We so often start well but don’t end so well. The story of the Promised Land is a classic example of this. How can we respond to God differently? In this message on Psalm 95, Jim Shaddix calls us to give God glory, reach God’s rest, and complete God’s commission. He shares four parts of REST that we can apply to our lives.
- Receive God’s call to live out his mission.
- Exhort one another to participate in it.
- Seize your opportunity for rest right now.
- Trust God both to enable and to discipline.
May I ask you to open your Bible to Psalm 95? We’re asking you, in the Psalms Immersion, to do a little bit extra work in tracking. I’ll try to give you as much guidance and placeholders and things as we go along.
I want to read Psalms 95 to you this morning.
Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.
Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker! For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, when your fathers put me to the test and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work. For forty years I loathed that generation and said, “They are a people who go astray in their heart, and they have not known my ways.” Therefore I swore in my wrath, “They shall not enter my rest.”
How does something that starts so well end so poorly? I mean, that’s pretty much––when you think about it––the commentary on the journey of the children of Israel from Egypt into the Promised Land. It started on that awesome and fearful night––didn’t it?––when that Angel of Death slithered through Egypt and struck every firstborn in Egypt, but at the same time passed over all of the faithful of Israel who, by faith, had put lamb’s blood on their doorpost. And at that point 430 years of bondage came to a screeching halt. At dawn, more than a million men, women, children and all their livestock lined up for that grand gala of the exodus. And they left wealthy, by the way, because the Egyptians gave them whatever they wanted just to get them out of town. They got out there in the wilderness and then this incredible pillar, a cloud by day and a fire by night, led them on their journey. But, long before, Pharaoh second-guessed himself. So he marshalled his armies and sent them after them and they chased the children of Israel down and pinned them up against the Red Sea.
Then Moses raised his hand. Wind began to blow from the east, waters divided and the children walked across on dry land, looking fish eyeball to eyeball. Wouldn’t you love to have been there? Pharaoh’s armies ensued. Moses raised his hand again, the waters closed in, game over. The children of Israel were on their way to the Promised Land. Miriam grabbed her tambourine and all the women followed suit. They began to sing and dance and the Song of Moses was lifted to the heavens. God was with His children. And they began their journey to the Promised Land where they would bury Joseph’s bones, set up house and finally get some rest. What an incredible start!
How does something that starts so good end so bad? On what should have been, by travel standards of that day, about an eleven-day journey turned into forty years of wandering in the wilderness. At the end of which only two men over the age of twenty that began that glorious journey––that great start––actually entered into the Promised Land. And, church, that’s the takeaway for us from that journey. That is possible. Right? It’s possible for the people of God to start so well and yet end so poorly and tragically.
Listen to me. Come in here real close. Tragically, that is in our DNA to do just that. That’s our tendency. That’s our bent in our flesh and this Psalm…this Psalm, Psalm 95, is a reminder of that reality. It was probably composed for the Feast of Tabernacles, at which annually the children of Israel would relive that infamous journey. For centuries, the Christian church has used it for a call and guide to worship, but at its very heart––don’t miss it––at its very heart is this reminder: that it is possible for people of God to start well and end poorly.
So I want us to see that, and I want us to heed it, and I want us to respond to God’s Word in a way that says, “We will be different. We will have a different ending to our story, individually and as a congregation. It won’t be the commentary on our lives.” That’s what God would say to us today. And so here’s what I want you to listen for in this passage of Scripture.
There’s an invitation. And then there is an exhortation and then we’re going to make some application. So that’s the roadmap and those are the things that I want us to see.
The Invitation: Give God Glory
Psalm 95 teaches us the object of worship …
This psalm starts with a glorious invitation for God’s people to worship Him. So here’s the invitation very simply: Give God glory. We are no stranger to that beckoned call and that invitation and that call. We talk about it all the time and we know how important it is. The psalmist starts this song off with this invitation for God’s people to do just that: to give Him glory. I want you to think about the object of worship that we’re invited to. I want you to think about the expressions of worship that we are invited to. I want you to think about the reasons for worship to which we are invited.
Think about the object. The psalmist just launches into all of these designations of the one who is to be worshipped. I mean, just consider for a moment the descriptions, and the rolls, and the titles that are given to the God of the universe in this passage of Scripture. In verse one and verse six, He is called the Lord. In verse one, He is the rock of our salvation. Do you see it there? Look at verse three. He’s called a great God and a great King above all Gods. Notice it. And then down in verse six, He is our maker. Then in verse seven, our God.
All of these are descriptions…all of these are descriptions that put the object of our worship in a class by Himself. Every one of these titles, every one of these descriptions, are attached to the one who is worthy of our worship.
So the psalmist then invites us to a multiplicity of expressions that this God is worthy. Although they still fall short of being adequate for His worthiness, they are varied and they are those that He, and He alone, is worthy of. Look at the expressions of worship in verse one and verse two, we’re told to come with singing. In verse one and also in verse two, to make a joyful noise. I’m not sure what the difference is there but I know I can do the latter. I’m not so good at the former but somehow they come together in just opening our voices.
