Psalm 29: Glory!
Wonder and awe at the thought of the Holy One
Pic by Pablo Roda
Read Psalm 29
in the translation of your choice...
Chabad.org (with Rashi commentary)
NIV at BlueLetterBible.org (with interlinear
...and dive into the immersion materials below.
Listen up, preachers
It's a quick overview of Psalm 29 as it relates to the lectionary texts in Year B early in Epiphany. From the legendary Psalm correspondent of the Pulpit Fiction podcast.
A Stormy God
In many places in scripture, God is shelter from the storm.
In Psalm 29, the Holy One brings the storm. And how!
God is in the thunder, fire, earthquake, and floods. God's voice is shaking
the desert and snapping trees like twigs. Even the famous "cedars of
Lebanon" are wiped out.
What's with all the violence?
This text resonates with an old Canaanite myth of creation about Baal
the thunder-god who tamed the watery chaos and its wild sea monster
to make creation. In Psalm 29's reboot of that story, it's the God of Israel
who not only tames the chaos, it's the Holy One who controls it in the
first place. (See creation story number one in Genesis 1.
At the end of the day in verses 10-11, it's the Holy One who also stills
the storm, bringing strength and shalom (peace and prosperity) to the
people. (See the story of Jesus calming the sea in the gospels).
The point is whether there's an abusing storm or quiet skies, God's
got this. God is in the storm, God is in the calm. God is in the delightful
parts of life as well as the painful seasons.
“In the cultural world of the psalms the thunderstorm was... a classic medium for describing the divine victor whose victory over the counterforces of chaos brings about the world and manifests the reign of the deity.”
Seven times ‘the voice of the Lord’ is referred to, with the thunderstorm helping us visualize the awesome power of God’s creating, organizing and sustaining.
Mays, James L. Preaching and Teaching the Psalms. ed, Patrick Miller and Gene M. Tucker. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2006. p.45
Pic by Belovodchenko Anton
Pic by Lauren S
Pic by Nihan Aydin
Weather in Israel tends to move from north to south. In the course of the text, we get a play by play as the storm builds from the northern border of Lebanon to Siniai. What geographic regions do you note in the text?
Mapping the Storm's Trajectory
The Surprise Ending, Julian and a Life of Trust
After the destructive power of the storm, Psalm 29 does not end with a final blow that destroys the world, although we might think that's where it's headed.
It ends with peace.
Is Psalm 29 about a life of trust?
Sometimes it feels like there's been violence unleashed on our world. It feels out of control, like the road we're on is not leading anywhere good, like we need help.
What if we understood all of life held in the Holy One that has design, creativity and welcome for eveything?
In the psalm narrative of God bringing storms and peace, we have a frame of Presence around the picture of our lives. Whatever the circumstance, the psalm seems to say, God is here. Paul says it differently in the New Testament, but it's a similar tone.
In the short view, it seems impossible. This is not how the world is supposed to be, right? Look how messed up the world is.
The long view, however (in theological terms, eschatology), is plain in the biblical tradition: God's got this. It's going to be alright-- you know, in the end. Beyond our personal preferences, better than our best plans, surpassing humanity's capacity to figure things out for ourselves, there's a slow, wonderful curve of evolution toward justice, goodness and community that is unfolding on a scale not one of us can imagine. It's what Matthew's story of Jesus calls the "kingdom of heaven."
It's hidden in everything, but hard to see. That's why it's a life of trust.
It's probably good we're not in charge of that.
It's good we are not in control of the world.
It's good we don't have eyes to see the big picture.
The psalms pulse with the possibilities of a life of trust.
What would genuine trust feel like for you and your community?
The mystic Julian of Norwich lived around the 4th century in Norwich, England during the time of the Plague. Amid the turmoil of that time, she became deathly ill. She wrote, even in the midst of dire hardship,
"All shall be well,
and all shall be well,
and all manner of things shall be well."
What would it be like to truly feel trust resonate within us as we move forward, as we make choices? Like whatever we choose, we can follow through boldly knowing-- feeling-- it'll be alright--you know, in the scope of eternity.
We don't do it alone, we don't get it all at once, and like everything, it takes practice.
That's good, too.
Psalm 29 sung in Hebrew
Pic by Muneef Hameed (creative commons)
Psalm 29 brings up the theme of control.
The rebooting of the Canaanite myth in Psalm 29 intends to show the God of Israel is supreme. From creation to this living moment, no other god is in control. It sings not about humanity being large and in charge, but God.
In his time, Jesus also enacted a counter-cultural alternative to the imposing empire of their day-- Empire being any imposing trust-negating voice that would shove us off the way that gives life.
What is the equivalent of Empire today?
Psalm scholar Clint McCann suggests for many of us it’s our craving for control.
In a consumeristic culture of conquest, many of us are trained to be self-sufficient, strong, to look smart and have it all together. We are fed the idea that some of us are privileged and entitled to power.
The Psalms speak the opposite: we are meant to be connected to one another and dependent on something other than our own ambition. In Psalm 1, we are trees transplanted near water-- the very source of life in desert culture-- where we have all that we need.
When we pray the doxology of the Lord’s Prayer: “for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory” are we not confessing our tendency to want power, glory and kingdom? Our habit of gripping tightly any privilege we have and keep it for ourselves? The fear of change that might upset our strong, upward status?
What would it look like to resist the narrative that we should be in charge, and in control? How would we treat our friends, family and people who look different from us?
What models for living do you have for this kind of life?
Psalm 29, Empire and the Lord's Prayer
Pic by Markus Biehal
Praying with Psalm 29
Holy One, as your people of ancient Israel described you with images of power, destruction and transformation, open our imaginations to who and what you are.
God of glory, your awesome presence permeates all things. Open our world to your majesty which is transforming our ways of seeing.
God of grace, your surprising presence permeates all things. Open our hearts to your compassion which is transforming our ways of thinking.
God of transformation, your disruptive presence permeates all things. Open our habits to your holiness which is renewing our ways of living.
Holy One, we desire to trust you with what’s going on with us. Together with the support of these people of God, and all the saints surrounding, we open to you now our hopes and fears.
We pray together with the Beloved who loves us and leads us on.
Pic by aiao-pl
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Grace, peace and justice are in and about you.
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