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95. Psalm 95

O come, let us sing unto the Lord: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation.

2Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms.

3For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.

4In his hand are the deep places of the earth: the strength of the hills is his also.

5The sea is his, and he made it: and his hands formed the dry land.

6O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our maker.

7For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. To day if ye will hear his voice,

8Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness:

9When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work.

10Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways:

11Unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest.

7 Because he is our God While it is true that all men were created to praise God, there are reasons why the Church is specially said to have been formed for that end, (Isaiah 61:3.) The Psalmist was entitled to require this service more particularly from the hands of his chosen people. This is the reason why he impresses upon the children of Abraham the invaluable privilege which God had conferred upon them in taking them under his protection. God may indeed be said in a sense to have done so much for all mankind. But when asserted to be the Shepherd of the Church, more is meant than that he favors her with the common nourishment, support, and government which he extends promiscuously to the whole human family; he is so called because he separates her from the rest of the world, and cherishes her with a peculiar and fatherly regard. His people are here spoken of accordingly as the people of his pastures, whom he watches over with peculiar care, and loads with blessings of every kind. The passage might have run more clearly had the Psalmist called them the flock of his pastures, and the people of his hand; 4848     Hammond, after making a similar remark, adds — “But it is more reasonable to take the explanation from the different significations of רעה, [the word which Calvin renders pasture,] as for feeding, so for governing, equally applicable to men and cattle; from whence it is but analogy, that מרעה, which signifies a pasture, where cattle are fed, should also signify dominion or kingdom, or any kind of πολιτεία, wherein a people are governed And then the other part, the sheep of his hand, will be a fit, though figurative, expression; the shepherd that feeds, and rules, and leads the sheep, doing it by his hand, which manageth the rod and staff, Psalm 23:4. The Jewish Arab reads, ‘the people of his feeding, or flock, and the sheep of his guidance.’” or, had he added merely — and his flock 4949     The text reads, “Si tantum nomen Legis posuisset.” This is evidently a mistake of the printer for Gregis. The French version reads — “Le Troupeau.” — the figure might have been brought out more consistently and plainly. But his object was less elegancy of expression than pressing upon the people a sense of the inestimable favor conferred upon them in their adoption, by virtue of which they were called to live under the faithful guardianship of God, and to the enjoyment of every species of blessings. They are called the flock of his hand, not so much because formed by his hand as because governed by it, or, to use a French expression, le Troupeau de sa conduite. 5050     The flock under his conduct or guidance. The point which some have given to the expression, as if it intimated how intent God was upon feeding his people, doing it himself, and not employing hired shepherds, may scarcely perhaps be borne out by the words in their genuine meaning; but it cannot be doubted that the Psalmist would express the very gracious and familiar kind of guidance which was enjoyed by this one nation at that time. Not that God dispensed with human agency, intrusting the care of the people as he did to priests, prophets, and judges, and latterly to kings. No more is meant than that in discharging the office of shepherd to this people, he exercised a superintendence over them different from that common providence which extends to the rest of the world.

