The Shepherd & His Flock’s Call
a brief study of Psalm 95, adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 8 Jan 2010

Most of us would be familiar with Psalm 95; and would have sung it gratefully without a second thought. But if you pause for a little while, and look at this Psalm carefully, you will see how rich this Psalm is and how it can actually be very difficult for a conscientious student to explain it.

For example, immediately when we enter into the Psalm, we ask: “Who is the ‘us’ in verse 1 who says ‘Let us sing unto the LORD.’ Well, quite obviously, this ‘us’ cannot be just anyone who pick up this song to sing because not everyone will know of the salvation spoken of in the verses.

So this ‘us’ must refer to the Church. If it is the Church, then it must be the Church in union with Christ, for Christ is the Head of the Church.

Indeed, the Lord teaches us that He sings in union with His Church when they praise the Father. He says, Hebrew 2:12—

“I will declare Thy name unto My brethren, in the midst of the Church will I sing praise unto Thee.”

However, when we sing this Psalm, we find the LORD being spoken as the Rock of our salvation (v. 1) as well as our Shepherd (v. 7). Who is the rock of salvation? Now, it is clear from verse 8 that the Psalmist was thinking about the days of Israel’s wandering in the wilderness when he wrote this Psalm. So he must be thinking of the rock from which God provided water for the multitude. Now, the Apostle Paul, referring to the same rock, in 1 Corinthians 10 says “that Rock was Christ” (1 Cor 10:4). What about the Shepherd? The Lord himself says “I am the good shepherd, and know My sheep, and am known of mine” (Jn 10:14).

So New Testament believers when singing this Psalm will inevitably think about Christ, and so in their minds, they would be singing the Psalm unto Christ!

Do you notice the dilemma? Are we singing unto the Father in union with Christ, or are we singing unto Christ?

How to resolve this dilemma? Let me suggest that the way to do so is to understand that the Father and the Son are one in substance. “I and my Father are one” (Jn 10:30). “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father” (Jn 14:9). With that in mind, we take comfort that even it is not wrong for us to have our minds focused on Christ when we sing the Psalm, nor is it wrong for us to focus on the Father or on God Triune! The Father representing God Triune is our Rock and Shepherd. The Son representing God Triune is also our Rock and Shepherd. Indeed the Lord Jesus suggests in John 10:14-15 that as the Father is His Shepherd, so He is our Shepherd.

Thus, what we may do when I sing this Psalm and indeed most Psalms is to bear in mind that we are singing to our heavenly Father in union with Christ; and at the same time have our hearts’ eyes fixed gratefully on the Lord Jesus in the knowledge that it is through Christ and His work that we experience the Father’s love.

But with that extended introduction, let us look at the Psalm. This Psalm may be entitled: “The Shepherd & His Flock’s Call to Worship God with Sincere Joy.” It has two parts. The first part is a call to worship (v. 1-7a); the second part is a call to sincerity or a warning against unbelief (v. 7b-11).

1. A Call to Worship

1 O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. 2 Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms.

These are beautiful words that require very little comment. Like the Israelites wandering in the wilderness during the forty years, we all deserve God’s wrath and curse. We all deserve to die of spiritual thirst. But God saved us by providing us water from the Rock. That eternal Rock, who is God Himself, took on our flesh, and was smitten and shed His blood for our salvation.

Oh how shall we not be filled with gratitude and joy to sing praise unto Him! And our Lord has even given us the words for us to use for His praise!

Oh how we should praise Him especially when we realise that He is not as the gods of human imagination, but rather the living and true God who made all things in heaven and earth and yet condescend to show His love to us, verse 3—

3 For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods. 4 In his hand are the deep places of the earth: the strength of the hills is his also.   5 The sea is his, and he made it: and his hands formed the dry land.

Our God who saves us made the world and all that in them is. He is a great God and King, full of majesty, all glorious and transcendent,—worthy of all honour, glory and power.

