Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord;
let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before him with thanksgiving
and extol him with music and song.
For the Lord is the great God,
the great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth,
and the mountain peaks belong to him.
The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land.
Come, let us bow down in worship,
let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;
for he is our God
and we are the people of his pasture,
the flock under his care.
Today, if only you would hear his voice,(Ps. 95:1-11 NIV)
‘Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah,
as you did that day at Massah in the wilderness,
where your ancestors tested me;
they tried me, though they had seen what I did.
For forty years I was angry with that generation;
I said, “They are a people whose hearts go astray,
and they have not known my ways.”
So I declared on oath in my anger,
“They shall never enter my rest.”’
Verses 1, 2 and 6 are good examples of a call to worship. In worship we begin with God calling us to worship. In the call to worship we learn that worship is initiated by God, not us. It is a call to leave behind whatever our week has been like and pay attention, because in the name of Christ God is present and He is calling us into His presence. We don’t invite God into our worship, God invites us into His presence, and we come because God has called. We should give more thought to what is happening in the call to worship. We should also anticipate the call to worship with a sense of awe. I’ve been trying to think of a solemn moment that illustrates how we should feel. It is like sitting in an exam room, with the exam paper in front of you. You watch the clock as it approaches the hour, and the invigilator says, ‘You may now turn over your paper and begin!’ Another great moment was in 1985 when Leonard Bernstein took to the podium to conduct the New York Philharmonic Orchestra playing Aaron Copeland’s ‘Fanfare to the Common Man’ with Copeland in the audience. The audience were applauding as Bernstein entered the auditorium and, as he raised his baton, the audience fell silent anticipating the opening booming of the drums. A third example I can think of is at a wedding, with the groom and the best man at the front of the church. The doors are closed over at the back, and the congregation know that the bride has arrived. They stop their conversation and wait with anticipation to see the bride being walked down the aisle on her father’s arm. The door is opened, the usher signals to the minister and he calls for the congregation to stand to receive the bride. That is the mindset that I would love to have as we watch the clock approach the hour, as we anticipate the most wonderful experience that a person can have, being invited by God into His presence to worship.
The members of the congregation are summoned to come together for the purpose of celebrating. The special occasion is the worship of the covenant LORD who is the Rock of our salvation. The cause of celebration is the mighty work of God in salvation. Music and song are such a vital part of our praise of God. It is correct to give a central role to the preaching of God’s word, but this should not be at the expense of the singing, reading and prayers.
We should praise God because He is the great God, he is the Ruler of rulers, the false gods cannot be compared with God, for He alone is the ruler over all of creation. The Lord holds the depths of the earth in the hollow of His hand, the mountain peaks are all in His ownership. He owns the sea, because He made the sea, He owns the earth because by His hands He formed the dry land.
The call to worship is repeated in v6. We should bow down before the Lord our God because He has created all things, but we also praise God because He is the Redeemer. He is our God and we are the flock that has been brought under His care. Bringing together the roles of Creator and Redeemer into the one song is so instructive. The One who created us is the one who has redeemed us. Through the Lord Jesus Christ all things were made. The creator comes into His creation and becomes the creature so that He might go to the cross and die for His creation.
The call to worship though is not always responded to properly. There are many times when the people of God have hardened their hearts. When we are in the habit of worshipping every Sunday the call to worship, the singing of God’s praise, and the confession of sin can become common place and we end up just going through a routine.
When we hear God’s voice, we should respond with appropriate praise and thanksgiving. In the OT the people hardened their hearts against the Lord. At Meribah (contending) and Massah (testing) they had contended with God and put God to the test. They had witnessed the mighty deliverance out of Egypt and now they have complained against the Lord. When we hear the voice of the Lord, we ought not to respond with hard hearts.
The Lord promised that that generation would never enter into the Lord’s rest in the Promised Land. The people’s hearts had gone astray.
The Lord’s rest ultimately comes in Jesus Christ because the people of the OT never found rest. The generation that died in the wilderness was representative of every generation of the Lord’s people. That great Lord’s rest will be entered into by the OT and NT church in the New Heavens and the New Earth.
Lord God help us to anticipate Your call to worship. When it sounds, help us to be ready to sing Your praise because You are the Rock of our salvation. There are Sundays when our hearts and cold and hard, and we just listen to Your call to worship as if we were listening to a reading from any book. Lord help us not to contend or test Your way but to bow down and worship You in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.