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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Psalm 94: Worshipping the Rock of Our Salvation

by Lawrence Fox 
This Psalm 94 (95) is one of several introductory psalms to the Catholic Liturgy of the Hours (Divine Office).[1] After reading this Psalm numerous and numerous times, I was one day inspired to ask, “Why does the church place this psalm before me the reader each day?” This commentary on Psalm 94 (95) is my intent to answer that question. While preparing this commentary, I discovered key expressions and common themes or threads which run throughout the Old and New Testaments; threads which follow what is identified as salvation history. These key expressions include: “shout,” “rock of our salvation,” “great king over all the gods,” “hear his voice” and “hardness of heart,” and “enter into my rest.”
Psalm 94 (95)
Come let us sing joyfully to the Lord; cry out[2] to the rock of our salvation. Let us greet him with a song of praise, joyfully sing out our psalms. For the Lord is a great God, the great king over all the gods, whose hands holds the depths of the earth; who owns the tops of the mountains. The sea and the dry land belong to God who made them, formed them by hand.
Enter let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord who made us. For he is our God whose people we are, God’s well tended flock.
Oh that today you would hear his voice; Do not harden your hearts as at Meribah as on the day of Massah in the desert. There your ancestors tested me, they tried me though they has seen all my works.  For forty years I loathed that generation; I said “This people’s heart goes astray, they do not know my ways.” Therefore I swore in my anger; They shall never enter my rest. (Psalm 95, New American Bible Translation)
Survey of the Psalm
Standing between Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden of Eden and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, the Psalms function as a didactic invitation to the people of God to prayerfully reflect upon the past, seek a conversion of heart in the present, and to live with fidelity and hope while moving towards the future.[3]  Psalm 94 (95) is an invitation to worship the Lord who is the “great king over all the gods” and “rock of our salvation.” With a faithful response to the author’s invitation “come” the worshipper grows in the virtue of piety and justice fulfilling what is rightfully owed to the “great king over all the gods.” The invited worshipper through liturgical participation also grows in humility and wisdom with a proper ordering of the whole person body, intellect, and will: “bow down in worship, and let us kneel before the Lord who made us.” St. Augustine in his Psalm commentaries identifies Psalm 94(95) as King David’s Call to Praise,[4] an invitation to the people of Israel to praise the Lord their God, the God of Jacob who formed the dry land and the people of Israel with his own creative hands. The author of the Psalm provides an invitation to praise and worship using the directive “come” similar to the adroit invitation from the risen and ascended Jesus of Nazareth to John the Evangelist while a prisoner on the Island of Patmos. Jesus says, “Come up here and I will show you what must happen afterwards.” (Rev. 4: 1-3) Jesus’ words are an invitation (John and the whole people of God) to enter into worship and not just any worship but a worship that is unfolding (revealing) behind the open doors of heaven. John is invited to see Divine Worship with more than the eyes of faith.[5]
This invitation to participate in divine worship is meant to overcome obstacles placed before the people of God (such as the walls of Jericho) and overcome the spiritual condition identified later in the Psalm as “hardness of heart” along with its dire consequences as narrated in the Books of Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus and Deuteronomy. These books identify a human tragedy on a major scale; people who witnessed the power of God and presented with the opportunity to inherit the land as promised by God to their fathers Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, were prevented from doing so due to a “hardness of heart.” They were unable to receive the land and associated blessings due to a continual pattern of putting God to the test during their desert wanderings. St. Augustine defines the Psalm expression “for 40 years” as their never ending testing of God.[6] St. Paul as a warning to Corinthian Church writes: “Never the less, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert.” He also notes, “Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did.” (1 Cor. 10: 5) Again the author begins and closes the Psalm by providing the same admonitions as St. Paul and the means (remedy) to overcoming “hardness of heart” that begins with the invitation, “Come, let us cry out (shout) to the rock of our salvation.” 
Cry Out (Shout)
