Modern day philosopher Paul Ricoeur wrote how metaphors, and specifically biblical metaphors, create a network of relationships building off one another and thereby creating new meanings. In Psalm 95, three metaphors for God are networking together to enable the hearers of the text to envision new possibilities of re-describing our relationship with God. Here, the psalmist names God as rock, king and shepherd--by extension of verse 7 where "we are the people of God's pasture."
Though the patristic and hierarchical language of "king" may be problematic, its relationship to the other metaphors in the text might provide a network that speaks anew. A king who is both a "rock of salvation" as well as a shepherd who holds us as "the sheep in one's hand" is reliable, gentle, firm, nurturing, caring, steady and tenderly powerful. When these metaphors collide, even our inadequate language about God can open us to sing a new song, a joyful noise unto our rock/king/shepherd God!
We pray: "God, our river of life, our place of wisdom, our shepherdess of love: when our language fails us in describing your majesty and glory, you still meet our imperfect words and inconsistent worship with your very self."
And God responds: "Make a joyful noise! Come into my presence with thanksgiving." Amen.
Psalm 95:1-7a (NRSV)
1 O come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
2 Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
3 For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.
4 In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also.
5 The sea is his, for he made it, and the dry land, which his hands have formed.
6 O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!
7 For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.