In psalm 29 we come across our first praise psalm. Up to this point we have seen many prayer psalms and some psalms declaring the outcomes of the righteous and the wicked. This psalm is also truly poetic in the way the psalm evokes our senses and opens our imaginations to the greatness of the Lord. As we read this psalm, try to visualize all that is being described and consider your overall impressions that you get from its reading.
I. Glory In the Highest (29:1-2)
A. Give unto the Lord
- The psalmist begins with the threefold call to “give unto the Lord.” First, give unto the Lord, O you mighty ones. Our immediate question is: who are the mighty ones? The English Standard Version and the New Revised Standard Version give their understanding of this passage when they read, “Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings.” With this idea, these translators believe that this passage is referring to the spiritual hosts of heaven. The same phrase “mighty ones” is found in Psalm 89:6 where it is clearly referring to the spiritual hosts in the heavens. This is apparently a legitimate understanding of this phrase because a different Hebrew phrase is used to describe the mighty ones of the earth. However, some argue that this is speaking about the mighty ones in power on the earth. In either case, David’s call is that all of God’s creation is to give unto the Lord.
- Second, give unto the Lord glory and strength. David declares our need to give God glory because of who He is. I find it interesting that David does not state any reasons why this ought to be done. It ought to be evident to us that God, by His very essence is deserving of our glory and the giving of our strength. The giving of strength implies that we are required as His creation to work for the Lord. We are asked to give our effort and might for the cause of the Lord.
- Third, give unto the Lord the glory due to His name. God is worthy and requires our glory based upon His authority. We may have a difficult time with the phrase “His name.” David is not saying that since His name is God, we must glorify Him. Rather, David is saying that it is the authority He carries as God that causes us to glorify Him. Consider the statement in Acts 2:38 that we are to baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. What “in the name of” means in Acts 2:38 is we are baptized by the authority of Jesus Christ to receive forgiveness of sins. So, here in Psalm 29, David is saying we are glorifying God because of His authority due to who He is.
B. Worship the Lord
- David concludes this section of glory to God by declaring our need to worship the Lord in the majesty of holiness. Some have suggested that David is calling for the priests to put on their holy garments to go worship the Lord. However, I think there is something more here than just a call to the priests to go to worship the Lord in the manner they always worshipped.
- David is describing the beauty and majesty of holiness. We understand that God stands in the beauty of holiness. God is pure and separate from all that is evil and unjust. In fact, of all the aspects that are praised of God in the spiritual places, it is holiness that is always magnified. In Isaiah 6:3 we see the seraphim crying out to another saying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory.” In Revelation 4:8 we read the four living creatures do not rest day and night saying, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” We see all the spiritual hosts worshipping God in the splendor of the holiness of God. When we worship the Lord, we must be in awe of God’s holiness. It was a lack of reverence for God’s holiness that led to the deaths of Nadab and Abihu. Our worship is only pleasing to God and will only be found acceptable to God if we are appreciate His holiness.
- But, as worshippers, we are required to worship God in holiness. “Therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1). We are to be without spot or blemish as we are presented in the beauty of the bride prepared for her groom. We are to work to become beautiful in the eyes of God through the grace of Jesus Christ. Without personal holiness, we cannot give to the Lord all that David is calling for us to give.
II. The Voice of the Lord (29:3-9)
A. Power of God’s voice
- We now come to the part of this psalm where we are to sit back and envision the power that is being described to us. After declaring our need to worship God in His majesty, David begins to describe for us the majesty of the Lord.
- The voice of the Lord is pictured as a thunderstorm moving over the face of the waters. Is it not interesting that this does not describe other characteristics of the Lord? David is not trying to tell us about how strong or powerful He is. Rather, David is describing the word of the Lord or the voice of the Lord. Of course, as we will notice, we see the voice of the Lord described with strength and might. This concept of the voice of God as a storm is seen clearly at the end of verse 3, “The God of glory thunders.“
- Elihu, in his speech to Job, noted the voice of the Lord as a thunderous, majestic sound in Job 37:1-5. God uses the power of His creation to get us to think about His own power. This is evident in Exodus 20 where we read about God speaking the ten commandments to the people. Exodus 20:18-19 says, “Now all the people witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood afar off. Then they said to Moses, ‘You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.‘” This incident communicates to us the power of the voice of the Lord.
- This is exactly what we read in Psalm 29:4, “The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.” How the sound of thunder has made us jump in surprise! It is as if the scriptures want us to think about the voice of the Lord when we see lightning and hear thunder. As powerful as these things are, they are merely the voice of the Lord and do not represent the complete power of God. If God’s voice is thunder and lightning, how much more is the strength of God’s hands!
- When we come to the New Testament, we do not read about the voice of the Lord except for describing what happened in the Old Testament. As Hebrews 1:1-3 points out, God has now spoken to us by His Son Jesus Christ and we need to see the same power in the word of God that we have in our hands. It is this very power the writer of Hebrews was trying to communicate when he said, “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). God’s word, the voice of God, is powerful and is able to cut through to the core.