You see them couched in the invitation. The invitation, by the words “let us…” Look how many times this is mentioned. Verses one and two: four times. And then down a couple of times in verse six. They almost bookend the first half of this psalm in which God’s people are called upon to come into His presence with all of these expressions of worship. Look at verse two. He says, “…Come into His presence…” He says do that, giving thanks with thanksgiving. And then in verse six, He says, “…let us worship and bow down…” The word worship means, “to prostrate oneself before.” So you’ve got this activity of laying out before the Lord and bowing down. And then again in verse six, “…let us kneel before the Lord, Our maker!”
Psalm 95 teaches us the expressions of worship …
So you’ve got all of this variety of different expressions of worship. Why? Because God is worthy of our worship. He is worthy of every aspect of our bodies, our voices, our hearts and minds. This is compelling us to wholehearted and––listen to me church––whole-bodied worship. You say, “What do you mean by that?” This God, I mean, look at the descriptions of Him. This Lord and rock of our salvation. Great God. King above all gods. All of these descriptions put Him in a class that is worthy and He alone is worthy of every way that we could give Him ourselves. And this compels us.
Listen, there certainly is an example here, church, of variety in our expressions of worship. Aren’t you thankful that? There’s not just one way to do this. We see all of this variety and expressions of worship. But watch it now, while it gives us this example of variety, it’s also an indictment, isn’t it, of the way that sometimes some of us drift casually into His presence––passively and apathetically, with no emotion and expression––and then go through motions, go through component parts of a worship service as if it were a privatized exercise that was driven—watch this now—more by our preference and our personality than it is about His worthiness.
So much a part of my own journey, being raised in a culture where––a Christian culture––where there’s certainly a lot of joyful singing, but we react and we react against so many abuses in the modern church. And to some degree, rightfully so, because Jesus warns us in the New Testament not to do expressions of our worship for the audience of other people so that they would see us and think that we are pious. So in my generation, we reacted against the abuses that we saw in that area to the point that this kind of expression was off the table.
Or at least…listen… It was off the table for everyone except maybe a few that it fit their personality. And I came up in a Christian culture that gave me a license to say, “You know what? That’s not the way I worship. That’s not the way I’m comfortable in worshipping. That’s not the way I express my worship.” As if this was about “I”. As if this was about my preference. As if it was about my personality as opposed to His worthiness. The variety, the expressions of worship…
While we guard…while we guard against doing it as a show and doing it for the benefit of other people, the Word of God beckons us to the worthiness of a God who would invite us into His presence to give Him glory in so many different ways and to express ourselves, not passively and apathetically, not in a privatized manner, but publicly. Listen, this is public.
This is what God’s people were being invited to here. It’s a public expression. Not just this variety. Not just getting out of ourselves. Not just going beyond our personality, but driven by His worthiness to give Him glory, to give Him praise, express worship to Him in public because He’s worthy. Because He’s all of these things. And to be sure––listen, watch this now––this worship, these expressions of worship were not forced or fake. You know why? Because they were driven…they were driven, by right reasons for worship.
Psalm 95 teaches us the reasons for worship …
Notice the little word “for”––F-O-R––it’s at the beginning of verse three, in most English translations, and the beginning of verse seven. This little word gives birth to some compelling reasons why we come to worship—to exalt—this worthy God. Let me just show you these reasons.
The psalmist says that this God is sovereign. That’s a reason, right? Look at verse three. He’s a great God and He’s a great King above all gods, a class by Himself. Only a few number of people get to put this on their résumé, actually only one. It’s the God of the universe. Great King above all gods. There is none who is greater; there is none who is more worthy, he says. So this God is sovereign. That’s a reason, not only to come to worship Him, but to come with whole-heartedness and whole-bodiedness––if you will––in our expressions of worship to give Him all.
I’ll give you another reason. The psalmist says that this God is omnipotent. That’s a reason. Verse four: “In His hands are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountain are His also.” He’s all powerful in that He sustains all of this. He’s holding the expanse of the universe in His hands. He’s all powerful.
He’s Creator and therefore, the rightful owner of all of this stuff, right? If you make it; you own it. Verse five. “The sea is His (why? Because He made it.) for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.” Then if you look down in the passage a little bit and remember verse six, He is whose maker? Not just the physical creation, but “our maker,” right? So, He owns everybody and everything because He is creator.
Not only is He creator––but look at this––He’s personal. He’s a personal God. Do you see it in verse seven? He’s our God. “For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.” He’s no hireling; this God is no hireling. This God that we worship, is He? He’s a personal God who genuinely cares for and strongly, strongly provides for His own. Why would you not want to worship this God and the psalmist is saying, “Let us do this. Let us do it with enthusiasm. Let us do it with passion. Let us come into His presence with our whole hearts, and our whole bodies, our whole being and exalt Him and express to Him our adoration and exaltation of Him because He and He alone is worthy.” This is the invitation to give God glory.
