This is a psalm of David. Hear the Word of the Lord. Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name.
Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness. The voice of the Lord is over the waters. The God of glory thunders the Lord over many waters. The voice of the Lord is powerful.
The voice of the Lord is full of majesty. The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars. The Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes Lebanon to skip like a calf and Syrian like a young wild ox. The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire. The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness. The Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh. The voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth and strips the forest bare and in His temple all cry glory. The Lord sits enthroned over the flood.
The Lord sits enthroned as King forever. May the Lord give strength to His people. May the Lord bless His people with peace.
You may be seated. Let's go to Him in prayer. Lord, You have inspired this song for the edification of Your people. Use it now, I pray, to edify us as we contemplate the power and the majesty of You, our great God, but also as we consider Your grace and gentleness towards us.
Lord, You are sovereign and You are good. Help us to keep both of these aspects of Your character always in view, and may these attributes give us the confidence and the assurance to walk through this life faithfully and in a manner that's worthy of You, our Savior and Redeemer. We pray these things in Jesus' name.
Amen. Psalm 29 is an extended call to worship. It repeatedly calls us to worship the Lord. It gives us reasons why we should worship the Lord. It even gives us motivations to worship the Lord.
So this psalm is clearly about rendering to God the worship that He deserves. We might then pause for a moment and ask ourselves, why would God include in this book of hymns for the church a hymn that reminds us to worship God? One of the principles I was taught in seminary when preparing to preach a particular text of Scripture is to ask, what sin tendency in the original audience necessitated the writing of the text that you're preparing to preach? Because that sin tendency, whatever it is, is the bridge that most immediately connects us, the modern reader, to the original recipients of any given passage of Scripture.
Regardless of the cultural or ethnic or historical differences between us and them, the thing we share in common 100% of the time is our fallen condition. And so as we read Psalm 29, we ask the question, what aspect of man's sin nature, what consequence of the fall, what area of disobedience necessitates this repeated reminder to worship the Lord? Why would God's people need to be reminded of this? Well, evidently it's because we have a worship problem. We have a problem neglecting worship or forgetting worship or misdirecting our worship.
The thing that all sons and daughters of Adam share in common is this tendency to think too highly of ourselves and too lowly of our Creator. We're forever worshiping the wrong object. And sometimes we just need to be jolted out of our idolatry by being confronted with the terrifying power of God but also with the incredible goodness of God. And Psalm 29 is just the jolt we need. So let's dive in and see what the Holy Spirit would have us here tonight. We're going to see in this Psalm first a command to worship and then we'll observe several reasons or motivations that drive us to worship.
And finally, we'll discover a promise, a blessing that is given to those who rightly worship the Lord. David begins the Psalm with a command to worship the Lord. Verse 1, ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength, ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name, worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness. Three times he uses this word ascribe.
To ascribe means to give something to someone or something. We are being commanded then to give to the Lord glory and strength. Now Scripture makes perfectly clear that God is absolutely self-existent.
He needs nothing from anyone. In what sense then can we give to Him or ascribe to Him anything, especially glory and strength? If He possesses within Himself all glory and all strength, how can our little measly ascription of worship to Him contribute anything to His being or His splendor or His magnificence?
Well, it can't. We cannot contribute anything to Him. We cannot add anything to God. The purpose of worship is never to make God somehow greater than He already is.
That would be impossible. The purpose of worship, the reason for this command is to change us, not to change God, to increase something in us, not to increase something in God. So the sort of ascribing that David is calling us to do is the kind that simply acknowledges what God already is. It's a call to recognize the Lord's glory, to recognize His strength, and to demonstrate that recognition in our own minds and affections and actions.
Now who is this command addressed to? Verse 1, it says, O heavenly beings, in the ESV. Different translations handle this phrase differently because the Hebrew is a little bit complicated. The ESV translates it heavenly beings. Others translate it as mighty ones or sons of the mighty. Another possible translation is sons of God. Whatever translation we use, what is clear is that the audience David has in mind is no ordinary group of people. These beings, whoever they are, possess prominence and power that is far above average. Maybe he has angels in mind. Perhaps he's thinking about rulers of earth, kings and princes.
