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Psalm 29

Context of the text

Some have considered Psalm 29 to be oldest of the Psalms. The use of repetition highlights the poetic function of the Psalm. Also it is likely “an adaptation of an ancient Canaanite hymn to Baal, a god of weather and fertility.”[1] This Psalm is often categorized as an enthronement psalm, with some similarities to Psalm 47; 93; and 95-99.[2] McCann points out that what is unique to this psalm is that it is addressed to “heavenly beings” while other enthronement Psalms are addressed to “families of the peoples.” It is likely that these beings are the “deposed gods of the Canaanite pantheon.”[3]

Theology of the text

Whether or not this is the oldest Psalm or whether or not this was written against a Canaanite hymn to Baal, it is clear this Psalm declares in full voice the Yahweh alone is the one true God. It is striking how many of the pagan gods celebrated through recorded history were gods who had power and responsibility over parts of nature. However, this pagan worship was not one of joy, but really a form of manipulation. The god of the sun, rain, or fertility would be worshipped not simply for the honor and glory that was due such a god, but worship was a really a form of manipulation. I worshipped the god of rain so that rain would come to me. In some sense then to worship the gods of nature, was really a form of self-worship to make sure my life was taken care of. This is why this Psalm’s beginning with words of praise for who God is, before and beyond what God can do for me is essential for Christian worship.

Yahweh’s name occurs with prominence in the text over eighteen times, often connected to the term glory. This Psalm is making a political claim that Yahweh is the only one and true sovereign God above any other imagined gods.

Notes on the text

1-2: These verses celebrate a praise of God, not for things God has done, but for who God is. More time and attention in worship should be given to the celebration and adoration for who God is. While certainly celebrating what God has done in thanksgiving is essential, the celebration and affirmation for who God is helps to group worship in doxology.

3: The idea of the voice of the Lord over the waters connects to several images. Perhaps one of the most powerful is in the Genesis creation narrative as God’s Spirit hovered over the waters.

-“The God of Glory thunders” This phrase reminds the reader of the “whirlwind speech” in Job 38. As Job has asked God to be present, God responds with a reminder of how God is the power over all creation. For Job this provides both assurance and a healthy dose of fear and awe.

-One also notes that in verses 3-9 the “voice of the Lord” is named seven times, with seven serving as a number of fullness and completion. The strength and power of God are celebrated, praised, and recognized to have no equal.

5-9: The strength of Yahweh as Lord over creation is again illustrative of a God who is not simply Lord over nature, but over all imagined other human invented gods of nature. Through the narrative of a violent thunderstorm, the power of God is declared to be king over creation.

It is noteworthy that in the ancient world, thunder would have been the loudest noise in the ancient Near East, and as such thunderstorms were connected to divine appearances.

9-10: These verses celebrate that Yahweh is the one true King and Lord over all,.and whose dwelling is the temple. While not entirely clear, it is possible that human worshipers would be invited to the Temple in Jerusalem who are also invited to worship in God’s glory as King over all. As such Yahweh will provide shalom for all creation.

Preaching the text

This Psalm is a political celebration that Yahweh is the one and true King over all. By celebrating how the voice of the Lord rules through and over creation is a statement that all human idols with supposed control over nature, simply are to be abandoned as worthless. Yet this Psalm is not simply about strutting God’s power, but an invitation for humans to put their hope, trust, and Lordship in Yahweh. As noted above, too often humans worship the pagan gods of nature, not simply to honor that god for its own sake, but for how that god would help provide provisions for life. Yet in this pagan worship, each human was still living as their own lord. This psalm is an invitation to worship God for who God is, even when tempted to treat oneself as Lord. While most persons idolatry today is not to the gods of sun, rain, wind, and fertility, the gods of nationalism, consumerism, fear, etc are simply different ”gods” that serve a similar function as the pagan gods before. They are attempts to secure one’s own fate while being lord of one own’s life. Like the whirlwind speech of Job 38, there are times for humanity to remember that while we are tempted toward self-sovereignty, just as nature can overpower humanities buildings and monuments, the true Sovereign Yahweh is more powerful than nature. This sovereignty should move Christians towards a healthy sense of awe and respect. Not fear that holds us back from God, but fear that invites away from lives where we attempt to live as if we are sovereign. While sin is often an attempt at being diving and losing one’s humanity, to worship God is to rightly find one’s humanity. [1] McCann, J. Clinton Jr. Psalms in Volume IV of the New Interpreter’s Bible (Nashville: Abingdon Press) 1996, 792, [2] McCann, 792. [3] McCann, 792.