ought our worship to be, standing on so far higher a level, where in privilege and knowledge "the least in the kingdom of heaven" is greater than the greatest of them!
1. The possession of spiritual life is an indispensable condition to the offering of spiritual worship (John 4:24).
2. Public worship is not only a means of blessing, a privilege, an enjoyment; it is a high and solemn duty. Christians should take earnest pains to fit themselves for taking part in it.
3. Those who lead the praises of the Church (choristers) have a sacred ministry, calling for consecration of heart as well as ear and voice or (organist's) fingers.
HOMILIES BY S. CONWAY
The invitatory psalm.
It has been thus called in Christian Liturgies throughout Christendom, and chiefly because of its fervent invitation to praise. But it is also an equally earnest invitation to hearken and to believe. Let us take that which stands at the beginning, and consider—
I. THE INVITATION TO PRAISE. In this is shown:
1. To whom the praise is to be rendered. It is to Jehovah, the Rock of our salvation.
2. Think of the many ministries which the word "rock" reminds us of. Shade: for God was to his people as "the shadow of a great rock in a weary land;" and he is so still. Defence: "Thou art my Rock and my Fortress." Strength: "Thou hast set my feet upon a rock." Supply: "He smote the rock," etc. (Psalms 78:20; Psalms 81:16). Dwelling place: we read both in Isaiah and Jeremiah of "the inhabitants of the rock." Such were the ideas that gathered round this name of the Lord which the psalm summons men to praise.
3. The manner of the praise. It was to be by joyful song and resonant shout, with thanksgiving and with psalms. So hearty, so jubilant, so universal, so emphatic, was to be the praise of the Lord. But in verse 6 there is the call to yet more profound adoration and worship, since yet higher manifestations of God's grace are to be commemorated. Therefore note:
4. The reasons for all this worship. And
(1) because of what God is—supreme over all the gods of the heathen;
(2) because of his rule over the whole earth—its depths, its heights, the sea, and the land;
(3) because—and here comes the summons to the higher praise spoken of—of what God is to his people—their Maker, their God, the Giver of their peace and rest (cf. Psalms 23:1-6; "He maketh me to lie down in green pastures"); so his people are "the people of his pasture." He is also their Guide, Defender, Ruler—"the sheep of his hand." Such are the grounds—and surely they are adequate—for this reverent and yet exultant worship. And they all remain still.
II. THE CALL TO HEAR GOD'S VOICE. (Verse 8.) For as the former verses had told of the rich and lofty privileges of the people of God, so these tell of their great peril—the peril of unbelief. This had been their ruin in days gone by, in all that weary forty years. Nothing else could harm them; but this wrought all their woo (cf. Hebrews 4:6-9). And what was true of old and of Israel, is true today and of ourselves. The righteous live by faith; no unbeliever can enter into God's rest.
III. THE CALL TO FAITH. For this is the condition of our obtaining the prize of our high calling. The rest of God is God's reward to his faithful people—a rest not alone in heaven hereafter, but here and now, whilst in this world, which Christ promises to give, and does give. Saints of old knew it; saints today enter into it. Christ dwelt in it, and so may we—if we believe.—S.C.
HOMILIES BY R. TUCK
Everybody called to praise God.
The call to offer God joyful thanksgiving is made to everybody, without qualification or limitation. It may be that certain forms of Divine worship are properly reserved for those who are in certain states of mind, or have voluntarily entered into certain relations; but the common duties of thanksgiving rest on all humanity—the claims of the God of providence and mercy should be felt, and should be responded to, by every man made in the Divine image. A strange notion has been allowed to gain some acceptance, that praise and thanksgiving from the unconverted can never be acceptable to God. The Scriptures give no countenance whatever to such a notion. Every man is invited to praise God as well as he can. What God resists is insincerity. It does not matter how imperfect the praise may be, if it is but sincere. The terms of the text imply the union of music and song in God's worship. The psalmist invites to a full burst of instrumental and vocal music, which will use up all kinds of human talents. Being a general call, it is a call to worship God with thanksgiving, which every man may be expected to feel; not with penitence, which only a few may feel.
I. ALL MEN MAY JOIN IN RECOGNIZING WHAT GOD IS TO ALL MEN.
1. God the Creator. Open out the idea that what God could say of his daily handiwork, "Behold, it is very good," man, observing the further workings, the operations, of what God has made, can repeat after him. Explain that, in a large way, man could always, by observation, see the goodness of God in creation; in minute detail man's science sees it still.
