“The Lord in the Power of the Storm”
September 5, 2010
Cry “Glory” at every display of the LORD’s awesome power.
I. Ascribe it to the LORD (Psalm 29:1-2)
II. See it in the Storm (Psalm 29:3-9)
III. Recognize What it Means (Psalm 29:10-11)
Storm chasing has become a big business. The Discovery channel’s Storm Chasers TV show features heavily armored vehicles maneuvering directly into the paths of storms, typically tornadoes. The holy grail of tornado chasing is to get film inside a tornado. This has become so popular that a whole industry has sprung up and every spring you can take storm chasing tours across ‘tornado alley’ in Kansas, Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle. People find the sheer power and destructive strength of these storms fascinating.
And it’s not just tornadoes. Thunder and lightning are equally fascinating. Here in south-east Texas we don’t get very many tornadoes, but we’ve all watched a thunderstorm boil up with sound and light exceeding any Fourth of July fireworks. Furthermore we get hurricanes, which at their peak combine the power of the tornado with the sound and fury of the thunderstorm. And though we are the first generation to capture these things in HD, we are by no means the first generation to be fascinated, nor the first believers to recognize in the power of the storm an image of the power of God.
In Psalm 29 King David writes a hymn of praise to God for his awesome power in which a thunderstorm serves as a visible emblem of God’s majestic voice. As we walk through this Psalm this morning we will be reminded that we too should cry “Glory” at every display of the LORD’s awesome power.
I. Ascribe it to the LORD (Psalm 29:1-2)
Let’s read. Psalm 29:1-11: Ascribe to the LORD, O mighty ones, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. 2Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.
3The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the LORD thunders over the mighty waters. 4The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is majestic. 5The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars; the LORD breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon. 6He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, Sirion like a young wild ox. 7The voice of the LORD strikes with flashes of lightning. 8The voice of the LORD shakes the desert; the LORD shakes the Desert of Kadesh. 9The voice of the LORD twists the oaks and strips the forests bare. And in his temple all cry, "Glory!"
10The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; the LORD is enthroned as King forever. 11The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace.
David begins with the phrase ‘ascribe to the Lord,’ repeated three times in verses 1 and 2. The Hebrew word used literally means ‘Give credit to the Lord, O mighty ones, attribute to the LORD glory and strength. Attribute to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.” This Psalm demands that everyone, from the mighty angels of heaven to you and I here on earth acknowledge the Lord as the great king and recognize his glory and majesty. This command is exactly repeated in Psalm 96 and 1 Chronicles 16. It is alluded to in many other places by the simple use of the words ‘glorify God,’ or ‘give him glory’ or ‘magnify the Lord.’
What are we to attribute to the Lord? Glory and strength; the glory due his name; the splendor of his holiness.” We are to recognize the perfections of all that God is and of all that he does; to recognize his unlimited power, the majesty that power confers on him, and the uniqueness of his holiness. We are to glorify him. Thomas Brookes, in a Puritan commentary tells us what it looks like to worship God in this way: “look upon a sincere Christian in his ordinary, usual, and habitual course, and you shall find that his aims and ends in all his actions and undertakings are to glorify God, to exalt God, and to lift up God in the world. If the hypocrite did in good earnest aim at the glory of God in what he does, then the glory of God would swallow up his worldly aims and carnal ends, as Aaron's rod swallowed up the magician's rods. He that sets up the glory of God as his chief end, will find that his chief end will by degrees eat out all low and base ends; the glory of God will eat up all those fat and worldly ends that crowd in upon the soul.” Amen.
II. See it in the Storm (Psalm 29:3-9)
But where do we see God's power and might? Where can we behold his glory? We can see it where David saw it, in the coming of God in the thunderstorm. The Psalm is remarkable in that it vividly, poetically describes the coming of a storm upon Israel, as it forms over the sea and moves inland over the mountains and down into the southern deserts, passing in its course over the temple of God in Jerusalem. Some would look at a storm and see only the right mix of temperature, pressure and moisture. Some of Israel's neighbors would see their god Baal. They believed he was the god of the thunderstorm. But it is not Baal who speaks from the storm, and it is more than the weather. It is the God of Glory. You and I are reminded of God's power and God's strength as we listen to the thunder, as we behold the storm.
Verse 3: “The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the LORD thunders over the mighty waters.” The storm that serves as a metaphor for God’s power begins over the Mediterranean sea, as thunder on the horizon and clouds building toward rain. This thunder is the Lord’s thunder: It is his voice over the mighty waters.