Whoever they are, they are large and in charge. And yet even they are called to acknowledge the greatness of the Lord. So if even the best and most honorable among us owe worship to God, then how great must he be? I think it's very logical for David to begin by addressing this call to worship to the greatest among us because it is often, is it not, the greatest among us that are the quickest to forget the superior greatness of God. I think there's a principle for us to observe here and it's this, whatever you have been particularly blessed with, maybe it's a fun-loving personality or a phenomenal intellect, maybe it's great material wealth or physical strength, those areas in which you excel are going to be the areas where you are most vulnerable to idolatry.
Those are the areas in which you will most readily forget to worship God. And so whatever it is that I take pride in, I need to acknowledge especially at that point that God is better at it. He is fuller of it.
He is more knowledgeable in it than I am. The command then is to give conscious acknowledgement to God for his greatness, particularly in the areas in which we take the greatest self-satisfaction. Mighty ones, acknowledge that God is mightier. Wealthy ones, acknowledge that God is wealthier. Humble ones, understand that God's condescension towards his creatures far exceeds your humility.
Servants, know that God out-serves us all. And so from the greatest to the least, ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name. Well, David doesn't stop at merely commanding us to worship the Lord, he goes on in verses 3 through 9 to give us reasons to worship the Lord by highlighting several aspects of the Lord's character and actions that are intended to drive us to worship. And the first thing David points us to is the power of the Lord, the power of the Lord.
His sheer power over creation is reason enough to worship him. Verse 3 and following describe the power of God by pointing to a very specific demonstration of that power as it is displayed in the natural world. You've already noticed, I'm sure, the repeated references to the voice of the Lord. Over and over in verses 3 through 9, the voice of the Lord is mentioned. What is David referring to when he writes about the voice of the Lord?
Well, there are some clues that I think make it plain what that voice is. Verse 3, it's something that is over the waters, it's something that thunders over many waters. Verse 5, it breaks trees. Verse 7, it flashes with flames of fire. Verse 8, it shakes the earth.
Now if I were trying to get you to guess what something is and I said it's brown and furry with a bushy tail, lives in trees and it buries nuts for the winter, I'm thinking of a squirrel, right. If I said it produces thunder and knocks over trees and shakes the earth and looks like bolts of fire and tends to occur over water, you would know what I'm talking about, right? Lightning, that's right. I believe David is speaking here of literal lightning as a demonstration or an evidence of or a metaphor of God's voice. And this is a very appropriate example from nature for him to use. John Calvin points out that David could have chosen any number of natural phenomena to draw men's attention to God, but he specifically chooses aspects that tend to fill men with fear, thunder, oceans, storms, lightning. And in so doing, he gets the attention of even the most apathetic ignorers of God. So he's saying worship God.
Why? Because his voice is like thunder. It's powerful like lightning. When he speaks, things happen, terrible things, irreversible things, unstoppable things.
It's a reason to ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name. Charles Spurgeon said of lightning, he said of itself, it can do nothing. It must be called and sent upon its errand. And until the almighty Lord commissions it, its bolt of fire is inert and powerless.
As well might a rock of granite or a bar of iron fly in the midst of heaven as the lightning go without being sent by the great first cause. Spurgeon says if his voice be thus mighty, what must his hand be? So what does the voice of the Lord do?
Well, it breaks things. Look at verse five. The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars. The Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon. Lebanon's cedars were the king of cedar trees.