The Hebrew word for “shout” is “rua”[7] and its employment in the Old Testament includes, “to raise a shout,” “give a blast,” “call to arms,” and “to cry out.”  The transliterated expression within the Septuagint is “alalazo” which means “battle cry and “to shout out load.”[8] There is the Hebrew word “rua” which means shout and the Hebrew word “ruach” which means spirit, breath, and wind. In a convoluted way to shout is to emit one’s voice, one’s breath towards heaven towards God “who is Spirit and Life.”  In the book of Genesis the author writes, “And the Lord God formed man out of the clay and breathed into his nostrils the breath of Life, and so the man became a living soul.” (Gen. 2:7) This theme of divine breathing is repeated in the vision of the dry bone narrative (Ezek. 37: 9-11) and Jesus’ breathing upon his apostles, “Receive the Holy Spirit, whose sins you shall forgive are forgiven…” (John 21:22) This invitation to “shout” is an integral part of worship; and its close association with “Spirit” is seemingly a proto-fulfillment to something spoken of by Jesus of Nazareth to the Samaritan woman at the well. He told her, “The hour is coming and is now here, when true worshippers will worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth; and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him.” (John 4:23)  This is not meant to say that the fulfillment spoken of by Jesus is simply raising one’s voice. But through the gift of Baptism, the breath of God comes to dwell in human person so that he (she) becomes a regenerated soul possessing an indwelling of the Holy Spirit who cries out “Abba Father.” (Rom. 8:15, Gal. 4:6) St. Paul writes that this Holy Spirit consoles and reminds our human spirit (intellect and will) that we are children of God. In case the point is missed, the author of the Psalms is inviting the people of Israel “to breathe” back towards God – in a sacrificial and liturgical manner. It is a “shout” inviting God to renew in humanity a “Spirit” which restores and “cries out” the proper relationship between God and humanity. Finally, this expression to “shout” in worship is identified in the Book of Revelation of St. John the Divine chapter 7:9 where the triumphant elect cry out in a load voice: “Salvation comes from our God who is seated on the throne…” As such, the author’s Psalm invitation to “come” and “shout” contains a literal historical context and an anagogical fulfillment within the common thread of human salvation history.
The expression “shout” is also associated with the good and the bad in the history of Israel. For example, when the remnant of Judah returned from their Babylonian exile and began to lay the foundation stone for the restored temple the author writes, “All the people shouted with a great “shout” when they praised the LORD because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid.” (Ezra 3:11, 13) Another key “shout” in biblical history was when the people of Israel under the leadership of Joshua, son of Nun and disciple of Moses, encircled and overthrew the city of Jericho. (Josh. 5:2-15; 6:1-27) The city’s overthrow was executed within the context of liturgical worship. Joshua commands the male children of Israel to be circumcised and for the people to participate in the Passover memorial in preparation for God’s victory over the fortress of Jericho. The Lord God of Israel speaking through the angel commands Joshua to march around the city six times and on the seventh day to blow the horns and commands that the people “shout.”  On this the 7th day, also known as the Sabbath, the walls of Jericho fell. The people of Israel performed a work “savah” in the form of worship “savah” on the 7th day “shebah” bringing about a moral victory.[9] These previous expressions of “shout” stand in spiritual contrast with another form of “shout”(ing) which occurred during the people of Israel’s desert wanderings. When Moses and Joshua were on the mountain receiving the 10 Commandments and instructions on proper worship, God interrupted their schooling and tells them to go back down the mountain “for your people have gone astray.” The author records that there was music, playing, dancing, and “shouting” in the camp of the people. The people of Israel became impatient while waiting for Moses to come down from the mountain and so progressively took the matter of worshipping God into their own hands without proper instructions (i.e. man inventing his own form of worship to Yahweh).[10] Being recently led out of the polytheistic culture of Egypt, the people of Israel knew a tempting form of worship that engaged the baseness of human passions and not human piety. At the behest of the children of Israel, Aaron enabled them to participate in a form of liturgical syncretism that included the worship of Yahweh identified with an image of a golden calf. In other words, Yahweh was made to resemble the Egyptian god apis. And since the golden calf was suppose to resemble Yahweh, the people convinced themselves that Yahweh could be worshipped in the same manner as the Egyptian god apis  - with base passions and not with humility and purity. Aaron tells the people that the golden calf was their LORD (Yahweh) who brought them out of Egypt. To this the people “shouted” in sexual revelry. The author of the Psalm seeks to remove this form of syncretism from the heart of the people by encouraging them to “shout” – not to a golden calf - but with joy to the “rock of our salvation”.
Rock of Our Salvation