2. God the Provider. "Giving to all their meat in due season." Here show that the extraordinary, such as provision of manna, only illustrates the ordinary, God giving all their daily bread.
3. God the Saviour. In the lower sense of Preserver, Defender, Deliverer, from the common ills and perils of life. Apart, then, from all theological distinctions, all men should praise God.
II. SOME MEN MAY JOIN IN RECOGNIZING WHAT GOD IS TO SOME MEN.
1. Some men have special personal experiences of God's dealings.
2. Some men know God as their Saviour from sin.—R.T.
Psalms 95:4, Psalms 95:5
The beautiful and sublime calling to devotion.
There is a remarkable diversity in the psalms. Some express the struggling of earnest souls with the moral difficulties and mysteries of life (see Asaph's psalms). Some express the varieties of experience characterizing individual religious experience (see Psalms 42:1-11.). The psalm now before us is one that expresses the influences of the varied aspects of nature upon the culture of religions life and feeling (see also Psalms 19:1-14; Psalms 104:1-35; Psalms 147:1-20.). These poetical nature psalms are as true to humanity, as necessary and as helpful, as those whose influence seems more direct. Man's Bible is poetical. It should be, because the poetical is one of man's faculties. It is the side of his nature on which he is set in harmony with the suggestive in material creation. By the poetical faculty we need not mean the power of making poetry. It is the power to receive and respond to the impressions made on us by God's handiwork. Nothing quickens and nourishes the faculty as religion does. Faith and hope are nearly allied to imagination; and they cannot fail to culture it. In this psalm it is evident that the beautiful and sublime in nature is impressing the psalmist, filling him with reverence, leading him to personal devotion, and inciting him to call upon others to share with him in worship.
I. THE GREAT THINGS OF NATURE IMPRESS ALL MEN. Many of us may seem to be under grave disadvantage, because we live in a crowded city, a man-made city, an unaesthetic city. But even cities cannot wholly shut out the changing moods of nature. Smoke cannot hide the firmament, the sunshine, or the stars. Business cannot make us unmindful of the seasons, the winds, and the rains. Men's buildings cannot alter the conformation of the ground that makes the landscapes. And the very disabilities of city people only make them more open to nature influences when they can get away into the country. The beautiful and sublime will not always produce their due impression on us. Poets are not always equally sensitive. So much depends on our circumstances and on our moods. And therefore how important is the spirit in which we go into the country; the kind of society we seek there; and especially the quietness, the loneliness, we gain in which we may listen to nature's voice! Crowded trains, crowded piers, crowded seashores, crowded lodgings, too easily crowd men out of their spirituality. Can we recall times when nature has borne upon us with all its holiest force? At such times we were our real selves, our noblest selves; God touched us with his nature hand, and we felt the touch. Illustrate by the impressions of moor, mountain, seashore, sunset, or tempest. Upon David the voice of nature fell often, and found an exquisite sensitiveness that was partly his disposition, and partly his piety. Believe, then, in kinness between yourself and the grand in creation; and learn to expect that nature messages will come to you.
II. THE GREAT THINGS OF NATURE CALL TRUE-HEARTED MEN TO DEVOTION AND WORSHIP. To many men, warped and biassed by education and association, the great things of hills and seas and skies speak only of a higher power. If man is simple, true-hearted, they speak of the personal being of God. "The sea is his." The psalmist does not merely assert a fact; he asserts a man's feeling concerning the fact. We can have no reverence, no devotion, for the vague thing—a power. Reverence and devotion can only be felt m relation to a living being. So we must guard our faith in God, the living God. If open-hearted, nature makes us feel the kinness of man with creation in its daily dependence on God. "He is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand." Our minds, receiving impressions of glory from earth and sky, transfer them to God. If this his handiwork be so glorious and so gracious, what must he himself be? And if all things depend on him, how should we bow before him, and worship? "Oh how I fear thee, living God!" But a further impression comes. That which fills us with reverence and worship is God's voice to humanity, and it reaches the whole brotherhood of men. So we become dissatisfied with lonely worship, and want to say, with the psalmist, "Come, let us worship and bow down." Search, then, and see what is the influence of the holiday times of life upon us. Have they made us more reverent, more devout, more earnest in our religious life and service? Do they give us a worthier sense of the value of common worship; and fill us with a holier determination "not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is"?—R.T.
