Year A – Lent 3 – Psalm 95

Psalms 95:1–11 – O come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! 2 Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! 3 For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods. 4 In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. 5 The sea is his, for he made it, and the dry land, which his hands have formed. 6 O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker! 7 For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. O that today you would listen to his voice! 8 Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, 9 when your ancestors tested me, and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work. 10 For forty years I loathed that generation and said, “They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they do not regard my ways.” 11 Therefore in my anger I swore, “They shall not enter my rest.”

Summary – The event in Exodus 17 becomes part of the living memory of God’s people in Psalm 95. This Psalm begins with a call to worship in God’s presence, to thank Him and praise Him with song. He is the Maker of the world so we should worship Him on bended knee. But even more, He is our Shepherd and we are the sheep of His hand. This means that our Shepherd feeds and cares for us by His hand. The Psalm ends acknowledging Israel’s failure as they grumbled and showed hard hearts at Meribah and Massah in the wilderness. The consequence is that many did not enter into their rest from the wilderness.

Insight – Psalm 95 turns the experience of the Israelites (Ex. 17) into a song. In hard episodes in life we want to completely wash them from our memories. This is especially so in terms of sinful and shameful things we have done. Israel did not get to sweep their sin “under the rug.” Many American textbooks revise our national history to make us look noble and valiant, but it was not so with Israel. Israel’s failures were written into their history and their hymns. True worship arises from truth. Proper worship arises not only from knowing God’s power and love, but from reflecting on our failures. Let us shout to the “Rock of our salvation,” while also know that we must not harden our hearts.  In this anthem, they recognize the power of God their “Maker” over all the earth and that they were His sheep which He cared for, the very thing they forgot in their grumbling.

Child’s Catechism – Why should we make a joyful noise? Because God is our maker and our Shepherd.

Question to Consider – If you were to write a song that recounted your disobedience, what would it say and where did it happen?

Prayer – [BCP Collect for Purity] Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid; Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Year A – Epiphany 1 – Psalm 29

Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
2 Ascribe to the Lord the glory of his name;
worship the Lord in holy splendor.
3 The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the Lord, over mighty waters.
4 The voice of the Lord is powerful;
the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.
5 The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
6 He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,
and Sirion like a young wild ox.
7 The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.
8 The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;
the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
9 The voice of the Lord causes the oaks to whirl,*
and strips the forest bare;
and in his temple all say, ‘Glory!’
10 The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.
11 May the Lord give strength to his people!
May the Lord bless his people with peace!

Summary— Just as our minister calls us, each Sunday, to worship with angels and archangels, so may we call those angels and archangels to worship.  This psalm opens in the Throne Room with just such a call: the psalmist, energized by what is about to come, summons the heavenly beings to ascribe glory to God (v.1 and 2).  We do the same in the Doxology, when we sing, “Praise Him above ye heavenly hosts.”  The scene now shifts to an awesomely tempestuous ocean, and the roaring thunder is nothing less than the voice of Yahweh (v.3).  That thundering voice in the storm sweeps inland, breaking down cedars (v.5), making all that is impressive to man bow down to Him.  Yahweh’s lightning flashes forth (v.7), shaking the wilderness (v.8) and stripping the forest bare (v.9).  All in His temple joyfully reel at the earth-shaking surge of power and in exhilarated awe shout “Glory!” (v.9).  The storm then passes over, and the people—in the wonder of the calm—look up between the dissipating clouds to see Yahweh enthroned serenely over the situation, as He sends the trailing end of His storm toward the horizon (v.10).  May He give the strength of that storm and the peace that follows it to us (v.11)!

Insight— Last summer, my kids and I got stuck under a park pavilion during the most ear-splitting and torrential storm I’ve ever experienced.  Lightning was striking all around us with incredible frequency, apparently a stone’s throw away, while water rose on the concrete slab where I stood holding one child in each arm.  With each strike of lightning and immediate peal of thunder, I’d yell out above the torrent, “What does thunder say!?” and the kids would yell back, “God is awesome!”  It’s a special memory.  I understand that not everybody likes storms, but at the risk of pushing my preference onto you (mainly because it’s the psalmist’s preference) you really should learn to like them, too, if you don’t already.  They’re awesome.  Don’t worry—Yahweh’s throne is over them, and it’s His voice that thunders in them.  It’s His voice that roars in the clash of wave and rock on the jetty just before the storm rolls inland.  Don’t miss God’s self-disclosure in nature: storms say something about Him—so do trees, flowers, mountains, canyons, snowflakes, raindrops.  As we traverse this valley of longing between glory and greater glory, where faith is not yet sight, we cherish the tokens of glory which God graciously gives to stir our longing and hint at its fulfillment.  So joyfully reel at His earth-shaking surges of power and in exhilarated awe shout, “Glory!”

Child Catechism—
Q: What does thunder say?
A: God is awesome!

Discussion—What are some other events or objects of God’s world which reveal Him?  What do they say?

Prayer—Yahweh, You are glorious and strong and we fall down before the splendor of Your holiness.  You are the God of glory and Your voice is powerful and full of majesty, thundering over the mighty waters.  As your voice breaks down cedars and flashes forth flames of fire and shakes the wilderness, we in Your temple say, “Glory!”  You sit enthroned over the flood as king forever.  Give us strength and bless us with the peace of Christ through whom we pray.  Amen.

Contributed by Scott Cline