************ Sermon on Psalm 95 ************


By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman


This sermon was preached on November 28, 2019


Psalm 95
"Come, Ye Thankful People, Come"
Thanksgiving Day 2019

I Praise and Thanksgiving
A On this Thanksgiving Day we notice that the psalmist starts with a command.
(Ps 95:1-2) Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. (2) Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.
A command. Why is that even necessary? Because people forget to say thank-you. Because, as we do with little children, people have to be told to say thank-you. How many people will sit down to a feast of turkey and potatoes and gravy and pumpkin pie today without ever once thanking God? How many people will celebrate this day without once thinking of Him from whom all blessings flow? The psalmist is writing for God's people so it isn't just people in general who are told to say thank-you but even God's people.

B Notice the phrase "shout aloud" in verse 1 and the word "extol" in verse 2. They are the same word in the Hebrew. The word means to utter a sudden loud cry, to signal with a loud noise, to give a blast. Telling us what? Telling us we are not to be shy and bashful in giving thanks and praise to God. Telling us it should enthusiastic. Telling us people should see it and hear it. Ruth and I pray before we eat, even in restaurants. I've been surprised by the people who come up to us afterward and thank us for praying. And, this morning, I hope we all are praising God with every fibre of our being, that we are raising the roof with our singing.

C It goes without saying that the praise and thanks are supposed to be sincere, from the heart, from the core of our being. Sometimes people say thanks but you can tell they don't really mean it; you can tell they are simply going through the motions.
A couple decided to give a practical household gift as a wedding present: a fire extinguisher. Apparently, the newlyweds mass-produced their thank-you notes because the couple received a card saying: "Thank you very much for the nice wedding gift. We look forward to using it soon."
Again I point to "shout aloud" and "extol." We are loud and forward and upfront about our praise and thanks because we mean it. We want to sing for joy to the Lord, we want to shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. We want to come before Him with thanksgiving, we want to extol Him with music and song.

II Meribah and Massah
A Did you notice the warning in verses 7-9? Listen, again, to what the psalmist says:
(Ps 95:7-9) Today, if you hear his voice, (8) do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah, as you did that day at Massah in the desert, (9) where your fathers tested and tried me, though they had seen what I did.
Did you hear that? On this Thanksgiving Day, do not be like Israel at Meribah and at Massah. In fact, don't be like Israel at Meribah and at Massah any day!

What did Israel do? I want to read to you from Exodus 17. This tells us what happened at Meribah and Massah:
(Ex 17:1-4,7) The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the LORD commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. (2) So they quarreled with Moses and said, "Give us water to drink." Moses replied, "Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the LORD to the test?" (3) But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, "Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?" (4) Then Moses cried out to the LORD, "What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me." ... (7) And [Moses] called the place Massah [which means "testing"] and Meribah [which means "quarreling"] because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the LORD saying, "Is the LORD among us or not?"
Did you hear that? Because there was no water for them to drink they grumbled against God and against Moses. They said they would rather be slaves in Egypt than be in the wilderness with God. In fact, they wanted to stone Moses to death for leading them out of Egypt and into the wilderness.

In Psalm 95 God says the Israelites "tested and tried me." With their complaining. With their grumbling. With their belly-aching. With their failure to be thankful.

