I preached Sunday evening at the Mission and used Psalm 29 as my text. Earlier in the day we were treated to a series of rolling thunderstorms and heavy rain showers which forced three generations of the Jordan family in from the garden. In such a context the Psalm seemed appropriate.
The text of the psalm opens with a call to worship, summoning heaven and earth to join their voices to give God the glory due his name.
“Ascribe to the Lord, O mighty ones,
Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due to his name;
Worship the Lord in the splendour of his holiness.”
God’s response is heard and then seen in the progress of a thunder storm. It brews up over the Mediterranean Sea, and strikes land up in the North over the mountains in Lebanon. At first the thunder is distant and barely heard but it makes relentless progress moving south until it is directly over the heads of those worshipping in the temple. Thunder and lightning strike simultaneously in a terrifying display of power. The voice of Lord thunders, and strikes with flashes of lightning.
“The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the Lord thunders over the mighty waters.
The voice of the Lord is powerful.
The voice of the Lord is majestic.
The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
The Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,
Sirion like a young wild ox.
The voice of the Lord strikes with flashes of lightning.”
As it continues to travel, the sound and fury die away and are replaced in their turn by the strong wind which twists the oaks and strips the forests. Finally exhausted, it blows itself out over the desert in Kadesh.
“The voice of the Lord shakes the desert;
the Lord shakes the desert of Kadesh.
The voice of the Lord twists the oaks
And strips the forests bare.”
The senses of the worshippers are electrified by this powerful display and there is a spontaneous cry of praise. The opening call to join voices in worship is answered by God’s own voice in acknowledgment and the people are awestruck.
“And all in his temple cry ‘Glory!’”
The conclusion, after the violence of the storm, is the realisation that the God who speaks is overwhelmingly powerful and is able to bless his people with peace.
“The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
the Lord is enthroned as King forever.
The Lord gives strength to his people;
The Lord blesses his people with peace.”
It makes me wonder what would happen in our worship if God ever deigned to answer with a jaw-dropping display like this one.
But the Psalm also functions on another level. More of which later.