Several years ago Liz and I had the pleasure of seeing a Cirque du Soleil act in Orlando. I must say, the acrobatic, other-worldly ability of these well-fit people blew me away. No matter what feat they attempted to pull off, one word kept popping up in my mind: balance. Here is a video as a case in point from a man they call Kurios, which is the Greek for Lord. He’s lord all right. Lord of the balance.
While most would find it almost impossible to stand on a flat piece of Plexiglas on just one round piece of the substance, this man does it on multiple shapes and sizes . . . and he doesn’t fall because he has mastered the art of balance. He knows, from years of practice, just where his center of gravity needs to be to
remain upright. He certainly knows the danger of leaning a little too far to the left or right, and how quickly a miscalculating can send him tumbling down. So, with finesse, skill, and artistic flare, Kurios stays balanced on the most shifting of surfaces.
Balance isn’t just important for acrobats like Kurios. From what we see from Psalm 95, it is most needed in a maturing walk with Jesus Christ. The center of gravity for a growing believer knows the perfect balance between two things: worshipping God and walking with God. How are you faring between these two concepts? Worshipping God is one thing, and walking with Him in light of what you’ve encountered in worship is another thing. Observed together as a lifestyle there is spiritual balance leading to maturity. If one is neglected or downplayed, well, a saint falls insofar as they are not paying attention to what God desires from them.
Since spiritual balance is so important, and since it is so easy to get out of balance with all the distractions and temptations we have in life, I think it most timely to set our interpretive sights on Psalm 95. From reading and studying this ancient worship psalm, I would readily give you this main over-arching concept:
Worship Of God Should Be Followed By Walking With God (Psalm 95)
Both are commands (Heb. 10:24-25; James 1:23-25) from the Lord, not suggestions by any means. Psalm 95 clearly and concisely presents this much needed balance for maturation purposes, and it does it in what scholars classify as an Enthronement Psalm. Understanding what this type of psalm is will aid our comprehension of its meaning and application of it, so I think it wise to
consider the words of Claus Westermann:
A common feature of all these psalms (in addition to the cultic cry, ‘The Lord has
become King’) is that God is praised for his majesty, with special emphasis put on
the reign of Israel’s God over the entire world. . . The liturgical and eschatological
interpretations of these psalms are not mutually exclusive. Borrowing the customs and imagery of the enthronement of an earthly ruler, the community celebrated God’s royal rule over the entire world, anticipating the fulfillment of the promise in liturgical jubilation.1
Please hold this thought for when we dig into the meaning of verse 11 for it will greatly assist us. For now, simply keep in mind that this type of psalm is about the king’s enthronement, and it ultimately looks forward to the enthronement of the ultimate earthly king, the Messiah (Isa. 2; 9:6ff; Psalm 89).
In the psalm before us, the king without doubt is Messiah and that is why we are called to worship Him and walk with Him. Mark this well. In the present we are supposed to evidence a balance between these two spiritual poles, and in the future the Messiah will, in fact reign in Jerusalem as prophesied. Those who have worshipped and walk well will enjoy His prophesied earthly kingdom, which is not concerned with the heavenly kingdom. Those who have not evidenced this balance will meet with His displeasure and discipline. More on that when we get
to verses 7b through 11.
For now, we need to make sure we understand and are deeply committed to what I’ll call for teaching purposes . . .
The Way of Worship (Psalm 95:1-7a)
Put differently, how and why are we, as growing believers, supposed to worship the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Jesus, the Christ? Verses one through seven answer this all-important query. In the first two verses we quickly encounter . . .
The How of Worship (vv. 1-2).
Watch how the psalmist develops this concept and command:
1 O Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our
All of the imperatival ideas here are bathed in absolute, joyous enthusiasm. There is no room here for the mundane, lifeless, and boring. On the contrary, the verses pulsate with zeal which would make a Pentecostal smile. “Sing for joy” in Hebrew comes from a verbal stem which means to “yell or shout.”
shout: רַ נֵּן .inf; רַ נְּנוּ .impv; נְרַ נְּנָה ,תְּ רַ נֵּנָּה ,יְרַ נַּֽנוּ ,יְרַ נְּנוּ ,אֲרַ נֵּן ,תְּ רַ נֵּן .impf; רִ נְּנוּ .pf: Piel
with joy Is 2619; (w. b® because of) Ps 925; w. acc. proclaim in shouts of joy Ps
5116; w. °el, l® Ps 843 951.1F
When’s the last time you shouted out in corporate worship? Been awhile? And why are you verbally exuberant? Because you are worshipping the LORD, the One who is the eternal, the One who stands outside of time and space, the One who is the Alpha and the Omega, and the One who is the First and the Last. His eternal existence means He is always present with you, and that fact, in and of itself, should move you to publicly give him praise and worship.