B. Destructiveness of God’s voice
- This is the next concept we read in Psalm 29:5. The voice of the Lord is not only powerful, but it is also destructive. The voice of the Lord breaks into pieces the cedars of Lebanon. This is no small activity. The cedars of Lebanon are known for their great size.
- There is nothing on the earth nor created by God that He cannot break. Even the great cedars in their majesty can be cut into mere pieces by the sounding of God’s voice. This is exactly what we were reading in Exodus 20, for as the voice of the Lord spoke, the mountain was shaken and the whole assembly of Israel trembled at His voice.
- The shaking of the mountains is seen in Psalm 29:6 as Lebanon and Sirion skip like a young wild ox. The mountains of Lebanon rise over 10,000 feet above sea level. These are majestic mountains that are being called into mind, similar to the grandeur of our Rocky Mountains. God’s voice can shatter the mountains. Oh, how we see the power of God expressed.
- The destructive imagery continues in verse 7, “The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.” Hebrews 12:29 says, “For our God is a consuming fire.” Fire is always used to describe God’s judgments. We read of Sodom and Gomorrah being destroyed by raining fire. The devil and his angels will be cast in the lake of fire. Hell is described as place of eternal fire. The eyes of the Lord are usually described as flames of fire (Revelation 1). David brings to our minds the great power of in the voice of the Lord.
- Further, not only does the voice of the Lord shake the mountains and the great cedars of Lebanon, but also the wilderness. Even in the vast plains of emptiness, God’s voice is felt. No one can escape the reach of God’s voice. So frightening is the voice of the Lord that we see His voice makes animals give birth and strips the forests bare.
- This seems to be David’s overall picture and point. The voice of God is over the sea, shakes the mountains, and shakes the wilderness. There is no place to be free from the voice of the Lord. All of God’s creation is trembling, including the animals.
C. Glory in the temple
- But then we come to the end of verse 9, “And in His temple everyone says, ‘Glory!‘” As you have read this psalm up to this point, what seems to be the temple of God? Remember that there was not the physical temple of God in the days of David, since his son was the one who constructed that. It seems that the temple of the Lord in this passage is the heavens and the earth.
- “Thus says the Lord: ‘Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build Me? And where is the place of My rest?’” (Isaiah 66:1). In fact, two verses later Isaiah says that God is looking for those who “tremble at His word.” If mankind could experience all that we have read thus far, there would be no doubt in my mind that every person on earth would respond, “Glory to God!” This is the kind of display I think about when I read that every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2).
- The voice of the Lord creates, as seen in Genesis 1. The power of God’s voice to speak things into existence. The voice of the Lord carries great authority that there is nothing which would refuse His words. We do not see animals, plants, seas, light, sky or anything else in creation argue with God. When the voice of the Lord is heard, then the words are accomplished. Our response to the voice of the Lord must be simply one word, “Glory!” Glory to God in the highest for the power and preeminence of God.
III. The Lord Rules (29:10-11)
A. On the throne for judgment
- Perhaps verse 10 is speaking of the effects after the storm has passed by. I feel that this is referring to more, speaking about the judgment of the great flood. God rules in judgment. God was not aside nor asleep when the flood took place.
- We can never forget one of the characteristics of God: justice. Judgment will surely come from the mouth of the Lord. The Lord rules on the throne and justice will be given to all people. This is the character of God that we often want to forget, wish away, and ignore. God will judge our actions. Consider the fury that we stand against when we are not obedient. There is no doubt “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31). The Lord rules and brings about His judgments.
B. On the throne as king
- Second, we cannot forget who is in charge. “The Lord sits as King forever.” There is no other king and there is no other ruler. A new king will not rise up if we just wait long enough. God is permanent king and we are His subjects. There is no argument with the king.
- We are not on the throne. Therefore, we are not the ones in charge. We are not the ones making the decisions. We are in a position of submission. Let us see the power of God and humbled as to submit to His will.
C. On the throne giving strength
- However, God is not a tyrant king. God does not rule in such a way as to become oppressive. God never acts without our best interests in mind. After all that we have read about the mighty power of God’s voice, we now read that the Lord will give strength to His people.
- Without God, we are lost in our sins and have so much to fear. Just as Isaiah saw the throne of God and cowered in fear because of his iniquities, so we also stand in such a position. But remember what happened after Isaiah’s declaration? A seraphim took a burning coal and touched Isaiah’s lips with it, symbolizing God’s action to make him pure so he could serve. See, God gives us the strength to serve Him even though we read that God has the power to judge and destroy us. Remember God’s words to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). We need the weaknesses in our lives so we can see we need the help of God. An easy, perfect life would not cause us to depend upon God. However, in sickness, in weakness, in trial, and in persecution we learn to let God strengthen us.
D. On the throne granting peace
- Finally, we see the Lord on the throne blessing His people and granting peace. In the midst of the storms, God brings us peace. Though life may be in turmoil, God is able to put a rainbow up to remind us of His love and His covenant toward us. A song in our books makes that reminder that there is a rainbow in the clouds. When the way seems dark, God can bring a brighter day.
- Without God, we cannot obtain the inner peace that we look for. We have a void in our lives that is seeking after God. We cannot truly be calm in our soul until we look to God as our helper. God is on the throne. Let us bow before His feet in subjection and awe for His great might and power.