The Septuagint translation of Psalm 94 (95) does not include in this verse the word “petros”  which translated means “rock” but the dative case of “O Theos” removing a perceived ambiguity; simply stating that it is “God who Saves Us.[11] The Hebrew version of the Psalm uses the word “tsoor” which is translated as rock or cliff and alternatively used in conjunction with shelter and fortress. In Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus of Nazareth[12] the word for rock is “Kephas.” This is the name Jesus gave to Simon, son of John at Caesarea Philippi (Matt. 16: 15-17) From Psalm 61 (62) the author identifies twice that God alone is his rock, his stronghold, and his fortress. In this sense, “rock” represents security and a means of guarding the person from such dangers as arrows which fly by day. But this sense of physical protection may be too limiting. Hannah, the mother of Samuel the prophet in response to the gift of conceiving a child proclaims, “There is no Rock like our God.” (1 Sam. 2:1-10)  Both Psalm 75:4 and Isaiah 4:29 repeat her expression of praise using similar form. Hannah’s song pre-dates the writings of the Psalms and later prophets indicating an oral treasure being passed down within Israel’s memory. This treasure found in the Song of Moses as recorded in the book of Deuteronomy chapter 32:15 influenced Hannah, and then again something which took place in the desert as the people wandered between Egypt and the “Promised Land” also influenced her vision of God. In the book of Exodus chapter 17, the author shows that the people of Israel encamped at Rephidim had no water to drink. God tells Moses to stand before the people on the rock “tsoor” at Horeb and with the rod, which he used to split the Red Sea, to strike the “rock.” Thereafter, water shall come out of it. The place was called Massah meaning proof and Meribah meaning contention. Of all the sins in Israel’s past, the author of the Psalm focuses on this event. Moses struck the rock before the people and elders of Israel and water gushed forth. (Exod.17: 5-7) A preserved oral Jewish tradition was revealed by St. Paul to the church in Corinth stating, “They all (people of Israel) ate the same spiritual food and drank from the same spiritual drink for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.” (1 Cor. 10: 3-5)  St. Paul identifies this rock as Jesus of Nazareth whose name means “Lord Saves.” This, I imagine, is the connotation the author intends in Psalm 94 (95) when he proclaims God to be the “rock of our salvation.” Moses striking the rock is an historical “type” that is later fulfilled by the historical crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth (an antitype) when before the people and the elders of Israel, the Roman soldier pierces the side of Jesus and water and blood flowed out “rushed forth.” (Jn. 19:34-36) Numerous Church Fathers identified this water and blood rushing forth from the side of Jesus as the source of grace giving substance to the sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist. The resurrected Jesus commands Peter (kephas), “Feed my lambs, feed my sheep.” (John 21:15) The apostles feed the mystical members of the Body of Christ with the life giving substance that come from the side of Jesus - who is the living manna that came down from heaven and the water from the rock the springs up to eternal life. (John 21:15; 6:41; 4:14) As such, the author’s identification of God as “rock of our salvation” contains a literal historical context and an anagogical fulfillment within the common thread of human salvation history. The new people of God receive these sacraments from the side of Christ as the objective fulfillment of “types” manifested during the desert in which the people received from the hand of God both “water and manna” to sustain them across the desert. It was the rock which watered the people in the desert and it is the incarnate “rock our salvation” from which the water of Baptism comes forth to sanctify the new Israel. This rock was manifested at Mount Horeb, the name of the mountain that Moses first climbed in order to observe the burning bush. God was literally present to Moses on Mount Horeb also identified in Sacred Scripture as the Mountain of God. (Exod. 3:2) St. Paul writes that “a rock” followed the people in the desert as a means of providing water to them. What is known for certain is that God instructed Moses to construct a tabernacle such that God’s presence would remain with the people as they journeyed through the desert. (Exod. 25 & 26) In essence, the tabernacle functioned as a traveling mountain of God. Every part of the mountain was holy. It would seem based upon St. Paul’s understanding that a “rock” from Mount Horeb journeyed with the tabernacle across the desert. This rock’s transmigration also emphasized God’s presence among his people as stipulated by God’s own name. In the Book of Numbers chapter 20: 9-13, the people contended on their way and again came to a location where there was not water. This time God commands Moses to speak to the “rock” that was before them to bring forth water. Moses struck the rock twice and water gushed forth. This twofold striking by Moses, God identified as a lack of faith.[13] As a result, Moses was not allowed to enter into the Promised Land. Using the same analogy that the rock was Jesus of Nazareth, this second striking represents the warning found in the letter to the Hebrews, “How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot.” (Heb. 10:29) In other words, Jesus of Nazareth was struck once for salvation. His second coming will be for judgment. Instead of contending with God as at Meribah and Massah, the author of the Psalm invites the people of Israel to embrace Yahweh as the “great King over all the gods.” In a prophetic sense, the author of Psalm 94 (95) is reminding the people of Israel that contending with the “rock of our salvation” is spiritually dangerous.
