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

Saved from futility

‘What’s the use?’ We’ve probably heard that said, or said it ourselves. Nothing’s working and our time’s being wasted.

An old Greek myth tells the story of Sisyphus who is punished by being made to push a stone up a hill, only to have it roll down again when he nearly gets to the top. And he must do this forever! We now call a job that’s laborious and useless ‘sisyphean’.

That’s what life in this world is like—without God. Useless. And Christians have been saved from the futile ways we learn in this world (Ephesians 4:17-20).

In times past young believers were worshipping idols. And, of course, calling something a god when it can’t hear, think or act is futile. Nothing is going to happen by talking to it or offering it a bribe.

And the kind of life that grows from worshipping idols is also futile. There is nothing above us to lift us up. There is only a recycling of the mess we are already in.

Our own world dismisses giving reverence to God—any god. But we haven’t stopped worshipping something. We’ve been designed to look up and to be in awe of something. And people still say, ‘I just had to do that.’ It’s part of our being human to be compelled by something greater than ourselves.

If we don’t know the true God through his Son, Jesus Christ, we’ll install something in his place.

One writer (I’ve put a link to his article below) thinks self-worship is now the world’s fastest growing religion. This ‘religion’ or ideology teaches that each person’s own thinking, their emotions and choices, goals, values and creativity must determine everything else.

But then, he says, ‘When we try to be our own sources of truth, we slowly drive ourselves crazy. When we try to be our own sources of satisfaction, we become miserable wrecks. When we become our own standard of goodness and justice, we become obnoxiously self-righteous. When we seek self-glorification, we become more inglorious.’

Paul would say the same now as he did a long time ago. Without the true God, our understanding is darkened, not enlightened. It’s ignorant, not informed. It’s hard hearted, not sensitive.

It’s into this situation that God sends Jesus to live, and die, and rise again. He has come to lift us out of all this. That’s why Peter talks about being rescued from futility (1 Peter 1:8-19). Without him, we are slaves.

If you believe that the only things that are real are physical, it may seem strange to hear your way of life called futile. That’s why it’s important to look at the light God has sent into the world.

The story is told of a rebellious sailor who is lowered down into the empty hold of his ship as punishment. He has no light, no company. Only bread a water let down on a rope each day. Several days go by and the sailor defies the call to change his ways and return to the deck. So, the captain lowers a lamp down instead of the food.

Now, the sailor can see his surroundings—the filth and the vermin, and himself as part of it all. Quickly he asks to be pulled up out of his prison.

The way we are brought up, the way of life around us, seem normal. We can become accustomed to shallowness, to lies, and lust, and hollow laughter. Until, that is, we see Jesus Christ.

The only way to be freed from the futility of this world is for someone to pay for us—to be bought like a slave. And then be set free. That’s what ‘redeemed’ means in what Peter says.

God knows we are in the dark. He also knows we like being in the dark. We think it’s the only way to stay in control of our lives.

But then, God lets us see how bitter we have become—by letting us human beings kill his Son. He lets us see the meaning of love by his Son asking for us to be forgiven. He shows us there is a new way by raising his Son from death. We can begin to hope.

This is what it means to be ‘redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors…with the precious blood of Christ’.

All that the world has when it doesn’t want God is cravings.

Interestingly, one of the world’s religions—Buddhism—is focused on shutting down desire because it is the source of all our unhappiness. But desire is part of being alive! We want things. That’s what gets us up in the morning. It’s what makes us work hard and take risks.

What makes desire a problem is that we do not have God as our Father. Nothing we get is ever enough. It wasn’t meant to be enough. Only God can be ‘enough’. Under him, our desires are governed. Without him, they become insatiable.

We try to have a full life by letting rip with whatever we want. But without God, we generate endless unrest. We find ourselves yearning for what isn’t ours, or boasting about what we’ve done (1 John 2:15-17). But it’s all a temporary ‘fix’. If it doesn’t come from the Father, it won’t last. It’s futile.

But then, what if we come to know God as our Father? Our passions are under his care. We listen to what he says. We copy the way of life lived by his Son. We have something that will last forever. It begins to feel solid—even in this world. It’s not futile. We’ve be rescued.

It doesn’t take much experience, and honesty, to recognise that something isn’t solid just because we can see it. Why not, every time to find yourself getting fond of this world, taking another look at Jesus, and what he has done. Ask why he took so much trouble to show us what’s real. Ask if you can afford to give your life for what is passing away.

You can hear my talk on this topic at

Article: Self Worship is the world’s fastest growing religion; Thaddeus Williams