Songs of Greatness is a sermon series on the greatness of God from the Psalms. Ascribe to the Lord — There are many things in this world that are big and scary, things that are threatening and out of our control. But God is far bigger and more powerful than any threat we could imagine. This is the root of all strength and peace. Recorded on July 25, 2021, on Psalm 29, by Pastor David Parks.
For the next year, in our preaching ministry, we’re focusing on The Greatness of God. And I’ve said, after all the turmoil of the last year+, it was obvious to me that way too many Christians have way too small of a view of who God is. So we’ve started this annual theme with a sermon series from the Psalms in the Bible called, Songs of Greatness. The Psalms are a collection of songs/poems that the people of God have used in the worship of God for 1000’s of years. And the psalms cover the whole range of human experience, but some of the psalms are all about the greatness of God. Today, we’ll consider Psalm 29, which speaks very directly to this situation of ours today. This need to gain/recover a better theology, a better/truer understanding of who God is. Why? Because of the storm, because of the times of turmoil/chaos/destruction. Because of the times that bring widespread anger/anxiety, stress/depression. We lived through a mighty storm this past year or so. But storms aren’t new, nothing is new under the sun. Can the greatness of God help us in the midst of the story?? If you have a Bible/app, please open it to Ps 29. We’re going to unpack this psalm in three parts: 1. The Glory, 2. The Voice, 3. The King. But first, let’s read through this together.
Psalm 29, “Ascribe to the Lord, you heavenly beings, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. 2 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of his[a] holiness. 3 The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord thunders over the mighty waters. 4 The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is majestic. 5 The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars; the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon. 6 He makes Lebanon leap like a calf, Sirion[b] like a young wild ox. 7 The voice of the Lord strikes with flashes of lightning. 8 The voice of the Lord shakes the desert; the Lord shakes the Desert of Kadesh. 9 The voice of the Lord twists the oaks[c] and strips the forests bare. And in his temple all cry, “Glory!” 10 The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord is enthroned as King forever. 11 The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.”
Psalm 29, traditionally, is one of the psalms of David, that is King David, the most powerful/influential king of the ancient people of Israel. David lived about 3,000 years ago or about 1,000 years before the time of Jesus. And David was a mighty warrior and a prolific poet, having written about half of the psalms in the Bible. Psalm 29 is divided/ordered in a particular way, did you notice? Psalm 29 has three main sections marked by repetition. The first section (vv. 1-2) has the phrase “ascribe to the Lord” over and over. And then, the second section (vv. 3-9) has the phrase “The voice of the Lord.” Finally, the third section/stanza (vv. 10-11) simply has “The Lord, the Lord, the Lord” over and over. So with that, let’s jump back to v. 1.
Psalm 29:1-2, “Ascribe to the Lord, you heavenly beings, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.” So first, The Glory: David starts with this call, really it’s an invitation to worship: to ascribe to the Lord, the glory due his name. What does that mean? Does that mean that God is really insecure and needs our words of affirmation? Does that mean that God is waiting around for us to worship him, in order to get glory? No! God is not lacking in glory. God is supremely glorious! So what does this mean? The word ascribe is a word that means to give or to count. So to ascribe/give to the Lord, the glory due his name means to see/understand/acknowledge the glory that God already has. This is synonymous with worship. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness or the splendor of his holiness. So what are we doing here every Sunday together? We are seeking to ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name. What are we doing in our singing/serving/praying/preaching/giving? We are trying to ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name. My goal as your pastor is to try and help you see/appreciate the glory of God in his own unique nature and in all that he has accomplished. And what has God accomplished? I’m actually not going to answer this today because that was what my sermon last week, from Psalm 19, was all about. If you missed that message, you can always go back and watch it on youtube or listen to the audio podcast. But this isn’t Psalm 19, this is Psalm 29. What evidence does David give here, in this psalm, that leads us to ascribe/give God the glory due his name? What logic does he provide which leads us to worship the Lord? We need the voice, the voice of the Lord. Look back at v. 3.
