What a Thunderstorm Teaches Us about God
Beethoven Symphony No. 6 “Pastoral” fourth movement, in F Minor, depicts a violent thunderstorm with painstaking realism, building from just a few drops of rain to a great climax with thunder, lightning, high winds, and sheets of rain. The storm eventually passes, with an occasional peal of thunder still heard in the distance.
Psalm 29 deals with the power of God revealed in nature and available to His people, if they respond with faith. A thunderstorm reveals the power and majesty of Yahweh. He sits enthroned over all forces of nature. He gives power and peace to His people.
Scientists calculate that a typical thunderstorm (not even the kind of great or major storm described here by David) releases around 10,000,000 kilowatt-hours of energy – the equivalent of a 20-kiloton nuclear warhead. Storms still are examples of the massive power of God.
Seeing and hearing a violent storm is an awesome experience that quite naturally turns one’s thoughts to God.
Having witnessed the awesome manifestations of the LORD’s power in a terrifying thunderstorm over Lebanon and Syria, the psalmist calls on the angelic hosts to glorify Him who sovereignly rules over nature, displaying His ability to give power and peace to His people.
Call to Praise: The psalmist calls upon the angelic hosts to glorify Yahweh in holy array (1-2).
The first two verses of the psalm are a call to praise. It is a call to attribute glory to Yahweh which is befitting His character and reputation. The call is put in the form of climactic parallelism. Three lines are similar, but the fourth changes to make the important qualification: Ascribe to the LORD…, ascribe to the LORD…, ascribe to the LORD…, worship the LORD in holy array.”
The call is addressed to the “sons of the mighty.” The expression probably means “sons of God.” In the Old Testament these would be angels (Job 2:1).
The call is to give God the praise that is fitting for His “name,” or, His nature. Everything about the nature of God deserves praise, especially His strength, His supernatural power. In this psalm that strength will be experienced in His sovereign control of nature.
The psalmist was calling to the hosts of heaven to praise the name of Yahweh. They were to worship Yahweh in “holy array.”
The language is descriptive of priests who were to array themselves for service in the sanctuary. The priests were to have on pure white linens to signify holiness and purity to Yahweh.
In the heavenly courts those worshipping Yahweh, both saints and angels, are describes as arrayed with priestly clothes for their unending service to Yahweh. The point is that while praise is appropriate for Yahweh, it has to be from those who are arrayed in the holiness that is necessary for the heavenly sanctuary.
God deserves to be praised by His servants for His majestic power.
Cause for Praise: The psalmist describes Yahweh’s all-powerful control of nature in a terrifying storm over Lebanon and Syria (3-9).
The psalm now gives the reason for the call to praise: Yahweh’s all-powerful control of nature by His word.
The psalmist describes a tremendous thunderstorm that sweeps across the land. He traces its path and development, and each step of the way attributes it to the voice of Yahweh. The voice occurs seven times in the passage. It compares to Rev 10:3 with its seven thunders.
The section breaks down into three parts: the rise of the storm in its fury (3-4), the full force of the storm (5-7), and then the passing of the storm off into the desert (8-9).
He attributes the rise of the storm to the “voice of Yahweh” (3-4).
This section of the psalm begins with the statement the “the voice of the LORD is upon the waters.” The voice was commanding the elements of nature, causing the storm by His word to develop and then die out. Yahweh spoke the thunderstorm into existence.
The path of the storm is from the waters inland to Lebanon and Syria. This means that “waters” is a reference to the Mediterranean Sea, the Great Sea.
Verse 4 affirms the might and majesty of the voice of Yahweh.
God brings up the storm by His majestic word.
He witnesses the “voice of Yahweh” in the height of the storm (5-7).
The voice of Yahweh now breaks the cedars in pieces. These are the pride of Lebanon, but the storm that Yahweh caused overpowers them, uprooting and breaking them with the fierce winds that drive the storm.
Verse 6 then describes an earthquake in poetic form: “He makes them skip” provides the comparison for the shifting ground. Lebanon and Sirion are two mountains or mountain regions north of Israel. Mt. Sirion refers to Mt. Hermon (Deut 3:9).
Verse 7 is a poetic description of forked lightning: “The voice of the LORD splits (hews out) flames of fire.
God’s powerful word causes the storm to rage.
He attributes the passing of the storm to the “voice of Yahweh” (8-9).
Next, the storm passes over the mountains into the eastern wilderness where it dies out. The location is “the wilderness of Kadesh.” The name does not refer to Kadesh Barnea in the south. This is Kadesh on the Orontes River in the north.
The voice of Yahweh shakes the wilderness. “Wilderness” refers to the flora and fauna in the wilderness.
The last verse of this section of the psalm records the effects of the storm.
The first is that it causes the deer to give birth prematurely.
The second is that it strips the forests bare.
Third, the heavenly hosts praise God. Everything in His temple says, “Glory!” “Temple” here probably refers to the heavenly temple. To glorify God means to extend His reputation by praise. This means declaring that He alone is the sovereign, Lord of all nature.
God’s powerful word causes the storm to subside.
God is to be praised for His control of nature by His powerful word.
Conclusion: The psalmist declares that Yahweh rules over all nature and is able to share His strength and peace with His people (10-11).
In addition to the description of Yahweh’s demonstrating His power and glory in Canaan, the psalmist recalls the greatest demonstration of it—the flood in Genesis (Gen 6—8).
The next colon expands the idea from the flood to all time: “Yes, the LORD sits (enthroned) as King forever.”
The psalmist envisions Yahweh’s sovereign control over all nature, then, in a universal event, and now in a localized storm.
God reigns over all nature.
Drawing upon the description of the movement of the storm, the psalmist now expresses the lesson for the people of God. Because Yahweh displays His strength by bringing up a fierce storm, He is to be praised for His strength, and He grants that strength to His people as well.
The power of God is available as a resource for the people of God to overcome the world.
And then, just as Yahweh can command the storm to die out in the wilderness, He can give peace to His people. There is no fury in life that He cannot calm.
God meets the needs of His people.
God is able to bless His people with power and with peace.
In the New Testament we read of Jesus calming the storm and walking on water. Jesus used such acts to authenticate His claim to be the promised Christ. To Him believers look for power and peace throughout their lives.