This is a Psalm of praise that manages to cover the work of the Lord from the realms of the angels to the skies to the seas, the forests and deserts, and in the temple. That is an ambitious scope, and somehow the Psalmist achieves it in just eleven verses!
The Psalm begins with a kind of “call to worship,” summoning the heavenly beings (i.e., angels) to ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary reminds us that to ascribe is to attribute, assign, impute or credit some quality, cause or authorship to someone. So the primary task of the angels here is worship of the Creator of all that exists.
The sheer poetry of this passage inspires worship of the Lord, whose very voice is heard thundering over the waters, breaking the cedars of Lebanon, shaking the desert. When the Lord speaks, all creation leaps and quakes in response!
The imagery is striking. It evokes the power of tornadic intensity: The voice of the Lord twists the oaks and strips the forests bare.
Then there is the line And in his temple all cry, “Glory!” Is the temple described here nature and the world itself, or is it the temple in Jerusalem? And if it is the temple in Jerusalem, it evokes in my mind a congregation gathered in the temple as though they are cringing and hiding from the terrifying voice of the Lord. The cry “Glory!” seems almost an involuntary cry from the depths of the communal soul of the people.
Finally, the Psalmist describes the Lord as King, enthroned over the flood; the Lord is enthroned as King forever. However, for all the terrifying power of God, the Psalmist acknowledges the Lord’s merciful regard for his people – The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace. The great and awesome God can also be tender and generous with his people.
This Psalm doesn’t leave that open to us. We are reminded of the power and might of God. We worship God for God’s sake, not for our own. The gifts of strength and peace are almost an afterthought – but only when we put them in perspective with all of the characteristics of an awesome God.
There are times in my own life that worship transcends what happens in church on Sunday . Sometimes, when I’m on a hike and the sun is shimmering on the lake, or the wind is causing the tree limbs in the forest to whirl, or even simply watching the setting sun over the Mississippi Delta, I find myself declaring, “Glory!”
We must gather “in the temple” with the people of God to worship; but even nature itself can be a call to worship!
Lord, how often have I heard your voice in the howling wind, and in the lightning strikes seen your power! I hesitate to ascribe the devastation of tornadoes and storms to your will, but I know that you have created all of the conditions in our world that have such mighty power in them. Thank you for your strength and your peace. Amen.
PHOTOS: “Psalm 29-2”, “Psalm 29-11”, and “Psalm 29-5” by Dr. Johnson Cherian are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic license.