The Exhortation: Reach God’s Rest
Now we’d almost kind of like to be “game over” right there––right?––in the study of this passage. But at the end of verse seven––in the last line of verse seven––this psalm takes a radically different turn as far as mood is concerned. I mean, what has been celebrative and joyful through seven verses, all of a sudden now turns weighty and serious. And another thing that you might have noticed is the actual one who’s talking seems to change. From verses one through seven (most of verse seven), the psalmist is speaking—the worship leader that is calling people—maybe in the Feast of Tabernacles, to turn their attention toward this great God who delivered them out of Egypt. But then, beginning in the last line of verse seven through the rest of it there, it seems that God starts talking. He begins to address His people.
It’s at this point right here that we enter into the exhortation. You see the invitation to give God glory, but beginning at the end of verse seven through the rest of the chapter, there’s this exhortation to do what? Here it is: Reach God’s Rest. And at the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the speaker begins to compel worshippers, those who come together to worship this God who is worthy and to express it in every way they can. He begins to exhort them to do something, and that is to enter God’s rest.
Now, it’s this abrupt change right here at the end of verse seven that has caused a lot of students of the Bible to see this psalm in two unrelated parts, and to actually study it and teach it that way: the first part that we just talked about and then the second part that we’re about to talk about. But I think when we look closely…when we look closely at the context of this Psalm, and then we consider a commission that God gave to His people in that context, and see a connection between the two, it becomes very evident that these two parts are intended to be together. In fact, we can’t afford to separate them. We can’t afford to separate them.
The context …
So I want you to see this exhortation. Start with the historical context of what is being said right here. That context is really described in two words in verse eight: Meribah and Massah. These are the place names––you remember––these are the place names that were given to the two times that God instructed Moses to draw water from a rock––remember that?––in order that the murmuring, disappointed, complaining people might have something to drink. Those accounts are found in Exodus 17 and Numbers 20. These two words which mean, “quarreling” and “testing,” respectively, are a great description. They are indicative of the sour, skeptical attitude that characterized the children of Israel all the way through the wilderness wandering.
They find their intersection in verse nine. God says, “…when your fathers put me to the test and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.” Bottom line of all that God did to bring the children of Israel out of Egypt––all of the miracles, the plagues, the Angel of Death, the crossing of the Red Sea, water from rock, His strong provision, fire on Mount Sinai, the giving of all these things were going on and they had seen with their own eyes––their attitude still in the midst of this journey is, “God, we don’t believe that You can do what You’ve promised us You were going to do.” It was unbelief and distrust. And then this is what led God in disgust… You see it in verse ten? “Loathed” in my English translation––in disgust with that generation to tell an entire generation that they would not get to experience what He had promised, which He describes in verse 11 as “…my rest.”
Now, it’s right here at this context that we have to stop and we’ve got to ask a question: What is He talking about? What is He talking about when he describes this rest here? Because you see, there are a few problems with some of our traditional understanding.
Eschatologically, toward the future, when we see the rest of God as being just heaven, way out there. That’s finally when we get there; we get to sigh a sigh of relief. That’s what God’s rest is. But let me remind you that here in Psalm 95, these people are being told, “Today. Today, right now. Don’t do what they did before, but you enter my rest.” He couldn’t be talking about that.
Neither could we go back, historically, to the traditional understanding that what He was talking…what the rest of God involved was entering the Promised Land. You know why? Psalm 95 is 400 years after the conquest. Four hundred years after the children of Israel had entered the Promised Land, they were in the land when they were singing this song and hearing this word and had been there for a long, long time. Yet, here’s God saying, “Today. Today don’t be like your forefathers back there in the wilderness. Today, enter my rest.”
The only reconciliation to this is the realization––listen to me church––that God’s rest––listen––God’s rest is not so much about a physical location as it was about a life purpose. Not a physical location but a life purpose. A life purpose that the children of Israel––watch this now––had missed in the Exodus and––even though they were in the land, had set up house, had a kingdom––were in danger of still missing.
Some of you know when it was. Let me remind you about it. Take a journey with me real quick. We’ll have to do this quick. Genesis 12—a familiar passage to us. Now we go back 400 years plus before the Exodus. That’s where this life purpose started. Over 400 years before the Exodus, God calls a man by the name of Abraham who would become the father of the nation of Israel, in essence. It was the beginning point. Genesis 12:
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the… (What? This is the audience participation part of our program. Land, right? Do you see it? Now don’t miss that.) …to the land that I will show you. (Here’s what’s going to happen in that land.) And I will make of you a great nation. and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and him who dishonors you, I will curse (and here it is), and in you (remember, still attached to the land) all the families of the earth shall be blessed.
