Make a Joyful Noise – Psalm 95:1-7

 According to my records we have looked at parts of this Psalm four times in the last 25 years. One of those messages was from the perspective of a New Testament quotation. “Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness.” We looked at this Psalm in the course of a survey of all the Psalms. This is such a variegated song that we could study theology, worship, and salvation from its verses. There are messages on thanksgiving, Christ, God the Father and grace. There is enough sermon material in verse 1 alone to sustain us for a couple of weeks.

There will be a quote in the bulletin sometime in the near future, pulled from a book that I’ve just finished. The author was exhorting Christians to study and sing the Psalms, because they make up a very unique kind of song book. They blend worship and theology better than any human hymn ever could. Because, of course, they were given to us through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

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

I think it is significant that we are not told about any special occasions commemorated by this Psalm. As far as we know there were not any special victories in the mind of the Psalmist while he wrote. He wasn’t thinking of some special physical blessing, nor was he thinking of his soul’s salvation.

This does at least two things: First, this Psalm becomes much more universal as a result. We don’t have to have to match the same sort of event in our lives to make full use of this song. And by not having some historical event to distract us, our full concentration can be placed on our Lord. Jehovah deserves our praise not only for what He has done, but also for Who He is. In fact, that kind of praise is undoubtedly the most pure – there is nothing selfish in it. “O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation.”

Notice the words “O come” – it’s an invitation to join the Psalmist. He’s not sending us out to do something that he’s not willing to do with us. Join me. Join me. But is this call – just an attempt to orchestrate a group already anxious to glorify the Lord? Or does this point out the fact that we are, by nature, listless and apathetic in our Christian responsibilities? To use some 50¢ words – we have more of a proclivity and propensityto complain than to praise. The Psalmist says, “Forget about the problems you think you have; come join me in my praise of the Lord.”

And let’s make sure that our praise is given unto the LORD – Jehovah. The world is constantly singing unto its gods, so why shouldn’t we be even more vocal for the true God? Who gets more praise from human lips: Eros or Elohim? Jove or Jehovah? Who gets more air time: Jehovah or Bacchus, the god of the drunks? These things ought not to be.

And then, have you ever asked yourself why we are exhorted to SING our praises? Why not stand and shout over and over again: “glory to God, glory to God.” Isn’t this what the Seahawk fans do for a couple hours every Sunday? Isn’t that what, for hours, the Ephesians did for their goddess Diana? Is that the very reason that we shouldn’t do the same for the Lord? Why aren’t we more often encouraged to stand in awe and silence before Jehovah? There is nothing wrong with this kind of worship. Maybe this should be a part of our Sunday morning services. Then there is a sense in which we can worship the Lord in our giving or in other forms of activity. But here we are encouraged to sing unto the Lord and to make a joyful noise. Could it be that the Lord loves singing, because in some ways it takes some forethought and work? Music has order, rhythm and usually has rhyme. And with music it is possible for a large group of people to blend their voices and hopefully their hearts. Then singing requires a certain amount of soul along with the physical body. But then again, it is also easy to go through the motions of singing God’s praise without any emotion. I don’t know that we need an explanation for this exhortation to sing, but here we might have one or two.

I know that there have been a lot of jokes and misinterpretation when it comes to the “joyful noise” comment. There are people who cannot find the tune of any song; they couldn’t do it if their lives depended upon it. There are those who say that they can’t; they actually can but won’t admit it. And there are the majority of us, who could sing a lot better if we had a little training. But I don’t think that the Lord demands training, ability or skill before He accepts our songs of joy. Even if you are so clumsy that can’t carry a tune in a CD, you should still join the saints in their worship in song. But those words “joyful noise” are not actually encouraging bad singing – as the jokes profess. The “singing” here is something that we understand, and the “joyful noise” is actually parallel poetry. In other words, the joyful noise is the singing. But some of the commentators suggest that the “joyful noise” involves the instruments which help to guide us in our singing. Get the piano, the organ, the sackbut and the psaltery together, along with a hundred worshipful voices, and let’s raise the roof of this building with praise to the Lord.

“O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation.” How many messages could we preach from the last five words of this verse – “the rock of our salvation”? The Psalm ends with historical references to Israel’s forty years in the wilderness. Could the Psalmist be thinking about the rock out of which the Lord brought life-sustaining water? I Corinthians reminds us that Israel did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was CHRIST.” Then there is the Lord’s illustration about the man who built his house upon the rock. “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of MINE, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.” Then there is Matthew 16:18 – I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon THIS rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Romans 9:33 – As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on HIM shall not be ashamed.” Christ Jesus is the rock of our salvation, the foundation of our souls. Psalm 18 – ”The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. For who is God save the LORD? or who is a rock save our God? The LORD liveth; and blessed be my rock; and let the God of my salvation be exalted.” Psalm 27 – “For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock.”

“O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation.” Even when there isn’t something specifically mentioned to provoke our praise, there still is cause for praise.

