It is midnight. The people of Israel lay in peaceful rest, when all, with one accord, rise at the startling crack of thunder above their heads. A great and terrifying storm has formed during the night. The powerful rumble of thunder shakes the walls of every house in Jerusalem, and the commotion in the heavens has both man and beast unsettled. The rain pours down in a forceful flood and the streets soon flow like rivers of water up to the entrance of every house. The people grow more concerned through the night as the damaging storm persists in its violence. Raised above the city, a restless king sits in his chambers, observing the tempest from the window. With the light of the constant flashing from the sky, he dips his pen in ink and writes
“Ascribe to the LORD, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness. The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the LORD, over many waters. The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty. The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars; the LORD breaks the cedars of Lebanon. He makes Lebanon to skip like a calf, and Sirion like a young wild ox. The voice of the LORD flashes forth flames of fire. The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness; the LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh. The voice of the LORD makes the deer give birth and strips the forests bare, and in his temple all cry, “Glory!” The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; the LORD sits enthroned as king forever. May the LORD give strength to his people! May the LORD bless his people with peace!” (Psalm 29:1-11).
The twenty-ninth psalm is so exciting. Forgive me, as I have taken liberties to set the scene for the writing of this song. I was not there when David penned this song, and I do not know the exact situation that inspired him, but the story I gave is the image I have in my head when I read this powerful song.
The psalm envisions a scene of a disastrous storm that causes great anxiety on the people. But the psalmist does not lose focus on the Lord who is in control but fixes himself on God. The song describes the Lord’s voice as manifested in the thunder and presiding over the rain and floodwaters (v.3). His voice is further envisioned as the thunderbolts strike the great cedar trees and they crack apart, they crash to the ground, and are on fire by the power of God (v.5, 7). Again, God opens His mouth and by the mighty force of the storm, the earth leaps up and shakes (v.6, 8), the forests are stripped bare by the force of wind, quake, and lightening (v. 9, 7), and animals in fright of the violence in the earth and skies are driven into labor and give birth (v.9). All the while, the Lord “sits enthroned over the flood” (v.10). He is neither shaken, nor disturbed, but reigns over all, and control is only in His hands.
This storm is to be understood in two ways, both literally and symbolically. The literal consideration is easy to see, we have already spent time imagining a great storm that would force the psalmist to witness the powerful display of God’s glory. I hope that this is also the direction that our minds go to when we witness displays of God’s power in this world. If not, it should be, for the Christian’s consciousness of God should always be forefront in every situation.
The psalmist did not mean for us to understand the song as literal only. The latter verses set up the figurative meaning as well and force us to read the psalm all over again with a new lens and a symbolic consideration. The storm described in the song now seems to have subsided and the faithful people sing “Glory” (v.9). Over the violent storm, the Lord sat as King (v.10). The Lord always sits as King. “May the LORD give strength to his people! May the LORD bless his people with peace!” During the storm, He will give strength to His people. And after the clouds are driven away, He will give them peace.
All of mankind will face many storms in this life, including the faithful, but we cannot forget how mighty, and how glorious our God is. When we feel everything to be spinning out of control and our world is shaken off its axis, we must remember that the Lord is enthroned above with a calm and steady hand. He cannot be shaken. Remember His power, He can give strength to His people (v.11). Remember His love, He can bless His faithful ones with peace (v.11).
Article by Tanner Campbell