Scripture for the Day: Psalm 29
The Voice of God in a Great Storm1 Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings,[a] ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.2 Ascribe to the Lord the glory of his name; worship the Lord in holy splendor.3 The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord, over mighty waters.4 The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.5 The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars; the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.6 He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, and Sirion like a young wild ox.7 The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.8 The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness; the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.9 The voice of the Lord causes the oaks to whirl,[b] and strips the forest bare; and in his temple all say, “Glory!”10 The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.11 May the Lord give strength to his people! May the Lord bless his people with peace!
If you look for Psalm 29 in your Bible, it probably has a little heading or title above it—The Voice of God in a Great Storm. That title isn’t in the original text. It’s a label meant to give us some context as we read. This poem is about God’s power and glory in the midst of a physical storm—the kind of weather event that changes the landscape.
Growing up in South Carolina and going to college in North Carolina, I’ve seen quite a few hurricanes close-up. Just before a hurricane arrives, the sky turns an eerie green-gray color, the air feels thick and strange, and people become keenly aware of their smallness in the face of immense power. Water is mighty and unpredictable in that kind of storm. The stuff of life covers and overpowers whatever it touches, bringing chaos to humans with its force. The psalmist describes the cedars of Lebanon being broken and great oaks whirling until the forest is stripped bare in a storm. This psalm reminds me of seeing massive trees bend and sway like rubber, turned around, whirled, broken and uprooted.
During my first month as a student at UNC, hurricane Fran tore through the state, all the way inland to Chapel Hill. The morning after the storm passed, we walked through that old campus, climbing up onto the roots of 200+ year-old oak trees that had been twisted and torn from the ground. Their roots reached high into the air and we took pictures of ourselves standing next to them for scale. What power that storm must have carried in order to move something so old and deeply-rooted.
In the psalm, only the Lord has that power. The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders. The voice of the Lord is powerful and full of majesty. The Lord is the force that can break cedars and flash flames of fire, shaking the earth. The psalmist gives God glory and praise for God’s splendor and strength. And as the song ends, it calls for God to bring all that power and might to God’s people, blessing them with peace.
We’re in a storm of a different kind right now. We need the power of God to come and change our landscape. We need God’s might to uproot old and deep hatred, prejudice, fear, and denial. We need God’s strength to transform human chaos into order—not human order, where lack of conflict is mistaken for peace, but God’s order, where all are blessed.
In the midst of the storm, I am comforted by the reminder of verse 10: “The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord sits enthroned as king forever,” and I pray the words of Psalm 29:11:
May the Lord give strength to his people! May the Lord bless his people with peace! Amen.