Turn over a few chapters to 26. Genesis chapter 26. God’s now talking to Abraham’s son, Isaac who, by the way, physically at this point is in the land. He’s in the land that he was just talking about. But he’s tempted to leave because there’s a famine in the land. That’s what we see in Genesis 26. Isaac is thinking about getting out of the land, right? So the Lord appears to him in verse two and He says:
“Do not go down to Egypt; dwell in the land of which I shall tell you. Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and will bless you, for to you and to your offspring I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father. I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed…
He reiterates exactly what he said to his father, Abraham. “I want you to go to this land and in this land you are going to do something. You are going to be a blessing to all of the rest of the world.”
Exodus 19. Mount Sinai. You’re ratifying the covenant. We’ve studied this passage in recent months, I think. God’s brought the children of Israel out of Egypt; we’re several centuries now removed. In the middle of the Exodus, Moses gets the word from God on the mountain. In verse three, Moses went up to God:
The Lord called to him out of the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. (Remember where they are headed to the land.) Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
So what God said to the children of Israel… He said it them when He birthed them. He said it to them when He delivered them. This is where all of this is headed. Now let me point out He didn’t say, “I’m going to make you a kingdom and I’m going to give you some priests.” He said, “I’m going to make you a kingdom of priests. All of you are going to be priests as a nation.” For what purpose? What do priests do? They connect people with God. They help people to worship. They make the worship of God accessible to the people. This is what priests do.
God had said a long time before, at the birth of this nation, “This is your life purpose on this planet. You are going to be a kingdom of priests in order to connect the worship of God to all of the people on the earth.” And you know what God did? He strategically positioned them to do that by taking them to the land that we now call the Holy Land.
Today, we think of the nation of Israel and its geographical locale as some out of the way place. That’s all we do. We go to visit it and do Holy Land tours so that we might know more about our Bible. It’s an incredible experience. But if you go––and I challenge you to do this––you go back and you look at a map of the ancient world, the world during this time. What you will discover is that this was no random choice. That land, the Promised Land, was at the heart of the known world of that day. It connected the Mediterranean Sea with the desert. It was the intersection of three continents: Asia, Europe and Africa; and all the major trade routes went through it.
The commission …
God chose that as His land. Why? For this purpose: because He called a people to Himself and He said, “Here is your assignment. Your assignment is to be a demonstration of my blessing, and my honor, and my worship and I have strategically positioned you to connect that worship to all of the other peoples on the planet. And you’ll have opportunity to do that with their couriers that come through, their armies that march across, their traders that bring their wares. And that’s not even to mention the Queen of Shebas of the world who will come specifically to observe my favor on your nation.” This is the commission that He gave them.
That commission is where God’s rest is found because the only reason that 400 years after they had already set up camp in the land that God would come and say, “Today, today! Don’t you miss it! Don’t you overlook it! Don’t you do what your forefathers did! Don’t you harden your heart! Enter My rest.” The only way that we can understand God doing that at this point is that if He was understanding that where His rest was found is in the fulfillment of that life purpose, that commission.
So, is it any wonder? Did you notice this in your Bible reading? The next Psalm. Did you notice the similarities in the invitation in Psalm 96? Look across the page, or maybe the next page there, and hear the psalmist with similar invitations? “O, sing to the Lord.” Verses one and two. Verse seven. “Ascribe to the Lord.” Four times in verses seven, eight: “Ascribe to the Lord… Ascribe to the Lord glory and bring an offering to Him.” Verse 11. “Let the heavens be glad and let the earth rejoice.” You see the same invitation. “Let the field exalt thee.”
You see all of this beckoning people to the same worship that we find in Psalm 25:1–7. But I also want you to notice in Psalm 96 that the congregation is different. Did you notice it? He calls them to sing, in verse one, a new song. Chase that down sometime. Places like Psalm 33 and Psalm 98, Revelation 5, Revelation 14. Just about every time the Bible talks about a new song, it talks about a song that wasn’t limited to the nation of Israel, but it was one to be sung by every nation under the sun. So you see the congregation in Psalm 96. Look at it verse one. “All the earth.” You see it in verse three. “Among the nations.” Again in verse three. “All the peoples.” Look down in verse seven. “O families of the people.” Down at verse nine. “All the earth.” Verse ten. “Say among the nations.” Verse 13. “He will come to judge the world, the people.”
Do you see how the congregation has expanded now? Why? Because the worship of this worthy God was never intended to be limited to the nation of Israel. He didn’t choose them so that they might hoard it over and privatize it for their own. But he chose them so that in Psalm 95:1–7 ultimately would be extended to all the earth and He said to the people of Israel, “That’s where my rest is. Where you’re doing that.”
And church, I want to make this statement and then I want to make an application to you; I want you to understand this. This must be our takeaway from this psalm and that is: this is what we were created for, as far as our time on this planet. This is our niche. This is our groove. You want to think about practical applications. I would never stand here and tell you that what we’re talking about is the reliever of all of your stress, and it’s going to make everything in your life fit together, but I do want you to understand that the rest of God––the rest of God––will only be experienced when we are about this business.
