George Booker
Psalms Studies - Book 4

Psalm 95

1. Title

The LXX fills in the blank with “By David”, and on the strength of Hebrews 4:7 some are inclined to accept this. But LXX psalms titles are not necessarily to be relied upon: All the psalms from 94 to 99 have the addition “By David”, but the psalms themselves do not always validate such an ascription. And “in David” (not “by David”) in Hebrews 4:7 may merely be a shorthand way of saying “in the Book of Psalms” — because David was a chief writer of psalms. (In like manner, “the Psalms” is used in the New Testament as a synonym for all of the poetic Writings of Scripture: Luke 24:44.)

2. Historical setting

Like the considerable number of other untitled psalms, this also responds readily to the hypothesis of a Hezekiah setting. The exhortation of vv. 1, 2 to come before Yahweh in worship matches Hezekiah’s strong appeal made to the northern tribes, as well as to his own kingdom, to renew observance of the Passover (2 Chron. 30:5-13).

For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. That is, above all the “gods” of Egypt. Here is an allusion back to the first Passover (Exod. 12:12). It has often been pointed out that the ten plagues seem to have been designed by God as direct attacks upon specific “gods” of the Egyptians, to show that their “power” was no match for His.
The deep places of the earth is an allusion to the conduit of Hezekiah leading to Siloam. And the strength of the hills points to the special Rock of sacrifice on the temple mount.
The sea and the dry land refer to the crossing of the Red Sea.
The people of his pasture (Psa. 100:3) is another wilderness allusion, to Israel as God’s “flock” in Sinai (80:1, notes).

Today, if ye will hear his voice. This is a reference to Hezekiah’s appeal to the ten tribes by messengers and letters — the kind of response which is summed up in 2 Chron. 30:10,11.

His voice is God’s voice. So the directive concerning this reformation came from Him (through one of His prophets), and not merely from the king.
The message by which the appeal was made.
Harden not your hearts. As did Pharaoh (Exod. 7:14; 8:15,32; 9:7,34; 10:1). Learn from him!

The provocation... the day of temptation. The Hebrew text has Massah, and Meribah (Exod. 17:7; Num. 20:13,24) — the beginning and end of wilderness provocation and disloyalty. Both incidents concerned the miraculous provision of water from a Rock (cp. v. 1 here; 1 Cor. 10:4).
I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest:

”As truly as I live, saith the Lord, as ye have spoken in mine ears, so will I do to you: Your carcases shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward, which have murmured against me, doubtless ye shall not come into the land, concerning which I sware to make you dwell therein, save Caleb...and Joshua” (Num. 14:28-30).

That they should not enter into my rest. As to Hezekiah’s day: The northern kingdom had already been devastated by the Assyrians. Their only hope was salvation through God’s king in Jerusalem.

3. How Jesus used Psalm 95

Psalm 95
John 10

Through most of the chapter
The sheep of his hand
No man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand
Hear his voice
Hear his (my) voice
The Feast of the Dedication
Above all “gods”
I said, Ye are “gods”
(Exod. 17:7,9) Provocation
“If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly”

(Exod. 17:4) Ready to stone me
The Jews took up stones to stone him
Your fathers... saw my work
The works that I do in my Father’s name
Forty years long (i.e., until A.D. 70) was I grieved with this generation
The wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep
The sheep of his pasture... “Come”
Go in and out, and find pasture
Pasture (Heb. implies a gathered flock)
One flock, one shepherd

4. Psalm 95 expounded in Hebrews 3 and 4

This was part of the argument to stem the drift of Jewish believers back to the worship of Temple and synagogue.

An exceptionally long quote, designed to make its full impression.
Exhortation against unbelief. The first of a series of allusions to Numbers 14.

In departing from the living God. Whilst the rebel majority turned back into the wilderness, the faithful remnant stayed with the Tabernacle at Kadesh (this is the probable interpretation of Num. 14; see also Psa. 90:1, notes).
Exhort one another. As did Joshua and Caleb: “Only rebel not ye against the Lord, neither fear ye the people of the land” (Num. 14:9).

Today. Compare the emphasis in Num. 14:11,19: “How long?... until now”.

Lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfullness of sin. Pharaoh, who first hardened his own heart, at last had his heart hardened by God. Sin — if persisted in — will finally become an inescapable pit.
For we are made partakers of Christ. Thus the “rest” (v. 11) is defined as sharing Christ. Perhaps “partakers” implies also a shar-ing of the Bread and Wine.

Stedfast is s.w. Num. 14:11; Psa. 78:8,37.
Some, meaning ‘most’... Not all, but nearly all!

He (was) grieved forty years (Num. 14:34). This is a specially significant phrase because at the time of writing the forty years from Jesus to A.D. 70 was almost finished. The sands of time were running out for Judaism.
This is simple “ABC” language, spelling out the message almost too plainly, for those who were babes at a time when they should have become teachers (5:12).