Cedars were the construction pillars of the ancient world used to support the most magnificent structures. But God's voice, his mere voice breaks them. Verse six, he makes Lebanon a great mountain range to the north of Israel. He makes Lebanon to skip like a calf that's been scared, that's been spooked. And Sirion, which is another name for Mount Hermon, the most prominent mountain in this Lebanon range, God's voice makes Sirion skip like a young wild ox. Folks, mountain ranges don't skip unless God's voice is involved. God shakes the mountains to the north. But notice also God shakes the wilderness to the south. Verse eight, the voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness. The Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
Kadesh was the territory at the southern border of Israel. This was the launching point, you'll remember, for the 12 men who spied out the promised land after the exodus. And so God's voice, which is a reference to his reign, his rule, his power, spans from north to south, from the mountains to the wilderness. It would be like saying in our cultural context, God's jurisdiction runs from Maine to southern California, from Washington State to Florida, from the Atlantic to the Pacific. In other words, there is no place where God's voice does not command absolute sovereign control.
And this is a reason to ascribe to him glory. Now the monstrous thing is that people see and hear and feel the power of God in nature, but they fail to ascribe glory to the one who commands nature and dictates its every move. Years ago I was working in a call center for a prominent Christian organization at a time when a major hurricane had devastated the Gulf Coast, and we were receiving thousands of calls asking for prayer and counsel and making donations for the disaster relief efforts. During the days and weeks that followed the storm, we were all given a script to read on the phone if and when a caller called and began to question why God would allow such a horrific natural disaster to occur. And the script that we were given to read asserted that God did not send the storm, that he never intended anyone to get hurt, that calamity and destruction are never his will.
I quit my job over that script. Because whether we understand God's rationale or not, his reasoning for what he does and why he does it, church, we cannot deny that there is a single drop of rain, an unpredictable gust of wind, an isolated bolt of lightning that isn't entirely and completely orchestrated and implemented by the creator of the universe. God is always the first cause, whether we're comfortable with that or not. In Isaiah 45-7, God says, I form light and create darkness. I make well-being and create calamity. I am the Lord who does all these things. Church, it is better to live with the tension of a God who does things we cannot explain than to live with the tension of a God who is not in control of all things. We reduce the weather to mere science because we don't want to grapple with the theology of lightning.
But listen to me, church. God is the great first cause of all things. The lightning is his lightning. The flood is his flood. The devil is his devil. And you and I are his creatures. We are not our own.
We belong to him who sits on the throne of the universe. If we understood these things, we would ascribe to him the glory and the strength that is due his name. Willem van Gemeren, in his excellent commentary on the Psalms, points out a cultural historical aspect of Psalm 29 that I suspect is lost on us. But this is very insightful and just glorious.
So I want to share this insight with you tonight. Van Gemeren says that in verses 3 through 9, King David is systematically assaulting Canaanite beliefs with regard to their false gods, similarly to how Moses and Aaron attacked the Egyptian pantheon during the 10 plagues episode. And David's point here in Psalm 29 is to defend the reality that Yahweh, Israel's God, is supreme to all other little g gods. In verse 3, the voice of the Lord is over the waters. Van Gemeren says the region of the sea was considered by the Canaanites to be the battleground between Yam, the god of the sea and of chaos, and Baal, the god of fertility and thunderstorms.
So two prominent Canaanite gods would duke it out at the coast to determine whether Canaan could expect prosperity or chaos. But Yahweh, David says, is over all of that. He's above it.
He's in control of it. The ocean, the weather, the fertility of the land, all of it is his jurisdiction. Next, David turns to the mountains in verse 5. Van Gemeren says the Canaanites believed that these mountains were the abode of the gods, but the god of Israel shows them scant respect by shaking the mountains and felling their trees. He is greater than any of the Canaanite deities. Finally, David turns to the wilderness area and we hear the voice of God, even in these vast desert regions where perhaps no human ears are even listening, and even there, God is speaking and in control of all things.