When we press on to this reality and don’t pull up…don’t pull up short. Don’t be distracted by other reasons why we’re in this world, other reasons why we’ve been left, other reasons why Jesus is tarrying. We don’t pull up short. Beginning to turn inside to think that this is about us, and our dreams, and our wants, and our desires, and our agendas and all of that.
The rest of God which speaks hugely into stress. It speaks hugely into just living life. Listen to me. Living life where relationships, and families, and work, and job and in all things, something just doesn’t seem to fit. “The money’s right and the position is good, but when I put my head on my pillow at night something just doesn’t seem to fit.” It speaks into that. This is the groove. This is the niche that we’ve been left here to live in and nothing is going to ever seem completely right if we’re not living in it.
We would love for this psalm to end on a better note, right? “I swore in my wrath, ’They shall not enter my rest.’” But he doesn’t end on a better note. Why? Because for the children of Israel, 400 years after the conquest in the land––400 years later––they were still in danger. They had the land. They had the stuff. They had that part of the promise. They were a unique nation, but as we just saw in Genesis and Exodus––and there’s so many other places––that’s not all that was attached to this call of God in choosing them. They were still in danger of doing the exact same thing. Doing the exact same thing that the entire generation of Israelites had done for 400 years before, and that is to have saved souls but wasted lives.
The connection …
You say, “Can you really make that parallel?” Oh yeah. Theologically, biblically, all the way around. New Testament parallels to Exodus 2—our salvation experience: The connection. You know where conversion is right? The only logical place it could be. Passover. Justification by faith. God said, “Put some blood of a lamb on the doorpost and that will be what causes me to pass by.” How silly does that seem? It wasn’t silly. God said it. It demanded faith and that’s what they did. And by faith, the Angel of Death passed over them. You want a New Testament parallel to justification by faith? There it is. An Old Testament picture. And then everything after that is the people of God on a journey and the rest of God.
While there was an element in which they would enter the Promised Land and rest from their labor of the conquest and setting up their identity as a nation, the rest of God was still to be experienced. Their life purpose, the reason He had chosen them, and 400 years later, they were still in danger. The jury was still out. The verdict had not yet come in and it’s as if the psalm closes so that––listen to me church––every succeeding generation would have the opportunity to finish the story, to write the ending.
We know what happened with Israel, right? It didn’t take long for the verdict to come in. They failed to purge the land as God had told them. Began to chase after the gods of neighboring nations. They raised up corrupt leaders. Almost overnight, they lost their sense of mission: the identity of being a priest nation that would connect the worship of verses one through seven, the worship of the one, worthy God, to all the nations of the earth. And yet it’s here that we are left.
We are left to look from this side of the cross at this passage of Scripture to see how we would finish the story. And when we look at that view…when we look from this side of the cross, it’s not easy for us to see our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in this passage, is it? Especially the first part. I mean, think about it. Paul, in 1 Timothy 6:15, calls Jesus the blessed and only sovereign King of kings and Lord of lords. And then to the Colossians, he described Him as this all-powerful creator and sustainer of the universe. He said, “For by Him, all things were created on heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities, all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things and in Him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:16–17). They are held together by His hand. This is this all-powerful, omnipotent creator and therefore owner and sustainer of all of the universe in the person of Jesus Christ.
And then that Shepherd with the people of His pasture, right? It’s just the sheep of His hand. What did Jesus say in John 10? “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” It’s not hard for us to see Jesus in this psalm. It exudes with His nature, His character. And I would say to anyone, if you have never trusted this Jesus, been drawn to the worship of this God by repenting of your sins and placing your faith in Christ, the one who died on the cross in your place, incurred the wrath of God in your stead, rose from the dead to give you back the life of this God who is worthy of your worship and the worship of all people, then our prayer is today––“Today!” as the text says––that you would not harden your heart, but that you would say yes to Jesus. Friend, repent of your sin today and place your faith in the only God that can do anything to save you from your sin, this Jesus. We appeal to you today.
The Application: Complete God’s Commission
But Christians, I don’t think when we look from this side of the cross at this psalm, that this psalm is as much about who Jesus is as it is about what we do with Him, right? So we have to ask what does application of this look like for us. I’m sure you figured it out. Application is simple.
The application of this passage of Scripture simply is: Complete God’s commission. The invitation is to give God glory. The exhortation is to reach God’s rest, lean into it, press forward onto it, and so when we look from this side of the cross, we look thousands of years after even this psalm was given. The application for us to lean into this thing. Press on and complete God’s commission.
The author of Hebrews in the New Testament gives us some help with this, so I want you to go there very quickly. Hebrews 3 and 4, interestingly, are all built around the last half of this psalm that we’ve been studying. And so the author of Hebrews obviously felt that the Hebrew Christians to which he was writing in first century were in the same danger. They were in the same danger of hardening their hearts and denying the inheritance that God had given them to be a priest-nation through which all the families of the earth would be blessed. No doubt that they were experiencing persecution that led to suffering; there was fear. This is all creative distractions.
