# 117 A journey through the Psalms. Psalm 29 The voice of the Lord

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In my last post on Psalm 29 I mentioned that one of the so-called gods worshiped by the Canaanites, neighbours of Israel, was Baal, the “storm god”. Sadly, worship of this false god at times spilled over into Israel and when we get to I Kings 18 this apostacy was having devastating effects upon the people and the land. In fact, the Lord had allowed there to be 3 years of drought in Israel and the prophets of God had told the people that their idolatry was the reason this was happening.

So, enter two of the main characters involved – Elijah, the faithful prophet of God and King Ahab, described as the king who “did more to arouse the anger of the Lord…than did all the kings of Israel before him.” (1 Kings 16:33) Being married to Jezebel, a Sidonian and Baal worshiper, hadn’t helped.

So, they meet after some time and Ahab isn’t too friendly, in fact says, “So it’s you, old troublemaker!” But Elijah clarifies the situation and answers, “It’s not I who has caused trouble in Israel, but you…you’ve dumped God’s ways and commands and run off after the local gods, the Baals.”

Elijah then challenges the king to a showdown on Mount Carmel. He invites everyone in Israel, including all the false prophets of Baal.  When assembled Elijah challenged the people: “How long are you going to sit on the fence? If God is the real God, follow him; if it’s Baal, follow him. Make up your minds!” Sadly, the response was that, “Nobody said a word; nobody made a move.” Such was the low spiritual morale of the people at that time.

We then read in the text that, “Elijah said, “I’m the only prophet of God left in Israel; and there are 450 prophets of Baal. Let the Baal prophets bring up two oxen; let them pick one, butcher it, and lay it out on an altar on firewood—but don’t ignite it. I’ll take the other ox, cut it up, and lay it on the wood. But neither will I light the fire. Then you pray to your gods and I’ll pray to God. The god who answers with fire will prove to be, in fact, God.”

Then at last the people responded: “All the people agreed: ‘A good plan—do it!’”

Being a gentleman Elijah told the Baal prophets, “Choose your ox and prepare it. You go first, you’re the majority. Then pray to your god, but don’t light the fire.”

 So they took the ox he had given them, prepared it for the altar, then prayed to Baal. They prayed all morning long, “O Baal, answer us!” But nothing happened—not so much as a whisper of breeze. Desperate, they jumped and stomped on the altar they had made.”

That’s the problem with placing your faith in any thing else other than the Lord.

Then we read that somehow Elijah wasn’t surprised and “By noon, Elijah had started making fun of them, taunting, “Call a little louder—he is a god, after all. Maybe he’s off meditating somewhere or other, or maybe he’s gotten involved in a project, or maybe he’s on vacation. You don’t suppose he’s overslept, do you, and needs to be [woken] up?” They prayed louder and louder, cutting themselves with swords and knives—a ritual common to them—until they were covered with blood. This went on until well past noon. They used every religious trick and strategy they knew to make something happen on the altar, but nothing happened—not so much as a whisper, not a flicker of response.”

Well, by then Elijah decided enough was enough and “told the people, “Enough of that—it’s my turn. Gather around.” And they gathered. He then put the altar back together for by now it was in ruins. Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes of Jacob…He built the stones into the altar in honour of God. Then Elijah dug a fairly wide trench around the altar. He laid firewood on the altar, cut up the ox, put it on the wood, and said, “Fill four buckets with water and drench both the ox and the firewood.” Then he said, “Do it again,” and they did it. Then he said, “Do it a third time,” and they did it a third time. The altar was drenched and the trench was filled with water.”

In contrast to the ranting and raving of the false prophets, we are told that “Elijah the prophet came up and prayed, “O God, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, make it known right now that you are God in Israel, that I am your servant, and that I’m doing what I’m doing under your orders. Answer me, God; O answer me and reveal to this people that you are God, the true God, and that you are giving these people another chance at repentance.”

And, no surprise to Elijah, Immediately the fire of God fell and burned up the offering, the wood, the stones, the dirt, and even the water in the trench.

39 All the people saw it happen and fell on their faces in awed worship, exclaiming, “God is the true God! God is the true God!”

There is more to the story but a short time later we read, “The sky grew black with wind-driven clouds, and then a huge cloudburst of rain.”  (1 Kings 18 Message) The drought was broken! Yahweh, the one and only true and living God, the Lord of all creation, had spoken.

