“Some Thoughts About This Past Wednesday” Psalm 29 May 1, 2011
We began a study of 1 Peter last Sunday,
but Thursday morning I woke up with this Psalm on my mind.
I read it for devotions and decided that I ought to share it with you.
You will remember from our study of the Psalms this past winter that
every emotion and every experience of the Christian life,
every encounter with God can be found in the Psalms.
John Calvin called the Psalms an anatomy of every part of the soul.
Well, this is the Psalm for believers on the Lord’s Day after a tornado.
INTRO: Over the past few days, I’m sure you’ve caught yourself just staring
in amazement at huge trees with their roots ten feet in the air, and crushed cars,
and demolished buildings and scattered junk.
You can’t help saying—Look at that! Look at that!
And then there are the terrible pictures of neighborhoods in Tuscaloosa—
not just homes torn up like here, but absolute rubble for block after block.
And you realize we just got a touch of the storm.
And I’m sure you’ve felt gratitude that lots of people weren’t killed in our town,
and that nobody in our church or family was killed—
But you are very aware that many have lost their lives.
And that there are churches all across Alabama where people are crying
this morning because someone’s pew is empty.
What do you make of all this?
When you become a Christian, the Holy Spirit not only gives you a new heart,
he begins the process of transforming your mind. He transforms your thinking.
You start to see the world differently.
You even start to see tornados and disasters differently.
Part of that change in thinking the Holy Spirit does all by himself.
He works those changes in you.
But a big part of it is your cooperation with the Holy Spirit.
He says: Think this way. Look at it this way.
“Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
And that’s where this Psalm is so helpful.
One of the most spiritually minded men in the history of redemption,
the man after God’s own heart, King David, reflects on a storm.
It’s not just any storm—it’s a thunderstorm full of tornadoes.
And where does his mind turn as he contemplates the storm—to the Lord.
Did you notice that over and over, 18 times, almost every line,
David says—the Lord.
And it’s LORD in all capital letters. That’s a signal to us by the translators
that this is the name Yahweh. Yahweh is God’s personal name.
It’s his covenant name.
That means it’s the name he used to identify himself when he promised salvation
to Abraham and his descendants and to Moses and the children of Israel.
David doesn’t say: God, God, God—
He looks at the storm and says: Yahweh, Yahweh, Yahweh.
It would be like a New Testament believer saying—Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.
Read Psalm 29 that way and you’ll see the personal significance:
The voice of Jesus is over the waters. The voice of Jesus is powerful.
The voice of Jesus breaks the cedars. Jesus sits enthroned over the flood.
Jesus is enthroned as King forever. Jesus blesses his people with peace.
You understand. This is a Psalm about God our personal Savior.
What is David’s response to seeing the Lord in the storm?
He worships. He calls out to angels and men to worship the Lord.
Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.
And he looks forward to the Sabbath, to the next worship service
to be with God’s people, gathering in the temple after the storm has passed
and crying out—Glory! Jesus and glory!
There are many responses, many emotions, that flood your heart during and after
a terrible storm—and all of those emotions have their place.
But the predominant response, the deep cry of the believing heart
ought to be, must be to worship the Lord, and call others to worship him.
That’s what we’ve gathered to do this morning.
To look at the storm—and then for all in the Lord’s temple to cry, “Glory!”
Three ways that the Holy Spirit wants to use this storm
to make you a better Christian and to sanctify your mind.
Three reasons you are to worship the Lord in the storm—
1. For his power
2. For his judgment
3. For his grace
Let’s look at each.
MP#1 First, you must worship the Lord for his power
David describes a storm in Psalm 29.
But he doesn’t describe it like James Span. He doesn’t use scientific terms.
He doesn’t talk about storm cells and wind velocity and category 5.
David was a poet, and he uses poetic language.
If you love poetry, you will appreciate what David does here.
If you don’t like poetry, that’s ok. Some people do and some don’t.
But have an open mind, and at least appreciate the incredible creativity
and his use of words and rhythm. This is a masterpiece.
David begins by describing thunder as the voice of the Lord.
You know how you can hear a storm coming as the thunder gets
louder and louder and closer and closer?
I’ve always heard that you see the lighting flash, start counting the seconds
until the thunder, and then divide by seven and it gives you how many miles
away the storm is.
Well David envisions the thunder as the Lord’s voice booming powerfully.
Like a very loud and strong person getting closer and closer.
Did you notice how often the phrase is repeated—
the voice of the Lord, the voice of the Lord, the voice of the Lord—seven times.
