Daybreak: Psalms 95:1 through 97:12
“For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.” (Psalm 95:7)
Several years ago, my husband and I had the opportunity to visit Romania, the country where I was born. While we were traveling from place to place to visit family, my attention was caught by the flocks of sheep on the hillside. It had been some years since I had been around sheep, so I took special note of these pastoral settings. Often we saw shepherds carrying lambs, walking among the sheep, or just watching over their flocks. I was impressed by the peace and tranquility that seemed a part of each scene.
Numerous places in Scripture liken Christ to a good shepherd. Our Shepherd’s concern for us is alluded to in today’s focus verse. If we stop and read it thoughtfully, we will see a caring God behind the words. The picture here is of One who watches over His people as a shepherd — One who furnishes their needs, protects from danger, and is ever mindful of their concerns. David, the author of this psalm, understood the relationship between sheep and their shepherds. In claiming that the Lord is “our God,” he indicated that the Lord looks on us with love and tenderness, just as David looked after his flock. When he referred to “the sheep of his hand” he was conveying the reality of the bond that exists between a shepherd and his flock. The word “hand” indicates being close enough to touch, or perhaps being held or carried. The overall image is one of tenderness, caring, and watchfulness.
As I gazed upon the serene beauty of sheep grazing on the hillsides in Romania, I thought what a great picture they provided of how the Lord cares for us. I am not an expert regarding sheep, but I know that they are helpless creatures who are very dependent upon the shepherd to make sure they find sufficient food. They do not learn easily, and tend to follow one another into danger. They are easy prey for predators because they have no natural weapons such as teeth or claws to defend themselves.
Like sheep, we too need a Shepherd. We are totally dependent upon the Lord to provide spiritual nourishment, to care for us, and to protect us from the wiles of the enemy. Without Him, we are no match for the devices of Satan, for we can easily be led astray and have no ability to defend ourselves. However, when we are under the tender care of our Great Shepherd, we can be at peace and content. He is aware of our needs and has promised to provide for them. What a blessing it is to rely upon Him, and know that He is watching over us! When the Eternal God is our Shepherd, we are safe from every danger.
Psalms 95-100 are part of a collection of royal psalms that emphasize praise to God as the Sovereign of all creation, as well as the God of Israel. The author of Psalm 95 is not named, but in Hebrews 4:7, the writer of the epistle referred to verse eight as being located “in David.” This psalm is classified as a prophetic hymn, based upon the exhortation beginning with the second part of verse 7.
In this psalm, a two-part invitation is extended: the Jewish people are asked to come and praise God, and to come and submit to Him. The inclusion of the word “today” in verse 7 indicates that God still speaks to hearts; the same exhortation is repeated in Hebrews 3:7-11. The psalm also includes a warning against following the example of Israel’s forefathers, who because of unbelief were compelled to wander for forty years in the wilderness. The reference to “a people that do err in their heart” (verse 10) literally means “a nation of wandering hearts.”
Psalm 96 was taken from a section of a psalm written by David for the dedication of the Ark when it was placed in the Tabernacle tent at Jerusalem (see 1 Chronicles 16:23-33). Several verses are also repeated in Psalm 98.
Like the other short psalms in this collection, Psalm 96 focuses on praise to God. In this series of verses, however, the scope is broadened: worship is not only for Israel alone but for all nations. David looked ahead prophetically to the advent of Christ and the calling of Gentile nations, and said that “all the earth” should join in singing a “new song” (also referred to in Revelation 5:9). His viewpoint encompassed the end time when Christ will come to judge the earth and set up His Millennial Kingdom (verse 13).
No author is cited for Psalm 97, although the Syriac version of the Bible credits its composition to David. Commentators agree that this psalm is Messianic in nature, as it contains clear prophetic reference to Christ’s Second Coming to this earth to set up His Millennial Kingdom. That theme is established in the first three words, “The Lord reigneth,” for only when Christ rules will the “earth rejoice” and the “multitude of isles be glad.”
The psalmist foretold that the fire of God’s wrath (a reference to the Great Tribulation) will precede the righteous reign of Christ and will obliterate the enemies of righteousness (verse 3). The “lightnings” mentioned in verse 4 are referenced four times in the Book of Revelation (Revelation 4:5; 8:5; 11:19; and 16:18). The hills which will melt like wax at the presence of the Lord (verse 5) are also described by the Apostle Peter (2 Peter 3:10-12). David’s prophetic utterance that “Zion heard, and was glad; and the daughters of Judah rejoiced” (verse 8) alludes to the time yet to come when the Jews will acknowledge Jesus as their Messiah and King.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines – Used by permission per WORDsearch)
I. Book I (1:1 — 41:13)
II. Book II (42:1 — 72:20)
III. Book III (73:1 — 89:52)
IV. Book IV (90:1 — 106:48)
V. Book V (107:1 — 150:6)
A Closer Look
- In Psalm 96:4, why did the psalmist say the Lord is to be greatly praised?
- Psalm 97:2-3 tells us that the Lord will come with righteous judgment. Why is God’s judgment righteous and fair even when it is severe?
- Sheep recognize the voice of their master. In reference to Psalm 95:7-8, what steps can we take to make sure we are able to hear God’s voice?
How blessed we are to have a Shepherd who tenderly cares for us, provides for our needs, and defends us against every source of danger!