John T. Willis

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Yahweh's Storm--Psalm 29

Since 1929, Ugaritic texts from the 13th century BCE contain poems which are very similar to Psalm 29. In these Ugaritic texts, Baal, the god of the Canaanites and the Canaanite storm god, sends a storm. Apparently, Psalm 29 is very early. The composer intentionally mimics the picture of a storm by declaring that Yahweh, and not Baal, is the only true God, who is in control of all nature, including thunderstorms. Psalm 29 lays out a vivid picture of a typical thunderstorm in Palestine or Israel. A typical storm began over the Mediterranean Sea, then moved in eastward onto the Lebanon and antiLebanon mountains in the north, which deflects the storm southward to move through the Jordan River Valley into the wilderness of Kadesh in the south, where the storm finally dies out. The storm is usually very strong and leaves much water. Between the introduction and the conclusion, there are three movements of the thunderstorm.

I. Introduction. Psalm 29:1-2.
    a. The psalmist addresses the angelic armies of Yahweh. Literally, verse 1 designates them as "sons of God," and the New Revised Standard Version translates "heavenly beings." It is important to realize that biblically, there are numerous invisible intelligent powerful beings in the heavenly realms. 29:1a.
   b. The composer charges the angelic beings to ascribe to Yahweh what he already has: his glory and his strength. They summons them to worship Yahweh in holy splendor. Yahweh's glory is his magnificence, splendor, grandeur, majesty. Like human beings, angelic beings must constantly worship Yahweh.

II. The Storm is over the Mediterranean Sea. Psalm 29:3-4.
     a. The theme of Psalm 29 is "the voice of God." In this psalm, "the voice of God" is thunder. Verse 3a-b makes this very clear by the synonymous parallelism. As in verses 1-2, in verse 3 the emphasis is still on the "glory" of God. The waters or the mighty waters are clearly the waters of the Mediterranean Sea. 29:3.
    b. Thunder [the voice of Yahweh] is powerful and full of majesty. Anyone who has experienced a thunderstorm knows firsthand the power and majesty of God. 29:4.

III. The Storm is over the Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon Mountains. Psalm 29:5-6.
      a. Deflected southward by the Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon mountains in North Israel, the wind and thunder of the storm breaks the cedars of Lebanon. The cedars of Lebanon are famous for their texture and strength. Solomon had workers float cedar trees from North Israel to the shore to the west of Jerusalem to bring them to build the first temple. 1 Kings 5:6-12. 29:5.
     b. As lightning flashes all around, viewers imagine the mountains to skip like a calf or a wild ox. Sirion is another name for [Mount] Hermon. Deuteronomy 3:9. 29:6.

IV. The Storm moves through the Jordan River Valley into the Wilderness of Kadesh. Psalm 29:7-9.
       a. Thunder [the voice of Yahweh] is accompanied by lightning, here called "flames of fire." Most people have experienced such thunderstorms. 29:7.
       b. As the thunder roars and the wind blows, Yahweh shakes the wilderness of Kadesh. Again, thunderstorms usually contain very strong wind. 29:8.
       c. As the wind blows, it strips bark from the trees on the mountains and in the wilderness. It twists and uproots mighty oaks when the wind is very strong. In Yahweh's heavenly temple, all the heavenly angelic beings shout again "GLORY." 29:9.

V. A Flood and a Calm after the Storm. Psalm 29:10-11.
     a. Ordinarily after a drenching thunderstorm, two things happens. First, water surrounds everything. It is like a flood. The "flood" in verse 10 is not Noah's flood, but the flood deposited after the thunderstorm. Most people have experienced this type of God's magnificence. 29:10.
     b. Second, the loud thunder, lightning flashes, and powerful wind subside, and people experience a striking silence or calmness or peace. This is all very refreshing. Thus, the psalmist concludes by declaring: May Yahweh give strength to his people just as he has demonstrated his strength in this thunderstorm (see verse 1); May Yahweh bless his people with peace just as he produced peace or calmness after the thunderstorm. 29:11.

For approximately six weeks, Abilene and all West Texas rejoiced many thunderstorms, and brought water to a much higher level than it has been for a long time. We know firsthand of Yahweh's power in thunder, lightning, wind, and thunderstorm. It would be difficult to find a more vivid picture of a thunderstorm than in Psalm 29.

Share YOUR experiences and thoughts and questions and failures and doubts with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


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