Notice that only in the second phrase of this verse is God referred to as ‘God’, Hebrew ‘Elohim.’ Every other reference to God uses the personal name he revealed to Moses: YHWH, the Lord. Eighteen times this Psalm refers to the Lord: it is all about our Lord. You and I show up at the beginning, and we show up wonderfully at the end, but most of the Psalm is spent looking to the Lord alone, with this extended metaphor of praise.
And this storm of acclamation is centered on the power of God’s voice. The thunder is not only poetically but instructively called "the voice of God,” It peals from on high; it surpasses all other sounds, it inspires awe, it is entirely independent of man; it accompanies God's speech to his people. Charles Spurgeon says that God’s people “often enjoy this tumult with a humble joy peculiar to the saints, and even those who know not God have been forced into unwilling reverence while the storm has lasted.”
The Psalmist hears no voice but that of Jehovah, resounding from the dark and billowing waters of the upper ocean of clouds, and echoing from the innumerable breakers of the storm tossed sea below. The waters above and beneath the firmament are astonished at the eternal voice. “In the same way,” Spurgeon says, “when the Holy Spirit makes the divine promise to be heard above the many waters of our soul's trouble, then is God as glorious in the spiritual world as in the universe of matter.” We were made to hear his voice and redeemed to hear his voice.
Verse 4: The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is majestic. We know from Genesis that God spoke the worlds into existence. In Exodus, when God’s voice spoke to Moses we read that “Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the LORD descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up like smoke from a furnace, the whole mountain trembled violently, 19and the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder. Then Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him.” Throughout Scripture the voice of the Lord carries his authority and judgment. Isaiah says “The LORD will cause men to hear his majestic voice and will make them see his arm coming down with raging anger and consuming fire, with cloudburst, thunderstorm and hail.” The voice of the Lord is powerful; his voice is majestic.
Verse 5: “The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars; the LORD breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.” Though still pictured in terms of his voice, the image is of the impact of lightning or wind. I’m sure we all remember the first days after Ike, when there were thousands of trees down all over the area, many of them cracked like twigs from the buffeting winds.
In the same way a single lightning strike can blast a tree into pieces. I remember as a Boy Scout at Philmont Scout Ranch that the storms used to come almost every afternoon. One day we were hiking up a mountain in a storm when lightning hit a tree just right there; blasted the tree and scared us to death. But that’s nothing compared to the power of the voice of God.
By the way, though you can’t see it in the English translation, in the Hebrew original it’s clear that at verse 5 we change from viewing the storm in the past to viewing the storm in the presence. It may be that in verse 5 the storm caught up with David as he sojourned in the mountains, or in the desert or maybe at the tabernacle. From here on it is depicted as a present reality.
Verse 6 “He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, Sirion like a young wild ox.” Notice the geography: the storm had been over the water, but now it has come over the land, into the mountains of Lebanon, and among the cedars of Lebanon and to Sirion, which is another name for Mt. Hermon, the great snow-covered mountain north of Israel. But in a storm even these foundations of stone felt like skittish beasts – and compared to the power of the Lord, they are. I remember a Boy Scout trip in which we did camp at the top of a mountain, and a thunderstorm came –and I swear the mountain was shaking.
Verse 7: “The voice of the LORD strikes with flashes of lightning. 8The voice of the LORD shakes the desert; the LORD shakes the Desert of Kadesh.” The storm has moved from the north of Israel to the south, to the desert of Kadesh, to Kadesh Barnea where Israel had camped in the wilderness of Zin. Even here the storm struck hard, with flashes of lightning and the shaking of the desert.
Verse 9: The voice of the LORD twists the oaks and strips the forests bare. And in his temple all cry, "Glory!" The vocabulary of that first phrase is obscure. Most translators understand it as “The voice of the Lord causes the deer to calve.” In other words a thunderstorm, because it is a huge low pressure cell, can cause expecting animals to go into labor, just as in a hospital, more babies are born during a thunderstorm or hurricane than in normal weather.
If we take this phrase that way, then the Psalm reaches a momentary conclusion here. You see back in verse 5, when we began to look at the storm in the present tense, we started out with the trees, then we progressed to the animals in verse 6, and finally into the wilderness in verse 7. In verse 8 we remained in the wilderness, but here in verse 9 we go back and reflect again on the impact of the storm on the animals, and then again on the trees. The point is that the voice of the Lord, the power and strength and majesty of the Lord, his glory, impacts every aspect of creation.