To-day, if you will hear his voice 5151     The ancient Jewish writers frequently apply these words to the Messiah: and they have argued from them, that if all Israel would repent but one day the Messiah would come; because it is said, “To-day, if ye will hear his voice.” According to the Hebrew expositors, this is a conditional clause standing connected with the preceding sentence; by which interpretation the Psalmist must be considered as warning the people that they would only retain possession of their privilege and distinction so long as they continued to obey God. 5252     Hammond observes, that the particle אם, im, here rendered if, is in other places often used in an optative signification, as in Exodus 32:32, “If thou wilt” for “O that thou wouldst forgive them;” and that therefore the rendering here may be, “O that to-day ye would hear his voice;” — a reading, he adds, which “may be thought needful to the making the sense complete in this verse, which otherwise is thought to hang (though not so fitly) on the 8th verse, and not to be finished without it.” He then goes on to say, “But it may be considered also, whether this verse be not more complete in itself by rendering אם, if, thus: ‘Let us worship and bow down, and kneel before the Lord our Maker; for he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and sheep of his hand, if ye will hear his voice to-day,’ i e., speedily, — if ye will speedily perform obedience to him, — setting the words in form of a conditional promise, thereby to enforce the performance of the condition on our part. The condition to the performance of which they are exhorted, (verse 6,) is paying God the worship and lowly obedience due to him; and the promise secured to them in this performance, that he will be their God, and they the people of his pasture, etc., i e., that God will take the same care of them that a shepherd does of his sheep; preserve them from all enemies, Midianites, Philistines, Canaanites, etc.” The Greek version joins it with the verse that follows — to-day, if ye will hear his voice harden not your hearts, and it reads well in this connection. Should we adopt the distribution of the Hebrew expositors, the Psalmist seems to say that the posterity of Abraham were the flock of God’s hand, inasmuch as he had placed his Law in the midst of them, which was, as it were, his crook, and had thus showed himself to be their shepherd. The Hebrew particle אם, im, which has been rendered if, would in that case be rather expositive than conditional, and might be rendered when, 5353     “Non erit proprie conditionalis, sed expositiva; vel pro temporis adverbio sumetur.” — Lat. — “Ne sera pas proprement conditionnelle, mais expositive; ou bien elle sera prinse pour Quand.” — Fr. the words denoting it to be the great distinction between the Jews and the surrounding nations, that God had directed his voice to the former, as it is frequently noticed he had not done to the latter, (Psalm 147:20; Deuteronomy 4:6, 7.) Moses had declared this to constitute the ground of their superiority to other people, saying, “What nation is there under heaven which hath its gods so nigh unto it?” The inspired writers borrow frequently from Moses, as is well known, and the Psalmist, by the expression to-day, intimates how emphatically the Jews, in hearing God’s voice, were his people, for the proof was not far off, it consisted in something which was present and before their eyes. He bids them recognize God as their shepherd, inasmuch as they heard his voice; and it was an instance of his singular grace that he had addressed them in such a condescending and familiar manner. Some take the adverb to be one of exhortation, and read, I would that they would hear my voice, but this does violence to the words. The passage runs well taken in the other meaning we have assigned to it. Since they had a constant opportunity of hearing the voice of God — since he gave them not only one proof of the care he had over them as shepherd, or yearly proof of it, but a continual exemplification of it, there could be no doubt that the Jews were chosen to be his flock.

