Psalm 94 Commentary by Dr Noel Donnelly. Setting by Noel Donnelly and (c) Kevin Mayhew; music sung by Grace Buckley and The St Mungo Singers
Psalm 94 has two sections: firstly, the call to worship in verses 1-7a and then a serious warning in the rest of the psalm.
The original setting for the psalm seems to be a song for a solemn procession into the Temple. There are three calls to worship, suggesting a movement through three gates. The first call, in verse one, is a strong one: it means, “Come on now: let’s get moving!” The second call in verse 2 says “Let us SHOUT to God. Come on and raise the roof!” Then we have a third invitation in verse 6 which invites a physical action: “Come, let us bow down and kneel before the Lord, our Maker and Shepherd!”
Now that the congregation has settled in God’s presence, the second half of the psalm gives a shocking serious warning. It begins with the voice of God using the word “Today!” This is an urgent appeal by the Lord. The second important word is “Listen!” Stop pouring out yourwords and listen! Don’t just go through the motions of this ritual. “Do not harden your hearts!” Don’t come to me with a weak doubting faith as they did in desert long ago when, as they passed through Meriba (a word meaning “quarrelling”), and Massah, (a word meaning “testing”). There they complained to Moses at their lack of water, saying, “Is the Lord really with us or not!” Exod. 17.7. Verse 10 puts the picture clearly, “They were people with straying hearts, so I swore ‘They will not enter my rest’”. That was heard in our first reading. Jesus will offer living water in the Gospel.
Our psalm ends with a blunt command, “Listen!”
For us today some commentators would say that our worship can be too nice, too friendly, lacking a sense of the immensity of the Creator of our thirty trillion galaxies. This psalm leaves us still on our knees in wonder.
Three commands stick with me from Psalm 94: these are, “Bow down!”, “Today”, and “Listen”. That’s plenty to be getting on with!