You mighty ones, give to the LORD as his right, Ascribe to the LORD God both glory and might. To the LORD’s name due glory and honour accord; In beauty of holiness worship the LORD.
The LORD’s voice is over the waters abroad, And thunder proceeds from the glorious God. Above all the waters God’s thunder is heard; A powerful voice is the voice of the LORD.
The voice of the LORD is majestic and loud; By the voice of the LORD the great cedars are bowed. Yes, even the cedars of Lebanon tall, The LORD breaks in pieces and shatters them all.
Like the leap of a calf he shakes Lebanon’s rocks, And Sirion skips like a startled wild ox. The voice of the LORD causes lightning to flash; The voice of the LORD makes the wilderness crash.
The LORD makes the desert of Kadesh to shake; The LORD causes oaks of the forest to quake. The trees of the forest he strips of their leaves, And he in his temple great glory receives.
The LORD over floods sits as monarch alone; The LORD sits for ever as King on his throne. The LORD makes the strength of his people increase; The LORD gives his people the blessing of peace.
You can hear a Free Church of Scotland congregation sing this to the tune St Denio (Immortal Invisible) here.
Storm and strength
As I paused in the middle of writing this, the computer screen switched to a picture I had not expected nor seen before. It was a magnificent forked lightning, crackling with force and electricity, piercing and pleating the dark sky, yet reaching across the land with the touch of a tender light. That image, one fixed frame from a mighty tempest, carried in it much of the message of Psalm 29. For this is a tempestuous song, about a trustworthy God.
The Psalm’s big idea is simply told: if you want to see the strength of God, look into the face of a storm. Hear the thunder. Stagger against the wind. Hear great trees creak and bend. Sense the energy and animation that convulse the land. Feel the world shudder and strain.
Then give praise. Remember that all this force is not rootless or meaningless. It is testimony. It tells of the one who shaped and sustains the earth. It speaks of power and purpose, of a constant vigour and creative voice, of majesty and might, of an intense ruling presence. Here is a God worthy of worship, a God who is neither limited nor absent nor uninvolved. For God is not dull, nor dead nor detached. God is alive, alert and active – known in creation though not bound by it, at work within nature yet not inhibited by it. God stirs in the deserts and empty spaces, speaks into the world’s silences, and shakes its static landscapes from lethargy into life.
This is the Lord who beckons the praise of heaven, and blesses people on earth. This is the Lord who sits as King, and summons our faith, hope and love. This is a God before whom we tremble – and in whom we trust.
God of strength, when I sense the forces of nature, help me to remember your majesty; when I feel my weakness, tell me of your strength; when the world seems to lack purpose, teach my heart to praise you; and when days seem slow, and hope is thin, remind me of the energy that raised Jesus from death to life. Amen.
The Rev’d John Proctor is a member of Emmanuel URC, Cambridge and works as General Secretary of the URC.