Associated and public prayer.
1. In meeting together for public prayer, we follow the impulses of our own hearts, as well as obey the commands of our God. Prayer and worship are connected with our whole relation to God. God is in direct relation to the spirits that we are. We feel this, and therefore we must pray for spiritual blessings. God is in direct relation to the bodies that we have. They are his making, the care of his providence. They are subject to weariness and disease; they are the mediums of our virtue and of our vice. Out of the sense of the relation of our bodies to God, we are impelled to pray for temporal blessings. And God is also in close relation to our associations with one another—to our associations as families, as Churches, as fellow worshippers, and as citizens. Our best welfare, in all these relations, depends on him who is Lord of all natural laws, Lord of storms, Lord of harvests, Lord of sunshine, Lord of the wrath of men, and Lord too of their wealth. Let any man feel this, as every true man, every thinking man, must feel it, and that man will be impelled by his own spirit to meet with others, and say to others, "O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our Maker." God deals with us collectively here on earth. We may not think of separate Churches in heaven; of organized families in heaven. There are no towns, with distinct town interests, in heaven; no nations, with national qualities and national interests, in heaven. It is peculiar to our present human scenes that God deals with us collectively. This need not relieve our sense of individual responsibility. We do but show what a basis is laid for collective prayer, for public worship, in this fact, that God deals collectively with us. He can punish individuals in another world for their individual wrongdoings. He can only punish nations, as nations, for their national wrong doings, in this sphere. Collectively, God regards us; then collectively we should pray, collectively we should worship, collectively we should live for God. The man that refuses to join in public worship is breaking away from his humanity; and denying the gracious conditions and responsibilities under which God has placed him. It is a more familiar truth, that sharing in public worship is the direct command of our God.
2. What are the reasons which keep men from the performance at all, or from the due performance of this duty of public worship? To put our reasons out into the full blaze of the light is often sufficient to wither them up, and to make us altogether ashamed of them. Perhaps some persuade themselves to say, "Your worship is not really intended for us: it is for Christians, and we do not want to intrude." It is a mistake. God's worship is for men, all men, all God-made men, whether they fit in with our idea of what God would have them be or not. Some stay from public worship because they cannot arrange their domestic affairs so as conveniently to attend it. Be sure that you have really tried and failed, before you rest in this excuse. Most stay away from sheer indifference, from the carelessness which settles down over souls that willingly live to self and sin. Some men are indisposed to worship; and it is this indisposition with which we have to deal.
3. Under the terms, "associated, and public worship," three forms may be indicated.
(1) Family prayer. When the devoted Richard Baxter lived in Kidderminster, it is said there was not a house in which the evensong of praise might not be heard, and the uplifted prayer of earnest hearts. The rush of modem business life has swept away much family prayer.
(2) Social prayer. Times when two or three meet together, to plead the promise made to two of the disciples who agree to ask. The smaller meetings are specially fruitful in spiritual blessings.
(3) Public prayer. The services of the sanctuaries. The spiritual antitypes of the old temple worship at Jerusalem, "whither the tribes go up." Public worship sustains, as nothing else can do, our dependence on God, the Creator, the Provider, the Redeemer. "He made us, and not we ourselves;" "He redeemeth our life from destruction." He "sent his Son into the world, that we might live through him." Then surely we ought "to worship and bow down."—R.T.
Our moral relations with God.
"People of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand." Some writers try to amend this sentence, because the poetical figure seems complicated. It is much better to leave it in its poetical suggestiveness. It indicates familiarity with Eastern shepherding. The shepherd lives with his flock day and night; feels for them a personal affection; tends them in all their times of need with his own hands. So the Eastern sheep and shepherd figures, for God and his people, are stronger and more suggestive than we can realize if we keep ourselves to Western shepherd associations. In so carefully putting people into one sentence, and sheep into the other, the psalmist reminds us that God's sheep are moral beings, and the mere physical relations of shepherds to their sheep do but represent and illustrate the moral relations in which God stands to his people as moral beings. So we rise into a sphere in which we need the help of another figure—that of the father and his family. The "Lord our Maker" here brings God before us as the Universal Creator; and as the Founder of the Israelite nation.
