Psalm 29: God in the Thunder

Reverend Francis RitchieMiscellany, Psalms4 Comments

Psalm 29

Psalm 29 offers something powerful. It’s no secret that intentional and mindful silence is one of the central practices of my life. It can be too easy to associate that practice with a tame view of God – a safe view of God, and connect it to images such as those given in 1 Kings 19:12 where God is present with Elijah in a gentle whisper (ignoring the potency of what came before). This can lend itself to a familiarity that robs us of something. The closeness that comes with such an approach is important, and should feed our very being, but it’s good to hold it in tension and also allow it to be fueled by something else – God’s awesomeness.

Silence can and should be a response to God’s love, fueled by the desire to be in union with and shaped by Him. It’s a practice that puts aside all other things that seek to crowd out our sense of who we are, and it brings us back to the simple truth that we are loved – this should be the seat of our identity. But there is another understanding of God that gives that story of love its strength, stops it just from being an empty, warm fuzzy experience, and helps us to truly grasp its significance, bringing us to silence in another way – here’s where Psalm 29 steps in for me.

Take a moment to slowly and mindfully read the whole Psalm before continuing. Take in each word.

You’ll notice Psalm 29 builds to this:

The voice of the Lord strikes with flashes of lightning! The voice of the Lord shakes the desert…

Sit with those words for a moment – sense the majesty and fearsomeness of them.

The Psalm builds this awesome (in the true sense of the word) image of God, smashes through with that quote, then drives the point home, finishing on this very God giving strength to, and blessing his people.

The Psalmist leaves no question – God is big, awesome, mighty, powerful and anything but tame and safe. This is the creator of the universe. His majesty is all engulfing. When I truly consider this it makes me tremble and I ‘get’ the idea that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom (Psalm 111:10). This isn’t the sort of fear that is known in the terror I felt as a child waking up from nightmares drenched in sweat and so scared I couldn’t scream though I wanted to – a terror that crushes the heart. Rather, Psalm 29 shows us an awe that makes me tremble, leaves my voice quivering and my heart beating fast and it leaves only one response – a silence entered into on my knees.

This awe of God makes me mirror the words of Job:

I am unworthy – how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer – twice, but I will say no more.

And it draws me to the question uttered by the Psalmist (Psalm 8:4):

…what is mankind that you are mindful of them [me], human beings that you care for them?

That fearsome majesty of God puts things into perspective, brings me to silence and it’s in the knowledge of that power and strength that the wonder of God’s mercy, grace, forgiveness and love become truly potent. Out of that silence my gut response is to mirror the sentiment of the shout of ‘Glory!’ in verse 9. The God who could crush all chooses to whisper to us and out of who He is, chose to become one of us. Then through that becoming, He draws us into union with Himself. In that process I see who I am – the good, the bad and the ugly and am freed from that which binds me. I am made new.

The beauty of it all begins not with God being small, tame and familiar, but with God being big, powerful, majestic and all encompassing – to the point where it should cause our knees to knock together in awe. When I truly sit with Psalm 29, it does this for me. It’s this that makes the story of Jesus and our union with Him a thing of wonder, and truly transforming.

Read more of my reflections on the Psalms.

Here’s why I’m walking this journey through the Psalms.