Be Happy, Not Hard

Tom Nettles
| Psalm 95 | July 2, 2017

I. (Verses 1-5) Singing Praise to God because of his mighty work.

A. Out of the abundance of his joy and gratitude, the Psalmist issues four invitations for the whole people, perhaps a congregation, to join in praise to the Lord.: “Let us sing; . . . let us make a joyful noise; . . . Let us come into his presence; . . . Let us make a joyful noise.” He knows that until every voice joins the chorus of joy and gratitude the praise is too little. Everything that has breath should praise the Lord (Psalm 150:6). He senses the time when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:11).

B. He commends a variety of ways to express praise.

  1. “Singing” – This way of praise is commended twice by the words, “let us sing,” and “songs of praise.” This flows naturally from the human soul to express a variety of deeply felt emotions. Songs of lament, songs of despair, songs of love, songs that tell a story, songs of an exuberant sense of well-being all express how the soul is impressed by its felt condition. Singing finds it final and most mature expression in its sense of the greatness and perfect beauty and holiness of God.
  2. “A joyful noise” (This is written twice, verses 1 and 2) – This could be in apposition to singing but with an expansion of the energy such a duty involves. It could, however, include the joining of instruments, both tuneful and percussion in the grand combination of all sounds with the realization that both sound and hearing come from God. All the more pure it is when this symphonic combination is given in support of words that are informed by divine revelation (See Psalm 150: 2, 3, 4).

C. He gives specific areas of content for this praise.

  1. The Lord is the “rock of our salvation.” “Your redeemer is the Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 41:14). His saving purpose, power, and grace give a source of praise that will never cease. Such praise includes the knowledge of our sin with ever-increasing perceptions of it depth and destruction; it points to the infinite wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:20-25) in devising a means of a salvation that expresses his holiness and justice; this praise will never cease examining the themes of mercy and grace in the granting of salvation.
  2. Praise expresses the admiration of God’s attributes. He is a “great God,” and his greatness—that is, the magnitude of his excellence, goodness, and perfection—none can exhaust. All other things that are called gods must bow to him as the great King. Sometimes rulers are called “gods” (Psalm 82:1-8); And sometimes the false (non-existent) gods are shown as mere contrivances with no power (Isaiah 40:19, 20; 41:23, 24). The Lord God Jehovah, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ—he alone is God and thus “a great King above all gods.”
  3. Nothing exists outside of Himself that he has not made and that he does not presently sustain in existence.
  • The Psalmist wrote that even presently, “In his hands are the depths of the earth” (4) and “the heights of the mountains are his also.” God is the only being who is self-existent and eternal. All being is either eternal or temporal. All temporal being is also dependent being, both for its origin and its continuance. Its reason for being is not in itself but in a non-dependent being outside of itself.
  • This point is reiterated in light of the creative power of God—“The sea is his for he made it.” He created it to manifest an awe-inspiring variety of things that spring from his word (Genesis 1:20). He established it for his purpose to accomplish his judgments and induce submission to his great power (Psalm 107:23-32; Jonah 1:4-17). Since he made it, it is his; his power established its being, and his power continues its being. So it is with “the dry land,” that which constitutes both the depths of the earth and the heights of the mountains.

 

II. (Verses 6, 7). Singing Praise to God for his favors to us. True praise always involves the recognition that God is the maker of all things and the one who shows his unmerited favor on the people of his choosing.

A. To “worship and bow down . . .kneel” indicates that our very demeanor, our physical posture, shows submission to God and praise of his name. Again, perhaps Philippians 2:10, 11 looks back to this Psalm as the most aboriginal response of the creature to the creator when he is seen in his true power and splendor. Paul indicated that this befits the attitude of heart for those who know the infinite grace of God: “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and earth is named” (Ephesians 3:15).

B. We return to the doctrine of creation as the fundamental reason for worship–
“the Lord, our Maker.” No intelligent being in the entire universe, men, elect angels, or fallen angels, can ever be free of the compelling duty of worshipping their Maker. As Paul traced the paths of rebellion that give evidence of the moral propensity to reject the claims of God on our lives, he set forth this as central—“because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen” (Romans 1:25). Watts paraphrased this idea.

 

Come, worship at his throne;
Come, bow before the Lord:
We are his works and not our own;
He formed us by his word.

 

C. He has made Himself the God of a people by the covenant of redemption. Verse 7 gives the oft-repeated words of the covenant in the framework of the shepherd model, “For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.” Genesis 15:4, 13, 14 gives an account of God’s promise to Abraham about a people coming out his own loins that would inherit that land; Genesis 21:12 promised that “Isaac shall your seed be called.” This promise was renewed to Jacob (Genesis 26:2-4) and finally to the sons of Jacob and their descendants for four-hundred years the word came, “I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God” (Exodus:6:7). Paul identified this people as those who wait eagerly for the blessed hope, the appearing of the glorious Lord Jesus “who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous of good works” (Titus 2:13, 14). Peter looks to those who are united with Christ by faith as the heirs of this covenant: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession . . . Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people.” (1 Peter 2:9, 10). Revelation identifies them as those who enter the New Jerusalem, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be their God” (Revelation 21:3). Particularly, therefore, on the basis of redemption, we worship and bow down.

 

III. (Verses 8-11) Warning about Ignoring his Favors. This passage shows why the “New Covenant” has the provision of the Holy Spirit’s work in changing the heart (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:22-28). Left to themselves, they could not maintain fidelity to the terms of the covenant. In the New Covenant, God himself gives the new heart so that his elect people will never fall away but will persevere (John 10:14-18; 27-30; Philippians 1:6; Colossians 1:21-23)

A. The warnings not to harden one’s heart, show that those who have only the external advantages but do not have a changed heart will inevitably fall away. In this way, we understand the warning passages in Hebrews. At the same time, these warnings do state a characteristic of those in the New Covenant—they will take the admonition seriously and persevere in repentance and trust in Christ and his revealed truth.

B. They had seen his work (9), but still preferred their own way. As Paul points out in Romans 9: 1-8, 24-27, only a remnant of those who left Egypt were among the truly called. Though they had all the advantages of the written revelation, the miraculous actions of God and the promise to their fathers, the large majority followed their fallen instincts. The remnant of Israel found the call effectual and those among the Gentiles whom God elected.

C. The wanderers in the wilderness for forty years, did not know the ways of the Lord but obstinately followed their own straying hearts (10). The actions of the people at Meribah, where they complained harshly against Moses because of the lack of water (Genesis 17:1-7), remained constant throughout the forty years wandering.

D. The stern warning for those who profess faith but have no love of the gospel, the Bible, the church, but show that still their guiding light is their own desire for the comforts, pleasures, and acceptance of the world is this, “Therefore I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest” (11).