I. OUR MORAL RELATIONS WITH GOD INCLUDE OUR CHARACTERS. Illustrate from the shepherd's estimate of each sheep. But the end at which the shepherd aims is health, fatness. The end at which God aims is cultured, developed, perfected character. And this is the Divine aim forevery man, and the Divine work in every man. If we can see the issue more plainly reached in some men than in others, this need not dim our confidence that the work is going on in all.
II. OUR MORAL RELATIONS WITH GOD INCLUDE OUR MOODS. For no man can study human nature without observing that men are constantly acting, on occasion, out of harmony with their characters. The difficulty of dealing wisely with children lies in their occasional strange lapses and oddities. God bears shepherd-like relation to the odd moods of his moral beings.
III. OUR MORAL RELATIONS WITH GOD INCLUDE OUR SINS. This brings us into a very familiar field, and opens to view the redeeming and sanctifying work of God. These moral relations of God to us are the real reason why we should "worship and bow down."—R.T.
Divided feeling in man.
The psalmist assumes that they wish to hear God's voice, and yet there is danger of their hardening their heart. That double feeling is constantly to be found in men. They are forever putting stumbling blocks in their own way. The head will often hinder the heart, and the heart will often hinder the head. Man is a single being, and he is his own true self only when all the forces of his nature act in harmony together. But man can make himself into a dual being, and start a strife within himself that will prove morally destructive. Illustrate by the devil possessed in the time of Christ. There was strife in the men. Their will pulled one way, the mastering will that was upon them pulled the other. Or take the modern case of delirium tremens. Here in our text we have the power which lies in man to hinder himself. He may "harden his heart," and so silence every high and noble desire he may feel. This hardening of the heart is always a man's own act to begin with, and God's act to finish with. A man sets himself upon resisting right impressions and persuasions; he finds it easier a second time and a third; he is hardening so that the persuasions have little effect, and God at last puts his seal on the hardening, and the persuasions roll off altogether.
I. WHEN A MAN WANTS TO WORSHIP GOD, HE CAN HARDEN HIS HEART BY ENCOURAGING DOUBTS. Some one is ever ready to whisper, "Is there a God at all? If there is, is he really a good God? If he is good, might he not have done a great deal more for you?" Give room to such doubts, and all interest in worship will soon take to itself wings and flee away.
II. WHEN A MAN WANTS TO WORSHIP GOD, HE CAN HARDEN HIS HEART BY MURMURINGS. Illustrate from the historical allusion to Meribah (Exodus 17:1-7). If anybody wants to murmur, he can easily find something to murmur about. There is a sunny side and a dark side to almost everything; and, if a man chooses, he can see only the dark side; and, if he does, he will surely spoil all desire for worship, all grounds for thanksgiving.—R.T.
The sin of tempting God.
Tempting God is putting him to the test, as if you did not feel quite sure of him, and could not fully trust him. The idea of the word is "assay," "test," as the refiner does metals, or as the chemist or analyst may do to substances submitted to him. It is always implied that the man who proves the thing either does not know what it is or is uncertain about it. It is just that ignorance and uncertainty which God's people never should have concerning him. It is that doubting God which makes all attempts to test and prove him altogether wrong. Take the case of Israel at Meribah, and show that, in view of the Divine deliverances, guidings, providings, and defendings, any attempt to prove whether God really cared for them, and could help them, was absolutely unworthy; it amounted, indeed, to an insult offered to their covenant King.
I. PUTTING GOD TO THE PROOF MAY BE PERMISSIBLE. But the conditions are very clear. If a man wants to believe, and wants encouragement to faith, God will permit him to put him to the proof. This is illustrated, in a very different way, by the sign of the fleece asked by Gideon. The rightness or wrongness of asking the sign depended entirely on the state of Gideon's mind and feeling. He wanted help to belief, so he may put God to the test. Circumstances may arise now which may allow of our proving God; but that work should never be attempted save at the utmost strain.
II. PUTTING GOD TO THE PROOF IS GENERALLY UNPERMISSIBLE. Because generally it implies doubt of God's power, or faithfulness, or mercy. See the mood of the Israelites; and see the spirit in which the scribes and Pharisees came, putting Jesus to the test. They did not want to believe in him. They wanted to get something which would encourage their unbelief. So Jesus refused, saying, "There shall no sign be given unto them." Keep right attitudes and moods of mind, and right relations with God, and then it will never come into our minds to attempt to put him to the test.—R.T.
