Friday, August 29, 2014

Psalm 29 -Wow!

He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
He drew me out of deep waters.
Psalm 18:16
1Honor the LORD, you heavenly beingsa;
honor the LORD for his glory and strength.
2Honor the LORD for the glory of his name.
Worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.
3The voice of the LORD echoes above the sea.
The God of glory thunders.
The LORD thunders over the mighty sea.
4The voice of the LORD is powerful;
the voice of the LORD is majestic.
5The voice of the LORD splits the mighty cedars;
the LORD shatters the cedars of Lebanon.
6He makes Lebanon’s mountains skip like a calf;
he makes Mount Hermonb leap like a young wild ox.
7The voice of the LORD strikes
with bolts of lightning.
8The voice of the LORD makes the barren wilderness quake;
the LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
9The voice of the LORD twists mighty oaksc
and strips the forests bare.
In his Temple everyone shouts, “Glory!”
10The LORD rules over the floodwaters.
The LORD reigns as king forever.
11The LORD gives his people strength.
           The LORD blesses them with peace.


The word of God is not about things, the word of God does things.  That Word, that Voice, in all its terrible power is alive in Psalm 29.

The voice of the Lord is "heard" in this psalm in its effects on creation itself. The voice is "powerful" and "full of majesty" (verse 4), and that mighty voice is heard or seen in the thunderstorm that gives rise to "mighty waters," that breaks the largest trees, that "flashes forth" lightning (verse 7), stripping forests of their bark. We meet the voice in the earthquake that causes the greatest mountains to "skip" (verse 6) and the deserts to shake (verse 8). And we say, "Wow!" -- or "Glory!" (verse 9).

What else is there to say? I am overwhelmed -- as people always are when they see the power of earthquakes and eruptions, hurricanes and hail. Wow! First, this is more a "wow" of wonder and smallness than a wow of joy and celebration. All humans, believers and nonbelievers alike, will bow in awe at the power displayed in nature's fury. But Israel says, "Glory!" -- that is, glory to God in the highest. The voice of awe becomes a doxology of praise.The word of God is not about things, the word of God does things. We meet that word, that voice, in all its terrible power in Psalm 29.

The voice of the Lord is "heard" in this psalm in its effects on creation itself. The voice is "powerful" and "full of majesty" (verse 4), and that mighty voice is heard or seen in the thunderstorm that gives rise to "mighty waters," that breaks the largest trees, that "flashes forth" lightning (verse 7), stripping forests of their bark. We meet the voice in the earthquake that causes the greatest mountains to "skip" (verse 6) and the deserts to shake (verse 8). And we say, "Wow!" -- or "Glory!" (verse 9).

Numbers matter in this structure. In parts one and three, we find four mentions each of the name Yahweh. In the middle section of the psalm, we have ten more namings of Yahweh, and we hear seven "voices" -- four Yahwehs, ten Yahwehs, four Yahwehs, and the middle ten caught up in a cacophony of seven voices. Four, ten, seven -- all "complete" numbers in Israel's symbolic use of numerology. The poem about uncontrolled power (which could be chaos) becomes an artistic creation that holds, describes, limits, and hems in the power. God creates order; so does God's poem.

In the end, I probably don't want God's power to be fully tamed. God is a dragon whose fire can and should never be put out. The psalm tells us without question that God is God and I am not. But the poem ends with the petition that God gives God's strength to God's people, that God bless me with peace -- not wimpy peace - but peace that passes understanding! The power of God's word to make things happen -- power like that of the rain and the snow -- retains its awe, but it all functions to accomplish God's purpose and that purpose is always life, always love.

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD.
“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.
“The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth.
They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry.
It is the same with my word.
I send it out, and it always produces fruit.
It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.
Isaiah 55 8-11