The world's gods are puny and petty, but our God is above them all, over them all, so worship him, ascribe to him the glory due his name. And I love how this section of Psalm 29 ends. All of this chaos and devastation and calamity is exploding everywhere at the coast and the mountains and the wilderness, but then verse 9 zooms in on Ado and her new fawn. As the trees are being struck with lightning and the wind is raging and the earth is shaking, new life is budding right there in the midst of it all. And what's amazing is that the voice of the Lord is even sovereign over that. David says the voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth and strips the forest bare. I think this unexpected scene reminds us that the violent processes of nature, everything from thunderstorms to birthing babies is under the purview of divine providence.
If it's happening, then God is in it. And if God is in all these things, then it is only fitting, verse 9, that the voices of those who worship the Lord should cry glory, weightiness, heaviness. In fact, that's all we can cry because the Lord is over us. He's above us. He's enthroned as king of the universe forever, verse 10 tells us. And so because of his power and position, we ought to worship him in the splendor of holiness. Now, up until this point, David has only pointed us to the power and position of God, his power and position as reasons to worship him.
Those reasons are certainly sufficient, but there's more to God than just his power and position. There is also mercy. There is goodness. There is grace. We've learned that God has the power to destroy sinners by fire with ease.
That he doesn't is indicative of his mercy. And we see that mercy most clearly in the final verse of Psalm 29, the verse which contains finally a promise for those who worship the Lord. Verse 11, may the Lord give strength to his people. May the Lord bless his people with peace.
And here again, the Hebrew is a little bit ambiguous. This verse could be expressing a desire, a wish that God would bless, or it could be making a statement that is actually true. For example, the King James Version, as well as the New American Standard say, the Lord will give strength to his people. The Lord will bless his people with peace. Either way, the one the psalmist is looking to and the one to whom we must look for strength and peace is God. And we can know with certainty from the rest of the promises in Scripture, from the nature of God and from the gospel itself, that he will indeed give that strength and peace to those who are his.
So ultimately, this isn't just a merely hopeful wish. It is a promise to the children of God. This God who strips the forest bare, the one whose voice shakes mountains and deserts, is a God who generously doles out strength to the weak and peace to the distraught.
I think there's a bit of unexpected irony here. This is a psalm that's predominantly about the raw power of God, a God who possesses unlimited strength. It's about small creatures knowing their place in the cosmos and giving due reverence to their superior. One would think that this preoccupation with the terrifying greatness of God would make his worshippers weak in the knees, not strong, and full of fear, not peace. But the psalm culminates with strength and peace for the worshipper.
How can this be? Well, first let me say that for many, the realization of God does end in fear and distress. For many, they see and acknowledge the incredible power of their creator, and they run and hide. In fact, that is the right response of sinners to an omnipotent and just God, to run and hide.
The problem comes, though, when sinners begin inventing hiding places and coping mechanisms of their own rather than running to the hiding place which God has provided. Many frightened sinners hide from God by running to naturalism or deism or atheism or a dozen different isms because they cannot abide the thought of an omnipotent God who actually uses his omnipotence in whatever way he chooses. Why can they not abide this reality? It's because they have been confronted with the power and position of God but have not been recipients of his grace and goodness. Their knowledge of divine sovereignty is not tempered and informed by an understanding of God's goodness. There are also those who deny reality in the opposite direction. They see the goodness of God but not his sovereignty.
They see the lightning. They're terrified by it. But rather than ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name, they pretend that God has nothing to do with it. Instead, they fabricate a God of their own liking, a God who exists to serve them and comfort them and do their bidding, a God who possesses no real glory or strength at all but who simply provides a distraction from the unbearable cruelties of a fallen world. Church, both of these coping mechanisms, denying God or redefining God, are wrong because both of them fail to ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name. God is sovereign and not just over flowers and butterflies but also over tornadoes and hurricanes. But this same God is also gracious and wise and good to the contrite of heart.