Every time you read that, imagine a crack of thunder.
The kind that makes you jump because it’s so loud.
Where does David first hear the voice of the Lord thundering?
Over the waters. Over the mighty waters. Where is that?
It’s the Mediterranean Sea, up north and west of Israel.
That’s where their storms came from. Ours come from the southwest.
In Israel, they sweep down out of the northwest.
So David hears the voice of the Lord thunder over the waters, over the sea,
then the storm rushes inland and pounds Lebanon, the country north of Israel.
And what does the storm do there? It breaks cedars. Smashes to pieces.
The cedars of Lebanon were like the Redwoods or the Sequoias of ancient world.
They were famous for their size and majesty. The Lord breaks them in pieces.
Jason White told me this week that he went to a neighbors house that was hit hard,
and there were huge old cedars torn down and the air was fragrant with them.
Then the storm lashes Sirion—which is another name for Mt Hermon—
so the storm is moving inland and farther south. All this time the thunder
is booming, and the voice of the Lord is sounding.
The lighting display is so vivid, the mountain appears to be skipping like a calf.
And then finally, after sweeping through all Israel, over 200 miles—
it spends its final fury in the great desert in the south—Kadesh.
But even there it’s powerful enough to twist oaks and strips forests bare.
The day before yesterday, I prayed with Jennifer Tanner and Lisa Jones
in Jennifer’s yard and we were standing right beside a splintered oak.
Read Psalm 29 to yourself, read it out loud.
Imagine a crack of thunder every time you read the voice of the Lord.
Imagine a storm sweeping two hundred miles from north to south.
Hearing it coming, seeing the trees splinter and break.
Remember the trees you’ve seen in this storm.
And then David says: Worship. Cry glory.
Why? He’s bowing down before the power of God in creation.
He’s saying: O Lord, this is just your finger. This is just your breath.
I sing in church that you are powerful, that you can do anything,
but often those are just words to me. Now I see it.
There is nothing you can’t do. No barrier you can’t break down.
Oak trees that have stood a hundred years are nothing to you.
And then you need to think about the barriers and obstacles in your life.
Is it a person with a hard heart—
maybe a wandering child, or a brother or sister who has been estranged.
You can’t ever imagine that person changing, or being saved—
but God can break that oak, he can splinter that hard heart.
Or maybe it’s an impossible need. Something impossibly out of reach.
Have faith and worship, he’s the Lord of the storm.
Unbelievers can be in awe of nature and they often are.
They can stand amazed at the power of nature.
They can even write poetry about it—but it doesn’t give them any hope.
CS Lewis says that being a Christian changes the way you see nature.
Because you look beyond it. You run up the sunbeam to the sun.
You see God—not just God, the Lord, Yahweh, Jesus Christ in power for you.
MP#2 Second, you must worship the Lord for his judgment
After David describes the storm, it’s like he goes back to the very beginning—
to the place where the storm first started, back to the waters of the sea—
and he sees the Lord there. Verse 10:
“The Lord sits enthroned over the flood, the Lord is enthroned as King forever.”
It first appears that David is just saying that God is the one who created the storm.
But it’s much more significant than that. Because this word for “the flood”
is only used one other time in all the Old Testament.
Do you want to guess where? It’s used in Genesis 6,7,8 to refer to The Flood.
Noah’s flood, when God was grieved at the wickedness of mankind
and destroyed every living thing with water—and only Noah found grace
in the eyes of the Lord, and took his family and the animals on the ark.
Throughout the Bible, Noah’s flood represents God’s judgment.
And how he is patient and bears with sinful people and then the day comes
when his patience is exhausted and his righteous anger is expressed.
Throughout the Old Testament era, believers looked at the flood as the great
picture of the day of judgment.
When David walked around after the storm and saw trees torn down and all
sorts of other destruction he saw in that vivid picture of God’s wrath
toward sin—and he worshipped God’s judgment.
We have an even more complete and vivid view of judgment than David.
If you took your concordance and looked up all the New Testament references
to Noah and the flood, you would find that the flood is a picture for us of the
suddenness of Jesus Christ’s Second Coming and the day of judgment.
Jesus himself said in Matthew 24
As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.
There was another time, we read it earlier in the service, where everybody
was talking about two terrible things that had happened.
There were some people protesting and Pilate, the Roman governor, didn’t like it.
So he surprised them by sending Roman soldiers in to kill them.
And then everybody was talking about a tower that collapsed in Jerusalem
and killed a bunch of people. The word was: they must have deserved it.
