RPM, Volume 15, Number 7, February 10 to February 16, 2013

The Voice of the Lord

Psalm 29

By D. Marion Clark


I first preached this sermon to my congregation in Florida. At that time two hurricanes had struck the state — Hurricane Charley, then hurricane Frances, which passed over our community. Florida had never been hit by two such powerful storms in the same season. We were then facing the likelihood of Hurricane Ivan coming on shore as well. It would not be long before a fourth — Hurricane Jeanne — would also come, it also hitting our community. With such displays of the power of nature, it seems appropriate to turn to Scripture to provide us with lessons from nature's storms. You may not have had to face hurricanes lately, but all of us have, and will, face our share of storms in our lives.


1 Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
2 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.

David calls out to the angels of heaven to worship God. Why the angels? For one reason, he is looking up heavenward into the sky. The "heavens" are thundering, and he, a mere mortal, is too small to offer to God the true worship that belongs to him in this circumstance.

In these verses, David defines worship: it is ascribing (attributing) to God his true worth. "Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength…the glory due his name." One definition I was given for worship is that it is our expressing our love for God. Certainly worship involves such expression. But David's definition is better. Since worship is the worship of God, we are to offer to him what he wants, which is to be glorified for who he is. Thus, we are to offer the glory "due his name." That includes expressing love, but it takes us further to knowing his majestic and holy traits, and then exalting him by calling these traits forth in his praise.

We are also told today that worship should address the felt-needs of the worshipper. David might actually have agreed with that idea, except he would have missed the point. This storm that David witnesses draws forth from him the yearning, the felt-need to give God his due. The storm is declaring to him the glory of God and he feels the need to ascribe to God the glory due his name. This is not the first time that nature has such an impact upon him.

In Psalm 19, David writes:
1 The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
2 Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.
3 There is no speech or language
where their voice is not heard.
4 Their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.

How many times did David worship God while out in the fields with his sheep or camping in the mountains? The stormy heavens are declaring God's glory to David now, and what he beholds is the "splendor of God's holiness."

What does David see? The impression given is that he is watching a storm coming up from the Mediterranean, a common sight. He pictures the storm's path hitting north in the mountains of Lebanon, then moving southward over Mt. Hermon in the northern portion of Israel, and finally either in the southernmost wilderness region or perhaps an area about midway down in a desert region. Whatever the exact locations, the imagery is a storm over water, crossing the mountains, and finishing up in the desert. Let's follow that path.

3 The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the Lord, over many waters.

Can you hear the thunder that resonates over the waters? This is imagery we can identify with. We easily imagine thunder as the voice of God for two reasons. One is that it comes to us from "heaven," up in the sky; the other is the deep, deafening, even terrifying sound that thunder makes. How many of us have heard the crack of a lightening bolt nearby and then started running as fast as we could for shelter? Or we hear it from afar as an ominous sound that stirs a sense of foreboding of the approaching power. Once, when Jesus was in Jerusalem, he prayed aloud to God, "Father glorify your name." God actually replied, "I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again." Then we are told, "The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered" (John 12:27ff).

The psalm continues:
4 The voice of the Lord is powerful;
the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.

The voice of the Lord is powerful, but it is not a mere display of brute strength. The voice of the Lord is majestic. The storm represents God as king over creation, moving forth as a king upon a great chariot. Psalm 104 has a wonderful depiction of such a scene:

He makes the clouds his chariot
and rides on the wings of the wind.
He makes winds his messengers,
flames of fire his servants (Psalm 104:3-4).

David is looking at that chariot of clouds now; he exalts his king as he draws near. Surely his heart begins to beat rapidly as he watches the messengers and servants of God serve their king.

5 The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
6 He makes Lebanon to skip like a calf,
and Sirion like a young wild ox.
7 The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.

The storm moves over the forest-covered mountains of Lebanon and northern Israel. Lebanon was renowned for its large cedar trees, which were a symbol of great might in the ancient world. Well, the voice of the Lord breaks the cedars like match sticks. He makes Lebanon's mountains, and Sirion (Mt. Hermon) "skip," so shaken are they by the storm's fury.

8 The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;
the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
9 The voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth
and strips the forests bare,

The storm moves on into the wilderness area, shaking the desert and twisting and stripping trees. The ESV and other translations have "makes the deer give birth." The NIV and footnotes in the ESV have "twists the oaks." The Hebrew verb depicts a writhing type action, which could depict the act of labor. The Hebrew word for "oaks" could be translated "deer" depending upon the vowels put between the Hebrew consonants. Hebrew does not have vowels. How would you read this sentence? "Do you like those pnts?" Like what? Pants, pints, peanuts? Twisting oaks seems more in keeping with the imagery.

We saw similar devastation in Florida. Where I was the hurricanes had turned to tropical storms. Even then, there was no area in and around the city that did not have fallen trees — oak, pine, and cedar. The areas that of the state that received the full force of the hurricanes were devastated. Many of you have seen the effects of powerful storms. I remember driving to my hometown in South Carolina after Hurricane Hugo had struck and seeing stretches of pine forests along the highway whose trees were snapped in half. In Florida, we've seen mobile homes twisted into wreckage; houses crushed by trees; roofs peeled off, and more.

