The Voice of God

Last night a thunderstorm rumbled through West St. Paul.  About 11:00 PM I went outside to check it out (as I am want to do, much to my wife's chagrin).  All of the typical storm elements were present: loud thunder, crashing lightning, and torrential rain.  As usual, watching this storm was an awesome experience, as you can only sit back and marvel at the power you're witnessing. And now, as I write this post the morning after the storm, I do so on my laptop because our computer and phone systems at the church were all knocked out by the storm's power.  

Have you ever been in a violent thunderstorm?  If so, you know that there's nothing you can do about it: the thunderstorm is in charge, and your only choice is to bend to its will.  The storm makes the decisions, you don't.  This is why, when there is severe weather, most of us retreat to our basements, as it is the most solid and safe part of your home during violent storms.  But when you realize the sovereign power of violent weather, you can't help but feel small and helpless, and even hopeless, because you know that the storm is strong and you are not.  The storm is in control - not you.  

That feeling of helplessness in the midst of a violent storm is the kind of feeling that Psalm 29 wants to elicit from you.  It wants you to see the immensity of God's power; it wants you to feel helpless in his presence; it wants you to know that you bend your will to God's, and it is never the opposite; it wants you to know that he makes the decisions - not you. 

In Psalm 29 David describes God's power by talking about his voice.  In fact, seven times throughout Psalm 29 David references "the voice of the Lord."  But he's not talking about an audible, vocal utterance.  Rather, David uses the idea of the voice of God to demonstrate the extent of his power (see also: Genesis 1.3).  And the closest event that David can think of to illustrate the untamable, awesome power of God is the untamable, awesome power of a violent storm.  As the storm goes where it pleases and does what it pleases, so does God.  And so, in verses 3-9, David describes the utter devastation that a storm can bring, and likens it to the power and judgment of God.  "This," David seems to be saying, "is the God with whom you must settle accounts: the One who rips trees out by their roots and shakes the mountains."

Like Isaiah, when he was filled with dread at the sight of the Lord in Isaiah 6 because of his knowledge that his own sinfulness and God's holiness could not intermingle, Psalm 29 is a warning to those who would heed it, by showing the devastating activity of which God is capable.  And the question is this: how will you  make yourself right before this God?  Because he will judge sin.  How will you do on that day?  

David seems to recognize that he and his people will not be able to stand against this God on their own account.  He's too powerful; he's too holy; they won't survive an encounter with him.  After all, Psalm 29 describes how God "breaks the cedars" and "strips the forests bare" and "flashes forth flames of fire" and makes the mountains shake.  What chance do you stand?  I mean, really, what chance do you stand before the holy and righteous judge of all the universe?  David recognizes this reality, so he begs God in the last verse of the psalm: "May the Lord give strength to his people!  May the Lord bless his people with peace!"

God heard and answered David's plea for peace.  The all-powerful God described in Psalm 29 emptied himself by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  The Son of God - the one who breaks the cedars and strips the forests bare - allowed himself to be nailed to a rugged tree.  And in so doing, he took the rebellion and sin of all who would believe upon himself and he paid the debt of judgment that you owe to this God who demands holiness and righteousness because he himself is holy and righteous.  And because of his sacrifice, there is peace between God and those who will trust in his sacrifice.  We no longer need to fear this God who makes mountains move and the earth quake, and who tears trees out of the ground by their roots.  In our sin, we are enemies of that God.  When we put our faith in Christ, we become the children of that God - the friends of that God.  

Several years ago, in my last year of seminary, I completed an extra credit project for one of my systematic theology classes.  For the project we were to create a piece of art or music that represented a passage of scripture.  Considering my musical background, I chose to write a song based on Psalm 29 and recorded it on my computer, playing all the instruments and vocal parts.  The lyrics and the link to the song are below.  

There is power that tells me of your glory
There is fire that shows me you are holy
There's a sound that shakes the earth in wonder
As I look into the eye of the storm, I hear the voice of God

There is a flood that tells me of your justice
There is life that tells me of your goodness
There is peace that tells me of your kindness
As I look into the eye of the storm, I hear the voice of God

All the angels give him glory, the people in the temple give him praise
All the angels give him glory, the people in the temple praise his name
As they look into the eye of the storm, and hear the voice of God

There is a throne of majesty and power
There is a Lord that sits enthroned forever
There is a King who lives alone in splendor
As I look into the eye of the storm, I hear the voice of God