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Three divisions complete the formal arrangement of this psalm. The first is the introduction, consisting of four lines, (Psalms 95:1-2,) and is an earnest invitation to praise Jehovah; the second, also of ten lines, (Psalms 95:3-7,) extolls the greatness of God, and his tender relations to his people; the third, also of ten lines, (Psalms 95:8-11,) is an earnest warning, grounded on the sad memories of the example of their forefathers, not to tempt God by unbelief.
There is no external intimation of the occasion upon which it was written, and nothing to indicate that it belongs to the historic psalms; but the general spirit and imagery clearly point to the social-spiritual sphere. The strain is exceedingly joyful, and devotionally triumphant and beautiful, and belongs to some occasion of exultant gladness. The strong predominance of reminiscences of the wilderness life of Israel, and of that supremacy which the name of Jehovah acquired among the nations by the miracles of Egypt and the desert, give probability to the opinion of those who assign it to the occasion of the annual feast of tabernacles, the law for which is recorded Leviticus 23:34-43
1, 2. Let us sing unto the Lord In Psalms 95:1-2, the language describes the most jubilant and noisy demonstrations known in the Hebrew worship. Yet it is carefully chastened with reverence by the designation “ to Jehovah,” “ to the rock of our salvation;” also by the quality of the loud shouting, namely, with thanksgiving and with psalms, which belonged to the regular order of worship. The occasion was not one of mourning, confession of sin, and penitence, but of triumph, praise, gladness, which accords naturally with the associations of the feast of tabernacles.
The rock Christ, to whom the author of Hebrews (Hebrews 3:6) applies the psalm. The Septuagint reads, “God our Saviour.”
3. For the Lord is a great God This is the theme of Psalms 95:3-5, and the reason for this call for abundant and loud praise.
Above all gods Above all the “gods” of the nations. But the title “gods” is also sometimes given to princes, judges, and rulers, (Psalms 8:6; Psalms 82:6; Psalms 96:4-5,) to whom it better applies here.
4. Deep places The Hebrew word signifies that which is known only by searching; but these inmost recesses of the earth were unsearchable. See Jeremiah 31:37. To the ancients the interior of the earth was a fathomless mystery, which modern science has only hypothetically dispelled. Here the ancients located sheol, or hades the region of departed spirits. They had no conception either of the absolute or relative dimensions of the earth.
Strength of the hills The heights of the mountains. The opposite of “deep places of the earth.” To the former, as the word indicates, we attain by wearisome labour; the latter are unsearchable, but God knows, governs, and possesses them all. What language of modern science can more beautifully and impressively exalt our conceptions of God?
5. The sea… the dry land Another description comprehending the entire globe. The argument lies against the heathen notion of tutelary or local gods. God is supreme over all. Psalms 95:3. He rules in the mountain heights and in the lowest depths. Psalms 95:4. Comp. 1 Kings 20:23; 1 Kings 20:28. He rules over the sea and the dry land.
6. Worship… bow down… kneel Three different words, expressive of the humblest form of bodily prostration before a superior, and repeated for intensity.
Kneel before the Lord Literally, Kneel to the face of Jehovah; in his immediate presence a spiritual anticipation of Hebrews 10:22. The outward homage must arise from, and sincerely express, the inward feeling and desire. “In the shell of the kneeling there must be contained the kernel of unreserved surrender, which manifests itself in willing obedience.” Hengstenberg.
7. For he is our God The reasons for this lively, willing, and unreserved devotion were, in Psalms 95:3-5, drawn from the greatness of God as creator and governor of the world. In Psalms 95:6-7 the motives appeal more directly to the heart and the moral feelings. He is “our God,” “our Maker,” and we are his “people,” his “sheep.”
Sheep of his hand That is, we are guided, cared for, and protected by “his hand,” his personal attention. Psalm 77:21; Psalms 100:3; Psalms 23:3-4.
Today The “to-day,” or this day, indicates that a decisive moment, a crisis, had come. So the apostle applies it (Hebrews 3:7-11) to the Jews of his day, who stood, with reference to the gospel, as the Hebrews at Kadesh did in reference to Canaan. Thus it applies to every sinner each moment of his probation. “Hereby is meant the whole time by which Christ speaketh by his gospel.” Ainsworth.
