This has been an extraordinary year. As we have faced a crisis of global proportions, our ears have been ringing and our minds numbed by clamoring voices on all sides. But there is one voice that rises above them all, and that is the “voice of the Lord.”
King David uses this expression repeatedly in Psalm 29 in a way that resonates with the situation that has dominated our landscape over recent months. The setting was different—the ancient world of his day—but the issues were not unlike our own. Powers and forces of nature and men were threatening to overwhelm life as he knew it. But what is interesting about David’s response is the way he not only engages God’s believing people but also speaks to all people through these words.
The psalm and its place in Scripture are unusual because the psalm is very similar to a hymn to Baal that already existed in the Ugaritic language. Among his many different guises, Baal was regarded as the storm god in Canaanite religion, and his worshipers looked to him to bring them through life’s upheavals. But like every false deity, Baal had neither the ability to hear nor the ability to answer this cry for help, and his devotees were left to the mercy of life’s crises. Not so the God of Israel.
The Lord—Yahweh—had manifested His sovereign power over all things in a multitude of ways from Noah’s flood to Moses’ passage through the Red Sea and more besides. So here, writing under the direction of the Holy Spirit, Israel’s king takes this piece of ancient pagan poetry that ascribed honor and power to a god who was a fiction and attributes glory instead to the Lord, who alone is the true and living God. And he does so through a sevenfold reference to “the voice of the LORD.”
He speaks of its being “over the waters” (v. 3), “powerful” (v. 4), and “full of majesty,” as what “breaks the cedars” (v. 5), “flashes forth flames of fire” (v. 7), “shakes the wilderness” (v. 8), and “makes the deer give birth” (v. 9). On one level, David points to the voice of the Lord in creation and providence. God spoke the world and universe into being in creation, and He “upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Heb. 1:3). David deliberately phrases this psalm about Yahweh in a way that directly highlights the impotence of Baal in all these areas. In so doing, he provides comfort to God’s people in all ages by reminding us of His invincible sovereignty over everything. But there is more as well.
David wants us to realize that even though we did not “hear” God’s voice in creation and we do not “hear” it as He conducts the symphony of the universe each day, we do hear it in His written Word in Scripture. More than this, we come face-to-face with it in Jesus Christ, the Word incarnate. He uniquely enables us to make sense of life’s crises and also to find comfort as we face them.