We are not given any more information about the storm that brought the rain to that parched land, but just maybe for a while the situation was something like that described in Psalm 29 when:

3–4 The voice of the Lord echoes through the skies and seas.
The Glory-God reigns as he thunders in the clouds.
So powerful is his voice, so brilliant and bright,
how majestic as he thunders over the great waters
His tympanic thunder topples the strongest of trees.
His symphonic sound splinters the mighty forests.
Now he moves Zion’s mountains by the might of his voice,
shaking the snowy peaks with his ear splitting sound!
The lightning-fire flashes, striking as he speaks.
God reveals himself when he makes the fault lines quake,
shaking deserts, speaking his voice.
God’s mighty voice makes the deer to give birth.
His thunderbolt voice lays the forest bare.
In his temple all fall before him with each one shouting,
“Glory, glory, the God of glory!”
                      (TPT)

What we know did happen though was that the people had no doubt who was the true God.

So, does God still speak to us today? If so, how?

The reality is that God is always speaking in various ways. This is not the problem. The problem is our spiritual deafness.

The author of the letter to the Hebrews puts it like this:

 Long ago God spoke in many different ways to our fathers through the prophets, in visions, dreams, and even face to face, telling them little by little about his plans.But now in these days he has spoken to us through his Son to whom he has given everything and through whom he made the world and everything there is.  God’s Son shines out with God’s glory, and all that God’s Son is and does marks him as God. He regulates the universe by the mighty power of his command. He is the one who died to cleanse us and clear our record of all sin, and then sat down in highest honour beside the great God of heaven.                                (Hebrews 1:1-3 Living Bible)

I, with many around the world can testify that the Bible is God’s Word to us today and through this book he speaks. I went from being a total unbeliever to a follower of Jesus solely from reading the Bible over a 3 month period. Nicky Gumbel (Alpha Series) tells of how he was a lawyer and an atheist and how reading God’s Word transformed his life completely. A Pakistani Muslim friend of mine became a follower of Jesus as a result of reading the Bible in his own language over a period of time. An Afghan Muslim friend living as a refugee in India was transformed having read the Bible and hearing the truth about Jesus. A Buddhist friend in Mongolia met Christians who shared with her the truth from God’s Word and she believed and continues to give her life serving Jesus. And these are just a few of multiple examples of how God is speaking to people today through his Word.

Have you heard his voice? Do you want to hear his voice?

The reality is that we are without excuse as Paul in Romans 1 says:

19 For the truth about God is known to them instinctively; God has put this knowledge in their hearts. 20 Since earliest times men have seen the earth and sky and all God made, and have known of his existence and great eternal power. So they will have no excuse when they stand before God at Judgment Day.  (Romans 1:19,20 Living Bible)

And so the writer in Hebrews, quoting from Psalm 95, gives us some important advice:

Today, if you hear his voice,
    do not harden your hearts…

12 See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.                             (
Hebrews 3:7, 8 & 12)

Thank you, Father that Jesus, who is described as the living Word of God (John 1) brings life and light to all who would hear your voice and respond with open hearts. Thank you that in these days those who love you come from all nations of the world. Such is the power of your Word. Speak to me this day. Amen.

# 116 A journey through the Psalms. Psalm 29. Why should the devil have all the good music?

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The story goes that “William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army was once told that certain kinds of music were too much ‘of the world’ to be used in evangelistic meetings, he replied, ‘Not allowed to sing that tune or this tune? Indeed! Secular music, do you say? Belongs to the devil, does it? Well, if it did, I would plunder him of it. Every note and every strain and every harmony is divine and belongs to us.’

At another time Booth discovered that a popular Christian chorus of the day took it’s tune from a music-hall ditty, ‘Champagne Charlie is My Name.’ His response? ‘That settles it. Why should the devil have all the best  tunes?’”                                    (https://storiesforpreaching.com/why-should-the-devil-have-all-the-good-music/)

So, you might ask, what has this got to do with Psalm 29? Well, read this unique psalm again and I will explain.

 1 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 splendour of his holiness.

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 Herman] 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[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.

This psalm, according to Brueggemann, “is an enthronement psalm.” In fact, he then suggests that “it is the scholarly consensus that this is an older Canaanite psalm taken by Israel, wherein only the name of the deity has been changed.” (see references # 2)

Kidner mentions that “early Canaanite poetry was similar” and adds the possibility that maybe “David was building the psalm out of an ancient fragment.” (see references # 29)

Longman gives even more explanation. He comments that “Many of the features of this psalm bear resemblance to Ugaritic [Canaanite] poetry…Some scholars have even concluded that Psalm 29 is an original Canaanite hymn in which the Israelite hymn writer has simply substituted the name Yahweh for Baal [known as ‘the storm god’, one of the most important of the numerous gods worshiped by the Canaanite community]. Perhaps this view is correct; otherwise, the composer has constructed the poem intentionally using…Canaanite devices and imagery.”