Therefore, in God’s temple, all cry “Glory!” The storm had passed over Judea, though David does not mention that passing until now. So it could be that this verse represents the heart response of God’s worshippers who witness the spectacle of his power from the temple in Jerusalem. Others have said that because the Psalm is addressed to heavenly beings, the mighty ones of verse 1, then this cry of glory must take place in God’s heavenly temple. Either could be true, possibly both are, for God’s purpose both in heaven and on earth is that all will recognize and celebrate the glory of the creator.
This Psalm is all about crying glory at every display of the LORD’s awesome power. What did the first verses say: ascribe, or attribute, to the Lord glory and strength; ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name. Cry “Glory” because God is glorious; perfect in majesty and glorious in power; the storm reveals the power of his voice; and his glorious power moves us to praise.
Verse 10: “The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; the LORD is enthroned as King forever.” The temple, especially the heavenly temple is the place where God sits enthroned. The Psalms have already said “Sing praises to the LORD, enthroned in Zion; proclaim among the nations what he has done,” and “you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the praise of Israel.”
In this case he is enthroned above or over the flood. This flood may be the result of the storm; the watercourses of Israel, like many mountainous areas are prone to flash floods, which sweep down from the heights and return the storm waters to the great sea. But the word for flood here is used elsewhere of Noah’s flood, the flood of God’s judgment and rescue. David is saying God is sovereign not only over the local floods, but over all judgment and rescue.
III. Recognize What it Means (Psalm 29:10-11)
What have we heard so far? We’ve heard a call to ascribe glory, to attribute glory to the one who is majestic and strong and holy. And we have heard his voice in the storm: the God of glory thunders, over the waters, in the mountain passes, among the cedars, across the desert, and in His temple. So how do we respond? When we see his power we cry ‘glory.’
We cry ‘glory’ at every display. When we see his power as shown in creation, we cry ‘glory.’ When we see his power evident in the heavens, we cry ‘glory.’ when we see his power revealed in the vast array of his creatures, we cry ‘glory.’ When we see his power demonstrated in the intricacies of the life he has created we cry ‘glory.’ When we see his image in the people around us, and in the children we care for, we cry ‘glory.’ When we see his hand of mercy in caring for our circumstances, or in caring for us despite our circumstances, we cry ‘glory.’
And most of all when we see His Son Jesus we cry ‘glory.’ When we see the incarnation we cry ‘glory.’ The Gospel of John teaches us that in Jesus we have seen his glory. His is the glory of the one and only, sent from the father, full of grace and truth.’ When we see his perfect, sinless, compassionate life, we cry ‘glory.’ When we take hold of his promises and his kingdom, we cry ‘glory.’ When we see him on the cross, dying for no sin of his own, but bearing our sin that we might be rescued, we cry ‘glory.’ And when we see him resurrected and raised and eternally exalted we cry ‘glory.’ We cry glory at every display of God’s awesome power, and we rejoice that that power has been displayed for us and is at work in us.
But though the Psalm could well have ended with the enthronement of His glory, it doesn’t. God himself, through David, makes a promise from the storm, almost a throw-away verse until we see how precious it is. Verse 11: “The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace.”
It is almost enough to cry ‘glory.’ It is almost enough to take our eyes off ourselves and focus on God and his word and his works and his holiness and his Son. It is in a very real sense what we were made for. But God himself knows that it’s not quite enough. If we are to be those who cry ‘glory’ in his universe, we also need to be those who receive his strength and his peace. Without his strength we could not praise. In ourselves we are too weak, too beset and distracted by living in a fallen world. With his glory all around us, we do not see it; only his divine strength can give us the longed-for energy to lift our eyes from our feet and see what is there. He gives his people that strength.
And he gives his people peace. He knows those who are weighed down by the burdens of this life, by anxiety, who fret and despair and are not able to cry ‘glory.’ So he gives his people peace, that they might see the storm in a new light; not as the storm they’re in that leads again to fear, but as the storm that reveals his power, might, majesty, voice and holiness.
He gives his people strength and peace. I was really struck by this, by how basic these needs are. I got to thinking about the prayer requests we put on our prayer chain. When we get to the ‘please pray’ section of the request, we usually ask for some specific things, but then about 90% of the time we add ‘give this person, give this family strength and peace.’ We recognize that at a very basic level if we have these things we can walk through any situation. The Lord whose glory is revealed in the storm, in his acts, in his word and in his Son is the Lord who promises us this strength and peace.