What is Worry? What is Worship? – Psalm 95

[Note: These are my teaching notes for tonight’s KALEO worship service at The Donelson Fellowship. If you want to study this on your own, why not take time and open your Bible to Exodus 17, Psalm 95, and Hebrews 3-4 — three passages that are linked together in a powerful way. You’ll find it an interesting and uplifting Bible study. You can also access a webcast and podcast of this message as soon as it is edited and posted on the Donelson website].

Introduction: Are some people born with a propensity toward anxiety? The book of Hebrews talks about our besetting sins. I think we are fallen people; our bodies are fallen; our DNA is damaged; we live in a cursed world; and we all may have certain predispositions toward certain sins. Some may be predisposed toward one thing or another. A study was just released of children who have an autism spectrum disorder, and it showed that these children tend to be more likely to experience anxiety.[1] Other recent studies have demonstrated some hereditary links to anxiety. I think there’s an “anxiety gene” in my maternal grandmother’s family that has made me more predisposed toward this. And there are many ways of battling anxiety disorders. Some of them are very useful. There were several newspaper articles recently about the fact that exercise can help ward off anxiety during stressful events. We have many ways to help overcome anxiety issues in our lives, but to me the best therapy is Bible therapy. Getting into the Scripture is a powerful treatment program for worry, because so many passages in the Bible deal with that subject. For example, let’s start with Exodus 17.

1. Worry is Asking if God is Among Us or Not  – Exodus 17:1-7 – This is the story of the Israelites’ water anxiety in the desert. The Israelites were trapped in the desert without water, which is certainly something to worry about. But they had seen the great miracles the Lord had done—and many of these miracles had already involved water.

  • Moses had been saved from death by God’s protecting him in his basket in the river Nile in Exodus 2.
  • Moses had turned the waters of the Nile to blood in Exodus 7.
  • The Lord had parted the waters of the Red Sea in Exodus 14.
  • He had purified contaminated water for them in Exodus 15.
  • Now He provided water out of the rock in Exodus 17. But Moses called the place Massah (Testing) and Meribah (Quarreling) “because of the quarreling of the people of Israel, and because they tested the Lord by saying, ‘Is the Lord among us or not?’” (v. 7). The presence of God was very evident, both in the words He spoke, in the miracles He did, and in His visual presence in the pillar of fire and cloud. Yet at a moment of crisis, they said, “Is the Lord among us or not?”

There we have one of the best definitions of worry in the Bible. Worry is questioning whether God is really among us (Exodus 17:7). After all He has done, after all the needs He has met, after all the provisions He had made, after all the prayers He has answered, worry says, “Is the Lord really among us or not?”

2. Worship is Coming into His Presence. – Psalm 95:1-7a – That brings us to Psalm 95, which is a very interesting Psalm because it begins one way and whipsaws in the middle and ends another way. The change comes in the middle of verse 7. Read verses 1-7a. Here is a great definition of worship. Worship is coming into His presence (v. 2): “Let us come into His presence.” Because God is omnipresent, we are always in His presence. But when we pray, when we praise, when we worship we are focusing our attention on that reality. We are taking advantage of His presence. We are practicing His presence. So worry asks: “Is God among us or not.” And worship says, “He is among us. We are coming into His presence with thanksgiving and singing.”

3. Worry is Going Astray in our Hearts and Not Knowing His Ways – Psalm 95:7b-11. Notice how in the middle of verse 7 the mood suddenly shifts from exuberant praise to a stern warning. The writer refers to the story in Exodus 17 and turns it into a warning for us. The unbelieving Israelites were “a people who go astray in their heart, and they have not known my ways. Therefore they shall not enter My rest” (v. 10-11). What rest? This is a reference to Canaan and to the book of Joshua. Now if you go back and read about the Israelites crossing the River Jordan into Canaan and possessing the land, it doesn’t seem very restful. Joshua is not a particularly restful book. They were having to conquer the land. But they were doing so with the absolute assurance that God was with them fighting their battles. And in that assurance there was a sense of rest and peace even in the middle of crises and conflict.

3. Rest is an Attitude of Confidence and Hope – Hebrews 3:5 – 4:13. We’re not finished with this passage, because it comes up again in the book of Hebrews, in chapters 3 and 4. In the first part of Hebrews 3, the writer told His readers that if the Israelites should have trusted Moses, how much more should we trust Jesus. Jesus is superior to Moses. Look at verse 5: “Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are His house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boating in our hope.” Notice those words “confidence” and “hope.” That is the definition of rest, which is the opposite of worry.

Verse 7 continues by quoting Psalm 95. He quotes it again in verse 15. He quotes it again in chapter 4, verse 3. He quotes it again in verse 5. He quotes it again in verse 7. Five times the writer quotes from Psalm 95, based on Exodus 17.,He ends with the tremendous passage in Hebrews 4:11-13.

Exodus 17 told us that the ancient Hebrews doubted God’s presence among them and collapsed into worry and anxiety. Psalm 95 said, “Let’s learn to come into God’s presence in worship and not make the mistake of the Israelites.” And the book of Hebrews tells us that this lesson is for us. God wants us to rest in Him, to abide in His rest, and to experience His confidence and hope in all the circumstances of life.

Conclusion: Once when missionary E. Stanley Jones was overcome with anxiety about a particular matter, he seemed to hear the Lord say to him: “If you will turn that over to me and not worry about it, I will take care of it.” That’s the true secret of overcoming anxiety. Replace worry with worship. It’s so important that God put it at the beginning of the Bible in Exodus, in the middle of the Bible in Psalms, and at the end of the Bible in the book of Hebrews.

[1] “Autism Often Comes with Anxiety, GI Problems” in PsychCentral at http://psychcentral.com/news/2012/09/23/autism-often-comes-with-anxiety-gi-problems/44997.html.