Great King over all the gods
The creation story of Genesis is a picture of a great King building a temple and placing within his temple his own image and likeness.[14] Adam and Eve were created by God to live as princes and princesses in a cosmic temple and to have dominion over the King’s creation. Their original harmony was a free gift and they would posses this gift as long as they remained obedient to God’s one word (command), “Do not put your hands to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” They were deceived and did not keep that one command. (Gen. 3: 1-8) As a result of this sin, God had to publically reveal to Moses 10 commands on Mount Horeb. As a result of the golden calf incident at the base of Mount Horeb, God had to publically reveal as many as 691 commands. The author of the Psalm intimates that a right relationship with God is freeing; so free that the human soul is able to joyfully sing to the Lord and greet (approach) him and not run from his voice or his presence. St. Paul identifies this freedom as living under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and not the law of the flesh. (Gal. 6:8) When God was forming the people of Israel, and separating them from among all the nations, he was preparing them to live as his image and likeness in a holy place (his kingdom).  He was to be their God and King and they were to be his people. The Hebrew word for king is “malakh.” [15] The transliterated expression from the Septuagint is “basileion” which means king. [16] But just like in the garden and the desert, the people that crossed the river Jordan did not want a “malakh” who was Spirit but one that was flesh and bones. God planted this desire in the human heart; their timing was not right. The people did not know that one day God would send a divine king to dwell amongst men as a man. In the 1st Book of Samuel, the author notes that the elders of Israel had enough of bad judges and bad sons of priests and prophets and desired a king “like the other nations” to rule over them. (1Sam. 8: 5) Maybe there was an element of polytheistic venture in that demand, since the kings of other nations were considered to be divine images of that nation’s god. Maybe there was a tone of rebellion against the deuteronomic covenant which God established with the people through his servant Moses.[17] (Deut, 1-29) Maybe in their minds, if only the God of Israel placed his human “image” among them, they too would be protected and properly shepherded by this image. The Greek word for image is “icon.”[18] In St. Paul’s letters, Jesus is identified as the splendid image (icon) of the Father. (Col, 1:15) Jesus said to his disciples, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” (John 14:7) Still as it relates to the people of Israel, they forgot they were made in God’s image and a holy people set apart by God to be a kingdom of priests and prophets. Without this proper knowledge and understanding of their intended relationship with God (Divine King), the people continued to wander and act as they did during the time of the Judges in which: “There was no king in Israel and the people did whatever they wanted as they saw fit.” (Judg. 21: 25) And so, the people wanted to be ruled over by “kings like the other nations.” Tragically, what the people of Israel requested was literally fulfilled; eventually ruled by Assyrian, Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Geek, and Roman Kings. Many centuries later, this desire “not to have Yahweh as their King” was epitomized by the words of the elders and people of Israel who “shouted” before Pontius Pilate, “We have no King but Caesar.” (John 19:15) The people of Israel in the days of Jesus wanted to be ruled by a Roman king that they hated and to serve an empire that they hated.  In the movie, Jesus of Nazareth, one of the zealots proclaimed, “We hear it said over and over that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Now if a kingdom is at hand, then a kingdom needs a king and so now is the time to proclaim Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” That is the title the Romans nailed in a pejorative manner at the top of the cross upon which Jesus was nailed. And so Jesus was proclaimed to be King of the Jews by the Romans.  