|PRAISE THE GOD OF THE STORM|
April 12, 2022
- Starting point: 7:12
“Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.”
- Praying from: PSALM 29
Psalm 29 is a hymn that extols God by calling on the heavenly beings (angels) to praise him as the power of the storm and the One who dominates the waters that represent chaos. He is the King enthroned over the unruly waters (the flood). He is the source of strength and peace for his people.
This psalm speaks in the language of ancient mythology, which is strange to modern audiences. In other words, it uses language that was current in its day and, specifically, language that was typically used to promote the worship of false, non-existent gods in order to encourage the worship of the true God. That said, even a modern audience recognizes the power of a thunderstorm and can understand that power as hinting at God’s strength and glory. While we do not typically use the language of the (many) waters or flood to speak about chaos that threatens to overwhelm us, we can understand that God is to be celebrated as the One who can keep us from being overwhelmed.
In the New Testament, Jesus is pictured as the anointed King (Messiah; Christ) who dominates the waters that represent chaos. He demonstrates his power and his glory by stilling the waters (Mark 4:35–41) and also by walking on the waters (Matt. 14:22–33). The book of Revelation pictures Jesus as defeating the beast that arises out of the sea (Rev. 13:1–10).
Psalm 29 is a hymn that praises God as the power behind the storm. The power of the storm with its lightning and thunder demonstrates God’s strength. A reflection on the relationship between God and the storm leads the psalmist to extol God as King.
Many of the features of this psalm bear resemblance to U-ga-ritic poetry, raising the question of the relationship between the two. In the first place, the parallelism is highly tedious, as in U-ga-ritic poetry. Secondly, the geographical references ([Mount Hermon] and Kadesh) are all in the north, even beyond the border of Israel. Thirdly, the reference to the heavenly beings is similar to the way in which Uga-ritic texts refer to the divine assembly. The picture of the Lord enthroned as King over the flood (v. 10) is reminiscent of the Ancient Near Eastern mythic idea of the God of creation’s defeat of the god of the sea. And, finally, the picture of God as the power of the storm evokes a connection with Baal, the storm god and primary deity of Canaan.
These connections suggest that there is an intentional link between Psalm 29 and U-ga-ritic/Canaanite religion. Some scholars have even concluded that Psalm 29 is an original Canaanite hymn in which the Israelite hymn writer has simply substituted the name Yahweh for Baal. Perhaps this view is correct; otherwise, the composer has constructed his poem intentionally using these Canaanite devices and imagery. But for what purpose? The best explanation is that the Hebrew poet is stating that it is Yahweh, and not Baal, who is the power of the storm. In other words, the purpose would be polemic or apologetic, appealing to those Israelites who were tempted to worship Baal as the provider of the storm and the one who controlled the chaos waters.
“Give unto the LORD, O ye mighty, give unto the LORD glory and strength.
2 Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.
3 The voice of the LORD is upon the waters: the God of glory thundereth: the LORD is upon many waters.
4 The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty.
5 The voice of the LORD breaketh the cedars; yea, the LORD breaketh the cedars of Lebanon.
6 He maketh them also to skip like a calf; Lebanon and Sirion like a young unicorn.
7 The voice of the LORD divideth the flames of fire.
8 The voice of the LORD shaketh the wilderness; the LORD shaketh the wilderness of Kadesh.
9 The voice of the LORD maketh the hinds to calve, and discovereth the forests: and in his temple doth every one speak of his glory.
10 The LORD sitteth upon the flood; yea, the LORD sitteth King for ever.
11 The LORD will give strength unto his people; the LORD will bless his people with peace.”
- Praying Time:
29:1–2. Ascribe to the Lord
The poem begins with a four-part parallelism that repeats the opening phrase (ascribe to the Lord) three times before substituting a slight variation in the fourth (worship the Lord). This long, repetitive parallelism is typical of Ugaritic poetry (see Context); it also immediately identifies the psalm as a hymn of praise. Interestingly, the call to worship is directed not to the human congregation but to the heavenly beings (bĕnê ’ēlîm, lit. ‘sons of God’), again reminiscent of Ugaritic poetry where the ‘sons of god/El’ are the multitude of gods who compose the divine assembly. In an Israelite context, these gods are created spiritual beings, who are called angels in other contexts. They are urged to attribute strength, glory and holiness to God.
29:3–9. God’s voice
The body of the psalm describes the Lord as the power of the storm. God’s voice is the thunder. God and his voice over the [many] waters evoke the memory of the conflict between the Creator God and the waters of chaos typically connected to the god of the sea in Ancient Near Eastern mythology. God’s voice, indeed God himself, dominates the waters that represent chaos (Pss 18:4; 46:2–3; 69:1, 2). God’s voice is so powerful that it even shakes the majestic and famous cedars of Lebanon, well known from both biblical (1 Kgs 5:6; Ps. 104:16; Isa. 2:13) and Ancient Near Eastern (Epic of Gilgamesh) references. The region of Lebanon, plus its famous southern mountain, Sirion, also known as Hermon, is not stationary when God’s storm hits, but jumps like a calf or a wild ox. As in a typical storm, the thunder is accompanied by lightning, which shakes the Desert of Kadesh, another northern location (see Context). Verse 9 may be read one of two ways, either way again indicating the power of the storm that represents God. Perhaps, as the niv translation indicates, God’s storm twists the mighty oak tree, or else the unsettling thunder and lightning make the deer give (premature) birth. Such a demonstration of power leads his worshippers in the temple to give God the glory (v. 9c).
29:10–11. God the King
Verse 10 suggests yet another well-known Ancient Near Eastern mythological theme: the enthronement of God over the waters (the flood). In the Babylonian creation story (Enuma Elish), when the god Ea defeats Apsu, the god of the salt waters, he sets his throne on top of his watery body. But this Israelite psalm claims that it is Yahweh, not Ea or any other Ancient Near Eastern god, who has dominance over the forces of chaos. Yahweh alone is King. And it is this God who gives strength and peace to his people, Israel.
- THE A-MEN OF ROMANS 16:20, 24, 27
16:20 “And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. A-men.”