“Praise & Thanks-Hardening” – Psalm 95 – Pastor Joshua
If you’re like my family and me, you’ve already begun your preparations for the big feast… Then on the big day, we enjoy time together with our family, the food and whatever was on TV. Maybe your Thanksgivings are a lot like this. A great time with your family and good food. BOTH good things we can be thankful and give praise to God for. But giving thanks… giving praise to God needs to extend beyond just giving thanks for our families and good food. We should give praise to God for all He is and all He gives us. And we should give praise to God in order to guard our own hearts against ourselves.
This brings us to our take home truth for the day, God always deserves our praise. Because of His greatness, because He made us, because He saved us, GOD deserves ALL of our praise. He doesn’t just deserve it sometimes… but ALWAYS, TODAY and EVERYDAY. Especially because our hearts have the tendency to wander. Let’s get a better look at this Psalm now and see why exactly we should praise God always… Point #1 if you’re following along in your program inserts…
1. Praise God always for He is the Savior and Creator! Verses 1 to 5. God made us and He saves us into a relationship with Himself. So, as our creator and as our savior, God deserves all of our worship, all of our praise. In the first two verses is where we see God as savior. Now when we read verse 1, it doesn’t sound like much and it’s not our faults because our English translations can make this sound pretty tame. But actually, the way that we should be read is, “Oh COME LET US SING TO THE LORD!!!” 2nd half of verse 1, “Let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!” Here, we move from call to worship to reason to worship. The Israelites are to worship God for He is their savior, their rock of salvation! “Rock” points to the fact that God is our solid and firm foundation who can never be taken away, He can never be broken, that He is always reliable. Over and over, God reliably saved Israel.
Verse 2 then moves from invitation to worship God to invitation to come before His presence with thanksgiving. In the festival imagery again, this could have meant entering further into the temple towards the center, which would be considered the place where God’s Spirit was in the Holy of Holies. The closer the surrounding courts are to the center, the greater the sense of God’s presence was.
Verses 3 to 5. Praise is due to God because of His greatness and because He’s the king above all gods. This doesn’t just mean that God is greater than other gods, it’s that God is the ONLY God. For God to be the God OVER those gods means that our Lord is not only above each of those things but that He is in complete control over everything in this world.
Then in verses 4 to 5 we see God’s control, His full sovereignty, on display with His creative hands. The heights and the depths of the earth fit in just one of His hands. He made the sea and formed the dry lands like a potter shapes the clay. And God didn’t just make land, sky and sea… He made you and me too. Yet clearly for all the glory and magnificence that God deserves, we still struggle to give Him the praise and thanksgiving He deserves. Which is why this psalm gives us this next warning…
2. Praise God always to guard against your own heart. Verses 6-11. So many times we let our hearts get in the way of the praise God deserves by allowing our hearts to praise other things, loving those things or those people greater than we love our Lord whether we realize it or not.
Verses 6 to 7. Here the psalmist makes another call to praise God. This time though, it moves from a call to sing praises to a call to literally bow down for God is Israel’s maker! They are made by Him, therefore, they belong to Him. As His covenant people, God cares for them as a shepherd tends to His flock. Caring for each and every single sheep, protecting them from evil forces and leading them towards life.
Up to this point, everything was about praising God. Then seemingly all of a sudden it says, “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts…” It’s kind of like, “Hey, what’s going on here! I thought we were talking about praising God! What does hardening my heart have to do with it?” It has everything to do with it. As we’ve just learned by walking through Deuteronomy for the past few months, Israel has a long history of giving the praise that God deserves to other gods.
In using the word “today” it connects Israel’s past events with the present. The hardening of hearts at Meribah and Massah aren’t just things that happened in the past but they still live in the lives of the audience hearing this message originally. So what happened at Meribah and Massah? For starters, they’re actually two names of the same place. Meribah means testing and Massah means quarreling. During their 40-year journey through the desert, the Israelites came to a place where they didn’t have water and began to question why God ever brought them out of Egypt in the first place. Questioning God’s faithfulness though He had more than proven Himself time and again, Israel essentially rebelled against Him. And as consequence to their rebellion, they were not allowed to enter God’s rest; not allowed to enter the Promised Land.
Just as God cared for Israel, God cares for us. He doesn’t want us to forget the caring and loving work He has already accomplished in our lives. He wants us to remember and hold fast to the great work that He’s done for us through Jesus’ sinless life, death and resurrection for us on our behalves. This great work that in living without sin, Christ became the perfect sacrifice for us. In dying on the cross, Christ paid the debts of our sins that we should have paid. In rising from the dead, Jesus displayed His power over sin and death and joins us together with Him before the Father so that we can now be seen as His perfect and blameless children. We can now enter God’s ultimate rest for us as only made possible through His Son. For this, God is always worthy of our praise.
No matter how long it’s been since you’ve talked with God seriously, His grace is so great that it’s never too late to return back to Him. As you gather with your loved ones this week, yes, please give thanks for friends and food. But above all, give thanks to God because He always deserves our praise.
Songs of Praise:
Thy Mercy My God, Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, I Will Offer Up My Life, I Give You My Heart, Doxology.
Children’s Message: Thank you Christine Kawabata for the Thanksgiving Children’s Message that encourages us be happy no matter what our circumstances are. The secret is to be thankful. There are two steps to be thankful: the first step is noticing and the second step is appreciating. Thank God for all the people and things He has given you each day.
Preparing for next Sunday:
Pastor Scott – The Long Awaited King – Matthew 1:1-18