And Jesus was their King. Daniel - the prophet in exile - interpreted the dreams of the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar. Within the interpretations, he identified the establishment of several kingdoms, each replacing the previous kingdom until finally there would come into the world one kingdom which would never end and would cover the whole earth. It would be a universal “catholic” kingdom. (Dan. 2:37-45)  This prophecy stemmed from a covenant promise that God made to King David that his throne would be established forever. (2 Sam. 7) This promise from an earthly perspective was not long lived. King David’s son Solomon sat on the throne and in one generation as a result of his actions and the actions of his son Rehoboam, the people of Israel were then split into two Kingdoms. The northern Kingdom ruled by wicked kings was eventually conquered and taking into captivity by the Assyrians. The southern Kingdom of Judah ruled by no less than 40 Kings - many of whom filled the land with innocent blood – was eventually conquered and taking into captivity by the Babylonians. But God’s promise to King David and his prophetic words, which were spoken through Daniel, came to fruition in the fullness of time when the angel Gabriel brought a message to a virgin name Mary living in Nazareth. The angel invited Mary to be the Mother of Israel’s King. She would conceive and give birth to a son who would inherit the throne of his father David and his kingdom would never end; for her son would be the son of God. (Luke 2:26-38)  Mary heard “shema” God’s voice and obeyed. (Luke 1:45) The people asked for a “king like the other nations,” both flesh and blood and powerful. That king was born in Bethlehem, lived, suffered, and died, rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, and is now seated at the right hand of God the Father. This King sitting on David’s throne is identified in the Book of Revelation as WORD OF GOD, KING OF KINGS, and LORDS of LORDS. (Rev. 19: 13, 16) As such, the identification of God as the great King over all the gods contains a literal historical context and an anagogical fulfillment within the common thread of human salvation history. This great King over all the gods, is the good shepherd and his sheep hear his voice.[19]
Hear His Voice and Harden not your Hearts
Adam hearkened to the voice of his wife Eve and together they committed the original human sin. (Gen 3:17) As a result of that sin, when they heard God’s voice calling to them in the garden they hid out of fear. Jesus, the second Adam, identifies himself as the good shepherd and calls his sheep to listen, and to recognize his voice and to follow him. This hearing, listening and obeying God’s voice is bundled together in the Hebrew word “shema” and the “shema” prayer, “Hear oh Israel. The Lord your God is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, your mind and your strength…” (Deut. 6:4) Adam and Eve’s sin brought into the world an unnatural fear of God’s voice and hardness of heart – Adam and Eve hiding from his voice in the Garden. (Gen. 3:8) This fear of God’s voice was inherited by the people of Israel pleading with Moses, “You speak to us and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us or we shall die.” (Exod. 20: 19) Their fear of God’s voice is manifested as “hardness of heart” throughout Sacred Scripture. One dramatic example of a hardened heart is found within the person of Pharaoh “who did not know Joseph” and did not know “Yahweh.” In the book of Exodus, God tells Moses that in order to redeem Israel from the hands of Pharaoh he would harden Pharaoh’s heart.  “I know that the King of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand.” (Exod. 3:19)  Pharaoh’s heart remained hardened and would not listen to Moses and Aaron.  As it relates to Meribah and Massah, the author of the Psalm is not contributing the people’s hardness of heart to God’s actions but their inability to hear and obey “shema” God’s voice. The hardening of one’s heart is a condition which refuses to receive God’s instructions even when presented in mercy and justice. The severity of their hardness of heart is as follows. The people tested God’s patience when at Rephidim (Meribah and Massah) they asked, “Is the Lord in our midst?” (Exod. 17: 1- 7) When Moses was on Mount Horeb, he asked God his name. The response from the burning bush was “I am Who am.”[20] (Exod. 3:14) God said to Moses, “Tell the people ‘He who is’ will be with you and remain with you.” (Exod. 3:15) Moses told the people that the God who would lead them out of exile and into the holy land of inheritance was Yahweh, who would remain in their midst; a truth rooted in His name. As such the question “Is the Lord God in our midst?” was actually an accusation against God’s own nature. In essence, the people were committing the sin of blasphemy stating that “Yahweh was not true to His name.” The author ends Psalm 94 (95) with the example of this dire spiritual condition to emphasize the importance of worship rooted in spirit and truth. The call to “hear” God’s voice and overcome a “hardness of heart” contains a literal historical context and an anagogical fulfillment within the common thread of human salvation history. What the people of God need, is a heart of flesh to survive the journey and to become once again God’s people and enter into God’s “rest.”
Enter into My Rest