He is the God who causes the deer to give birth and the God who gives strength to his people and blesses them with peace even in the midst of the raging storm. My oldest two kids were very young. They were going to bed one night as a storm was brewing outside and the younger one said to the older, I'm scared of the thunder, to which the older one said, you don't need to be afraid of the thunder, it's the lightning that will kill you. Needless to say, that did not alleviate the fear of the younger child. There is a right way and a wrong way to alleviate fear. The world alleviates fear and guilt through a denial of the truth, a suppression of the truth, but the child of God alleviates fear and guilt through an unswerving acknowledgement of the truth but in the context of a relationship of grace with their Creator through Jesus Christ. You see, there is no real comfort in denying the fact that lightning will kill you. The comfort comes from the fact that there is a wise God who controls the lightning and a gracious God who in the sinner's stead expended his lightning bolt of judgment on his own son. You see, both the faithful and the heathen hear the same storm but the faithful hear the Lord's voice in it and above it while the heathen simply hear the fearful sounds of judgment. I hope that we're beginning to see the two-pronged truth here in Psalm 29 that God is both sovereign and good, omnipotent and gracious. There is no consolation for the sinner if God is only sovereign. Neither is there any consolation for the sinner if God is only loving. There is only consolation for the sinner if God is both sovereign and gracious, able and willing to rescue the sinner.
Brothers and sisters, God is both. He is simultaneously the Lord of the lightning and the giver of grace. And so there is consolation for all who joyfully and in faith ascribe to him the glory due his name.
So how should we practically avail ourselves of this consolation? Let me mention as we close three lessons that we should learn and implement in light of Psalm 29. First of all, we need to understand that there is a direct correlation between our worship of God and the peace that we have from God, a correlation between our worship of God and the peace we have in God. The Psalm begins with the command to worship.
It concludes with a divine blessing of peace and strength. So as goes our worship of God, so goes the peace that we have in God. If we fail to recognize his greatness and grace, we will to some measure forego the peace and strength that could be ours.
So are you lacking in strength for the challenges that come up in your life? Is the peace of conscience that Scripture promises missing in your life? Then you have a worship problem. You need to begin training yourself to ascribe due credit to God, to properly acknowledge his involvement and his prominence. Secondly, I would exhort us to be listening for his voice, to be listening for his voice. This Psalm reminds us that God's voice is speaking in creation, the lightning and thunder, the changing of seasons, the beauty, the terror, the unpredictability, the predictability of nature. All of these things are ways in which God speaks, in which God puts his power and glory on display. The question is, are we listening? Are we looking for those demonstrations of God's power and providence?
Because if we aren't listening, we'll never hear. Not only is God's voice heard in his works of creation, it's also heard in his works of providence. The circumstances that affect your life, the people that come in and out of your life, your health, your job, your struggles, your joys, all of these things are being governed by a God who does all things well. Take note of the circumstances of your life and acknowledge that these too are demonstrations of God's glory and strength. And finally, I would exhort us to understand that merely recognizing that God's works of creation and providence come from him is not sufficient.
Merely recognizing it is not sufficient. The unspoken assumption of Psalm 29 is that as we observe these acts of God, as we hear his voice in creation and notice his hand in the various providences in our lives, we will come to not only acknowledge them as being from God, but we will also embrace God's actions as good and wise and just. Ascribing to the Lord the glory due his name is not a matter of merely agreeing with my mind that God is sovereign.
It is also believing in my heart that God is good. We are to fear God, yes, but we are also to trust God. And as we do these things, our amazement, our awe, our reverence of him will increase, but so will our peace and our joy and our confidence and our strength. My prayer for Grace Church in this coming year is that we would learn to ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name and in so doing experience the peace and strength that belongs only to those who worship him rightly. Let's pray. Father, you are far greater than we can comprehend and you give us glimpses of that greatness in countless ways, glimpses that are intended to drive us to a deeper fear of you and a fuller trust in you. So, Lord, teach us in this new year to worship you well, to ascribe to you the glory due your name. And we pray this for the sake of your glory and our joy. .
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-08 20:16:45 / 2023-01-08 20:27:42 / 11