8. Harden not your heart, as in Meribah The Psalmist, having extolled and commended the kindness of God their Shepherd, takes occasion, as they were stiffnecked and disobedient, to remind them of their duty, as his flock, which was to yield a pliable and meek submission; and the more to impress their minds, he upbraids them with the obstinacy of their fathers. The term מריבה, Meribah, may be used appellatively to mean strife or contention; but as the Psalmist evidently refers to the history contained in Exodus 17:2-7, 5858     This remarkable part of Jewish history is alluded to in other places, and for various purposes. Sometimes to reproach the Israelites on account of their sins, as in Deuteronomy 9:22, “And at Massah ye provoked the Lord to wrath;” sometimes to warn them against falling into the like sins, as in Deuteronomy 6:16, “Ye shall not tempt the Lord your God as ye tempted him in Massah;” and, at other times, as an instance of the faithfulness of the Levites who clave to God in these circumstances of trial, Deuteronomy 33:8, “And of Levi he said, Let thy Thummim and thy Urim be with thy holy one, whom thou didst prove at Massah, and with whom thou didst strive at the waters of Meribah.” I have preferred understanding it of the place — and so of מסה, Massah. 5959     In our English Bible it is, “in the provocation — in the day of temptation.” But the most eminent critics agree with Calvin in thinking that it is better to retain the terms Meribah and Massah than to translate them. The places called by these names were so designated from the Israelites provoking and tempting God at them; and the retaining of the proper names gives more effect and liveliness to the allusion. See Psalm 81:7, volume 3, page 316, n. 2. In the second clause, however, the place where the temptation happened may be thought sufficiently described under the term wilderness, and should any read, according to the day of temptation (instead of Massah) in the wilderness, there can be no objection. Some would have it, that Massah and Meribah were two distinct places, but I see no ground to think so; and, in a matter of so little importance, we should not be too nice or curious. He enlarges in several expressions upon the hardness of heart evinced by the people, and, to produce the greater effect, introduces God himself as speaking. 6060     Mant and Walford suppose that it is at the second part of verse 7, “To-day, if ye will hear his voice,” where God is introduced as speaking. “By an almost imperceptible transition,” remarks the former critic, “the person is here [last clause of verse 7th] changed; Jehovah becomes the speaker; and with a corresponding change of topic, the Ode, which had commenced with a spiritual exhortation to exult in the blessings of the Gospel, concludes with a solemn, affectionate, and impressive admonition of the danger of disobedience to it; leaving the warning upon the mind with an abruptness peculiarly well calculated to excite attention and to produce the desired effect.” Dimock conjectures, that, as God is introduced as speaking in the last clause of the 7th verse, we should read with Mudge, בקולי, for בקלו, (or, as 37 MSS. and two others at first, בקולו,) “Oh that you may hear my voice this day: that you may not harden your hearts,” etc. By hardness of heart, he no doubt means, any kind of contempt shown to the word of God, though there are many different kinds of it. We find that when proclaimed, it is heard by some in a cold and slighting manner; that some fastidiously put it away from them after they had received it; that others proudly reject it; while again there are men who openly vent their rage against it with despite and blasphemy. 6161     “Ab aliis frigide audiri, et contemptim; ab aliis fastidiose respui; ab aliis superbe rejici; ab aliis etiam furiose non sine probro et blasphemia proscindi.” — Lat. The Psalmist, in the one term which he has employed, comprehends all these defaulters, the careless — the fastidious — such as deride the word, and such as are actuated in their opposition to it by frenzy and passion. Before the heart can be judged soft and pliable to the hearing of God’s word, it is necessary that we receive it with reverence, and with a disposition to obey it. If it carry no authority and weight with it, we show that we regard him as no more than a mere man like ourselves; and here lies the hardness of our hearts, whatever may be the cause of it, whether simply carelessness, or pride, or rebellion. He has intentionally singled out the odious term here employed, to let us know what an execrable thing contempt of God’s word is; as, in the Law, adultery is used to denote all kinds of fornication and uncleanness, and murder all kinds of violence, and injury, hatreds, and enmities. Accordingly, the man who simply treats the word of God with neglect, and fails to obey it, is said here to have a hard and stony heart, although he may not be an open despiser. The attempt is ridiculous which the Papists have made to found upon this passage their favorite doctrine of the liberty of the will. We are to notice, in the first place, that all men’s hearts are naturally hard and stony; for Scripture does not speak of this as a disease peculiar to a few, but characteristic in general of all mankind, (Ezekiel 36:26.) It is an inbred pravity; still it is voluntary; we are not insensible in the same manner that stones are, 6262     “Combien qu’une telle perversite nous soit naturelle, toutesfois pource qu’elle est volontaire, et que nous ne sommes pas insensibles comme les pierres.” — Fr. and the man who will not suffer himself to be ruled by God’s word, makes that heart, which was hard before, harder still, and is convinced as to his own sense and feeling of obstinacy. The consequence by no means follows from this, that softness of heart — a heart flexible indifferently in either direction, is at our command. 6363     “Il ne s’ensuit pas neantmoins qu’il soit en nostre puissance d’amollir nostre coeur, ou de le flechir en l’une et l’autre part.” — Fr. The will of man, through natural corruption, is wholly bent to evil; or, to speak more properly, is carried headlong into the commission of it. And yet every man, who disobeys God therein, hardens himself; for the blame of his wrong doing rests with none but himself.


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