“Cry out” is from a Hebrew word associated with a loud, ringing war-cry of a soldier.
נָרִ יעַ ,וַיָרִ (י)עוּ ,תָּ רִ יעִ י ,וַיָּרַ ע ,יָרִ יעַ .impf; 109 Nuהֲרֵ עֹתֶ ם ,הֲרִ יעֹתֶ ם ,הֵרִ יעוּ .pf.: hif: רוע
in (shout. 1.: — coll or. pl. alw. subj: מְ רִ יעִ ים .pt; הָרִ יעַ .inf; הָרִ יעוּ ,הָרִ יעִ י .impv; נָרִ יעָה
alarm) Ju 721; (in triumph) 1514 (w. liqr1°tô: ran shouting towards him); (in
acclamation) 1S 1024; — 2. h¢rî±û t®rû±â g®dôlâ give a great shout 1S 45; — 3.
shout a war-cry 1S 1752, w. t®rû±â g®dôlâ a loud war-cry Jos 65; — 4. h¢rî±û bammilμ1mâ shout a war-cry 1S 1720, ±al against Je 5015; — 5. h¢rî±û (baμ-
ƒœƒ®rôt) sound the signal for battle Nu 107•9; — 6. shout in triumph Is 4423;— 7. h¢rî±û r¢± shout loudly Mi 49. 3
Why are you crying out? Because God is the “rock of our salvation,” which connotes our salvation, as secured by Jesus (looking at the text form a NT perspective) isn’t going anywhere and most certainly ours (John 10:28-29). A pebble could get washed away, but not a massive, heavy rock. Such is the nature of our salvation and it should move you to a war-cry of joy when you’re in
Verse two is no exception in telling us how to approach God in corporate worship. It should be done with a spirit of joyful thanksgiving. Here’s how the inspired, unknown psalmist puts it:
2 Holladay, Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, 7952.
3 Holladay, 7916.
2 Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.
The plural nature of the summons informs us this is a corporate, not an individual request. All of God’s saints should walk into this place of worship with thanksgiving on their lips.
• Thank you Lord for the opportunity to worship.
• Thank you Lord for a safe environment for worship.
• Thank you Lord for providing for me this week.
• Thank you Lord helping me work through some tough, twisted issues.
• Thank you Lord . . . well . . . I’m confident you can fill in the proverbial blank.
You enter into worship not with a spirit of criticism, analysis, or grumbling, but with a spirit of appreciation for what God has done for you recently. Here is a question for you, how did you walk into this house of worship today? Do you need a spiritual attitude adjustment? If so, there is grace and mercy at the Lord’s throne.
The fourth and final “how to” regarding corporate worship is presented at the close of verse 2.
2 Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.
Here is that Hebrew war-cry word again. I’m sure it makes the more liturgical among us a bit uptight and psychologically edgy because it pushed us out of our comfort zones.
How many different ways can you sing Blessed Assurance?
Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine
Heir of salvation, purchase of God
Born of His spirit, washed in His blood
This is my story, this is my song
Praising my Savior all the day long
This is my story, this is my song
Praising my Savior all the day long,
How can you not sing that chorus with some volume if you really believe what it says? Stop for a moment and take stock of your “how to” of worship. Which word better describes it: quite flat or quite fiery?
And, really, why should our worship be fired up and full of passion? The next five verses tell us all we need to know to answer the query:
The Why of Worship (vv. 3-7a).
The opening preposition, ki ( יִ ֤ כּ ( introduces us to the list of
why we are called to worship God.
3 For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods, 4 In whose hand
are the depths of the earth; the peaks of the mountains are His also. 5 The sea is His, for it was He who made it; and His hands formed the dry land. 6 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.
Do you see the reasons for worship?
• The eternal God, Yahweh, is a great God. Why is He great? He loved us when we
walked away from Him. He revealed Himself to us when He could have hidden
Himself because He’s holy. He showed us how we, as sinners, should approach
Him with the appropriate sacrifice. He is transcendent yet highly immanent
and accessible (John 8:58, He is the great I AM who is). He doesn’t bear the
sinful characteristics built into man made gods, but is holy and distinct.
• He is the true King of Kings above every god in every made-made pantheon of
false Gods. He’s above Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Demeter, Athena, Apollo, Artemis
and Aphrodite. He’s above Baal, Chemosh, Dagon, Asherah, Anat, Bel, and Yam.
