1O come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
2Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
3For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.
4In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also.
5The sea is his, for he made it, and the dry land, which his hands have formed.
6O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!
7For 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!
8Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,
9when your ancestors tested me, and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.
10For forty years I loathed that generation and said, ‘They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they do not regard my ways.’
11Therefore in my anger I swore, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’
Text ©The New Revised Standard Version, alt, Used with permission.
During Lent we usually stop things we could describe as making a joyful noise to the Lord, and it’s only on the fourth Sunday when we relax restrictions for Mothering Sunday, or Refreshment Sunday, so it’s interesting to see Psalm 95 in a time of reflection and contemplation, but let’s look at this from a different angle.
When our focus is on contemplation we might be tempted to think that it doesn’t matter if we don’t go to church, because nothing of note is going to happen – except, of course, those glorious, uplifting and energising sermons which most of us yearn to hear, but rarely do.
We aren’t urged just to make a joyful noise. That can be done any time and in any place, just to lift us out of the misery we bring upon ourselves. This, however, brings us immediately into focus with who brought us into existence and on whom we depend for our salvation. We should be making that joyful noise with thanksgiving for what God has done for us, and what He will do for us in the future. In case we’ve forgotten, verse 3 reminds us that God is greater than all the gods which other people worship. If we’re really thankful for what we have received how can we not give thanks to God?
Not only do verses 4 and 5 remind us that God created the world, and so everything, without exception, belongs to God, but they set us up for looking at everything that God has created since then. Every child, every new species of plant or animal, is a creation of God. Those who think God created the world in six 24-hour periods lose sight of the fact that the creation continues to this day. Having made it clear that God is the source of all that is good we are called back to worship. Kneeling is a position of subjection. When we kneel before God we are acknowledging His importance in our lives. Kneeling seems to have gone out of the window in most churches these days. Yes, there are some people for whom kneeling is physically painful, but how many of the rest of us don’t kneel because we’ve lost the sense of being in awe of God? We might feel insulted by being compared with sheep, but we so often behave like them it’s not funny. We’re easily led like a mob when one person shows ‘leadership’ only to find that we’ve all gone astray. Despite that God gives us pasture to satisfy our needs – pasture in the form of food, rain to grow plants, dwellings, and many more. Why do we find it so difficult to give thanks for those things, and so easy to complain that we haven’t got this, that, or the other?
When Moses was leading the Hebrew people across the Sinai desert they complained time and again about what God had NOT done for them. We are reminded about the time when they complained that they didn’t have water for themselves and for their livestock. Their attitude was so bad that Moses thought they would stone him unless he produced water. Are we not just as guilty of hardening our hearts when we give God token credit for the things which have gone well, and complain when things haven’t? How often do we actually give full credit to God? How often do we acknowledge that we have gone astray? Are we not at risk of being treated the same way as the Hebrew people in the Exodus story?
Is it possible for us to recognise that we need to change our ways, and to focus on what God wants us to do, rather than what we want God to do for us? Given the way our church attendances have declined over the last 40 years can we hope that the time is coming where people will turn back to God? We live in such a “me, me, me” world today that just trying to get people to think of others can be hard, but that’s what this call is asking us to do. “Do not harden your hearts” is probably too late for many of us.
If you would like to read the reflection on the Exodus passage set for Lent 3 (Year A) see