Reflection on Psalm 29

A view of a dried up riverbed near Qumran that regularly floods out. Photo is from when I visited Israel in 2006.

A view of a dried up riverbed near Qumran that regularly floods out. Photo is from when I visited Israel in 2006.

You, divine beings! Give to the Lord—
give to the Lord glory and power!
Give to the Lord the glory due his name!
Bow down to the Lord in holy splendor!

The Lord’s voice is over the waters;
the glorious God thunders;
the Lord is over the mighty waters.
The Lord’s voice is strong;
the Lord’s voice is majestic.

The Lord’s voice breaks cedar trees—
yes, the Lord shatters the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes Lebanon jump around like a young bull,
makes Sirion jump around like a young wild ox.
The Lord’s voice unleashes fiery flames;
the Lord’s voice shakes the wilderness—
yes, the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
The Lord’s voice convulses the oaks,
strips the forests bare,
but in his temple everyone shouts, “Glory!”

The Lord sits enthroned over the floodwaters;
the Lord sits enthroned—king forever!
Let the Lord give strength to his people!
Let the Lord bless his people with peace!
Psalm 29 (CEB)

FYI: Hebrew will be referenced today, so buckle your mental seat belts if necessary.

Similar to last weeks Psalm reflection, this is an enthronement psalm. This time, however, the one being enthroned is not a human king, instead this Psalm is proclaiming the enthronement of God over the whole of creation. In fact, this Psalm is very explicit, and repetitive, in it’s use of the divine name (Yahweh or יהוה in Hebrew) referring specifically to the God of Israel. There is no one else worthy of the throne of the cosmos, all the other “divine beings” should worship and bow down before God and worship accordingly.

Why should they worship יהוה the God of Israel? I’m glad you asked.

In this Psalm it is the “voice” of the Lord which seems to be doing a lot of action here. This rings some echos from the account of Creation in Genesis 1 when God speaks and the waters and earth obey. Here, God’s voice is “over the waters”, which is also similar to the “spirit” that hovered over the chaotic waters of Genesis 1. This “voice” is also the same word used in Hebrew for the “sound” (qol or קוֹל in Hebrew) of God walking in the Garden that Adam and Eve heard and caused them to hide in Genesis 3. Also we get reference later to God sitting enthroned over the “floodwaters” which echoes of the flood story in Genesis. At the end of that story, God’s “sprit” or “wind” (depending of the translation of the same Hebrew word used in Genesis 1, ruach or רוח in Hebrew) causes the flood waters to subside. So, God’s enthronement and worship is connected to his power and authority over the waters as established in the Creation and “re-Creation” of the flood story.

God’s voice is also breaking cedar trees in Lebanon, making “Sirion” jump, stirring up flames, shaking the wilderness of Kadesh, convulsing oaks and stripping them bare. Lebanon should be familiar as towards the north of Israel and also very famous for it’s cedar trees. “Sirion” is another name for Mt. Hermon which is also in the northern part of Israel. Kadesh is the southern wilderness, famous for the wanderings of the Exodus. So, here we have God’s voice acting on the whole land of Israel from the north to the south. These are also the two most contested parts of Israel. The typical invasion routes into the country were from the north or the south. Egypt to the south is a constant aggressor towards Israel and many countries challenged or invaded Israel from the North (Assyria, Babylon, etc.). So, God shaking the mountains, stripping cedars and stirring up the dust of the wilderness may also be God helping defend the land and “breaking” or “stripping” the power of those who would try to challenge Israel.

Because of all this, God is sitting enthroned forever, giving strength to his people and blessing his people with peace. This strength and peace come as God holds back the divine forces of chaos (referring to the echos of creation and the floodwaters of Noah), and the forces of the other nations. It is God’s strength and voice who is holding those powers back and allowing the people to thrive.

This is some pretty “rah-rah-sis-boom-bah”, pep rally type stuff going on in this Psalm.

When we think about this in light of the Lectionary which puts this Psalm next to the story of Jesus’ baptism (Mark 1:4-11) in the Jordan, it shines some interesting new light. In Jesus, the power of God is demonstrated not so much in the stripping of oaks and cedars or in the defense of the land of Israel, but in the stripping off of divine power and rights in order to accept the nails of the cross and all the death, pain and suffering associated with it. Through Christ, we see that his death on the cross leads to his resurrection and enthronement which is what is truly holding back the forces of chaos threatening to flood into our lives (see Philippians 2:6-11).

In Christ, the Lord blesses all people with his peace.

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One thought on “Reflection on Psalm 29

  1. Pingback: Reflection on Psalm 62:5-12 | Fascinating Mystery

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