He’s above every so-called god of every cult and false religion known to man
today. He is, as Isaiah said, God and there is no other (Isa. 45:5-6, 14, 31, 22;
• He is the Creator who fashioned everything like a potter in His workroom. Descend 7,208 feet into the deepest and most impressive cave in all the world called Krubera in Georgia just northeast of the Black Sea.
You can rest assured the power ofHis creative hand formed it in the beginning of time. Hike, if you dare, to the top 29, 032 foot snowy, icy summit of Everest you can bank of the fact He formed it all by the mere word of His mouth. None of this wonder and massive complexity just occurred on its own. This notion defies all laws of science and logic. No, these monumental effects originated in a living, eternal God who is uncaused and who just “is” ontologically. The four major oceans, viz., the Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, and Arctic, contain 71% of all the water on our planet, and thereby make earth the water wonder of the known cosmos.
This is a good reason, wouldn’t you say, to worship God? He so carefully fashioned our planet, He made sure our eco-system had just the right amount of the complex stuff we call water so we could survive and thrive. And because He is a God of life, He carved out seven continents, viz., Africa, Antarctica, Asia, Australia, Europe, North and South America for us to enjoy some 15 billion acres of habitable, productive, and enjoyable land. Again, is there any wonder we, as
His creatures, should not worship Him who has given us all of this for life and
• God is our Shepherd and we are His sheep. What a beautiful, tender image in verse 7a.
Rightly did God call Himself this in the Old Testament (Jer. 31:10), and rightly
did Jesus identify Himself this way when He walked among us (John 10:14). As
the Creator, He sits on a celestial throne high and lifted up, but as our Lord, He
comes alongside us to care for and protect us as we walk through the various
pastures and valleys of life.
Need you any more reasons why your life should be filled with worship rendered toward Him? I think you and I have enough to show us the first part of achieving spiritual balance in our lives so we can live as He has called us to live.
We cannot, however, forget the other side of maintaining our balance. It has everything to do with what we do once we leave worship. Spiritual balance, which is maturity, is achieved when we worship and walk with God. The closing verses, therefore, rightfully give us a word of warning and caution for the Psalmist knows our sinful proclivity all too well. On the one hand, we can easily move into worship, but on the other, we can leave worship and for a variety of reasons chose to not apply what we heard in worship. Hence the need for a dire, direct warning
to the sheep of God’s fold.
The Walk of Worship (Psalm 95:7b-11)
The word of God is an integral part of worship. Our worship is directed toward God, and God’s Word is directed toward us. One is outward and the other in inward. The latter should, by definition and divine design lead God’s sheep, His saints, from worshipping Him to walking obediently with Him. But such is not always the case, especially from what we know of Israel’s wanderings from Egypt to the land of promise. They, who witnessed time and time again, the miraculous works of God, they who saw His protective cloud guiding and protecting them during the day and the ominous glowing pillar of fire by night, should have logically moved from worshipping Him to walking with Him. Their track record couldn’t have been more different as the Psalmist reminds us in the ensuing verses:
Today, if you would hear His voice, 8 Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, As in the day of Massah in the wilderness; 9 "When your fathers tested Me, They tried Me, though they had seen My work. 10 "For forty years I loathed that generation, And said they are a people who err in their heart, And they do not know My ways. 11 "Therefore I swore in My anger, Truly they shall not enter into My rest."
From these verses we can readily isolate to main sub-points.
Hear and Heed God’s Word (vv. 7b).
Note the conditionality and utter urgency of the
statement. You might show up for a given worship service and join in the singing and then willfully tune out what God says during the sermon. Or the Spirit of God might be convicting you of sin and attempting to get your attention during a given message, and you hear Him most distinctly.
• You need to tell your parents you are sorry.
• You need to apologize to your wife/husband for what you said the other day.
• You must come clean with what you’ve been doing when no one is looking.
• You must apologize for the person you have taken advantage of.
You who know God get the drill. Worship is great and then, bam. God speaks and you know it. The question is what are you going to do with what God is telling you? You going to finally do something about it? Worship is not about you evaluating me, but with God’s word evaluating you so you can make appreciable spiritual progress when you willfully chose to act. So what about it?
Are you a doer or a dodger? Blessed is the saint who worships and then walks out the worship doors with the full intention of applying what God just laid on them. Blessed is the saint who senses his/her sin and sees the urgency of the spiritual moment.
This is, unfortunately, not always how it goes, and this is why the Psalmist gives us a much needed and rough warning:
Hear and Heed God’s Warning (v. 8-11).
