Matthew Henry, in commenting on Psalm 95 says that “[t]his psalm must be sung with a holy reverence of God’s majesty and a dread of his justice, with a desire to please him and a fear to offend him.” I’m wondering just how that was derived from this Psalm.
I don’t doubt that there we should desire to please and fear to offend God, if for no other reason than that I believe God commands us to do merely what is best for us in any case. But in this Psalm we have a description of approaching God, and it doesn’t seem to match this solemnity. Working from God’s Word (GW), the first couple of verses refer to shouting, using adverbs like “joyfully” and “happily.”
Now I don’t think reverence and happiness are incompatible. I don’t think shouting and reverence are incompatible. But I know plenty of congregations where they would be seen as such. A person who approached the song service by shouting joyfully would be very unwelcome. I won’t accuse Matthew Henry of making such a mistake. I don’t know precisely what his approach to worship would be.
At the same time we turn to fearing to offend. Again, a joyous response doesn’t seem to involve a fear to offend, but rather points to a situation in which perfect love has cast fear out (1 John 4:18). And no, I don’t think I’m confusing the awe/fear of reverence with fear as in terror. The one fear the Psalm calls for is a fear of being stubborn and closed off to God’s direction, a fear of testing God.
I may have been unfair to Matthew Henry here, but his entry on this Psalm doesn’t seem to match the spirit of the work.