Psalm 29: The Voice of the Lord!
The voice of the Lord is over the water, (3)
The voice of the Lord is power; (4)
The voice of the Lord is splendor; (4)
The voice of the Lord cracks the cedars; (5)
The voice of the Lord strikes with fiery flame (7)
The voice of the Lord rocks the desert; (8)
The voice of the Lord twists the oaks and strips the forest bare! (9)
God’s Voice in Nature
How many of you have been in a tornado? Most, I would guess. I don’t live in the tornado belt but I have certainly seen my share of storms. I remember one summer when my children were small and we were staying at my parents’ cottage in Houghton Lake. We had gone over to my brother’s cottage, a simple A-Frame on Lake St. James, for the afternoon to swim when a storm approached. There being no basement, I gathered my three children around me and sat against the middle wall where we could look out the sliding doors and watch the storm. We watched the dark clouds and the crashing lightning and heard the clash of thunder all around us. It was a source of wonder.
When the storm finally passed, we packed our car and went back to my parents’ cottage. On the way we had a chance to see the full damage of the storm. Even though the radio announcer claimed no tornado had been sighted, we saw trees torn up by the roots, up-ended, power lines knocked down. It took almost a week before power was restored. I was reminded of this event as I reflected on Psalm 29. The voice of the Lord cracks the mighty cedars, the voice of the Lord up-ends the mighty oaks of Michigan. It twists the maple and the birch leaving them stripped of leaves. Such is the power of the voice of God.
Psalm 29 is likely to be an early psalm, reflecting the majesty of God in nature, especially the storm. It begins with an introduction calling all to worship: Give to the Lord the glory due his name; it calls to all creation, especially all of the heavenly beings. Then it expands on the wonders of our God whose voice is so powerful that all say, “Glory.” The KJV translation says that the voice of the Lord causes the hinds to calf, to give birth out of fear (9) such is its power.
The psalm ends with the reminder that our God is in the heaven, all is right in the world. Despite the fearsomeness of the storm, God’s people need not fear.
Psalms as Dramatic Readings
I imagine this as a dramatic reading with clanging cymbals and drums each time the priest declares “The voice of the Lord.” The psalms are dramatic words of God’s people. They are not meant to be read in a lifeless monotone. While I did not see any indication of such a dramatic acting out of the psalm in the commentaries I read, I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to imagine that David who danced before the Lord, or Miriam who danced with timbrel and tambourine, might act out this reading with great dramatic force, re-enacting the sound of thunder and the storm. The priest would read with great effect, stirring the people to wonder at our God who commands the wind and the rain and the storm, and yet feeling safe within God’s temple, as I hope my children felt safe within my protecting arms during the storm.
The voice of the Lord is proclaimed seven times. This is no chance occurrence. Seven is the perfect number in numerology, representing the perfection of God. It is a combination of four, the four ends of the earth, and three, the Trinity.
Our God is far too awesome for us to imagine. God is found in nature, in worship, in the wind of the Spirit, and in Jesus, God in human form – for God so loved the world
The Beauty of God’s Voice
John O’Donohue, in his book Beauty: The Invisible Embrace, finds beauty in music, color, dance, imagination, attraction, even death. He explores the forms of beauty found in places, things, events and experiences. In the end he states it is not a question of what beauty is, but “who” beauty is. God is beauty. He states, “At the heart of beauty must be huge care and affection for creation, for nowhere is beauty an accidental presence. Nor is beauty simply its own end. It is not self-absorbed but points beyond itself to an embrace of belonging that holds everything together.” (p. 193) Beauty pulls us beyond ourselves; it gladdens our heart yet makes us lonely as we long for that “Other” that is beyond us. It both is God and points to God. God’s voice is beautiful.
The Voice of the Lord Brings Peace
The voice of the Lord is powerful. His word is a fire that burns, that can destroy or purify, that can bring new life. His voice is also gentle as a summer breeze bringing healing and comfort; it is the caring words of a father or mother over a child as Paul tells us in Romans (8:14-17).
The end of Psalm 29 reminds us that God is king, God rules over the world; then there is a blessing prayer: “May the Lord give strength to his people! May the Lord bless his people with peace!” The voice of the Lord strengthens us, but his final word is peace, more powerful than thunder and lightning, a peace the world cannot give, only God can give. And so we pray for peace, for in the end it is peace that will prevail. Everything else will pass away but God’s word will not pass away.
May the voice of the Lord bless you with peace.
This post is part of a series of blog posts on the Psalms. Sign up to follow this blog and and receive a free copy of Still Dancing, the second book in my Dancing through Life Series. click here to sign up
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