Psalm 29 – The Voice of the Lord in the Storm
This wonderful song is simply titled A Psalm of David. In poetic beauty it describes the strength of a storm and understands it as the voice and power God. In so doing it repeats the name of the Lord eighteen times and uses the phrase “the voice of the Lord” seven times. “This psalm has no other elements. It is pure praise. It does not call upon us to do anything because the psalm itself is doing the only thing it is concerned about. It is praising God.” (James Montgomery Boice)
A. The command to worship the Lord.
1. (1) A word to the mighty ones.
Give unto the Lord, O you mighty ones,
Give unto the Lord glory and strength.
a. Give unto the Lord, O you mighty ones: David speaks to the mighty ones of this earth, and warns them to look away from themselves and unto the Lord God of Israel. Though they may consider themselves to be mighty ones, and be so considered by others, they still should recognize their obligation to the Lord God.
i. This psalm is notable in its emphasis on the name, “The Lord” (Yahweh), using it some 18 times in these 11 verses. This is the name taken by the covenant God of Israel, rendered by the Jews with the replacement word Lord out of reverence to the holy name.
ii. As God says in Isaiah 42:8: I am the Lord, that is My name. It is perhaps best to think of Yahweh as representing the Triune God. We may say it this way:
There is one God, Creator of all and the covenant God of Israel – His name is Yahweh. There are three persons who claim to be Yahweh: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In some way, therefore, there is One God in Three Persons.
iii. “This is the famous tetragrammaton, or name of four letters, which we write Jehovah, Yehovah, Yehveh, Yeveh, Jhuh, Javah, etc. The letters are Y H V H. The Jews never pronounce it, and the true pronunciation is utterly unknown.” (Clarke, commentary on Isaiah)
iv. Some take these mighty ones to be those regarded as great on the earth; others take them as angelic beings. “The phrase is used elsewhere to denote ‘heavenly beings’ or angels (cf. Genesis 6:2, 4; Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7; Psalms 82:6; 89:6). In this context the phrase may be used as a technical term for the divine assembly of heavenly beings who surround the throne of God.” (VanGemeren)
b. Give unto the Lord glory and strength: David called upon these mighty ones of the earth to recognize that the Lord has a glory and strength that far exceeds their own.
i. When they give unto the Lord these things, they are not giving or attributing things to Him that He did not have before. They are recognizing things as they really are, because God is full of glory and strength.
ii. “Neither men nor angels can confer anything upon Jehovah, but they should recognise his glory and might, and ascribe it to him in their songs and in their hearts.” (Spurgeon)
2. (2) A call to worship the worthy God.
Give unto the Lord the glory due to His name;
Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.
a. Give unto the Lord the glory due His name: His name being Yahweh, this is a call to recognize the character and nature of the covenant God of Israel. God’s name is due a lot of glory; therefore it is right to call men (even the mighty ones) to worship Him.
i. Give: This is the third time this word is used in three lines. “Give, give, give. This showeth how unwilling such are usually to give God his right, or to suffer a word of exhortation to this purpose.” (Trapp)
b. Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness: The idea is that man should bow in humble recognition of the greatness, the beauty, and the surpassing holiness of God.
i. “The appeal describes the praising of God as consisting of two things: ascribing glory to him, that is, acknowledging his supreme worth with our minds, and worshipping or bowing down to him (the Hebrew word means ‘to bow down’), which means a subordination of our wills and minds to him.” (Boice)
c. In the beauty of holiness: Beauty and holiness are not often connected ideas in our popular culture. Yet in reality, there is surpassing allure and attractiveness in true holiness. If a purported type of holiness has little beauty, it may be questioned whether if it is true holiness.
i. There are four Biblical passages presenting the idea of the beauty of holiness (1 Chronicles 16:29, 2 Chronicles 20:21, Psalm 29:2, and Psalm 96:9), and each of them associates worship or praise with the concept. Perceiving the beauty of holiness should compel us to true worship and praise.
ii. God’s holiness – His “set-apart-ness” – has a wonderful and distinct beauty about it. It is beautiful that God is God and not man; He is more than the greatest man or a superman. His holy love, grace, justice, and majesty are beautiful.
B. The awesome voice of the Lord.
1. (3-4) The voice of the Lord over the waters.
The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
The God of glory thunders;
The Lord is over many waters.
The voice of the Lord is powerful;
The voice of the Lord is full of majesty.
a. The voice of the Lord is over the waters: The mighty ones mentioned in the first verse of this psalm may have a high regard for their own power, but their power is nothing compared to the power of God. His authoritative voice proclaims His dominion over the waters.
i. This is the first of seven descriptions of the voice of the Lord in this psalm. Each one emphasizes the idea of the strength and authority of God expressed through His voice.
ii. The strength and authority of God’s voice is also connected to His word. If the voice of God has such power, then the words uttered with that voice have the same strength and authority.
b. The God of glory thunders: The association of thunder and the voice of the Lord suggests this psalm was prompted by David witnessing a great storm, hearing the power of thunder, and associating it with the voice of God.