Yet, He looks upon us poor creatures of dust, and would care for us as a shepherd cares for his sheep:

 6 O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker. 7a For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.

How else shall we respond to Him? He is sovereign Creator of the universe; and yet He loves us and cares for us puny creatures who fall short of His glory and have failed Him over and over again. He loves us so much as to save us at great cost. Oh how shall we not bow down in humble adoration with a genuine sense of thanksgiving?

Beloved brethren and children, this is how we really ought to live and worship. This ought to be our attitude towards God. Our hearts should tremble in love and humility and respond with gratitude and praise when we think about our Lord.

We must never allow our hearts to grow cold and indifferent towards God. We must never allow our worship to become mechanical and routine. We must never forget God or become numb to His love.

This is the reason for the second part of this Psalm, which at first sight seems to be so out of place compared to the lofty expressions of the first part of this Psalm.

2. A Warning Against Unbelief

7b Today if ye will hear his voice, 8 Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness: 9 When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work. 10 Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways: 11 Unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest .

God had redeemed the children of Israel out of Egypt through great signs and wonders that convincingly demonstrated God’s sovereignty and power.

But within a couple of months or so, they arrived at the Wilderness of Sin, and camp at a place called Rephidim. But there was no water for the people to drink. And so the people began to quarrel with Moses and thereby tempt the LORD to see if He could indeed sustain them.

This was a grievous sin especially after they had seen the Lord’s mighty power displayed so clearly. But God in His mercy led Moses to a rock at Horeb, and instructed him to strike the rock. When he did so, water came out from the rock in abundance for the people to drink.

We are told that Moses…

“…called the name of the place Massah, and Meribah, because of the chiding of the children of Israel, and because they tempted the LORD, saying, Is the LORD among us, or not? ” (Ex 17:7).

Massah means ‘testing’ or ‘tempting’ because the people had tempted the Lord. Meribah means ‘striving’ because the people strove with Moses and with the Lord.

Did the people learn their lesson? Sadly no, for about a year later, they arrived at the border of Canaan. Moses sent out twelve spies to spy out the land. But sadly when they came back, ten of them persuaded the entire multitude that they could not possibly conquer the land.

God was furious. He swore in His wrath that the generation would not enter into the rest of Canaan. He sentenced the entire generation to wander in the wilderness for the next 38-39 years. They would wander for a total of 40 years until all who were 20 years and above when the exodus occurred died out.

What was the fundamental sin of the people that disqualified them from entering into Canaan? Turn to Hebrews 3. Here we see the Apostle quoting from Psalm 95:7-11, and then applying the passage to his readers, he says, verse 12—

12 Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. 13 But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end; 15 While it is said, Today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation. 16 For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses. 17 But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? 19 So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.” (Heb 3:12-19)

This, beloved brethren and children, is also the lesson for us. We must not tempt God or to provoke God to anger by unbelief. After all that the Lord has revealed about Himself and after all that He has done for us, the only right response for us is to believe Him wholeheartedly and to worship Him joyfully and sincerely.

For this reason, we need to pray and meditate on God’s goodness regularly. We need to hear His voice often. This is why we must avail ourselves to good preaching constantly. We must read the Word of God often.


Beloved brethren and children, the Christian life is not always smooth sailing. Sometimes we will meet with storms. Sometimes we will meet with drought and thirst. Sometimes we are tested to our limits. But God will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear. Therefore in the midst of trials, let us not allow what we know about God slip out of our minds.

Let us bear in mind constantly, His sovereignty, His mercy, and His love for us.

But wait not for the day of trial to saturate your heart with this truth. Today, if you hear His voice, harden not your hearts, but believe Him, and praise Him and thank Him. This is why it is always a good practice when you have heard the Word preached or read to reflect what you heard in your prayer. Prayer is our response to the Lord. If you have heard the Word, the first thing you must do is to respond to the Lord by thanking Him for what He has revealed to you.

Let us learn to do so. May the Lord help us! Ω