Hello everybody and welcome in to episode #273 of the Bible 2021 podcast. We are reading Psalm 95 and Psalm 96 today and our focus is on Fear and Worship Are Intertwined: The Trouble With Some Modern Worship Songs.  We are a daily 10 minute podcast, where we will dig in to the truth of the Word of God by reading one Bible chapter a day and discussing it. Welcome to new listeners in     Our goal is to encourage DAILY Bible reading, so you can jump in at any time and join with us. We want to invite as many people as possible to join us in daily Bible reading, so help spread the word and share the podcast! Don’t forget about our web-page, Bible2021.com – contact page, show notes, transcript and more– Click here for our Bible 2021 reading plan\

It’s easy to pick nits with old Christian standard songs and hymns. Did baby Jesus cry, or did He never cry, as “Away in a Manger,” would have us believe? (Jesus was FULLY God and FULLY human…so it is virtual guarantee that He cried.) It is also easy to pick on modern worship songs (what does Heaven meeting Earth in a sloppy wet kiss actually mean, anyway, and why are we singing it in a worship song?), but I’m not interested in breaking down a bunch of modern worship songs, or older hymns, and trying to find the problems in them. I am more interested, however, in making sure our worship songs line up with the truths of the Bible. Some songs emphasize the lovingkindness of God, and emphasize less the Holiness of God. Other songs are all about the holiness and awe of God, and less about His personal love and nearness. I think that it ok, because it is hard for any one single song to fully capture the essence of God – it’s just important that we don’t sing all God is holy songs, and no God is love songs, or vice versa. The songs of the church, when taken as a whole, should echo the teachings of the Bible about the nature, essence and character of God.

One thing I think is lacking in many modern songs, and even most hymns, is a dynamic we will see today in both Psalm 95 and 96 – both of which might just be jarring to a modern church attender without a deep theological background. Psalm 95 starts normally enough, at least for a Psalm:

Come, let’s shout joyfully to the Lord,
shout triumphantly to the rock of our salvation!
Let’s enter his presence with thanksgiving;
let’s shout triumphantly to him in song.

For the Lord is a great God,
a great King above all gods. Psalm 95:1-3

A wonderful beginning, and a wonderful truth: We should often, though not being legalistically rigid about it, enter into the presence of God in prayer and worship with wholehearted and full-throated thanksgiving. There is great wisdom in thanking God for what He has provided before asking Him for more – and this is good for our own souls and faith, to remind ourselves of God’s goodness to us. But if you keep reading this Psalm, worship turns to warning at break-neck speed:

Today, if you hear his voice:
Do not harden your hearts as at Meribah,
as on that day at Massah in the wilderness
where your ancestors tested me;
they tried me, though they had seen what I did.
10 For forty years I was disgusted with that generation;
I said, “They are a people whose hearts go astray;
they do not know my ways.”
11 So I swore in my anger,
“They will not enter my rest.” Psalm 95:7-11

Wow – what’s going on here – how have we begun with a worship song that calls us to enter into the presence of God with joy and thanksgiving and extols God for His greatness and ended with a sober warning to not test God or harden our hearts towards Him, lest we be left out of His eternal rest? This is something of a shocking development, so let’s consider two important things to help us understand this Psalm. #1 – What does this warning mean #2 – Why is there a warning in the middle of a worship Psalm, or, more accurately, at the end?

1- What is the Psalmist referring to here?

This is referring to an incident, recorded in Exodus 17, where the people of Israel were thirsty, and began to bitterly complain against Moses and against God. As we have discussed before, God does not look upon complaining as a minor thing – the Israelites were testing God and railing against Him after seeing His miraculous provision over and over again. They were basically asking, “What have you done for me lately,” to a God who had done innumerable things for them. And because of this incident of complaining, and many more – that generation of Israelites did not enter into God’s promised land, as Hebrews 3 records:

12 Watch out, brothers and sisters, so that there won’t be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage each other daily, while it is still called today, so that none of you is hardened by sin’s deception. 14 For we have become participants in Christ if we hold firmly until the end the reality that we had at the start. 15 As it is said:

Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.

16 For who heard and rebelled? Wasn’t it all who came out of Egypt under Moses? 17 With whom was God angry for forty years? Wasn’t it with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, if not to those who disobeyed? 19 So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief. Hebrews 3:12-19

So, this is a sobering warning that every Jewish person who read the Psalms would understand, but that again gets us to our second question: WHY is such a warning in what appears to be a Psalm of worship and praise? For the answer to that question, we can look in our very next Psalm, 96:

For the Lord is great and is highly praised;
he is feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols,
but the Lord made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty are before him;
strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.

Ascribe to the Lord, you families of the peoples,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory of his name;
bring an offering and enter his courts.
Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness;
let the whole earth tremble before him. Psalm 96:4-9

The Lord is great, says Psalm 96, and highly praised, but He is also to be FEARED above all gods. Splendor and majesty and beauty and STRENGTH are in His sanctuary – God is beautiful, wonderful and frighteningly powerful, as verse 9 describes so well: To worship the Lord in the splendor of His holiness means recognizing the dazzling brightness of the presence of God…and our response to such overwhelming holiness? TREMBLING.

This aspect of worship, so firmly rooted in the Psalms and in the worship of God in the New Testament, Old Testament and the Psalms, is so often missing from our modern church worship, so allow me to encourage us, in the words of Hebrews:

28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire. Heb 12:28-29 


Bible Memory verses for the month of September: 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2nd Timothy 3:16-17 

The Bible 2021 Podcast Is a ministry of Valley Baptist Church A Church in Salinas, California.

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