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Psalm 95


We naturally enjoy the warm feelings our favorite style of corporate worship produces. This psalm reminds us that worship is centered in God, who only wants outer expressions of worship that express heart surrender.

sing for joy to Yahveh!
Let’s shout our praise to the rock who saves us!
2 Let’s enter his presence
with songs of thanksgiving
and raise the roof with psalms of praise.
3 Because Yahveh is a great God
a great king exalted far above all his rivals—
all the gods that are worshipped in place of him.
4 Earth’s deepest depths belong to him
its highest heights are his to command.
5 The sea is his since he made it
dry land also
sculpted by his own hands.
6 Come
bow down and worship
let’s kneel before Yahveh, our creator.
7 He’s our God
and we’re the flock he shepherds
the sheep of his pasture.

So what will you do today?
If only you’ll hear him pleading:
8 “Don’t go deaf on me
as you did at Meribah
that day when you hardened your heart
wandering in the wilderness at Massah.
9 For even though they’d seen
everything I did for them
your ancestors tried my patience
treating me like a dirty rogue.
10 Forty long years
was I incensed with that generation
and said:
“They’re a people whose hearts go astray.
They have no idea what I’m like.”
11 So in my anger
I swore this solemn oath:
‘They’ll never enter into my rest!’”

We often use this psalm as a call to worship—minus its jarring second half. But from God’s perspective, the two halves go together.

The psalm begins with rousing calls to worship God as creator, redeemer and shepherd-king. Its images of water and dry land, for example, bring together earth’s creation and Israel’s creation, in the exodus. God’s having the whole world in his hands was vital to his redemption, as he used his creation to defeat Egypt’s gods, pharaoh included.

But the exodus revealed not just God’s shepherd heart, but also the Israelites’ wandering hearts. The psalmist recounts how unresponsive the Israelites were in the wilderness, refused to listen to God.[1] Though they’d just seen his amazing grace displayed in their dramatic rescue, they quickly gave in to fear. They clearly needed water, but they let their fears turn God into a monster who had dragged them out into the wild to destroy them.

Lamenting his people’s refusal to believe in his goodness and power—even as Jesus did centuries later—God swore they’d never enter his promised rest. Thus, the psalm’s ending implicitly asks, What kind of sheep will you be? One whose doubt leaves you wandering in the wilderness or one who trusts your gracious shepherd and lets him lead you home?

As my good shepherd, Lord, you laid down your life for me. Today I have another chance to hear your voice and rest in your goodness. Yet I’m so prone to doubt, to demand you do things my way. Free me from thinking I can be in control. Help me believe your dreams for me are far bigger than mine. Amen.

During your free moments today, meditate on these words:

So what will you do today?
If only you’ll hear him pleading:
“Don’t go deaf on me like you did at Meribah
that day when you hardened your heart.”


[1] Exod. 17:1-7. Meribah means “Quarrel” and Massah “Test.”

Why Yahveh?

Every translator of the Psalms must decide how to handle God’s personal name, YHWH, which occurs repeatedly in its Hebrew text. Translators of the King James Version usually translated it “LORD” (all caps) and occasionally transliterated it (badly) as “Jehovah.” Modern translations, likewise, either translate or transliterate it. While translating it aims to make it more accessible to readers, transliterating it is more faithful to the text since it’s not a word at all, but rather God’s uniquely personal name. I’ve chosen to transliterate it to root it more firmly in the biblical story as the name—meaning the “self-existent One”—that God revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai. This name set Israel’s God apart from all the gods of Israel’s neighbors.

Personal names are, well, very personal. Even the sound of a name can evoke strong emotion. One problem with YHWH is that we aren’t sure how it was pronounced since Jews long ago stopped saying it in order better to hallow it. In transliterating it, I follow the advice of my esteemed Hebrew professor, Raymond Dillard. He advocated transliterating it as Yahveh—pronounced yah·vay—arguing that following the modern Hebrew pronunciation of its third consonant makes the name sound more robustly Jewish than Yahweh.
May these psalms be a light to you in dark times. You can read more of Mark Robert Anderson's writings on Christianity, culture, and inter-faith dialogue at Understanding Christianity Today.