What is the response of David to this powerful storm? and in his temple all cry, "Glory!"

Perhaps David is thinking of the temple in Jerusalem where the people are worshipping during the storm; perhaps he is thinking of the heavenly temple and its congregation of angels. Whatever the case, for David the power and majesty of God as displayed in the storm draws forth from him the ardent desire to cry out, "Glory!" And it can't be limited to him alone, not for the exaltation of God. David can't limit the worship of God's glory to his single experience. He doesn't reduce worship to him being alone with God. All who can; all who are God's worshippers must cry out together, "Glory!" God is the God over all creation, not merely a personal friend of each individual. Glory to the Lord, the King, who sits enthroned.

10 The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.

That massive storm of clouds, flooding the earth with rain, which shakes the very mountains and shatters the trees, is but a throne chair, or rather a footstool; for the Almighty King enthroned over the flood, over the earth, indeed, over all creation. And unlike any earthly king, he sits enthroned forever. What power can contend with his might? What amount of time will wear the eternal, unchanging God down? He is Yahweh, Jehovah. There is no one like him, no one to compare with him.

As the psalm comes to a close, perhaps the storm has passed over, and the scene about David is quiet. The air is fresh with the cool rain and breeze. And David is left renewed, recharged by his experience.

11 May the Lord give strength to his people!
May the Lord bless his people with peace!

May God give such blessing to his people. May the great, powerful King give strength to his people in their weakness. May the sovereign Lord who controls all things by his will bless his people with peace in a world that is filled with troubles.


I want to leave you with a couple of thoughts. First, understand that it is only such a God of power (and terror) who can give strength and peace. How we need to regain the sense of trembling before the Lord. How we need to learn the passion of the biblical saints who "feared the Lord." In our day, God has been reduced to a doting grandfather figure who just wants everybody to be happy.

But real peace comes when we know the holiness and righteousness of God; when we learn to tremble before him as sinners; and when we know the great power of God the Son, to take the wrath of the just King in our place and leave us with peace. Our Lord Jesus Christ has reconciled us to this Mighty King, who now, by his power, gives us strength to live for his glory. Let nature's storms raise your eyes to the greatness of your God; if you see wrath in the storm, let it display to you the wrath of God against wickedness, against your wickedness and sin; and contemplate how it was that Jesus Christ came between you and that wrath; and what you are left with is the peace that follows the storm.

The second thing to understand is that the storms of the Lord that pass over his people bring renewal, not destruction. We see that in nature, whether the earth is struck by floods or fire; the very devastation becomes an agent of renewal to the land. And just as we see now, and will see in the coming weeks, our community getting back on its feet and even becoming stronger, better prepared for future storms, so God intends for our personal storms. Nothing happens to you because God is away; he sits enthroned upon the very floods of your life. And though you may be terrified at the moment; and though you may think you can never recover, know that the Spirit of God will renew you, will make you stronger, will make you fit for the day you enter into glory.

"For the moment," says the writer of Hebrews, "all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it" (12:11). It is better to weather a storm than to go through a drought. One will bring fruit, while the other withers fruit. It is better to be stirred up by the winds, than to wilt under the sun. In the same manner, the storms that God sends will stir up our spirits, will awaken us from our spiritual slumber.

But know, that if you do not confess Jesus Christ as your Lord, your Savior; if you will not acknowledge him as enthroned over you, then you do need to fear destruction. Look at these hurricanes and contemplate the power of the Almighty God; contemplate his fury against sin. One cannot afford to ignore him, anymore than residents in the path of the hurricanes could afford to ignore the winds and rains coming upon them. Flee from the wrath to come upon the ungodly, upon all who will not bow before the Lord Jesus Christ.

Don't be like the hardened skeptics who refuse to believe the weather reports. "We've never had a storm before," they say, or, "My house will be okay." Who knows which house will still be standing? Who can predict which tree will stand or fall; or if a tree does fall, where it will land? I can tell you now; you may avoid the ill effects of one storm, but God will not be mocked; whether in this life or the next, a storm, not of renewal, but of destruction will come upon all who do not take shelter in the Rock, known as Jesus Christ.

Certainly, don't refuse the shelter provided for free. There is no cost, no waiting in line. It is provided for anyone who will come. And to stay in this shelter is not a sacrifice. For the Lord provides far more than anyone possesses in his state of sin. He provides not only shelter from the storm, but fullness of life; he provides peace, joy and hope; he pours out love. All you are called to do is call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, the only name by which you may be saved.

Finally, we can learn from the example of David. The storm that he experienced no doubt caused him to tremble before its fury. But instead of bemoaning his condition; instead of cowering before God as though the Lord was a big bully, he exulted in the majesty, in the strength, in the glory of his God and King. Let us learn to exult in the greatness of our God. Let us learn that whether the sky is blue and the suns shines peacefully down on us; or is filled with swirling clouds beating furiously against us; let us learn to glorify the Lord God Almighty. Let us ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name and worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.

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