The Hebrew word for "rest" or "ceasing from labor” is "shabbat" which comes from the Hebrew verb “shavat.” The Septuagint carries the word “katapausis” which means a putting to rest and calming of the winds. The first reference to “rest” is found in the Book of Genesis chapter 2 in which the author writes, “God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it because on that day God rested from all his works which he had done in creation.” The seventh day unlike all the other days of creation was set apart, which is the meaning of the word “holy” (something set apart). God’s rest in the Book of Genesis identifies the purpose of creation. The author Dr. Scott Hahn noted that while man and woman were created with the animals on the sixth day, they were created to rest in God on the seventh day. This day of rest is an eternal day and at the same time it is “today” as noted by the author of the Psalm who writes, “If today you hear his voice...” God swears a covenant oath that this generation of Israel would not enter into his rest and would essentially die in the desert. In Psalm 61 (62) the author identifies twice that “In God alone is his soul at rest for his help comes from him.” In this sense, the expression rest is an expression of divine consolation. The man in the garden was restless since there was no one like himself to share in his labor. God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone, let us make a helpmate like him.” (Gen. 2:18) Adam’s response to seeing the woman “At last this is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh” identifies a form of rest. There was someone (a comforter) to help him live out his vocation as husband, father, and to have dominion over the earth. In a remarkable and reciprocating manner, before Jesus ascends into heaven, he promises to send to his church (the bride of Christ) another comforter to help her fulfill her great commission.[21] (John 14:16) Rest as such signifies a state of consolation; the completion of purpose, living in the virtue of hope. The philosopher Soren Kierkegaard using the Hebrew “two ways” contrasted the virtue of hope (fidelity to one’s state in life) with the anti-virtue of despair (restlessness) not living faithfully to one’s state of life.[22] On a material level, the Promised Land was meant to be a place of rest for his people since they were taking possession of the covenant promise made by God with their fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Since this covenant promise originated in God, they were being offered the opportunity to enter into God’s rest. God speaking to them through the prophets said, “I will be your God and you would be my people.” (Exod. 6:7) Rest is then primarily a right relationship with God. This understanding of rest as consolation, comfort and relationship with God was expressed by Jesus of Nazareth when speaking to the people; "Come to me all who labor and are burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am humble and gentle of spirit, you will find peace for your heart. For my yoke is pleasant and light is my burden." (Matt. 11:28-30)  This rest is not an absence of labor. Jesus of Nazareth told his audience that “My Father is still working even now, and so I am working.” (John 5:17) For this and other reasons the people of Israel wanted to stone him retorting: “You being a man, are identifying yourself, equal to God.” (John 10:30-33) To identify working with God is to confess a participation in God’s mission of salvation which transcends the observance of the Sabbath. And this is what has come to fulfillment in and through the person of Jesus Christ. St. Ignatius of Antioch in his Letter to the Magnesians put it this way: “We have seen how the former adherents of the ancient customs (Jews) have since attained a new hope; so that they have given up keeping the Sabbath, and now order their lives by the Lord’s Day (Sunday).[23] One of the major accusations placed against the ministry of Jesus, was his healing (working) on the Sabbath. The Pharisees logically argued that “only God heals” and that healing on the Sabbath implies that God is working on the Sabbath which they illogically rejected. As such, the miracles performed by Jesus were not real and instead the work of Beelzebub - who is incapable of healing the blind, the leper, the lame, the death, the mute, or raise people from the dead. Because of their hardness of heart, they continued to ask Jesus for a sign while never hearing, never obeying, and never believing. Such a hardness of heart in the presence of God’s incarnated Word demonstrates that they chose to imitate the sin of their forefathers who witnessed the crossing of the Red Sea, the cloud by day, the pillar of fire by night, the manna from heaven, the water from the rock and yet these were not proof enough of God’s presence in their midst. Again the invitation to worship God in spirit and truth is the means to overcome this hardness of heart. For it is an invitation to enter through the opened doors of heaven where the elect worship and “shout with joy to the “rock of our salvation.” This invitation begins with the gift of Baptism which is promised by God through the prophet Ezekiel to his people in exile: “For I will take you from the nations and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be washed from your un-cleanliness… A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances. You shall dwell in the land (rest) which I gave to your fathers; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.” (Ezekiel 35:25) Most certainly the invitation to enter into God’s rest contains a literal historical context and an anagogical fulfillment within the common thread of human salvation history. Amen.