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

“Let us come before his PRESENCE.” Come before His presence? I thought that the Lord is omnipresent – He is everywhere. While that is certainly true, it is something about which most people think very little. We can’t really give the Lord the praise that He deserves without actually determining to do it. We live under His roof, but until we determine to have a conversation with Him we won’t do it. Likewise we enjoy His constant bounty, but until such time as we choose to deliberately thank Him for it, we will not really be thankful people. So “let us COME before his PRESENCE with thanksgiving.” Less than 10% of our prayers involve praise. As I said last week, we fill our few moments of prayer with requests, appeals and petition – for ourselves and for others. And we are exhorted to continue with these requests.

But shouldn’t at least 50% of our prayers be praise and thanksgiving? If Christianity was a business; if our Christian lives involved accurate book-keeping......... When it comes to accounting, Christian or otherwise, there are strict rules, if it is to be done correctly. And one of those rules is that in some fashion or other, income should equal expenditures. The books should always run balanced. If we are good spiritual accountants then our praise of God should be at least equal to His blessings. Yes, the Lord hasn’t responded to every prayer with a grant from His treasury, yet He will in some fashion, In the light of good book-keeping, we certainly can’t praise the Lord too much.

“Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms. What do you suppose the Lord thinks about RELUCTANT thanksgiving?” Is there such a thing asFEARFUL praise?” Our exhortation is to come with joyful praise and thanksgiving.

“For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods.”

It certainly doesn’t matter what others might think about our Lord; He is a great God above all gods. In the Hebrew there is no article before the words “great God.” In other words, it doesn’t say that Jehovah is one of the great gods. Nor does it say that He is the great God” as I suppose that we wish it would, but it’s true nevertheless. As we have seen several times, the Bible speaks of kings and judges as “gods” with a little “g.” They are itty-bitty potentates, who for short periods of time, hold men’s lives in their hands. They are a blessing to mankind only when they live in the realization that there is a God above them. Jehovah is that King which is above all kinds of gods.

And then the Bible also acknowledges that the world has created a number of idols and called them “gods.” But they are not worthy of bearing that designation. The word “God” suggests inherent omnipotence and sovereignty; omniscience and eternality. Jehovah is the only Being worthy of being called “God.” We may not have a great deal about which to be thankful before the king, but there are always things in the true God that should fill our hearts with joy.

And still referring to the Hebrew in this verse it is a bit interesting to note three words: “JEHOVAH is a great EL, and a great king above all ELOHIM.”

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

I have to confess that I don’t really understand what the Psalmist intended with this statement. Does it mean that the Lord is sovereign over volcanos, magma, tectonic plates, alps, mines and caverns? Obviously, He is the Lord over rocks and the rivers that flow under and behind them. Does this mean something specific, or does it mean the Lord is God over everything from top to bottom? He is the Lord over hills and valleys and whatever might be beneath those valleys and hills. Jehovah is the God who sustains us and holds us up.

“The sea is his, and he made it: and his hands formed the dry land.” Not only did the Lord say, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear,” He set the bounds of those waters, and He created the physical properties of that water. He made life dependent upon water, and He ordained the cycle of water to make sure that there would be water sufficient to maintain life, even when it begins hundreds of miles from any of us. He is the God of the Red Sea, and He is the God of the storms on those seas. The sovereignty of God over the sea is perhaps one of the greatest illustrations of His power and deity.

“O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker.”

We are exhorted to make a joyful noise with lowly humility. Posture isn’t everything, but it is something. There are three interesting exhortations here – interesting in their differences. The word “worship” literally means “to bow down,” and so do the words “bow down.” I read one expert who suggested that “to worship” was to bow head and “to bow down” means to lie prostrate. We have examples in the Bible of both these attitudes.

Whatever differences lay between these words, the implication is that true worship demands true humility. To kneel, puts a person at risk, he’s not as able to defend himself; it is a sign of submission and entreaty. To have our eyes cast toward the ground is a posture of respect. And to lay face down makes someone utterly vulnerable. II Chronicles 7:1 “Now when Solomon had made an end of praying, the fire came down from heaven, and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the LORD filled the house. And the priests could not enter into the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD had filled the LORD’S house. And when all the children of Israel saw how the fire came down, and the glory of the LORD upon the house, they bowed themselves with their faces to the ground upon the pavement, and worshipped, and praised the LORD, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever.”

Obviously, our joyful noise must be expressed in humility as well as joy.

“For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.”

Ultimately, here is our primary reason to worship the Lord – our relationship to Him. Not only is the Lord, the Lord, – Not only is he our maker as the previous verse reminds us. But he is my Lord – our God. Can the man who curses saying, “Oh my God,” in the following breath say, “He is my God?” It is unlikely that David’s mouth ever uttered blasphemy, because he understood the relationship that he had with the Lord.

We are the sheep of His pasture; we are the people of his hand. Psalm 23 – “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.” Suffice it to say that we “are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that we should shew forth the praises of him who hath called us out of darkness into his marvellous light:”

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