Longman then asks a good question: “But for what purpose?” He then answers: “The best explanation is that the Hebrew poet is stating that it is Yahweh, and not Baal, who is the power of the storm. In other words, the purpose would be polemical [an argument in defence of a truth] or apologetic [an argument to prove a truth], appealing to those Israelites who were tempted to worship Baal…” (see references # 30)

Broyles adds: “It appears that the Hebrew liturgists sang of Yahweh’s kingship in a way immediately understandable to all ancients, especially the Canaanite neighbours.” (see references # 4)

Interesting background information, but just how can we apply these things to ourselves in the 21st Century?

Firstly, without compromising the truth, Christians of all ages have endeavoured, and rightly so, to express the good news of Jesus in ways that are understandable to their audiences. Whether this be in music (consider the massive change in Christian music over the last 50 years), or in the use of the media (literature, radio, movies, the internet, satellite TV, mobile phone Apps, etc), or in learning other languages and cultural norms to proclaim Christ cross-culturally in a relevant way.

Secondly, we, in the age we live in, need to understand the truths of this psalm, that our God is King of his creation and not mankind or any other so-called god.  Brueggemann asks: “If Psalm 29 opposes Baal worship, what would constitute Baalism in contemporary culture? Taking a clue from the creation imagery…one suggestion would be the prevailing view that nature is a part of life to be explained and exploited for human desires, as something to be reduced to the control of human reason for the benefit of humans. The view underlies [todays] militant consumerism…That view sees humans as the centre of life, as those who dictate and control the path of life. The praise of God in Psalm 29 rejects that view and proclaims that it is the living God who is Lord of all creation and life. And so God is universally to be praised.”  (see references # 39)

So, we need to acknowledge, as does the psalmist here, that

10 The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;     the Lord is enthroned as King forever.                                                                                                                                                                              Only then will we experience the truth that

11 The Lord gives strength to his people;     the Lord blesses his people with peace.

Thank you, Father, that you are enthroned as King over your creation forever. In the midst of the philosophy of our age which seeks to diminish this truth, keep us faithful to you and your revealed word in the Bible. Enable us to proclaim in culturally relevant ways the good news of Jesus’ incarnation, life, death and resurrection. Amen.

# 115 A journey through the Psalms. Psalm 29 Lost in wonder, love, and praise.

What I Hear

Psalm 29 is one of the loveliest poems ever written. It is pure and unrestrained praise.” (TPT footnote)

Read the opening verses and see if you agree:

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 splendour of his holiness. (NIV)

Or as the Passion Translation puts it:

Proclaim his majesty, all you mighty champions,
you sons of Almighty God,
giving all the glory and strength back to him!
Be in awe before his majesty.
Be in awe before such power and might!
Come worship wonderful Yahweh, arrayed in all his splendour,
bowing in worship as he appears in all his holy beauty.
Give him the honour due his name.
Worship him wearing the glory-garments
of your holy, priestly calling!

In one of Charles Wesley’s many well-known hymns he concludes with the words,

“Lost in wonder, love, and praise.”  (Love Divine, all Loves Excelling”, 1747)

I think these words can describe the mood of this psalmist as he describes the awe, the majesty, the power of God.

I wonder, when was the last time you experienced such a time of worship of God?

Maybe, if it has been a while, then this Christmas, while Christians around the world worship the “new born King”,  you could join them.

There is so much in this psalm worth considering and we will do this in greater depths in the following posts, but as we reflect upon it in the light of Christmas, we see something wonderful.

The psalm commences with worship,

Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
WORSHIP the Lord in the splendour of his holiness.  (verse 1)

and ends with the words

The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with PEACE. (verse 11)

All reminding us of that wonderful night in Bethlehem when Jesus, the Saviour of the world, was born.

Here is how Luke describes it:

 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, PRAISING GOD and saying,

14 “GLORY TO GOD in the highest heaven,
and on earth PEACE to those on whom his favour rests.” (Luke 2:8-14)

Wilcock comments, “There is a movement…in this psalm…from heaven (vv. 1-2) where praise is given to God by his angels, to earth (vv. 10-11) where peace is given by God to his people…The observation of Franz Delitzsch [1830-1890] on the psalm’s opening and closing verses is too good to miss: Gloria in excelsis is its beginning, and pax in terris is its end. Thus Psalm 29 too points forward to the Lord Jesus, at whose coming the angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace.”  (see references # 5)

May we, this Christmas and everyday after, do as the carol writer suggests:

“Come and behold Him,
Born the King of Angels;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.”

Father, help us this day to ascribe to you glory and strength, to ascribe to you the glory due your name; and to worship you in the splendour of holiness. Thankyou for the peace you give. Thank you for sending Jesus, the Prince of Peace. Amen.