Being in awe of God—Psalm 29

Most of this psalm describes the awesome noise and effects of violent weather events. These storms gather over the Lebanese mountains with a ferocity that can demolish the massive oak trees that grow there. The tempests travel south over Israel and then crash over the Kadesh wilderness south of Israel. They can create a flood, startle a pregnant deer into birthing, or strip a forest bare.

David knows the awesome power of these storms—their thunder, lightning and floods. He’s been exposed to their raw power. And in these experiences, he knows he’s hearing God speak.

Worship does not come naturally to us sinners. We can be full of ourselves and not aware that everything around us is made by God. Everything belongs to him. He’s still in charge of everything. And we need his protection and blessing if we want to live truly.

Sometimes, it takes the unmanageability of our environment or circumstances to realise that we are not in charge. The great one in our world is God. And he speaks.

Other psalms encourage us to call on God to be saved from storms like this, but here, we are being encouraged to hear God speaking in the events we can’t control.

Note that David calls God, the LORD—the one bonded to ancient Israel in a covenant. He doesn’t need a lifetime of sunny days to know that God is good. He looks at circumstances through the lens of what God has already done for his people, and what he has promised to do in the future.

The same is true for us. We know that God is good because he gave us his Son, and forgiveness, and eternal life. We certainly don’t need to see difficulties as punishment for sin. That’s over!

But we can tremble when that natural world seems to be breaking apart.

Nothing can quieten the din of storms, or prevent the damage they leave in their wake. We may be terrified. We can only wait until they are over. Our self-importance shrinks.

But now, look at the beginning and end of this psalm.

David begins, not by offering his own praise but by asking angels to worship the Lord. (Sons of God are angels in 89:6; angels are also asked to worship in 103:20; 148:2). Worship of God is core business. Every creature needs to be involved.

These angels are not affected by our weather, but they see what happens here. They are appointed as servants to our needs. They will listen if we ask them to worship with us. There are dressed in holiness. They see God face to face. Perhaps they can do justice to the praise due to God. As one of our hymns says, ‘Angels helps us to adore him. You behold him face to face.’

And then, David ends with a prayer. May the Lord give his people strength, and bless them with peace. Without these gifts, we languish, and the world perishes. But then, if God reigns over the flood—of whatever kind—he is able to send strength for our tasks, and peace in our trials.

Our God does reign. His Son has been raised from the dead, and been given authority over everything in heaven and on earth. We can be assured we are heard when we cry to him, and that he will give us strength and peace.

There’s usually one big flood in mind when the Bible mentions a flood—the one in Noah’s day. Certainly, God reigned over that flood. And everyone who belongs to Christ is protected when God sends judgement. That’s what Isaiah tells us (Isa. 54:9). We’re not merely exposed to the elements. We’re in God’s ‘ark’.

So, let’s pray.

Holy Father we languish and are starved when we think only of what we can see and control. You have made us to be in awe of you, to know you, to love you. To cry out, ‘Glory!’

Lord, you are worshipped by multitudes of angels. Expand our affections to ‘see’ what they see, to tremble where they tremble and to give our undivided attention to your glory.

Thank-you for humbling us—exposing us to the raw power of your creation and weaning us from preoccupation with how great we are. Help us be attentive to you and your works. Expand our affections. Deepen our humility before you.

Father, we know that everything you do is so we may know your strength—to be strong in the knowledge of your power. And that we may know your peace—because our hearts are fixed on you. Lord, fulfill this purpose in us, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen