Above The Storm - Psalm 29
“The towering majesty of the Lord dominates this poem, with the opening scene in heaven, where supernatural beings pay Him homage; with the violent sweep of the thunderstorm in from the sea, down the whole length of Canaan and away into the desert; and the serene climax in which, as the thunder recedes, the Lord appears enthroned in judgment over His world but in blessing among His people” (Psalms 1-72, Derek Kidner, p. 124).
The Call of Worship: 1-2
“Ascribe to the Lord, O sons of the mighty, Ascribe to the Lord the glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due to His name; Worship the Lord in holy array”
Even though men are called upon to worship God, at least in this Psalm the “sons of the mighty”, probably the angels (Job 1:6), are called upon to give Him glory. In fact, it might seem strange that a mere human being (David) is calling upon heavenly beings to give glory to God. “Strictly speaking, it is human beings, not angels, who need to be urged to praise God”(Psalms 1-41, James Montgomery Boice, p. 256). “Why does David call on the angels, then? It is because he feels that his praise and that of other mere human beings is not adequate. David is overwhelmed with the majesty of God revealed in the storm (3-9) that he has witnessed and is now going to describe. He feels that he needs help to praise God properly. To praise God adequately the entire created order must join in” (Boice p. 256).
Before we move on, in this section we also learn some valuable lessons about worship:
Worship is defined as giving to God, not getting from God. When we worship, we give to God the praise and credit due Him, we rightly talk and boast of His strength and wisdom and not our own.
Worship also includes both the mind and the will. When we “ascribe glory” to Him we are acknowledging His supreme worth with our minds, and when we worship (a term that means to bow down) we are surrendering our wills and thoughts to His will. The two belong together. “So what the angels do naturally, we also must learn to do” (Boice p. 256).
Thus, another name for worship is surrender and submission. Therefore, prayer, bible study, partaking of communion, singing, giving and assembling with other Christians is only worship when my will and mind have been surrendered to His will and line of thinking. To sit in a pew and yet remain determined to occupy a position of independent thinking from God and only accept those portions of Scripture with which one agrees, is not worship.
Worship in Holy Array: 2
This verse can also be translated, “the majesty (or beauty) of holiness”. This reminds us that holiness, far from being boring or drab, is incredibly beautiful. There is a “sacred beauty” and that is the beauty of being dedicated to one’s Creator and separated from the ugliness of rebellion, idolatry or selfishness.
The Passing of the Storm: 3-9
“The voice of the Lord is upon the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord is over many waters. The voice of the Lord is powerful, The voice of the Lord is majestic. The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars; Yes, the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon. And He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, And Sirion like a young wild ox. The voice of the Lord hews out flames of fire. The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh. The voice of the Lord makes the deer to calve, And strips the forests bare, And in His temple everything says, ‘Glory’!”
“Psalm 29 describes, a storm arising over the Mediterranean Sea to the north, sweeping down the entire length of Canaan, and then disappearing out over the desert to the south. Verses 3 and 4 seem to portray the storm as it gathers power out over the Mediterranean Sea, before coming ashore in full fury” (Boice p. 257). Yet the term waters here can also refer to the water collected in the atmosphere in the dark thunderclouds as well. “In verses 5-7 the storm strikes, moving down from Lebanon. The place name Lebanon is used twice, once in verse 5 and again in verse 6. Verse 6 also mentions Sirion, which is an ancient Sidonian name for Mount Hermon. These verses describe the damage done to the great cedars of Lebanon. Finally, in verses 8 and 9 the storm passes away over the southern Desert of Kadesh. Yet it does not pass away before it ‘strips the forests bare’”(Boice p. 257).
Seeing God, not Nature
This would be a great Psalm to read to one’s children during a lightning storm. It is like Psalm 8, which is a good Psalm to read when one is away from the lights of the city at night, the sky is clear, and one can see the countless stars.
“If you keep telling yourself that the voice of God is not in thunder, that thunder is only the clashing of differently charged electronic participles, you will miss it all. To appreciate this psalm we have to get out in the fields, watch the majesty of some ferocious storm, and recall that God is in the storm, directing it, as He is in all other natural and historical phenomena” (Boice p. 255).
So David is not saying that thunder is the audible voice of God—for God can certainly speak with words, yet thunder is a demonstration of His power and a reminder of His existence. Thunder, like the beauty of the creation (Psalm 19:1) is another sermon on God’s existence and power that all men universally receive. “The voice of the Lord is interpreted at once as thunder (3); but it is emphasized as His, proclaiming its Creators power, not merely Nature’s. Out to sea, above the roar of the waves, these peals of thunder celebrate the Lord as Sovereign and Judge” (Kidner p. 126).
Notice how one demonstration of God’s power (and a limited demonstration at that) completely puts everything else in perspective. The thunder is heard even above the roar of the sea. The thunder also makes everything else that we thought was impressive, look unimpressive. It even has the power with lightning strikes to shatter the majestic cedars of Lebanon. This lesson was driven home to me on one Saturday night when I witnessed a lightning storm from the Portland Rose Garden over Portland during the Blues Festival. God’s festival was the one that caught everyone’s attention.
We need to remind our children that thunder and lightning is not something that Christians fear, rather to us it is a reminder that our heavenly Father rules.
We do live in a time when many people tend to place greater emphasis on the creation than the Creator. They want to enjoy “nature” but they have no desire to worship the Creator. They think things are wrong with the physical planet. The most pressing issue of the day, rather than realizing the spiritual and eternal plight of mankind is even more pressing, and assuming our spiritual responsibilities often make us better stewards of everything in our lives, including the Creation.
“And in His temple everything says, “Glory’!”
“The climax is the answering cry of ‘glory!’, a response of humility, joy and understanding which reveals that, to some, the storm is not an outbreak of meaningless or hostile forces, but the voice of the Lord, heard in all His works” (Kidner p. 127).
Thus, our response when we see such a display of God’s power should be the same response as is found in heaven—every Christian should cry out, “glory!”
The glory that started heaven (1-2) is now echoed by His people who have witnessed the storm.
God is on His Throne 10-11
“The Lord sat as King at the flood; Yes, the Lord sits as King forever. The Lord will give strength to His people; The Lord will bless His people with peace”
The word flood here is significant, for it is found elsewhere only in Genesis 6-11, and only of Noah’s flood. Noah’s flood was the supreme example of natural forces unleashed by God and the most powerful demonstration thus far of God’s sovereignty over the planet.
“In the final two verses the storm has passed but God remains as the enthroned King of the universe. The earth may have been shaken as well as the people who live in it, but God is not shaken. He remains as calmly in control as ever, and there is peace for those who are His. The storm has passed by. What remains is God Himself, as peaceful and as much in control of things as He has always been. The Lord sat enthroned over the Genesis flood, continues to be enthroned, and will be enthroned forever” (Boice p. 259). At the end here is there both a warning and a blessing. The warning is that a final storm of judgment is coming and people need to be ready to meet their Creator. The only ones who will be ready for that judgment are His people. To them He gives confidence, encouragement, strength and peace.