i. “The thunder is not only poetically but instructively called ‘the voice of God,’ since it peals from on high; it surpasses all other sounds, it inspires awe, it is entirely independent of man, and has been used on some occasions as the grand accompaniment of God’s speech to Adam’s sons.” (Spurgeon)
ii. David saw a mighty thunderstorm and thought, “This shows me something of the power and the voice of God.” The spiritual man or woman can see something of the hand of God, or the shadow of God, in almost every event of life. “The thunder is only a poetic image for a reality, the actual voice of God, which is infinitely beyond it.” (Boice)
iii. Exodus 9:28 (in the Hebrew text) also associates the voice of God with thunder, as does Exodus 19:16, when Israel heard from God at Mount Sinai. Additionally, two passages from Job clearly make this connection:
He thunders with His majestic voice, and He does not restrain them when His voice is heard. God thunders marvelously with His voice. (Job 37:4-5)
God asked Job in Job 40:9, Or can you thunder with a voice like His?
c. The Lord is over many waters: Generally, the ancient Hebrews were not a seafaring people, and they saw the many waters of the sea as dangerous and foreboding. Yet David knew that the powerful voice of God, full of majesty, set Him over many waters.
i. The ancient Canaanites recognized deities over the sea (the god Yam) and the god of fertility and thunder (Baal). Here David recognized that Yahweh, the covenant God of Israel, was the real Master over many waters and the God of glory who thunders.
ii. 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.
2. (5-9) The voice of the Lord over creation.
The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars,
Yes, the Lord splinters the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes them also skip like a calf,
Lebanon and Sirion like a young wild ox.
The voice of the Lord divides the 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 forests bare;
And in His temple everyone says, “Glory!”
a. The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars: The cedars of Lebanon were well-known for their size and strength. Yet the Lord’s voice is so strong that He splinters these mighty trees and sends their wood in flight.
i. Again, we can imagine a mighty thunderbolt striking and shattering a strong cedar tree. David saw this and thought: “The voice of the Lord is like this, though even more powerful!”
ii. Lebanon and Sirion like a young wild ox: Sirion is “A Sidonian name for [Mount] Hermon.” (Maclaren)
iii. In an archaic translation, the old King James has unicorn for young wild ox.
b. The voice of the Lord divides…shakes…makes the deer give birth: David could see the effect of lightning bolts, and understood that they were an illustration of the power and effect of God’s word.
c. In His temple everyone says, “Glory”: David thought of how thunder and lightning attract attention and give a sense of awe. This sense of glory is even more appropriately given to the Lord at His temple. There, the people of God do not tremble in fear of the storm, but in awe of their great God – to whom they say, “Glory!”
i. “Is not this a noble Psalm to be sung in stormy weather? Can you sing amid the thunder? Will you be able to sing when the last thunders are let loose, and Jesus judges the quick and the dead?” (Spurgeon)
ii. It is also worthwhile for each believer to ask himself or herself if he or she are among those who say, “Glory!” – if the Word of God, the voice of God, still feels like thunder. If not (and for many this would be an honest assessment), he or she should humbly come to God and confess that His voice, His Word, sounds more like the drop of a paper clip than a thunderbolt – and ask for a fresh filling of the Holy Spirit to make a cold heart warm once again, and dull hearing sharp once more.
iii. “The commentators tell us that in the early church this psalm was often read to children or to an entire congregation during storms.” (Boice)
C. The Lord as the reigning, blessing King.
1. (10) The enthroned Lord.
The Lord sat enthroned at the Flood,
And the Lord sits as King forever.
a. The Lord sat enthroned at the Flood: David saw the storm bring a deluge of rain, and it made him think of the Genesis account of the Flood, remembering it as a remarkable demonstration of the power and authority of the voice of God.
i. “The word rendered ‘flood’ is only used elsewhere in reference to the Noachic deluge, and here has the definite article, which is most naturally explained as fixing the reference to that event.” (Maclaren)
ii. “Psalm 29:10 is the only place in the Old Testament where this particular Hebrew word for flood occurs except in the classic flood narrative of Genesis 6-9.” (Boice)
iii. David’s reflection on the Flood reminds us of what a staggering expression it was of God’s power and justice. “Even as in the days of the Flood, when he destroyed creation with his power but saved his own, so it is at any time that God’s glory is expressed in the severity of judgment.” (VanGemeren)
b. The Lord sits as King forever: The Flood was a radical expression of God’s authority; yet His authority did not end those many generations ago. The Lord God continues to sit as King forever.
i. Matthew Poole considered the connection between the Lord sat enthroned at the flood and the Lord sits as King forever: “As God showed himself to be the King and the Judge of the world at that time, so he doth still sit, and will sit, as King forever, sending such tempests when it pleaseth him.” (Poole)
2. (11) The King as a Shepherd to His people.
The Lord will give strength to His people;
The Lord will bless His people with peace.
a. The Lord will give strength to His people: As David considered the earth-shattering strength and authority of God, he recognized that God brought that same strength to His people.
b. The Lord will bless His people with peace: The power of God may come as a destructive storm upon creation and upon those who rebel against God. Yet God’s people can be confident that He will bless them with peace, and the strength of God comes to them as a comfort, not a storm.
i. “During the storm He will give strength to His people. Following it He will give them peace.” (Morgan)
(c) 2019 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – firstname.lastname@example.org