Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Finding Scripture's meaning through repeated words

Psalm 95:1 O come, let us sing for joy to the LORD, Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation.

Making the main point the main point
Yesterday we explored Hebrews 3 and noted the most effective Bible study Tool - "Cross referencing".  Today I want to further explore a sub-point in that blog which actually utilized Psalm 95 - namely observing repeated words or ideas.  It cannot be over-emphasized that discovering scripture's meaning involves identifiying the author's main point or points.  To do that, you and I as Bible interpreters need to note repeated words or thoughts.  Below we are going to walk our way through Psalm 95 to underscore the repeated words or ideas so as to discover the Psalmist's main point.

1. Commands to Worship the Lord. Psalm 95:1-7
In Psalm 95 we see the phrase "let us" repeated seven times, with clusterings of this phrase found four times in Psalm 95:1-2 and the second clustering of three times found in Psalm 95:6.  In each clustering we find the one word "come". (Psalm 95:1,6)  The idea of "let us" is repeated as follows in this Psalm:

a. Let us Sing for joy to the Lord - Psalm 95:1a
b. Let us shout joyfully - Psalm 95:1b
c. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving - Psalm 95:2a
d. Let us us shout joyfully to Him with Psalms - Psalm 95:2b

This first clustering utilizes a feature of Hebrew Poetry wherein the author piles on phrases, one right after the other, with the intended effect of amplifying the power of His writing.  Thus we are to go from singing, to shouting, to moving forward as we sing and shout, to the full orbed shouting joyfully as we move forward singing and shouting. 

Then we see the second clusterings of the phrase "let us" used three times in Psalm 95:6:

a. Let us worship Psalm 95:6a 
b. and (Let us) bow down Psalm 95:6b (this would be more of a distinct command in the original text)
c. Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker  Psalm 95:6c

Just as in the first set, the author here utilizes that "amplifying effect" in his poetry: giving the sense of not just worshipping, but also bowing down and worship, and then taking it further and actually kneeling in humility before the exalted Majesty of God.

2. Important questions to ask when identifying your repeated ideas
Clearly this seven-fold repetition of the phrase "Let us" is in the form of commands.  Whenever you are looking at repeated phrases or ideas in a text, here are some questions to keep in mind (note I will illustrate these questions straight out of Psalm 95:

a. Is there a command for you to obey? O Come, Let us sing, shout, come before His presence, shout joyfully, worship, bow down and kneel. (Psalm 95:1-2, 6)

b. Is there a warning to heed? "Today if you would hear His voice: Do not harden your hearts.." (Psalm 95:7); as at Meribah (95:8a); as in the day of Massah in the wilderness (95:8b); "and said they are a people who err in their heart" (95:10)

c. Is there an example to heed or to avoid? Clearly the Psalmist uses the unfaithfulness of the Israelites in Numbers as examples to not repeat: "When your Fathers tested me" (95:9a); they tried me, though they had seen my work (95:9b)

d. Is there a promise to claim? Clearly the designation of those who truly worship Him by grace through faith as "people of His pasture" (95:7a) and "the sheep of his hand" (95:7b).  This condition describes someone who has found rest in the Lord.  The idea of rest is derived from the shouts for joy that result from having found such rest in the Lord's presence (95:1-2) and the lack of rest stemming from refusing to worship Him as a true believer.  Anyone who has been saved by grace through faith can claim these promises, since Jesus Himself identifies believer's as sheep and He as their Great Shepherd. (John 10) Only a true believer can truly worship God and call Him Savior and Lord. (Galatians 4:6; Romans 10:8-10; 1 Corinthians 12:3)

e. Is there can argument to consider? The word "for" is repeated twice (Psalm 95:3,7).  This word in the original text speaks of drawing an inference or implication from the preceeding or following material.  Thus the commands of Psalm 95:1-2 make sense, "for" the Lord is a great God, a great King above all gods". Psalm 95:3)  It makes sense to worship God, since He made all things. (Psalm 95:4-5). 

The logic of the Psalmist's commands are further reinforced in Psalm 95:7, where we see the second "for" refering to the Lord as our Maker and Great Shepherd.  Why would you want to worship, bow down and kneel before Him?  Notice again that these questions were applied to phrases or ideas we saw repeated throughout the text.

3. Conclusion: The Main Point of Psalm 95
In considering these repeated ideas and thoughts, we can draw the following main point of this Psalm: Come (by faith) and sing for joy to the Lord (95:1), and do not harden your heart (95:7), for otherwise in so doing, you demonstrate yourself not to be a true worshipper who has entered His rest. (95:11)


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