October 16, 2020

Reaching Beyond

For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. O that today you would listen to his voice!
Ps 95:7
 
Israel was God's chosen people. Other gods had other nations, but the Lord claimed Israel as a particular possession. That this choice would not forever be based on ethnicity is predicted in many places in the Bible, but nowhere is it more beautifully stated than by Jesus in John 10 (vv 14-16):

I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.

Thus we know that God, the Maker of all things and all people, has forever been reaching beyond the borders of the familiar, calling others into the flock.

Yesterday, I alluded to the fact that there were good reasons why praying this worshipful psalm, which began in praise, might possibly morph into something more solemn. That's because it is clear that the realization that God had chosen Israel also served to remind them of the ways they had disappointed God. Here's the remainder of the psalm:

Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, when your ancestors tested me, and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work. For forty years I loathed that generation and said, “They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they do not regard my ways.” Therefore in my anger I swore, “They shall not enter my rest.”
Ps 95:8-11 

There are many psalms that begin on a negative note, or with contrition, and end with praise. Take this one as an example:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?  
Ps 22:1 
Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord, and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn, saying that he has done it. 
Ps 22:30-31 
But Psalm 95 is unique in its upbeat beginning and its negative ending. This helps me see that there's no such thing as cookie-cutter worship. I might begin in sadness and be led to praise, or I might begin in joy and be led to contrition. God is at work in worship, and will lead me in the direction I need to go.

Whether I am led to rejoice or repent, Holy One, I thank you for Israel, who kept alive the knowledge of your word. And thank you for the voice of your Son, who calls others into your flock, for it is in his Name that I pray as he taught: Our Father...

Yes, I know this is a paraphrase of another psalm, but it works here, and this version is just too sweet to ignore.

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