Psalm 95; An old Testament Background study for Hebrews Chapter 3. 7-11 Part 1

An Old Testament Study on Psalm 95, a key text used for the book of Hebrews

02 06 2021

An old Testament Background study for Hebrews Chapter 3. 7-11 Part 1

This study is a background study on Psalm 95.  When we have completed the background study, then we will return to Apollos’ commentary at chapter 3. 7-11.  If we are to understand the book Hebrews here, then we need a deeper understanding of the quotations in Hebrews.   I know that Herman Bavinck touches on a key word ‘bahan = to test or to examine’. 

We need to be extra mindful of the proceeding verses in Hebrews (chapter 3. 7-11).  This takes us to Psalm 95.  Before Apollos quotes from the Psalm though, he tells his readers that it is the Holy Spirit who says.  For us it is the very words of God.  In that case before we even look at these sections let us look at Psalm 95 first and then come back to this section later.

Praise to the LORD, and Warning against Unbelief.
1 O come, let us sing for joy to the LORD,
Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation.
2 Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving,
Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.
3 For the LORD is a great God
And a great King above all gods,
4 In whose hand are the depths of the earth,
The peaks of the mountains are His also.
5  The sea is His, for it was He who made it,
And His hands formed the dry land.
6 Come, let us worship and bow down,
Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.
7 For He is our God,
And we are the people of His  pasture and the sheep of His hand.
Today, if you would hear His voice,
8 Do not harden your hearts, as at  Meribah,
As in the day of  Massah in the wilderness,
9 “When your fathers tested Me,
They tried Me, though they had seen My work.
10 “For forty years I loathed that generation,
And said they are a people who err in their heart,
And they do not know My ways.
11 “Therefore I swore in My anger,
Truly they shall not enter into My rest.” Psalms 95 NASB

The commentator below breaks the Psalm into sections:

verses 1 and 2 shows worship in many forms

Oh come, let us sing to the LORD!

Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.

Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving;

Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.

Verses 3-5:

God’s greatness is worshiped

For the LORD is the great God,

And the great King above all gods.

In His hand are the deep places of the earth;

The heights of the hills are His also.

The sea is His, for He made it;

And His hands formed the dry land.

Verses 6-7a

a call to worship in humility.

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.

Verses 7b – 9

The warning to those who reject Worship.

Today, if you will hear His voice:

“Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion,

As in the day of trial in the wilderness,

When your fathers tested Me;

They tried Me, though they saw My work.”

In summary form then:

  1. We can worship God in various forms.
  2. We are called to look at the greatness of God, his Majesty and that he is the Creator and Judge.
  3. In contrast we are to humble ourselves and worship God.
  4. A dire warning to those who reject worshipping God.

In the first half of Psalm 95 there is true joy and happiness in the presence of God from within the congregation of worshippers of God.  This section is a section of faith and belief towards God.  The last section is turned on its head and sorrow and unhappiness will be with those who choose unbelief.

A breakdown of Psalm 95

verse 1 God is our rock.

verse 2 we come into his presence.

verse3 God is a great king above all the gods!

verse 4 -5 everything belongs to God the depths of the earths are in his hands.

verse 6 we are called to worship.

verse 7 He is our God, and we are his sheep.

Verse 8 warning on hardening our hearts.

Verse 9 Don’t test God through unbelief.

Verse 10 God loathed a generation because of their unbelief.

Verse 11 A judgement was announced on the unbelievers.

Special notes

As you can see the Psalm itself contrasts the walk of faith to the walk of unbelief. 

Verse 9 the testing is an examination type of testing.  The word usually denotes God who is doing the testing. 

The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Moody Press) on page 100 says:

“In the exceptions (in the use of the Hebrew word Bahan), it is God who is tested. It is evident that this is abnormal procedure. In Ps 95:9 the people are reminded of the folly of testing God at Meribah.”

This is a very important finding.  As Bavinck explains to us that there are good senses and bad senses of words in Scripture pages 446 – 449 Reformed Ethics; edited by John Bolt

This is one of those situations where ‘testing, examining’ has negative connotations because it is from the place of unbelief.   The commentator in the TWOT (TWOT= Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament) says that ‘bahan= testing, examining’ is used as an abnormal procedure.  The point is that these people knowingly turned their back on God even though he saved them from Pharoah, starvation and so on.   This is very serious situation.

Reflection

By nature, God is good and his love and compassion for his people know no limits.  This why believers by the Holy Spirit walk in faith.  Therefore, it is a perversion to think that we can examine God from the point of view of unbelief.  In the next study we will be going to look at the Book of Hebrews and how these verse from Psalms are interpreted by Apollos.

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