Divine judgments on the unbeleving.
"They should not enter into my rest." As the reference is clearly to the murmurings of the Israelites at Meribah, the "rest" referred to can only be the anticipated rest of settlement in the promised land of Canaan. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews finds a further meaning, or rather suggestion, in the word; but we may seek for the first and direct teaching of the passage.
1. Notice that God is said to have been grieved with the effort made to test or tempt him; but his grief is not to be thought of as distress, it is rather that he was "moved with indignation," and therefore found an immediate and severe judgment necessary.
2. Notice that the basis of all the wrong in Israel is recognized as unbelief; but that is not here an intellectual sin, it is a heart sin; it is not "inability to believe," it is "untrustfulness," and untrustfulness when God had laid down such abundant grounds for their trust.
3. Notice that the judgment fell upon the generation, and not upon the race. In all God's judgments that recognize personal failings, we may find personal suffering and loss, but no frustration of the Divine purposes. The untrustful generation died in the wilderness; but the race, in good time, entered and possessed the "rest" of Canaan.
4. Notice that our own human feelings enable us to understand the Divine indignation. All good men love to be trusted. You can never so sorely try a good man as by failing to trust him. This applies even more strongly to those who are in close, loving, family relations with us. The supreme indignity, to our humble view, is a son failing to trust a good mother. Work out the various relations in which God, the infinitely Good One, stood to Israel, and stands to us; and so bring to view the shame of our untrustfulness, and the reasonableness of our coming under disciplining Divine judgments.—R.T.
HOMILIES BY C. SHORT
Public worship-its necessity and advantage.
I. ITS NATURE.
1. Thanksgiving and praise. (Psalms 95:1, Psalms 95:2.) We need special seasons for thinking over our privileges and cultivating gratitude, and the utterance of the spirit of praise.
2. Adoration and prayer. (Psalms 95:6.) God's love thus a cause for our cleansing. Christ's promises and grace inexhaustible. Who can drink the river of his love dry? Confession and supplication.
3. Listening to the voice of God. (Psalms 95:7.) In his spoken Word and in our own hearts. Hearing what God speaks to us is as much worship as our speaking to God.
II. REASONS OF WORSHIP.
1. God's supremacy. (Psalms 95:3-5.) Here is the theme of the loftiest praise; a reason for the largest prayers; and an argument for submission to his perfect will.
2. God's tender guardianship. "He is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand." intimate relationship to him: "our God." Living upon his bounty: "people of his pasture." We are being guided by him: "sheep of his hand."
3. God's oath against those who are hardened. "Unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest."
4. He is the Rock of our salvation. (Psalms 95:1.) The eternal Foundation and Shelter of the soul.—S.
The material universe and its lessons.
"In his hand are the deep places of the earth: the strength of the hills is his also. The sea is his, and he made it; and his hands formed the dry land." The material universe suggests—
I. THE PROFOUND MYSTERY OF SELF-EXISTENCE. Is it eternal, self-existent; or has it come from God in the way of direct creation or evolution? Self-existence an impossible conception, whether of the universe or of God; but it is also impossible to avoid it and find a substitute; only impossible to conceive of two self-existences.
II. IF THE UNIVERSE IS EVOLVED FROM GOD, THEN IT MUST BE A REVELATION OF PART OF HIS NATURE. Shows that God takes delight in material strength and beauty as well as in spiritual. The infinite variety of conceptions embodied. The infinite skill in the construction of the infinitely little and the infinitely great. But this only of a part of his nature, and that not the highest.III. MANIFESTATION OF POWER. "Who by his strength setteth fast the mountains, being girded with power." Seas and mountains only functional examples of his power. The vastness of the universe. The child that Augustine saw ladling the sea into a hole in the sand. "Not more impossible than for you to empty the universe into your intellect."IV. THE MATERIAL UNIVERSE GENERATES IN US THE SENSE OF WEAKNESS AND INSIGNIFICANCE. But mind, conscience, heart, are the only things that are eternally great. Mountains will melt, and seas dry up. "He is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand." "It is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves." We are his children.—S.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Psalms 95". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19