THE GOD OF GLORY THUNDERS
A Meditation on Psalm 29
When I was in grade school, I remember rushing down into the basement of our house, because a roaring tornado was headed in our vicinity. As a kid, this was a terrifying, yet exhilarating experience. After the tornado and storm had passed, we drove around the neighborhood to investigate the devastation. Of course, tree branches were lying everywhere and garbage was strewn across the landscape, but what stands out in my mind the most was a house about three blocks from our house with a missing roof—it was sitting in the front yard next to the house! How should we respond to such an awesome storm? In Psalm 29, David suggests a one-word cry, “Glory!”
Psalm 29 was inspired by a thunderstorm David observed—or should I say felt? This violent storm most likely arose over the Mediterranean Sea, then moved southeast in a raging fury through the forested mountains of Lebanon and Sirion (Mount Hermon), and finally moved down to the Desert of Kadesh and out of sight (vv. 3-9).
David gives a detailed description of the damage caused by this storm. However, what should arrest our attention is not the damage, but the cause of the damage, which is attributed to “the voice of the LORD” (a phrase found seven times in this Psalm). David sees and hears the beginning of this storm and says, “The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the LORD thunders over the mighty waters” (vs. 3). The thunder booming over the Mediterranean Sea and echoing with fierce reverberations through the forests and deserts is none other than “the voice of the LORD.”
In this storm we have a vivid illustration of the power, strength, majesty and glory of God. This is seen as “the voice of the LORD” breaks the cedars, twists the oaks, strips the forests bare, causes the mountains to skip like frightened cattle, and shakes the Desert of Kadesh. In the ancient world, the sturdy cedars of Lebanon and the immovable mountains were symbols of strength and stability, but the thunderous voice of the LORD, accompanied by flashes of lightning, is no match for these “symbols of strength.” If the Almighty merely “lifts his voice, the earth melts” (Ps. 46:6).
Unbelievers may stand in awe of the power of this ferocious tempest, and of the destruction left in its wake, but believers will stand in awe of God. Unbelievers hear the noise of nature, while Christians hear the voice of God. Those who are ignorant of God in the storm exclaim, “Wow!” But those who see God and hear His voice cry, “Glory!” This is why after the storm, David says, “And in his temple all cry, “Glory!” (vs. 9). They sensed the presence of God in the storm.
David was so moved by the breathtaking display of the glory of God in the thunderstorm that he began this Psalm by calling upon the angels of heaven to join him in worship:
“Ascribe to the LORD, O mighty ones (i.e., angels),
ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.
Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;
worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness” (vv. 1-2).
David knew he would find a kindred spirit in the angels who live in the presence of God, because they see the glory of God more clearly than humans do. When we get even a glimpse of the glory of God, we want all the inhabitants of heaven and earth to worship with us. Solo worship is insufficient.
After the storm had passed, we read: “The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; the LORD is enthroned as King forever” (vs.10). A storm of this magnitude would often result in localized flooding. However, it’s significant that the Hebrew word for flood here is never used except when referring to the flood of Noah in Genesis. Moreover, many scholars believe that sits (NIV) is better translated sat (NASB). Therefore, verse ten probably means: The LORD sat enthroned over the Genesis flood, He continues to sit enthroned, and will do so as King forever. James Boice says, “[T]he last stanza speaks explicitly of the voice of God in judgment. It is telling us that a final storm of judgment is coming. It warns people to get ready, using the thunderstorm as a powerful image. The only ones who will be ready for that judgment are God’s people, to whom the Lord ‘gives strength’ and ‘blesses…with peace’” (vs. 11; James Boice, Psalms, Vol. 1, p. 259).
To better appreciate this Psalm, Charles H. Spurgeon suggests reading it “beneath the black wing of tempest, by the glare of the lightning… The verses march to the tune of thunderbolts. God is everywhere conspicuous, and all the earth is hushed by the majesty of His presence.”
Pastor Wayne Christensen, www.foxlakechurch.org, Dec. 13, 2015