8 Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as in the day of Massah in the
wilderness; 9 "When your fathers tested Me, They tried Me, though they had seen
My work. 10 "For forty years I loathed that generation, and said they are a people
who err in their heart, and they do not know My ways. 11 "Therefore I swore in My anger, truly they shall not enter into My rest."
At the beginning of Israel’s desert journey to Sinai, they bit the spiritual dust in a big fashion. They chose to harden their hearts and not believe God could, or would, meet their daily need for water. And to think they did this after they saw Him part the Red Sea. Surely, since He can divide water, then giving water to His people would have been no big deal. The people felt differently when faced with a new adversity. Their disbelief and disobedience was/is shocking. Ever been guilty
At Rephidim, which Moses renamed Meribah and Massah, Hebrew words which means “strife and testing,” and they tested God by griping He had drug them into the blinding heat of the desert to kill them with thirst (Ex. 17:1-7). Obviously, the accusation involved calling God capricious and cruel, two things which He most certainly was not and is not, ever. God patiently and lovingly responded by having Moses use his trusty staff to strike a mighty rock, causing water to instantly gush forth from a subterranean cavity in the earth He created. God knew right where the water was located. How miraculous on His part, but how evil on their part. Instead of faithfully trusting in the God who had miraculously delivered them from Egypt, they willfully chose to challenge His character. How audacious and dangerous.
Ever done that? Ever failed to remember a great work God did in your life, a work which might have had the miraculous all over it, only to turn on Him later when hardships closed in on you? That’s what Israel, God’s sheep did.
Not long after this sad, sordid event, God barred this spiritually stiff-necked group of sheep from ever entering the physical Promised Land (Num. 14). Instead, they would die in the wilderness and their children would inherit the land over which the Messiah would one day rule and reign over. He did forgive them, as He says in Numbers 14:20, which means they didn’t lose their salvation; however, they did lose their right to be in the land God had sworn to give Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, a land which would be the Messiah’s one day (2 Sam. 7; Jer. 23:5-6; 30:8-9; 33:14-21; Ezek .37:24-25).
What has all of this to do with us in the New Testament age? Everything. I say this because the author of Hebrews quotes this Enthronement Psalm and applies it to us in the Church Age:
8 Do not harden your hearts as when they provoked Me, as in the day of trial in the wilderness, 9 Where your fathers tried Me by testing Me, and saw My works for forty years. 10 "Therefore I was angry with this generation, and said, 'They always go astray in their heart; and they did not know My ways'; 11 As I swore in My wrath, 'They shall not enter My rest.'" 12 Take care, brethren, lest there should be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart, in falling away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called "Today," lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end; 15 while it is said, "Today if you hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts, as when they provoked Me." 16 For who provoked Him when they had heard? Indeed, did not all those who came out of Egypt led by Moses? 17 And with whom was He angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did He swear that they should not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient? 19 And so we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief (Heb. 3).
When I read this for the first time in High School, it really bothered me for it appears to be saying salvation and entering heaven is dependent upon our continual obedience to the Lord. Based on this premise, then, probably not too many would be occupying heaven for who knows this level of loyalty to God and His Word?
Once I understood, however, that Psalm 95 was an Enthronement Psalm about the King, or the Messiah, assuming His prophesied role over His long-awaited earthly kingdom, populated by His saints, then this passage took on a whole new meaning.
What is the Spirit saying in Hebrews 3 to a whole new group of God’s sheep? He’s saying, “Don’t rebel against the Word of God when you know what God wants you to do, for those who do this more often than not just might be barred from the Messianic earthly kingdom, not heaven.
Who would want to miss the kingdom when it comes in all of its glory and majesty? The barring might also denote a demotion when the King, Jesus, sets up His spectacular empire based in Jerusalem (Isa. 2; Zech. 14). Jesus addresses this blessing/discipline motif of saints in the Parable of the Minas if you are interested (Luke 19:11-27). Willfully getting out of spiritual balance, therefore, by becoming spiritually obstinate when God calls you to repent will, not might, cost
you when you see Jesus.
The wise saint, on the other hand, takes care of his/her heart, guarding it from open rebellion. He/she does this by listening to the Spirit via the Word in worship and then choosing to go out and makes appreciable changes by means of the Spirit’s assistance. This, of course, is all part of spiritual balance which leads to spiritual maturity.
So, how is your spiritual walk right now? If your worship is out of balance, or you’ve failed to walk in light of the talk of the Word of God, I can think of no better time to find your center of spiritual balance by means of heart-felt confession.