B Notice what else God says. God says the Israelites tested and tried me, "though they had seen what I did" (Ps 95:9). "Though they had seen what I did." Which makes me ask, "What did they see?" I won't list everything but let me tell you some of what they saw.
-They saw God visit the ten plagues on Egypt and on Pharaoh. Do you remember the plagues: blood, frogs, gnats, flies, livestock, boils, hail, locusts, darkness, firstborn. They saw this.
-They saw the Exodus when God set them free from the slavery and bondage of Egypt. They came to the Red Sea and the sea was in front of them and the Egyptian army was behind them and they saw God do something else. Anyone remember what they saw God do? God parted the waters for them and drowned the Egyptian army. They saw this.
-They came to Marah and they could not drink its water because it was bitter. God made the water sweet. They saw this.
-In the Desert of Sin they missed the pots of meat and food of Egypt. Every day but the Sabbath God gave them manna from heaven. God sent them quail to eat, so many quail that they covered the camp. They saw this.
-They came to Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. God made water pour out of the rock. They saw this.
-The Amalekites came and attacked the people. As long as Moses held up his hands -- symbolizing the Lord's presence and blessing and power -- the Israelites were winning. They saw this.
-Do you know what else they saw? Mt. Sinai. Remember what happened there?
(Ex 19:16-19) On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled ... (18) Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the LORD descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, the whole mountain trembled violently, (19) and the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder.
They saw this. They heard this. They experienced this.

What did the people see? They saw God saving His people. They saw God caring for His people. They saw God doing miracle after miracle. Using the words of the psalmist, they saw that
(Ps 95:3-5) ... the LORD is the great God, the great King above all gods. (4) In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. (5) The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.
They saw this. They saw "he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care" (Ps 95:7).

C Now, remember the warning that our Bible reading from Psalm 95 says to us?
(Ps 95:7-9) Today, if you hear his voice, (8) do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah, as you did that day at Massah in the desert, (9) where your fathers tested and tried me, though they had seen what I did.
Don't be like Israel. Don't test and try God. Don't grumble and complain.

Isn't the story of Israel in the wilderness a sad story? They had just been given the greatest gift any nation or people could be given. They were given the gift of salvation. They were given blessing after blessing. Yet, they complained and quarreled; they tested and tried God.

What was wrong with Israel? Psalm 95 says they "hardened" their hearts. What do you think that means? I put my hand over my heart. I feel my heart. I feel it beating. I feel it pumping blood. Now, imagine that you have a hard heart, what the Bible calls a heart of stone. It doesn't beat. It doesn't pump blood. Because it is a dead heart. The children of Israel "hardened" their hearts. Their hearts were hearts of stone. Their hearts were dead.

Listen again to the opening words of Psalm 95. I use them often as a call to worship:
(Ps 95:1-2) Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. (2) Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.
The children of Israel loved these words. They said them and sang them as they entered the Temple for worship. They taught them to their children. But they didn't believe them. They didn't really believe that God was their Savior and Provider. In their heart they weren't really thankful for salvation and blessings. Because their hearts were hard. Because their hearts were dead. That's what the Bible means when it says they "hardened" their hearts.

What effect do you think this had on their children? Or, on their brothers and sisters in the faith? Today, we don't hesitate to say such people and such an attitude are toxic. Like poison. Toxic to faith. Toxic to joy. Toxic to praise and thanksgiving. Toxic to one's relationship with God.

D I talked about Israel at Meribah and Massah in spite of what they saw God do. But now let me talk about you and me and what we have seen God do. Do you know what we all see?
-We see a baby born of a virgin and laid in a manger.
-We see the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy cured, the deaf hear, the dead raised.
-We see Jesus living a perfect life of obedience.
-We see Jesus suffer and die on the cross.
-We see Jesus rise from the grave.
-We see Jesus ascend into heaven.
-We see the power of the Spirit.
-We see the Word of God.
-We see the good news of the Gospel being preached around the world.
-We see a church composed of millions upon millions of true Christian believers.
-We see children being baptized, young people professing their faith, families serving the Lord.
-We see the care of God: rain, sunshine, crops, food, jobs, prosperity, family & friends.

What is your response to all this that you see? Praise and thanksgiving? Grumbles and complaints? Is yours a toxic heart, a hard heart? Feel your heart congregation. Do you have a hard heart -- like Israel?! Or, do you have a heart that is thankful and joyful?

Conclusion
(Ps 95:6-7) Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker; (7) for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.
Here is the command again: COME. To people who have seen so much. To people who have been given so much. To people whose hearts have been made alive and active and overflowing with thanksgiving. "Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker."
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