I remember how storms came up during hot summer days on the prairies of Saskatchewan. It might be mid-afternoon, the sun shining brightly in the sky, the air still, and the heat a bit oppressive. Then, usually on the western horizon, a menacing dark cloud would form. In a very short time it would expand and within a few minutes ascend to fill the heavens.
It became semi-dark and the rain began to pelt the landscape. Lightning flashed like a giant’s welding torch, and these flashes were followed by thunderclaps that made the earth seem to shake. After a good drenching of the fields the storm moved on and the sun filled the sky again. Our world had been freshened.
As a child, it was one thing to be caught running for home in terror during such a pyrotechnical display. It was another thing to be sitting on the safe side of a window, attended by a parent looking out together on the magnificent demonstration of nature’s fireworks.
You might think that the description of such a storm would find no place in the worship manual of a church. Psalm 29 is built on such a description. During his fugitive days the psalmist, David, must many times have had to watch the amazing drama in the heavens from the mouth of a cave.
Here’s his experience. The storm is coming in from the Mediterranean Sea: “The voice of the Lord is over the waters…” In fact, “the mighty waters” (v.3).
It’s moving inland over Lebanon where it exerts its enormous strength on a few of the mighty cedars of that region, snapping some of them as though they were spindly pines (v.5). And as wind-driven sheets of rain wash across the forest, bending trees in unison, they remind him of a playful, skipping calf (v.6a).
The storm then drives further inland and toward the south where it shows it’s force over towering Mount Hermon (Sirion). Again it appears to skip playfully, but here like a young wild ox (verse 6b).
Driving southward it washes over the desert in the southern regions of Kadesh, where it seems without effort to twist the oaks and strip the forests bare (v. 9).
How should a devout observer consider such a demonstration of nature’s power? As the nasty work of some malevolent force? As nothing more than the unfeeling tricks of nature? As the business of Baal whom the Canaanites worshiped as the storm god? None of the above.
Rather, the sight filled the psalmist with an impulse to call all the unseen heavenly beings to praise the Almighty: “Ascribe to the Lord, O mighty ones,/ 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)
His closing words are no less exultant: “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” (vv. 10,11).
To enter the spirit of Psalm 29 is to enlarge our vision of our God. We worship him while the wind blows and the thunder rumbles. He is God over the storms; he is God over all; he is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.