Brenton, Lancelot C.L.. Septuagint with Apocrypha: Greek and English. 3rd ed. Peabody MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1990.

Cavins, Jeff and Gray, Timothy. Walking with God. West Chester, PA: Ascension Press, 2009.

Complete Tanach with Rashi's Commentary - Tanakh Online www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/

Dauphinais, Michael and Levering, Matthew. Holy Land Holy People, A Theological Introduction to the Bible. Grand Rapids MI: Brazo Press, 2005.

Hahn, Scott Walker. The Lamb’s Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth. New York: Doubleday, 1999.

Liddell, H.G. and Scott, R. Greek-English Lexicon Abridged Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987.

Louth, Andrew and Betty Radice, eds. Early Christian Writings: The Apostolic Fathers. Translated by Maxwell Staniforth. London: Penguin Classics, September 1, 1987

Peloubet, F.N. and Adams, Alice. Peloubet’s Bible Dictionary. Grand Rapids MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1967.

Provan, Ian, Long, Philips V., Longman III, Temper. A Biblical History of Israel. Louisville London: Westminster John Know Press, 2003.

Ratzinger, Joseph Cardinal. The Spirit of the Liturgy. Fort Collins, CO: Ignatius Press, 2000.

Kierkegaard, Sören. Sickness Unto Death. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, 1941.

Tweed, J.E.  Translated and Shaff Philip, eds. Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 8. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1888.

Quasten, Johannes. The Ante-Nicene Literature After Irenaeus. Vol. 2 of Patrology. Westminster MD: Christian Classics, Inc., 1990.

[1] The double numbering of the Psalm is based upon the numbering found in the Greek Septuagint and the Hebrew numbering in parenthesis (95). Translations of both versions have been employed in the development of this commentary.
[2] Complete Tanach with Rashi's Commentary - Tanakh Online www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/.