If ye will hear his voice Taking the conjunction here in its conditional sense, the apodosis, or concluding clause, seems obscure. Hengstenberg supplies it by reading: “‘If ye will hear his voice,’ he will bless you, his people.” This accords with the passage (Exodus 23:22,) “If thou shalt indeed obey his voice, and do all that I speak, then I will be an enemy unto thine enemies, and an adversary unto thine adversaries.” But it equally answers the grammatical and doctrinal demand to supply, as the sense implies, אן , ( then, on this account,) after “voice,” and read: “To day, if ye will hear his voice, [ then ] harden not your hearts.” The hearing implies heeding hearing with a view to obeying which is impossible while unbelief hardens the heart and perverts the will. The conditioning protasis does not anticipate a promissory apodosis, but a caution; not the blessings which flow upon hearing, but the moral preparation implied in obedient hearing.
8. As in the provocation… as in the day of temptation It is better to take “provocation” and “temptation” as proper names. The Hebrew simply reads: As Meribah, as the day of Massah, in the wilderness. The allusion is to Exodus 17:7. “And he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah” Temptation and Rebellion. The name “Meribah” was also afterward given to Kadesh, (Numbers 20:13; Numbers 27:14,) written fully, “Meribah-Kadesh,” Deuteronomy 32:51. These were noted instances of rebellion through unbelief, and are advanced here only as specimens of the disobedience of their forefathers in the desert, against which the people are here warned.
9. When your fathers tempted me Where “your fathers tempted.” The pronoun here refers to place “ the wilderness.”
Tempted Required proof by visible tests. See on Psalms 78:18. The temptations by Israel had been great: at the Red Sea, (Exodus 14:11-12;) at Marah, (Exodus 15:23-24;) at the Desert of Sin, (Exodus 16:1-3;) at Rephidim, (Exodus 17:1-3;) at Sinai, (Exodus 43;) in the matter of Nadab and Abihu, (Leviticus 10:0;) in their clamour for meat to eat, (Numbers 11:4-6;) in the matter of Aaron and Miriam, (Numbers 12:0;) of the spies, (Numbers 13:14;) of Korah and his company, (Numbers 16:0;) at Kadesh, (Numbers 20:1-5;) near Mount Hor, (Numbers 21:4-6;) in the matter of Baal-peor, (Numbers 25:0.)
Proved me Put me to the proof of my power and faithfulness.
Saw my work The “work” of God, here referred to, was not the punishment which followed their sin, but the whole series of miracles in Egypt and the wilderness. The apostle uses the plural, “works,” Hebrews 3:9. The idea is one of astonishment, that, after having seen these miracles, they should yet fall into the sin of unbelief and disobedience. The particle גם , ( gam,) translated and, here, as in some other instances, takes the adversative sense of yet, although “ Where your fathers tempted me, proved me, although they saw [equal to had seen ] my work.”
10. Forty years long was I grieved That is, disgusted, made to loathe, as the word imports. This not only illustrates the long suffering of God, but the incurable malignity of their sin. After all their bitter experience and rejection at Kadesh, the remaining thirty-eight years of wandering in the desert offered nothing pleasing to God, and effected no radical change in their manners. Nothing is recorded of those years of wandering except the names of their principal encampments. See on Psalms 90:9.
Generation To be understood qualitatively and not quantitatively; of the nature or kind of people, rather than the simple, aggregate body of those who perished in the wilderness. See note on Psalms 22:30.
Err in their heart The evil lay deep in the moral nature, as at enmity with God.
“Err,” here, means confused, wandering; descriptive of one who has lost his way, and who fails in all his efforts to regain it. This was because of the state of their heart, which made them inapt to learn God’s ways.
11. I sware in my wrath A most solemn transaction. The form of the oath is given Numbers 14:21; Numbers 14:28-34.
My rest That is, the land of Canaan, which was the “rest” which God had prepared for his people from the hardships of their bondage life in Egypt, the nomad life of their forefathers, (see Hebrews 11:9; Hebrews 11:14,) and their pilgrim life in the desert. The apostle applies it spiritually to the “rest” of faith attained in Christ, (Hebrews 4:3; Hebrews 4:8-10,) which also is forfeited by unbelief.
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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Psalms 95". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19