Listening like Sheep

Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker! For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand” (vv. 6–7a).

- Psalm 95

God comforts our souls throughout the pages of Scripture. His promise never to leave or forsake us (Heb. 13:5) assures us that no matter how difficult things seem, He is with us, carrying us through the fire of testing so that we might be purified and refined (Isa. 48:1–10). The Lord’s pledge to glorify everyone whom He justifies (Rom. 8:29–30) confirms that all who truly trust in Christ are kept for Him forever and cannot lose their salvation. However, this is not a passive keeping in which we play no part, as we will soon see.

Our God, today’s passage tells us, is the “great King above all gods,” the One who holds all things in His hand (Ps. 95:1–5). Because of this power, we can trust Him to keep us safe forever, not in that we will never experience danger in this life but in that He will bring us into His kingdom, where we will enjoy perfect happiness forever. The Lord’s sheep, who understand His power and grace, cannot help but bow down and worship Him (vv. 6–7). Yet we know from Scripture that not everyone who professes to be a sheep of our Creator actually belongs to His fold (Matt. 25:31–46; 1 John 2:19). Wolves (or goats) in sheep’s clothing do exist in the covenant community, and while the wheat in the visible church will not be perfectly separated from the tares until the return of Christ, our Savior does separate some out even in this age as we wait for His second coming.

How are the sheep and the goats separated now? Through the hardening of the goats’ hearts. Today’s passage warns hearers not to harden their hearts as an earlier generation did at Meribah (Ps. 95:8–9). The reference here is to the grumbling of the Israelites and complaints about the lack of water (Ex. 17:1–7; Num. 20:2–13). Such episodes evidenced a lack of trust in the One who had proven Himself faithful by redeeming the Israelites from Egypt. Due to the hardening of their hearts, that wilderness generation never entered the Promised Land (Ps. 95:10–11). The application of these episodes to succeeding generations of God’s people is clear—if we harden our hearts against the Lord, we will not enjoy final salvation.

Certainly, this does not mean that those who have truly been saved can lose their salvation, for there is not one person who is justified but never glorified (Rom. 8:29–30). What today’s passage does tell us is that we play a role in our perseverance. We are responsible to continue heeding the Lord, turning from sin, and trusting in Him. God’s elect will do all of those things, and we can know we are elect as we persevere in trusting our Creator.

Coram Deo

Augustine of Hippo comments, “Let no man say in his heart, His promise is true; His threat is false: as His promise is true, so is His threat sure.” When we read Scripture, we must take the Lord’s warnings seriously. The elect cannot finally fall away, but all those in whom the Spirit is working heed these warnings. God uses them to keep His elect in the faith. As we are warned not to harden our hearts, may we listen and continue trusting in Christ.

Passages for Further Study

1 Kings 11:26–40
2 Corinthians 6:1–2

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