A Sermon by Nate Wilson on Psalm 95
I purposefully did not write up a bulletin because I wanted to try a kind of different format for our worship service that wouldn't really need things written out. We will begin with a time to prepare our hearts for worship as we listen to a song over the tape player. Please take this time to prepare your heart for worship, whether that be to deal with sin in your heart or to simply take some time to change gears and begin focusing on worshiping God as a community. After the song, we will have a sermon on Psalm 95. In fact, if you will turn to Psalm 95 right now, you can follow along with the words to the prelude. Following the sermon, I'll be leading in a time of corporate worship where you can respond with your own requests for songs and with your own prayers. I realize that this is a little bit un-Presbyterian, but I believe it is Biblical, since First Corinthians states that when we meet together "all have a song..." not just the song-leader! So I'm just warning you ahead of time to prepare for this. If a song has been knocking around in your head this week, or if a song comes to mind as we meditate on Psalm 95, please share it with us so we can sing it together! If it is a hymn, be sure to give us the name as well as the number in the hymnal, and Lois will be prepared to play the organ with us. If it is not in the Trinity, I'll play the guitar for you, unless I don't know it, in which case we can just sing it without instruments! Finally, we'll conclude the service with an open time of prayer. If praise for God is welling up in your heart, men, speak it out! Follow David's example who said in Psalm 40, "I have proclaimed glad tidings of righteousness in the great assembly; I will not refrain my lips" Likewise, during this prayer time, if any of you men you have a concern in which to lead us in prayer please lead out. Now, let us begin by preparing our hearts for worship.
After the song is played, quote Psalm 95: 6-7: "Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before Jehovah our Maker: For he is our God"
Pray: "Oh God, we praise You that You are OUR God! Please quicken our hearts, as we meditate upon Your word, to worship You as the king of the universe deserves to be worshiped! Amen."
I am a simple-minded man. It only took one word to inspire my sermon today. That word is אֱלהֵינוּ It is translated with two English words: "Our God." (Show printout of the word) It is a simple word, "elohaynu," "Our God," but it is rich in meaning! I'd like to take it apart and meditate with you on what it means and how it should affect our worship of the one true God. This one word teaches us to worship God not only for Who He is as God, but also that we should worship Him as a community as OUR God.
The main part of the word is simply the word "GOD" or "elohim" (write "God" on the whiteboard). Who is "God?" Well, I have gone to great lengths to actually bring you a photograph of God. Do you want to see it? Here he is (show picture of Shiva) Well actually I don't think this is God, but millions of people throughout India think they are worshipping God when they bow down to this idol of Shiva. Is that what God is like? No? Perhaps He is more like the Allah whom the Muslims worship--an utterly transcendent God who cannot be known or understood at all? No? Then maybe He is like the New Age concept--a big nothingness that resides in everything? Is that what God is?
Well the Bible tells us who God is in Psalm 95, and He is nothing like what the Hindus or Muslims or New Agers say! Look at what Psalm 95 says; "For Jehovah is a great God, And a great King above all gods. In his hand are the deep places of the earth; The heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, and he made it; And his hands formed the dry land." Well that pretty much covers all the bases--other gods, the underground, the mountains, the sea, and the land--God is the sovereign Lord over them all! And yet this Psalm tells us something more about God. Not only is He the almighty ruler of the world, He is also a shepherd! It says, " For he is our God [אֱלהֵינוּ], And we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand." Not only is God the king of the universe, He is also a God who builds an intimate relationship with us and takes care of His people like a shepherd cares for his sheep. What an awesome GOD we have! Let us therefore worship Him for Who He is as God!
Now, there's still the second part of this word--the "nu" on "elohayNU," which simply means "OUR." (Write "OUR" on the whiteboard.) OUR God. We should worship God not only for Who He is as God, but also we should worship Him as a community--OUR God. Here I want to make a distinction between MY God and OUR God, o.k. We Americans know all about what it means for God to be MY God, since we think in terms of our own individual decision we made to ask Jesus into our heart to be our PERSONAL Saviour, right? But what does it mean that Jehovah is OUR God?
It means we must consciously come to corporate worship with a sense of community. God deals with us not only as individuals, but also as corporate units. He works with us in terms of:
God judges whole corporate units by punishing them as a whole, yet he also blesses whole corporate units.
So, what does it mean that Jehovah is OUR God? It means that we come to Him not only as individuals, but also as a member of a community of faith. When we come together to worship this morning, God isn't just my God anymore, he's Buck's God, the Zeller's God, Joshua's God, the Hicks' God, Cliff's God, the George's God... He belongs to all of us together as a community of faith, and we belong to Him together as a community of faith. We must therefore be diligent to deal with sin that erects barriers between God and us as a community, we must also be sensitive to what our brothers and sisters around us are thinking, and when we gather to worship we must be unified, because we are approaching God as a body. If this doesn't fill you with a sense of awe, I don't know what will!
And yet, it did fail to instill a sense of awe in the nation is Israel as they wandered through the desert after escaping from Egypt. That's why Psalm 95 ends with an exhortation: "Harden not your heart, as at Meribah, As in the day of Massah in the wilderness; When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work. Forty years long was I grieved with that generation, And said, 'It is a people that do err in their heart, And they have not known my ways:' Wherefore I swore in my wrath, that they should not enter into my rest."
These verses refer to an incident described in Exodus where the people failed to worship God as the creator and sustainer of the universe and failed to recognize him as their God who would provide for them. The first seven verses of Exodus 17 tell the story:
"And all the congregation of the children of Israel journeyed from the wilderness of Sin, by their journeys, according to the commandment of Jehovah, and encamped in Rephidim: and there was no water for the people to drink. Wherefore the people strove with Moses, and said, 'Give us water that we may drink.' And Moses said unto them, 'Why do you strive with me? Why do you tempt Jehovah?' And the people thirsted there for water; and the people murmured against Moses, and said, 'Wherefore have you brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst?' And Moses cried unto Jehovah, saying, 'What shall I do for this people? They are almost ready to stone me.' And Jehovah said unto Moses, 'Go before the people, and take with you the elders of Israel; and the rod, with which you smote the river, take in your hand, and go. Behold, I will stand before you there upon the rock in Horeb; and you shall smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink.' And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel. And he called the name of the place Massah, and Meribah, because of the striving of the children of Israel, and because they tempted Jehovah, saying, 'Is Jehovah among us, or not?'"
So let us not be like the Israelites at Massah and Meribah, who failed to acknowledge God as their God. Rather, let us acknowledge Him as our GOD--for Who He is as the great king above all gods, and let us come before Him together as a pure, unified community of worshippers.
"Oh come, let us sing unto Jehovah; Let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving; Let us make a joyful noise unto him with psalms. For Jehovah is a great God, And a great King above all gods. In his hand are the deep places of the earth; The heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, and he made it; And his hands formed the dry land. Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before Jehovah our Maker: For he is our God, And we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand."
AMEN! Let us worship God because of Who He is, and let us worship God together as a community...