Spring sprang on Monday in Indianapolis with powerful thunderstorms. Booming thunder rattled both windows and the souls of young and old, not to mention all of the dogs that ran for cover under their masters’ beds. More storms will surely come this spring; are you ready? Emergency preparedness experts ready us physically, but is your soul ready for them too? The Lord gave Psalm 29 to meet us at times like these; it’s a good one to memorize for the next storm that rumbles.
“The voice of the Lord” is repeated seven times in a Psalm that describes the thunder of a violent storm that moves across the land of Israel from northwest to southeast. The Psalm opens as a call to worship in light of the storm that is bearing through the region. In the Psalm, we hear the voice of God in natural revelation as it rumbles over waters, as it shakes mountains, splinters great cedars, flashes forth flames of fire, echoes across the desert, and terrifies wild beasts. Storms today do all of the same things; and they still freak people out with their raw power.
But the Psalm says that inside God’s temple, all cry “Glory!” Why? Because the power displayed is God’s power. He sits as king over it all. The most terrifying God in the universe is also the most wonderful because he uses his power to hold his people in the hollow of his hand. The Psalm concludes the account of the storm by asserting that the Lord of the storm gives strength to his people and blesses them with peace. How does he do that?
It’s helpful to consider two New Testament references at this point. Remember the reaction of Jesus’ disciples when they saw Jesus transfigured on the mountain? They hit the deck in terror when they saw his glory and heard the voice of God from heaven.
He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him’ (Matthew 17:5)
Notice that the Father’s voice that terrified them told them to listen to the voice of Jesus.
When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, ‘Rise, and have no fear.’ (Matthew 5:6-7).
When we hear the voice of God only in the storm it strikes terror. It’s also terrifying to hear the voice of God directly like the disciples did because we are sinful creatures. Only when God’s voice comes through the true temple—the true meeting place between God and man—his Son, Jesus Christ is it possible for us to have “no fear.” Even the storm becomes a comfort when we know Christ, because we know that God has directed the greatest of his power to our protection.
But there is more. How does God give strength and peace to his people? Remember Pentecost? The timid and weak disciples sat in the upper room after Jesus’ ascension. “And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues as of fire appeared and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:2-4).
Notice the echoes of Psalm 29 at Pentecost. The mighty rushing wind and the fire that fell from heaven did not bring terror, but they led to boldness that only comes through the Holy Spirit. Thunderstorms in creation terrify the natural man, but for the Christian, every clap of thunder heard overhead ought to make us acknowledge God’s power. They should remind us of Jesus at the Mount of Transfiguration and God’s work at Pentecost. In the storm, we should humble ourselves and find strength and peace in his strength.
Psalm 29 – A PSALM OF DAVID
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! (ESV)