The Masoretic Text does not have a superscription, but the Septuagint attributes this composition to David and calls it “praise of a song.” In Hebrews 4:7, the quotation from Psalm 95:7, 8 (94:7, 8, LXX) is also attributed to David.
Psalm 95 opens with an invitation to make a joyous shout of praise to YHWH. As the “rock of salvation,” he is the one upon whom his people could rely for deliverance. The Septuagint does not include the term “rock” but reads, “our Savior.”
To come before God’s “face” with thanksgiving would denote coming into his presence to express thanks. The praise (in the form of songs) directed to God is to be rendered with the forcefulness of a joyous shout.
Expressions of thanksgiving and praise are to be made with full strength and accompanied by joy, for YHWH is a “great God” and a “great king,” the God “above all gods.”
In “his hand” or under his control are “the depths of the earth,” from which depths humans have extracted precious stones and metals. The loftiest mountain heights also are his, as is the sea and the dry land, for he is the Creator.
In recognition of who YHWH is, the Israelites should have been moved to bow before him reverently in worship, kneeling respectfully before him as their Maker. The Septuagint additionally mentions “weeping” before him.
Besides referring to YHWH as “our God,” the psalmist spoke of the Israelites as the “people of his pasture” and the “sheep of his hand.” Like a shepherd, he cared for them and protected them from harm. Being “sheep of his hand,” they enjoyed his safeguarding and guidance.
For God’s people, the time to listen to God’s voice is “today.” Obedient response to his direction is not something to be postponed to a future time. To emphasize the need for prompt obedient listening, the psalmist called attention to past history.
He admonished his fellow Israelites not to harden their hearts (or to become unresponsive to God’s voice), as did their ancestors at Meribah, “as on the day at Massah in the wilderness.” On that occasion, their ancestors murmured for water at Rephidim, complaining that Moses had brought them into the wilderness to have them and their livestock die of thirst. (Exodus 17:1-7) The name “Meribah” means “quarreling,” “strife,” or “contention,” and “Massah” means “test” or “trial.” As in Hebrew 3:8, the Septuagint reads “embitterment,” “provocation,” or “rebellion” (instead of Meribah) and “test” or “trial” (instead of Massah).
By their murmuring, the Israelite ancestors tested YHWH or put him to the proof, as their faithless expressions indicated that they did not believe that he could provide for them. This was despite the fact that they had seen his activity, including his effecting their deliverance from Egypt and regularly providing them with manna as their food.
On account of their faithlessness, YHWH felt a loathing for that generation of Israelites for forty years. In their “heart” or their deep inner self, they proved themselves to be wayward. They disregarded God’s ways, repeatedly disobeying his commands.
Therefore, in his anger, YHWH swore that they would not enter into his rest. To Abraham, God had originally promised to give his descendants the land of Canaan. Liberated from enslavement in Egypt, the Israelites could have entered God’s “rest,” sharing in the blessed results from the completion of his creative work. They would have been able to take possession of the land that was part of God’s creation and then to enjoy its bounties. With the exception of Caleb, Joshua, and the Levites, the entire faithless generation died in the wilderness, losing out on the opportunity to enter God’s rest.
Regarding the divine name (YHWH), see Psalm 1.
With some exceptions, the Greek of Hebrews 3:8, 9 is the same as the extant Septuagint text of Psalm 95:7-11 (94:7-11). The Greek words of Hebrews 4:3, 7, and Psalm 95:7, 8, 11 (94:7, 8, 11, LXX) are the same.
A major difference, in Hebrews 3:9, 10, is the addition of dió (therefore) after “forty years.” The Septuagint (95:9, 10 [94:9, 10]) represents God as loathing the faithless generation for forty years, whereas the passage in the book of Hebrews says that, for forty years, the Israelites had seen God’s works. Accordingly, the writer of the book of Hebrews indicates that what occurred in connection with the murmuring about water was representative of the response of the faithless generation during the forty years in the wilderness.
The writer of the book of Hebrews introduced the quotation with the words, “Therefore, as the holy spirit says.” Through the operation of the holy spirit, the revelation about God’s judgment of the faithless generation (coupled with the warning lesson this judgment served) was provided.
The “rest” God had in mind for humans appears to have included their enjoyment of an intimacy with him as his beloved children and all the bounties he would grant them. According to the Genesis account, God pronounced all his creative work as “good,” and so his resting meant entering the joy of work completed. The rest of believers would involve sharing in that joy to the full, something that would only be possible in the sinless state. Israel’s taking possession of the Promised Land, under the leadership of Joshua, did not exhaust the full meaning of the promise about entering into God’s rest. During the days of their earthly sojourn, believers await the time they will be able to enter this rest as persons freed from their toil, pain, struggles, and sorrows. Any time remaining open for heeding God’s appeal to enter his rest is still “today.”