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Going, Not Going, Interested

From Psalm 95

I went swing dancing Saturday night. Several days prior, I’d received a Facebook invite about the event—a small studio in Memphis was teaching a lesson and, afterward, offering open-floor dancing. It sounded fun. I’d be in town. I clicked a button. Going!

In some ways, Psalm 95 reads like a Facebook invite to a happy event:

Come, let’s sing for joy to the Lord. Let’s shout praises to the Rock who saves us. Let’s come to him with thanksgiving. Let’s sing songs to him, because the Lord is the great God, the great King over all gods. (vv. 1-3 NCV)

Don’t we receive invitations like this all the time? Churches invite us to their services. Christian artists invite us to their concerts. Christian authors and bloggers invite us to read their stories and learn more about God’s goodness. All of these, in their own ways, beckoning: Come! Let’s sing! Let’s shout praises!

And all the time, we’re mentally hovering over those buttons: Going. Not Going. Interested.

If I have time … if I feel like it … if I get these other things done … if the kids are behaving … if I’m not too tired … So we click “Interested,” or we’re honest with ourselves and say, “Not Going.” After all, it’s just one more happy event. There will be a dozen more in my newsfeed tomorrow.

But the invitation to worship God isn’t like that.

The second half of Psalm 95:7 presents an abrupt shift in tone: “Today listen to what he says …” This was the psalmist talking, preparing his readers to hear the word of the Lord. And this is what the Lord said:

Do not be stubborn, as your ancestors were at Meribah, as they were that day at Massah in the desert. There your ancestors tested me and tried me even though they saw what I did. I was angry with those people for forty years. … I was angry and made a promise, “They will never enter my rest.” (vv. 8-11)

What happened to the joy that opened Psalm 95? What happened to the excitement of shouting praises and singing in worship to God? The second half of this psalm seems out of place, like a giant storm moving in over a carnival.

What happened? The invitation to worship wasn’t accepted. And instead of thanking God (see v. 2), the people tested God (see v. 9) by doubting and complaining and replacing Him with idols.

These words end the psalm: “They will never enter my rest” (v. 11). Harsh, hard words. But important words too. They remind us that this invitation—“Come, let’s sing for joy to the Lord. Let’s shout praises to the Rock who saves us” (v. 1)—isn’t just a happy idea. It’s the only idea that will save us: from God’s anger, from wasting time (a lifetime) wandering and wilting, from failing to enter God’s rest.

So “come, let’s worship him and bow down. Let’s kneel before the Lord who made us, because he is our God and we are the people he takes care of” (Psalm 95:6-7). And that’s the best part—saying yes to this invitation not only saves us from bad, but it places us somewhere really, really good: in the caring hands of the Lord.

Hopefully yours,

Author, blog, Christian

Next Week’s Reading: Psalm 96–102.


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