And all of those things and more––are they not?––all of those things and more cause us to want to hunker down, and horde God’s worship in our Christian context, and kind of keep His mission at arm’s length. We don’t mind talking about it, singing about it, hearing it preached every now and then, but for us personally and maybe for some churches to keep that mission––at least as personal involvement in it––at arm’s length and this is where they were. This is where these Hebrew Christians were.
Interestingly, the author of Hebrews takes Psalms 95:7–11 and he applies them to their journey in order to call them to not waste their lives; to not go through life with saved souls but end up with wasted lives. You see it quoted, cited, in Hebrews 3. Same verse enumeration. Verses seven through eleven.
You’ve got the same verse enumeration in our English Bible and you’ve got that second half of Psalms right there and it’s here that the author of Hebrews…he cites this psalm and this is the way that it begins. Look here at verse seven. “Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says…” You see that? Four hundred years after the conquest, after the people of God were in the land, Psalm 95 was penned and used and the Holy Spirit spoke to the children of Israel and said, “Don’t let that happen to you. Lean into God’s commission for who you are. Press on to it.
And now, a 1,000 years after Psalm 95 was penned, the author of Hebrews says the same Holy Spirit is speaking to you, Hebrew Christians. Same level of authority. Isn’t it safe for us to assume that 2,000 years after this letter was written, that the same Holy Spirit is speaking to the same Church of Jesus Christ with the same message? So I want to use the simple, maybe silly to some, acrostic R.E.S.T.––R-E-S-T––to give you four application that I think will help us to press in to God’s mission and complete it.
Receive God’s call to live out His mission.
Here is the first one. The “R” is for receiving God’s call. Receive God’s call to live out His mission. It seems like a simple thing. The application grows out of Hebrews 3:8 in this citation from Psalms when he says, “Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” That’s the opposite of receiving. Receiving is the opposite of rebelling.
He said, “Don’t harden your hearts and refuse this and rebel against it. Receive it.” And the author of Hebrews steps up here and he says to these Hebrew Christians who’ve got all of these distractions and are tempted as the nation of Israel was thousands of years before, were tempted to turn in and lose their sense of mission because of their own ambition—pursuing their own agendas. And he says, “Don’t. Don’t do that. Receive God’s mission.” It’s as simple as this, church, the application is for you.
What does it mean for us to receive it? Well, it meant for them…it means the same thing it did…they were simply being….just believe why God has raised you up and why He’s brought you out of Egypt and why He’s taking you to that land. Just believe that. Just buy into it. Don’t pull up short and think that it’s all about you being a “special people” and a “chosen people” and let that lead you into believing that you’re better than everybody else. Just receive the assignment and the call that He’s placed on your life.
That seems so simple. It seems so trite, but isn’t it the thing that in its simplicity is so often missed? How many days do you get up thinking, “The reason I’m alive today is to enter God’s rest and connect people to the worship of the God who is worthy.” Is it on your radar?
How often during the course of the day are you reminded, “This is why I’m on the planet. This is why I go to my job every day. It’s the reason why my family is here. It’s the reason God’s wired me like He has. This is my life purpose. To be part of a Kingdom of priests that connects the worship of God to all the people of the world”? And do you know what the psalmist does when he cites us? He just says, “Receive it!” Just accept that.
I want you to see something. Notice right here. Look at what God says…recorded in verse nine right here when he says, “I was provoked with this generation. They always go astray in their hearts. They have not known my ways.” There are two things that cause us not to receive God’s mission. The sinfulness of our heart. Doing our own thing, right? Following our flesh. Following our agenda…just the sinfulness of our heart. But notice the second one.
The second one is not so much sin. It is sin, but it’s ignorance. Look at what He says. “They have not known my ways.” What’s He talking about? He’s talking about the children of Israel. They forgot why they were on the journey. They forgot why they were on the planet. They begin to create other purposes, other reasons, and that’s why when things got tough, when distractions came, and there was pushback and there were hurdles. That’s why they wanted to go back to Egypt. That’s why they had passing thoughts and they weren’t just passing. They dwelt on them.
Maybe they are passing for you sometimes. “Man, this Christian life stuff is tough. I’d be better off if I wasn’t saved.” But the children of Israel couldn’t go back. Why? Because that was something God had done and it couldn’t be undone. Just like with your salvation. God did it and you can’t undo it. There is no turning back, but while there is no turning back, it is possible to wander in the wilderness of life and end with a wasted life because we didn’t receive God’s call in this reason (Check audio) we’re on the planet.
Exhort one another to participate in it.
