Wednesday of Lent III: Psalm 95:1-9

Oh come, let us sing to the Lord;
    let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
    let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
For the Lord is a great God,
    and a great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth;
    the heights of the mountains are his also.
The sea is his, for he made it,
    and his hands formed the dry land.

Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
    let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!
For he is our God,
    and we are the people of his pasture,
    and the sheep of his hand.
Today, if you hear his voice,
    do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,
    as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,
when your fathers put me to the test
    and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.
10 For forty years I loathed that generation
    and said, “They are a people who go astray in their heart,
    and they have not known my ways.”
11 Therefore I swore in my wrath,
    “They shall not enter my rest.”

Did you sing the Matins service when you were a child? I grew up in a parsonage and we went to church a lot. I don’t regret that for a moment. When I was a child, on those non-Communion Sundays, we would often sing Matins and this Psalm is the basis for a part of that service, the canticle called “Venite.” That title is simply the first word of this song in Latin.

You might notice that the Psalm goes on a little bit after the Canticle in the order of Matins cuts off. Verses 8-11 were not in the Venite. These verses speak of God’s frustration with the people of Israel in the days of the Exodus when Moses led them. The language is strong. The psalmist enjoins us not to do what those people did.

In days of plague or war or disaster of some other sort, it would be easy to think that God is angry with us. Indeed, he does loathe sin and sinners. But while difficulties often distort our lives today, they should not distort the Bible too. God did loathe the grumbling and lack of trust by the people of Israel long ago, but he did not abandon them. He went with them into that desert and brought their faithful children to the Promised Land they had spurned.

It is a good thing that the Canticle has cut off those final verses of the Psalm. We too easily focus on the hard words we find there. The real message is in the first part of this psalm. We do have a reason to praise God. He is great and mighty. The whole of creation is in his hand. We come into his presence with thanksgiving and praise because the Lord our Maker is our God and we are the people of his hand. He cares for us. He loathed the rebellion, but he still cared. That did not change.

Do you know the canticle? Sing it at home today. If you don’t know the music, speak it as a prayer or follow this link to a conference at which they sing it. The Venite starts at about the one minute mark: Know that you are always welcome in the presence of God. You are the sheep of his hand and the people of his pasture.

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