Christmas season is upon us. And this morning, as I read through Psalm 95, I found a tension in human behaviour which is easy to fall into at Christmas, and which has been an issue all the way back to the exodus. When we hear his voice, do not harden our hearts…
1 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.
3 For 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.
6 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.
Today, if only you would hear his voice,
8 “Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah,
as you did that day at Massah in the wilderness,
9 where your ancestors tested me;
they tried me, though they had seen what I did.
10 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.’
11 So I declared on oath in my anger,
‘They shall never enter my rest.’”
Over the weekend I spoke to a men’s group about burning bush moments when we hear God’s voice. As I read Psalm 95 this morning, I find it interesting that it starts with a call to worship and finishes with a caution about how we respond to God.
If you hear his voice, the psalmist says, do not harden your hearts. Israel had been through this. You can read the story in Exodus 17 if you like. They tested God and he decided as a result of their testing that he would not let that generation enter the promised land.
All because they tested him. Instead of having soft hearts toward God and his voice, they were hard and self-centred and even disrespectful in their response. When we come to worship, as we read in the first 7 verses of psalm 95, we come in the shadow of verses 8-11.
When we come with praise on our lips, God might be asking, “how about your ears and your heart?” For if we honour the Lord with our lips, yet our hearts are hard toward him and his voice in our lives, we become like the people in Isaiah’s book, whom the Lord criticizes:
13 The Lord says:
“These people come near to me with their mouth
and honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
Their worship of me
is based on merely human rules they have been taught.
Worship is only true when it comes from a place of spirit and truth. When it comes from a place in which the heart is open to God and not only the lips.
As we are entering the Christmas season, this is going to become more pronounced. We will sing the Christmas songs and celebrate Christmas traditions, many of which are rooted in the Christian faith. God’s voice would say to us, as you enter the celebration of Jesus, make sure your listen to my voice and don’t harden your hearts.
Jesus didn’t come for a season of gift-giving and celebration, but for a lost people who needed to be reconciled to God into a life of vibrancy and relationship with their maker.
Let us kneel and bow before our maker,
For he is our God.