Connections 03.15.2020: Rebellious Creatures

Psalm 95

Machines with artificial intelligence turning against the people who made them is a recurring theme in works of science fiction.

One example is the 2004-08 Battlestar Galactica television series, which revolves around the revolt of androids called Cylons against their human creators.

Well-known film examples include 1968’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and 1984’s Terminator (and its sequels).

Books with this theme include 1954’s I, Robot by Isaac Asimov and 2011’s Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson.

That’s just a sampling. There are lots of such works.

Such rebellion strikes me as ungrateful. I mean, the robots, androids, or computers wouldn’t exist had humans not made them. It’s not nice to bite the hand that programs you.

On the other hand, such rebellion is predictable. It may even be inevitable.

In saying that, I may be projecting human experience onto artificial intelligence. To be fair to me, that may be what science fiction writers do too.

Let’s consider the experience of the people of Israel on which Psalm 95 reflects. God created them. That is, God formed them to be God’s people. When they found themselves slaves in Egypt, God brought them out under Moses’ leadership. Despite all that God had done for them, they rebelled against God in the wilderness. As a result, the generation that came out of Egypt didn’t get to enter the promised land.

In science fiction, robots decide they know better than their human creators. And so they rebel. In our reality, human beings decide we know better than our divine Creator. And so we rebel.

The Hebrews in the wilderness failed to remember that God had formed them to be God’s people. They failed to remember all that God had done for them. Because they failed to remember, they failed to trust God to show them the way forward.

Sometimes we forget too. I guess that’s why we sometimes let ourselves believe we know the way we should go better than God does. Maybe that’s why the church fails to pay adequate attention to God’s revelation in Jesus Christ, who shows and teaches us the way we should go.

Let’s not rebel. Indeed, let’s do the opposite of rebelling—let’s follow Jesus Christ, whose ways of living and loving best show us who God is and what it means to be the children of God.


  • Why does the psalm say the people should sing to the Lord? Why should we?
  • How does God form us to be God’s people?
  • Why should we be grateful to God for making us? How can we show our gratitude?
  • Why must sheep listen to the shepherd’s voice? Why must we listen to God’s voice? How do we hear God’s voice?
  • Why is it important that we not harden our hearts to God?
  • What kind of rest does God have in store for us?

Reference Shelf

This psalm is similar in form to Pss 50 and 81. It falls into two parts: vv. 1-7c compose a hymn that celebrates the kingship of Yahweh and vv. 7d-11 form a prophetic oracle that warns the people against stubborn disobedience. Commentators commonly speak of the liturgical nature of this psalm, and it is probable that it was shaped by liturgical practice. Perhaps a procession of worshipers entering the Temple area for worship at one of the Jerusalem festivals is the original setting of Ps 95.

The worshipers encourage one another to go into the Temple courts and into the presence of Yahweh in vv. 1-2. The poet may have had in mind the movement of the worshipers into the sanctuary in vv. 3-5. In v. 6 the people have arrived in the holy area and are summoned to assume the postures of worship. Verse 7a-c is an affirmation of Yahweh by the worshipers; it parallels the statements in v. 3 and forms a frame around vv. 4-6. The great king above all gods (v. 3) is declared by the speakers in v. 7 to be our God, the shepherd of the people.

The voice of a prophet or other speaker, such as a levitical priest, is then heard bringing an oracle of Yahweh to the people. This is, however, no shalom (peace) oracle such as that in Ps 85:8-13 or Ps 91:14-16. This oracle warns the people about disobedience. It lays the claims of Yahweh on the people as do the oracles in Pss 50 and 81, and the historical Pss 78 and 105 16. The Israelites of today (note the emphasis in v. 7d) are reminded of the obdurate disobedience of their fathers at Meribah (“testing”) and at Massah (“strife”) in the wilderness (cf. Exod 17:107; Num 20:1-13; Ps 81:7) and of the consequent refusal of permission to enter into the rest of the promised land (Deut 12:9). The prophet seeks a different response from the present generation (cf. Heb 3:7-4:13).

Marvin E. Tate, “Psalms,” Mercer Commentary on the Bible (Macon GA: Mercer University Press, 1995), 497.

Michael Ruffin is husband to Debra, father to Joshua (Michelle) and Sara (Benjamin), grandfather to Sullivan and Isabella. A graduate of Mercer University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he has previously served as a pastor and as a university professor. He lives on the Ruffin Family Farm in Yatesville, Georgia. He is the Connections Series Curriculum Editor.


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