The “E” is for exhort. Exhort one another to participate in it. This is practical. Verses 12–19 here in chapter three, I think, are summarized after he reiterates that warning in verse 12. He comes to this word in verse 13. “But exhort one another every day as long as it is called ‘Today’” Every day. You know, when I was studying this, I was trying to think in my mind, “How many of the children of Israel might have avoided the rebellion at Meribah, at Massah, and even Kadesh Barnea where they ultimately refuse to enter into the Promised Land? How many of them would have avoided rebellion had every day with one another they had been saying, “Hey, don’t look back. Hey, continue on. Lean into God’s rest. Remember where we’re going. Remember why we’re here. Remember what God said to our father, Abraham. Remember the covenant at Sinai. Remember that priest nation.” What would it have been like if every day they were saying that to one another?
This is practical stuff right here, church. Because let’s just admit it, it’s easy sometimes to grow weary of singing about the mission, and preaching about the mission, and hearing about the mission and thinking, “That’s all we ever talk about is the mission.”
And it’s easy for us to drift into other concerns, and being consumed with our own agendas, and the author of Hebrews steps up here and he says, “Every day…every day remind one another. Exhort one another.” And this is the call that whenever—in our small groups, in our families, in this congregation and all our connections—when one of us begins to drift into passivity, when one of us begins to drift, to get sucked into self-focus, and thinking that this life is about other concerns, that there are those that are there to say, “Brother, sister, remember God’s rest.
Remember what you were created for and remember that nothing in your life will ever completely feel right if you’re not living in this groove of connecting other people with the worship of God.” Beloved, this is just another reason why it’s so important for us to do life together. It’s so important for us to be in small groups together. It’s so important for us to gather in worship together on a regular basis so that every day we are there for one another to say, “Don’t grow weary. Lean into God’s rest.” Knowing that it is being a priest nation. It is there that we will find His rest, and life will seem to make sense. Exhort one another to participate in this rest.
Psalm 95 Reminds us to seize your opportunity for rest right now.
The “S” is for Seize. Carpe diem right here. Seize your opportunity to rest right now. Seize your opportunity to rest right now. We come into chapter four with the book of Hebrews; in the first ten verses we find this, certainly among other things, probably summarized in verse one when the psalmist says, “Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands.” Let’s just translate that into contemporary vernacular: “While it’s still on the table.” Remember, a 1,000 years, he’s speaking removed from Psalm 95, which is 400 years removed from the actual conquest.
Here we are, 2,000 years later and the Holy Spirit says, “While the promise of entering His rest is still on the table, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to have reached it.” This is why he’s writing. This is why he’s writing. It’s to say to them, “Seize your chance, your opportunity, and do it right now.” I think this surfaces in two themes in these first ten verses.
One is just in the concept of rest itself. You read this as you have time, what you will discover in verse four and following is that the author now connects this rest to God’s Sabbath rest that He entered into, recorded in Genesis 2:2, after the six days of creation after He had created the universe. The interesting thing that he’s calling attention to about Genesis 2 is that it’s different from the other six days. It’s not framed up with an evening and a morning, with boundaries. The other six days are. There was a beginning and there was an end.
But when it comes to the sixth day, it just says “God’s rested.” Implying what? That He entered into a state, a phase, that He continues in. His Sabbath rest that will culminate one day when we ultimately get to the rest of heaven, but remember, we’ve talked about that, haven’t we? Heaven doesn’t mean the absence of work. We’re going to be serving right? Not floating around with harps on clouds, just kind of in this surreal thing. No. This is what we’ve got to get. Rest. Rest doesn’t imply the absence of work. Think about Jesus’ invitation. “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and I will give you (what?) rest! Take my (what?) yoke upon you!” He chose an instrument of work to represent rest.
Here’s what the author of Hebrews says. He says God’s been resting ever since; ever since that sixth/seventh day. And you know what He’s been doing while He’s been resting? Redeeming the world. Redeeming His creation. That’s the activity that He’s been about. Aren’t you glad? Aren’t you glad in God’s Sabbath rest? That’s what He’s been doing! Redeeming you; redeeming me! And so what does He do here? What does He do in Psalm 95? What was He trying to do in the Exodus? He was saying, “My people that I’ve chosen, come into my rest. Join me in this rest. This is the niche, the groove, for which you were created! Come into it.” And the author of Hebrews says, “Don’t miss this. Don’t miss this. This is your rest.”
Then the second theme is that word, “today.” It’s interspersed all the way through. We see it again in verse seven. “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.” What is he saying? Today, it’s still on the table.
Today is a window of opportunity. It hasn’t always been open for you and it won’t always be open to you, but it is open right now. That’s what makes this such an urgent message because every one of us right now have a window of opportunity in our lifetime and that window of opportunity won’t always be there. It doesn’t speak to our salvation or whether we will lose it or not because we can’t lose what God has done. It speaks to whether or not we will live our lives and the end-game commentary will be wasted because we lived it for our agenda, our dreams, our hopes, our flesh. He says, “Seize the day!”