[3] Andrew Louth, and Betty Radice, eds. Early Christian Writings: The Apostolic Fathers. Translated by Maxwell Staniforth (London: Penguin Classics. September 1, 1987), 156-158 and 188-190. The Epistle of Barnabas and the Didache, both present the theme identified as the “Two Ways”; the way of light and the way of darkness. Both texts borrow from earlier Jewish moral teaching also identified as the two ways (life-death, light-darkness, folly-wisdom, faith-disobedience, heart of flesh-heart of stone). These two ways are common threads in Sacred Scripture and extra-Biblical texts. One of the more notable renditions of the two ways comes from the lips of Joshua to the people of Israel, “Then choose today whom you will serve…” (Josh.  24:15)
[4] J.E. Tweed Translated and Shaff Philip, Edited. Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 8. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1888) handout 1-5.

[5] Scott Walker Hahn. The Lamb’s Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth (New York: Doubleday, 1999).
[6] J.E. Tweed Translated and Shaff Philip, Edited. Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 8 (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1888).  1-5.

[7] Complete Tanach with Rashi's Commentary - Tanakh Online www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/.
[8] H.G. Liddell and R. Scott. Greek-English Lexicon Abridgement. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987).
[9] Jeff Cavins and Timothy Gray. Walking with God (West Chester, PA: Ascension Press, 2009), 10.

[10] Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. The Spirit of the Liturgy ( Fort Collins, CO: Ignatius Press, 2000), 21-23.

[11] Lancelot C.L. Brenton. Septuagint with Apocrypha: Greek and English. 3rd ed. (Peabody MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1990).
[12] The NAB Commentary to Ezra 4:7 identified the emerging change in language from Hebrew to Aramaic amongst the people returning from the Babylonian exile.
[13] Micael Dauphinais and Matthew Levering. Holy Land Holy People, A Theological Introduction to the Bible (Grand Rapids MI: Brazo Press, 2005), 77.
[14] Jeff Cavins and Timothy Gray. Walking with God (West Chester, PA: Ascension Press, 2009), 8.
[15] Complete Tanach with Rashi's Commentary - Tanakh Online www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/.
[16] H.G. Liddell and R. Scott. Greek-English Lexicon Abridgement (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987).
[17] Ian Provan, Philips V. Long, Temper Longman III. A Biblical History of Israel ( Louisville London: Westminster John Know Press, 2003), 208.
[18] H.G. Liddell and R. Scott Greek-English Lexicon Abridged Edition( Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987).
[19]  Micael Dauphinais and Matthew Levering. Holy Land Holy People, A Theological Introduction to the Bible (Grand Rapids MI: Brazo Press, 2005), 111-135. David was a shepherd before he became a warrior and then a King.  Jesus, “who was in the very nature God..” (Phil 2:6) was a King who emptied himself and became a shepherd and born in a stable in Bethlehem. This theme of Man, Divinity, Kingship, and Shepherd is found in the Book of Isaiah, Psalms, and Gospels.
[20] Complete Tanach with Rashi's Commentary.  The sacred name of God is in Hebrew is rendered as “Yahweh.” Since God’s name is sacred, the writers of the Sacred Text used the term “Adonai” which is the plural of “Adon” as a means of being literally faithful to the commandment, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that shall take the name of the Lord in vain.”  (Exodus 20:7) The expression “Adonai” or “Adon” is rendered in the Greek Septuagint as “KYRIOS” and translated as “LORD” in English. As such the expression, “Love the Lord your God” is literally “Love Yahweh your God.”
[21]  Note: The mystery identifying Jesus as the Bride Groom and the Church as the Bride can be found St. Paul’s Letter the Ephesians chapter 5:32.
[22] Sören Kierkegaard, Sickness Unto Death ( Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, 1941), 1-20.
[23] Andrew Louth and Betty Radice, eds. Early Christian Writings: The Apostolic Fathers. Translated by Maxwell Staniforth (London: Penguin Classics. September 1, 1987), 73.

1 comment:

  1. Thank-you for this incredibly deep, and reflective post. The description of the apostasy of the children of Israel is a terrible warning to us. We cannot forget that God is "jealous"; He cannot stand lukewarmness. It is this lukewarmness that is now "killing" the Church. Catholics going to Church, but living like...? I have been thinking about the Stable and Herod's Palace these past few days. The temptation is to desire the Stable, but to live in the Palace.