I will never experience a thunderstorm in the same way again.
I’ve spent some time this week in Psalm 29, which is a riveting description of a huge storm that moves across Palestine from north to south. It makes landfall on the northern coast of the Mediterranean and rips through Israel until it finally runs out of steam at Kadesh. As David looks on in awe, possibly from a cave, thunder cracks and roars through the valleys. Lightning splinters the stately cedars of Lebanon. Howling winds strip oaks of their leaves. Billowing black clouds obscure the sun. Driving rain drenches the land and causes the wadis and rivers to overflow their banks.
In contemporary Canaanite literature, Psalm 29 would have been considered an ode to JHWH, God of the Storm–much like one would encounter in Nordic sagas or Wagner’s operas. It is far more than that.
If the Bible is the meta narrative of history–and it is–then Psalm 29 is a meta poem. Using the storm as a pallet, David paints a picture not of Mother Nature having a hissy fit, but of the eternal and sovereign Father God making a speech. The motif he uses is, “the voice of the LORD”, a phrase which is repeated six times between the initial call to worship and the closing petition. Several aspects of this psalm are particularly striking. (Please get your Bible and read Psalm 29 now so you’ll know what I am referring to, and let’s connect some dots.)
The psalm opens with an exhortation not to people, but to angels. While it might strike us as inappropriate for a human being–even King David–to be telling angels what to do, we need to keep in mind that Paul said believers would one day judge angels (1 Cor 6.3) and Peter described some Bible truths revealed to us that even the angels don’t understand. (1 Pet 1.12) In any case, David invites celestial beings to observe a fearsome terrestrial event and join the people of JHWH in ascribing to God “glory and strength”. When they appeared to the shepherds to announce Christ’s birth, these same angels shouted, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased!” (Luk 2.14) Isn’t it interesting that Psalm 29 opens with glory and closes with peace? I’m just saying…
As the storm crashes over the Holy Land, David recognizes the storm as the “voice of the LORD” and tells us what God is actually saying.
First, he is saying, “I am glorious and strong.” After such a display, the natural response of a believer should be to agree! (v. 9)
Then, he declares, “I am sovereign.” David says, “the LORD is over the waters” and “sits enthroned over the flood”. He is unaffected by the flood, not because He is on high ground, but because He is in the Highest Heaven. And just as He is above this flood, He was above the BIG FLOOD, the one that only Noah and his family survived.
Next, God says, “I am the Judge.” Though he hadn’t read 2 Peter 3, David understood that the storm and the flood are memos from God to remind us that just as He judged the world with water in Noah’s day, He will one day judge the world with fire.
God reminds us, “I am faithful.” As the storm reaches Kadesh, it peters out and one can imagine the clouds parting and a magnificent rainbow appearing in the heavens. (In the closing verse, David asks for both the strength displayed by the storm and the peace that ensues.) Genesis 9 tells us that the rainbow is God’s reminder that He will never again destroy the world with a flood. (See the 19 OCT 2010 post for some thoughts on rainbows.)
Finally, hear God say, “I am patient.” The storm ceases and peace reigns over the land. Just as “The Voice” speaks in the storm, “The Word” caused the storm to cease instantaneously on the Sea of Galilee. He who “sits enthroned over the flood”–the first flood and every flood thereafter–“is patient toward [us], not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Pet 3.9)
Charles Spurgeon, writing in response to Psalm 29 in The Treasury of David, quotes an English poet: “Tis listening fear and dumb amazement all.” Indeed.
Don’t let the next storm go unappreciated. Listen to “the voice of the LORD.”