Psalms 95-103
(Listen and Follow)
June 21st

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

He is our God;

we are the people he cares for,

the flock for which he provides.

Listen today to what he says:

Don't be stubborn, as your ancestors were at Meribah

- Psalm 95:7-8a (NAB)

Summary of Chapters

This big chunk of nine Psalms contains a number of scripts that became widely used in liturgy and song. For instance, Psalm 95 may have been prepared for use during the Feast of Tabernacles (like Psalm 81 that we read a few days ago). In it the author encourages the people to “sing for joy to the LORD (95:1 - NIV)” and explains why God is worthy of praise as he reviews the story of the Exodus - which is the event celebrated during this feast. Then he concludes by advising the people that if they hear God’s voice they should not harden their hearts the way their forefathers did, because those ancestors paid the price of missing out on the land of rest.

Psalm 96 through 100 continues the themes of praise and singing to the LORD. These Psalms emphasize God’s dominion over the universe by repeatedly referencing calls for the entire earth to be glad and for rivers to clap and mountains to sing in praise. Psalm 98 is known as the Cantate Domino and was traditionally placed in the Order of the Evening Prayer section of the Common Book of Prayer that has been used for many centuries by Anglicans and other religious denominations.

The 100th Psalm concludes with an invitation to “enter his gates with thanksgiving (100:4 - NIV)” and reminds people of the eternal goodness of the LORD. Psalm 101 is attributed to David. It begins with a commitment from him to be faithful and defined the cause of righteousness. David inserts a modest petition in one short phrase in the middle of eight verses of pledged loyalty: “but how long before you show up?(101:2 - MSG)” He then continues to describe how he chastises the wicked and seeks company of those who walk with the LORD.

The 102nd Psalm is called a prayer for an afflicted man. The author pleads with God to answer him and uses dramatic terms to describe his suffering:

    I'm wasting away to nothing,
            I'm burning up with fever.
        I'm a ghost of my former self,
            half-consumed already by terminal illness.
        My jaws ache from gritting my teeth;
            I'm nothing but skin and bones.
        I'm like a buzzard in the desert,
            a crow perched on the rubble.
        Insomniac, I twitter away,
            mournful as a sparrow in the gutter.

    - Psalm 102:3-7 (MSG)

The Psalmist attributes his situation to the wrath of God, but then devotes the second half of the Psalm to praises and states confidently that God will “arise and have compassion on Zion (10:12 - NIV).” Psalm 103 returns to the theme of praise as it reminds the audience of all the good acts of LORD has done for their behalf, particularly the acts of mercy and grace:

    As far as the east is from the west, so far has he moved our transgressions from us.

    - Psalm 103:12 - NIV

Reflection and Application

God speaks to us through the verses in Psalms and the other books of the Bible. He communicates to us in other ways that we may or may not acknowledge. The natural beauty of the earth is a statement, representing God’s power and creativity and his gift to us, as noted by the author of Psalm 98. God may also choose to speak directly to us, as he did for the person who reported God’s words in Psalm 95, and if we are aware, we might recognize his voice.

God may also speak to us through others. For example, Handel was inspired to create a composition based on Psalm100 called “Chandos Anthem No. 1, " O be joyful” When we listen to Psalm-inspired compositions by Handel or others we may achieve a deeper understanding of the words.

In any of these cases of God speaking to us our best response is to listen and follow, as advised by the author in Psalm 95: “Today, if only you would hear his voice (95:3 – NIV)”. If we harden our hearts or delay our response, we may miss out on something grand. The Apostle Paul reinforced this point when he provided an analysis of Psalm 95 in his Letter to the Hebrews chapters 3 and 4:

    Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies perished in the wilderness? And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.

    Hebrews 3:16-19 (NIV)

The Psalmist had quoted God by saying that those who rebelled would never rest - meaning that they would not enter the Promised Land. Joshua and Caleb were the only adults to survive the Exodus because they were strong in faith. Paul updates the interpretation of this Psalm by explaining that those who rebel today will miss the eternal rest that God offers. See Hebrews 3-4 for more of Paul's commentary.

Maybe we are in a bad mood today and don’t want to praise God. If so, the author of Psalm 102 can relate to us. If that is your state today, you may want to re-read this one and write your own verses to God. Notice that this psalmist has written this chapter for us so that we would have hoped that God will respond: “Let this be written for a future generation (102:13).”

Maybe we are afraid to approach God because we have strayed too far. In that case, we may want to meditate on Psalm 103. God waits for us to ask for forgiveness and will clean the slate so well that it could never be recalled – like a hard drive wiped clean.

    God makes everything come out right;
        he puts victims back on their feet.
    He showed Moses how he went about his work,
        opened up his plans to all Israel.
    God is sheer mercy and grace;
        not easily angered, he's rich in love.
    He doesn't endlessly nag and scold,
        nor hold grudges forever.
    He doesn't treat us as our sins deserve,
        nor pay us back in full for our wrongs.
    As high as heaven is over the earth,
        so strong is his love to those who fear him
    . And as far as sunrise is from sunset,
        he has separated us from our sins.
    As parents feel for their children,
        God feels for those who fear him.
    He knows us inside and out,
        keeps in mind that we're made of mud.
    -Excerpt from Psalm 103 (MSG)

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions

    1. What is one of your favorite classical compositions?
    2. What are some of the ways that God communicated to you over the past few days?
    3. In what form would you like to express your joy to God?

    Recommended Prayer
    God, we acknowledge that you put us back on our feet. Help us to stay focused on you.

    Suggested Prayer Concerns


    (1) Kidner, Derek, Psalms 73-150, A commentary, Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove, IL, 1975, p. 352

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Psalms 104-106 (Holy Creation)

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