In Hebrews 4 the argument and exhortation is built round a series of “types”, all with the same pattern:

In Creation God worked and then “rested” (v. 4), that rest being designed as a pattern for His creatures, not just from week to week, but in His ultimate purpose with them.
The works of Egyptian bondage were left behind when God led Israel to freedom (v. 10).
It was not works of the Law but faith in “Joshua/Jesus” who gave the inheritance (vv. 2,11).
But that was only a foreshadowing of a greater inheritance; hence the need for Psalm 95, written centuries later.
The remnant who responded to Hezekiah’s call to renewed faith found salvation in Jerusalem when the rest of the nation was enduring the Assyrian horror. And they had “rest” in the glory and prosperity which ensued.
All these considerations teach the same lesson. They all point to God’s purpose to provide, through another “Joshua” and another “Hezekiah”, a “rest” which surpasses all else; this “rest” will be realized by faith, not by relying on any self-achieved works.

“Therefore let us be diligent (but not labor) to enter, and continue in, that rest” (v. 11).

5. Other details

The Rock (tsur). Psa. 89:26; 94:22; Exod. 17:6,7; Deut. 32:15.
With (a sacrifice of) thanksgiving. Mic. 6:6 implies this.

With psalms. Hezekiah’s psalms in Isa. 38:20, and possibly in Isa. 30:29 — where the night of a holy feast = the Passover.
Above all gods. A double meaning: God is above both all human rulers (as in Psa. 82:1,6) and above all man-made “gods” (Isa. 40:18-20; 45:21,22; etc.).
The work of Day 3 of Creation: the waters are separated, and the dry land appears (Gen. 1:9,10).
In his hands are the deep places of the earth: the strength of the hills is his also. To God belong both the “depths” and the “heights” (RSV) — and so we should rejoice in both trials and blessings. And if the greatest extremes (both of the physical creation and of the lives of His children) belong to God, then of course everything else between those extremes likewise belongs to Him.
Let us kneel before the Lord. So Paul, along with the “flock” of God (cp. v. 7 here), knelt down before his Maker (Acts 20:28,36).

The Lord our Maker. The words imply a New Creation of men and women. This theme recurs in prophecies and psalms of this period: Psa. 145:9,10; 100:3; Isa. 29:23; 43:21; cp. also Col. 1:15,16.
Hear his voice. When Israel first heard the voice of God, they rejected it: “Let not God speak with us, lest we die” (Exod. 20:19). Hear is the normal Old Testament idiom for ‘hear and obey’.
Harden not your hearts. Hebrews 3 and 4 is not the only Scripture linking with this passage: see Rom. 2:5 (and the paradox in 9:18); Matt. 19:8.

Provocation... temptation. In Hebrew, Meribah and Massah. The reference is explicitly to Exod. 17:7, though indeed this was characteristic of Israel right through all their wilderness wanderings. Their rebellious spirit never ceased.

By contrast, Jesus after his baptism went straightway into the wilderness, and there endured great temptations without once in the least hardening his heart.
Where your fathers... proved me, as He had proved them, earlier (Exod. 15:25,26; cp. Psa. 81:7; 106:32,33).

And saw my work implies that, when they tempted God, He rose to the challenge (cp. Num. 14:22,23).
I was grieved. Various modern versions have: ‘I loathed them’ (RSV), ‘Iwas indignant ’(NEB), or ‘angry’ (NIV).

It is a people that do err in their heart. Isa. 53:6 has the s.w. (“gone astray”). Their thinking was wrong.
A poor ending to the psalm. The AV mg. has: if they shall enter... The usual emphatic negative form of an oath (cp. Num. 14:23,30; Gen. 31:50).

My rest means the ‘rest’ which God enjoys and also the ‘rest’ which He is glad to share: Deut. 12:9; Num. 10:33; 1 Chron. 28:2; 1 Kings 8:56; Mic. 2:10; Psa. 132:8-14; Isa. 66:1; Matt. 11:28,29. “Rest” has connection with the “sabbath rest” — as in Heb. 3 and 4 — and the place where His Ark resides (e.g., 2 Chron. 6:41).

6. Means of salvation

The chariots of salvation
Habakkuk 3:8
The cup of salvation
Psalm 116:13
The garments of salvation
Isaiah 61:10
The gospel of salvation
Ephesians 1:13
The helmet (hope) of salvation
Isaiah 59:17

Ephesians 6:17

1 Thessalonians 5:8
The horn of salvation
2 Samuel 22:3; Psalm 18:2

Luke 1:69
The joy of salvation
Psalm 51:12
The knowledge of salvation
Luke 1:77
The rock of salvation
Deuteronomy 32:15

2 Samuel 22:47

Psalms 89:26; 95:1
The shield of salvation
2 Samuel 22:36; Psalm 18:35
The strength of salvation
Psalm 140:7
The tower of salvation
2 Samuel 22:51
The truth of salvation
Psalm 69:13
The voice, or word, of salvation
Psalm 118:15; Acts 13:26
The walls of salvation
Isaiah 60:18
The way of salvation
Acts 16:17
The wells of salvation
Isaiah 12:3
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