Psalm 29:3-9, “The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord thunders over the mighty waters. The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is majestic. The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars; the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon. He makes Lebanon leap like a calf, Sirion [Mt. Hermon] like a young wild ox. The voice of the Lord strikes with flashes of lightning. The voice of the Lord shakes the desert; the Lord shakes the Desert of Kadesh. The voice of the Lord twists the oaks and strips the forests bare. And in his temple all cry, “Glory!” Now here, David introduces all kinds of powerful imagery. There are flashes of lightning/thunder/explosions. We went from a call to worship to an action movie. What’s going on here? Well, David is listing a bunch of things which are big and sometimes scary things. Water can be a good thing for people, it can represent life, but it can also be a dangerous thing and destructive for us. The ocean is beautiful but the ocean is also wild. A river might bring water to grow crops or flowers but might also overflow its banks and cause all sorts of devastation. But the voice of the Lord is over the waters. The God of glory thunders over the mighty waters. The waters are not a threat to the Lord. The second image is the cedars of Lebanon, “The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars; the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.” The cedars of Lebanon are cited several times in the bible as being the best timber. David’s son, Solomon, would use the cedars of Lebanon to build the temple in Jerusalem and his own palace. But as mighty as the cedars of Lebanon were, the voice of the Lord breaks them into match sticks. The third image is a geographic image: That the voice of the Lord makes Lebanon lead like a calf and Sirion, that is Mount Hermon, like a young wild ox. Lebanon and Mount Hermon are both at the far northern end of Israel. And then David says that the voice of the Lord shakes the Desert of Kadesh which is all the way to the south of Israel, down in Egypt. So the image is one of covering the whole of the land. Meaning, the voice of the Lord has authority and power over everything, everywhere. All of these images in this second section represent power, glory, and potential threats to the people of God. These are things you might be tempted to worry about. So what do we do? What can we do in the face of things which are big/powerful/threatening? We need the voice, the voice of the Lord.
Now, one of the things I really like about this psalm is that it highlights the omnipotence of God, or the incredible/infinite power of God. Notice it doesn’t say that it’s the mighty right arm of the Lord that triumphs over these things or some other image of strength like God’s muscles or divine weapons. What does it say? What does David say will disrupt and ultimately triumph over all these images of strength and potential danger? Simply the voice of the Lord. The image is not one of God straining to deal with these powerful and potentially destructive forces. But with a word, the voice of the Lord can silence the biggest, most powerful, most threatening things we could ever imagine. And what happens when you see/believe that this is who God is? In response to the power and sweeping authority of the voice of God, the only thing we can say in worship is, “Whoa. Glory!” This is who God is. He is not affected by the waters, he is over the waters, he created the waters with a word of his voice. He is not threatened by the storm/flood, they obey him, they listen to his voice. The Lord is not intimidated by the mountains or the desert wilderness or by something strong and mighty like the cedars of Lebanon. God is not scared by the things that make us nervous/scared. Why? Because he is not just strong, he is infinitely strong. He is not just powerful, he is omnipotent. This is the logic behind the call to worship from section one. Why should we ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name? Because God is easily over every power/threat. His voice is all that’s needed. So how do we apply this psalm to our lives? What does this mean for us today, whether we think about the storm of covid from the past, or we think of other things which are big or powerful or potentially destructive that might happen in the future? First, we saw the glory, second, we heard the voice, third, we need the King. v. 10.
Psalm 29:10-11, “The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord is enthroned as King forever. The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.” Did you notice how many times the name of God is used in this psalm? In most modern bible translations, when the Hebrew name of Yahweh is used for God, they use the title Lord in all caps in English. This translation practice follows an ancient Jewish tradition to be very careful to respect the name of God. But Yahweh is the personal name of God which God himself revealed through Moses during the time of the Exodus. This matters because what was God doing in that day? God was forming a covenant or a special relationship with the family of Abraham and Sarah, known by then as Israel. As I said last week, you can learn some things about God and the glory of God from his work in creation, from the sun, moon, and stars, from the beauty and creativity of the natural world around us. But you don’t get to know God personally, you won’t know his name, until you read the Bible. So Psalm 29 isn’t about a god in general, it’s about one specific God, Yahweh, the maker of heaven and earth, the one who entered into a covenant relationship with certain people and promised to bless all the nations through them. There are different Hebrew terms for God, but every time Yahweh is used, it should recall not just that God is the creator, but that God is the savior/liberator/redeemer of his people. So this is why, I believe, David ends this psalm with this incredible statement of faith. Yahweh God sits enthroned over the flood/storm/destructive forces in the world. Yahweh God is enthroned as King forever. He is the authority, he is the source of all power and might. And it is he who will give strength to his people. He will strengthen us. It is Yahweh God who blesses his people. He will give us peace.
But how do we know that this is true for us? How can we be sure that God will use all his power and authority for our good here and now and in our future? Because 1,000 years after the time of King David, the true King of the Kingdom of God came to us. And spoke to us. And died for us. And his name is Jesus. Who calmed the storm with a word of his power? It was Jesus. Who walked on the water amidst the wind and the waves? It was Jesus. And what is mightier and more destructive in all the world than the power of sin and death? But who triumphed over them on the cross saying, “It is finished.”? It was Jesus. After his death on the cross for the sins of the world and his resurrection from the dead, Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Jesus is the King who sits enthroned above the flood. Jesus is over the storm. Jesus is more powerful than any threat you could even imagine. Do you want to know why the storms of life are so scary? And why do the destructive things of this world seem so threatening? Because we tend to lose sight of the power/authority/glory of the King. Jesus will strengthen us, his people. Jesus will bless us with peace when we put our faith/trust in him. He doesn’t even have to strain to do it. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” So today, see his glory. Hear and obey his voice. And walk forward in strength and in peace because of the King, our Lord Jesus Christ, Almighty God, and the One who saves. Do you see? Do you believe?