Let me tell you something, beloved. It is urgent… Missions is urgent today because people are dying and going to hell; we know that. But let me tell you something: we also know that Jesus isn’t going to return until the gospel is proclaimed among every people group. He’s got this thing rigged, right? Pastor David always talk to us about that. We know this.
There is another kind of urgency. It’s not the urgency of whether a man, woman, boy or girl dies and goes to hell or not. It is the urgency of whether a Christian life, a redeemed life, a saved life, a life of a worshipper of this worthy God will live their entire life wasted because they’ve missed it. And the psalmist says, “Seize the day. You only got one chance. You only got one life.”
And this word “today,” this window of opportunity, it speaks to those things. I know, I have them so often still. I have had them so often and that is, “You know what, I need to clean up a few things and then I’ll get on mission. I’ll start sharing my faith.
Then I’ll leverage everything. Then I’ll be open with a clean slate, a blank check for God to do… I need to take care of this. I’ve got this problem over here. I’ve got to take care of this. I’ve got to do this over here. I’ve got to check this box off.” It’s just a lifetime of procrastination. This is tomorrow and this passage of Scripture under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit says, “Today! Today! Right now. Right now, say ‘yes’ to the reason you’re on the planet—right now. Right now. Don’t waste it.”
Trust God both to enable and to discipline.
“T,” in the acrostic, trust. Trust God both to enable and to discipline. Trust Him to enable and to discipline. The author of Hebrews concludes this section in verses 11–13 with this plea in verse 11: “Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.” What disobedience? Well, the disobedience that’s described in verse eight: hardening your heart, rebelling, saying to God, “You can’t do this.” So what does he do? He says, “Remember, the problem for the children of Israel is that they didn’t believe God could do what He promised that He was going to do and that’s to take them in the land and use them.” That’s the bottom line of the problem. And the author of Hebrews comes to this point and he says, “You know what? God disciplined them, as a good Father does, and He will do the same to you.” He describes God’s discipline in verse 12:
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Watch this, church. Listen. Come in here real close in verse 13.) And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
Listen, I don’t know what it’s going to look like, but the Bible says that we’re going to have to give an account for our wasted lives. I’m not talking about our salvation. We’re not going to lose it. We don’t lose true salvation—what God has done—but this description here of the Word of God… This is what the Israelites had; they had the Word of God to come out of Egypt and to go into the Promised Land, His promises. And the author of Hebrews says, “Look, I don’t toy with this Word.” And he describes it like that. He says, “Nobody gets a pass. Nobody gets a get-out-of-jail-free card. We’re going to have to answer for wasted lives.”
God disciplines His children. He disciplines His children who say “no” to His rest. “I want to live my life for me and I want to kind of do things according to my plan down here. I’ll give some money. I’ll applaud others that are sharing their faith and they are leveraging for the sake of the nations. Some of them even going personally. I’ll applaud that, but I’m going to keep it at arm’s distance.”
Here the Word of the Lord today. Trust God to discipline His children. This is what the children of Israel didn’t do. But now know this. The opposite is true. You say, “What do I mean?” If God can be trusted to discipline His children who say “no” to His rest, doesn’t it follow that He can be trusted to enable His children who say, “I’m in. I’m in. I’ll receive that mission, that life purpose. I’ll exhort others to do it. I’m seizing my opportunity.
Count me in.” Doesn’t it follow––listen, church. Watch this––that the same, powerful Word that is sharp, two-edged, piercing, discerning—all of these things—is more sufficient to make you what you think you can’t be, to enable you to do what you think you can’t do, to help you to speak when you think you can’t speak, to be bold when all you have is fear, to leverage everything when you think your everything is your security? Doesn’t it follow that this same Word is sufficient? That this same God can be trusted to enable you to take up this mantle and to live your life in completion of His commission to connect His worship with all the people on the planet. He can be trusted to do that.
The children of Israel saw all that He had done. You and I see it by faith on the record of the Scripture: plagues, Angel of Death, water from the rock, seas parting. Every one of us, could we not give equal testimony of the things that we’ve seen in our lives and the lives of others in the church where God has shown Himself strong and He’s proved Himself faithful? Today. Today is our opportunity to say “yes” to His rest. I compel you to it. We see it. We see it in the One who went to the cross on our behalf. This Savior. This Lord. The one who is creator, all-powerful, all-sufficient, sustainer. The one who is worthy of our worship.
The Invitation — Give God Glory (Psalm 95:1-7a)
- The object of worship
- The expressions of worship
- The reasons for worship
The Exhortation — Reach God’s Rest (Psalm 95:7b-11)
- The context
- The commission
- The connection
The Application — Complete God’s Commission (Hebrews 3-4)
- Receive God’s call to live out his mission. (Heb. 3:7-11)
- Exhort one another to participate in it. (Heb. 3:12-19)
- Seize your opportunity for rest right now. (Heb. 4:1-10)
- Trust God both to enable and to discipline. (Heb. 4:11-13)