“let us shout aloud to the Rock of our Salvation”[1]

Here’s a mystery.  Psalm 95 means a great deal to Christians because, to the eyes of faith, there is a reference to Jesus in the first verse.

When Christians worship the LORD, we are, of course, worshipping God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, revealed through the Scriptures and revealed most clearly through Jesus Christ whose birth we celebrate in this Christmas season. Psalm 95 calls us to come with joy to worship not simply our creator or the Father but the God who has saved us in Christ and sustains us in the life of the Spirit.

The phrase Rock of our Salvation is interesting.  For those who used the Psalm in the Temple, the phrase is another name for the LORD (Hebrew poetry works by saying one thing then saying it again in a slightly different way – the two halves of each verse are in parallel). This name for the LORD reminds us of the story of water springing from the rock (Exodus 17.1-7 and Numbers 20.2-13). The name looks forward to the reference to those stories in Psalm 95.8: water sprang from the rock at Massah and Meribah.

But there is more.  The name Jesus means, in Hebrew, salvation.  Remember the angel’s words to Joseph: “You are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins”[2].  Jesus is also called the rock in some parts of the New Testament.[3]  For these reasons, the Latin translation of Psalm 95 literally says this:

“Come let us praise the LORD, let us shout for joy to Jesus our Rock”

The basis for our worship and for our joy today is not only that God has made us but that God has saved us and redeemed us in Christ and calls us to know him as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.This post is one of a series of daily reflections on Psalm 95 in January, at the start of the Diocese of Sheffield Centenary Year

[1] Psalm 95.1 NIV translation
[2] Matthew 1.21
[3] See I Corinthians 10.4 which is a commentary on these stories and Matthew 7.24-27

Come let us sing for joy to the LORD[1]

Some years ago, I sat quietly in a very old and beautiful church in Barnby Dun, near Doncaster before a service.  Like many old church buildings, it had a deep atmosphere of prayer.  This was one of those thin places between earth and heaven, where people had poured out their hearts to God in joy and sorrow for countless generations.  I wondered as I prayed, which Bible text had been spoken aloud most in this church down the generations.

The answer (I think) is Psalm 95 which for many years was set at the beginning of Morning Prayer and therefore spoken aloud by the clergy and others who came to pray each day.  Psalm 95 for many, many years helped to shape Anglican worship and therefore Anglican identity.

The shaping comes through deliberately turning our lives back to the LORD[2] every day.  Left to ourselves, our hearts drift away from God as surely as a boat is carried downstream by the river’s flow.  We have an inbuilt tendency to turn inwards upon ourselves and away from God’s light and God’s love.

This is why we need to come each day in prayer to the LORD.  If we can, it’s helpful to come at the beginning of each day. Through the words of Psalm 95 we turn our hearts back to the LORD, who loves us, who welcomes us, who calls us by name.

As we make that daily return, the Psalm invites us to come not simply to “God”. We might think of God as an impersonal power who created the universe.  The Psalm invites us to come to the LORD.  This is God’s personal name, revealed to Moses in Exodus 3 and revealed to us.   The LORD wants us to know him by name.  The LORD invites us daily into a personal relationship with our creator through Jesus Christ.

Resolve this coming year to get to know the LORD in deeper ways and to begin each day with a turning back.This post is one of a series of daily reflections on Psalm 95 in January, at the start of the Diocese of Sheffield Centenary Year

 [1] Psalm 95.1 NIV translation

[2] Whenever the LORD appears in capitals in the NIV and NRSV, the Hebrew word it translates is YHWH, God’s name revealed to Moses.

Welcome to 2014.  This year we mark the centenary of the Diocese of Sheffield.  I’m asking the diocese to focus in this first part of the year on a single text: Psalm 95.

I’m planning to post a short reflection Psalm 95 on the blog each day (except Sundays) in January.  It’s a very rich text and has a lot to teach us.

The reflections are in the style of the series Reflections for Daily Prayer and designed to be read as part of your own prayers or bible study or in preparation for a small group discussion.

You’re very welcome to journey with me through January exploring this great psalm. Feel free to print and copy the reflections for others to use.

Wednesday 1st January

A threefold invitation

O come let us sing to the LORD, let us heartily rejoice in the rock of our salvation[1]

Psalm 95 begins with a simple word: “Come” and a three fold invitation.  Some people know the psalm by its Latin title: Venite (which simple means come). The Psalm is an invitation to reset our priorities at the beginning of each new day and to put God in first place again in this moment, on this day, in this New Year.  It’s the most important New Year Resolution we can make.

We need to hear and speak the words three times to begin to understand what they mean.

In the first invitation, I speak them to myself.  We learn to talk to ourselves through the psalms: to ask our own soul questions, or give encouragement or comfort.  At the beginning of the New Year, I remind myself of the priority and importance of worship and prayer and the invitation to live in communion with God, my creator.

In the second invitation, we pray the words together and speak to one another as the Christian community: in a local church, across the diocese, in the Church across the world.  We summon one another to joy, to praise, to worship at the beginning of the New Year. Each of us needs that encouragement, that reminder of what is important in our lives.

But the third invitation is the most important. We sing these words in private and in public as words of invitation to the whole world, to our local communities, to those we know, to anyone who will listen: come and share in the praise and worship of the living God; set your life in the order God intends; be caught up in the praise of heaven.

Come let us sing for joy to the Lord. May this be a year when many, many people rediscover the God who loves them and learn again the joys of worship.

[1] Psalm 95.1 Common Worship translation