They must have gotten what was coming to them from God.
But Jesus says: Do you think these people were more guilty than anybody else—
No, but unless you repent, you too will perish.
Jesus says it and David rejoices in it.
All disasters, the destruction of war, of storms, of famine and plagues—
all of them are little pictures of the day of judgment.
Cullman, Alabama, April 27, 2011 was a foreshadowing of judgment.
If you are going to take Jesus seriously, you must repent. Look at the storm.
Look at the destroyed buildings and uprooted trees in Cullman, and tell yourself,
there is going to be a day of judgment when everything will be cast down.
I have to be ready for that day by living a life of faith and repentance.
When the storm comes, I don’t want to be caught unaware.
We believe, we truly believe in the eternal security of believers.
The Bible teaches that nothing can snatch us out of Christ’s hand.
But we also take the warnings of Scripture seriously.
And here is a warning, to live repentant lives. Not to presume on God’s mercy.
Not to say: I’ll be ok. I’ll get right with him later. I’ll get serious later.
When the storm comes and the voice of the Lord sounds—it will be too late. Worship the Lord by repenting and like David, and you can rejoice in storm.
Have you repented this week? If you haven’t, you need to deal with the Lord today.
What sins? What idols?
Is there some sexual immorality in your life that you must repent of?
How can you look at demolished buildings and crushed cars and not?
Is there some deep anger or bitterness in your heart. Root it out.
Don’t hold on to it until Jesus returns and be caught unaware.
During communion. Today, repent. Ask a friend to pray for you.
I got an email from a friend that expresses this so well:
“So sorry to see and hear of such damage in Cullman. I pray God uses this in Cullman and Christ Covenant to lead people to himself and bring the community and church together for his glory. Such terrible destruction makes me lament my own sin and rejoice in Jesus who took the wrath I deserve into Himself.”
That’s the spirit. A man who thinks like that can rejoice in God’s judgments.
And that leads us perfectly to the last point.
MP#3 You must worship the Lord for his grace
Why did the storm Wednesday not destroy you in judgment for your sins?
Why were you not swept away to death and judgment?
Because Jesus Christ suffered the storm of God’s wrath for you on the cross.
All of the fury was poured out on him, body and soul.
He was torn, he was shattered. He heard the terrible voice of God’s judgment.
God’s wrath towards you was turned aside.
If you trust him, if you are united to him by faith—
then the storms of life cannot do you any lasting harm—
in fact, they become opportunities for God’s grace in your life.
Where’s God’s grace? It’s in the last verse. The storm has passed.
The sun is shining and David says:
“The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.”
The word strength is poetic shorthand for the whole condition of a person.
Your strength is your animating power, it’s that which gives you life.
David is saying that in storms believers see that everything necessary
for the preservation of your life depends entirely on the grace of God.
And the phrase bless his people with peace amplifies that—
It’s the Hebrew word shalom which means more than peace of mind,
it means wholeness, blessedness, complete happiness and prosperity.
Because Jesus died for your sins, that means the storms of life are transformed
from occasions for judgment to occasions for grace.
God redeems the storms of life to give you strength and peace.
Do you understand that?
On Friday I was trying to get over to Eastside Baptist Church—
we’ve spent a lot of time there because Cullman Christian School’s
elementary classrooms were located there.
We tried to salvage as much stuff as we could.
But 278 was closed so I parked a block away and I was cutting through
someone’s yard when the owner stopped me.
He was an elderly man and he wanted to tell me his story.
He said, I was in my cellar when it passed and it sounded like, it sounded like
(I thought for sure he was going to say freight train)
But he said: It sounded like a giant washing machine.
And I thought: What a great description. Why isn’t he on the news?
Everybody says it sounds like a train. A giant washing machine is scary.
Then he pointed out his house, and how, even though he was just across the street
from the worse damage, his house was barely touched.
Just a shingle or two and a window.
He said: I’m OK. The Lord took care of me.
Then he paused and said:
But even my house had been destroyed and if I had been killed,
I would still be ok because I would be in heaven with the Lord.
I said: Are you Presbyterian? No, he was Baptist.
Went to a little church in the county.
I thanked him for his testimony and walked away encouraged.
There are lots of storms in life—not just tornados.
There are storms of illness, storms of marital strife,
storms of financial woe, storms of emotional collapse—
and those storms can bring all sorts of destruction and harm.
In fact, there are probably some of you here for whom this tornado was just
a momentary diversion. You didn’t have to think so much about your troubles
for the past few days. You were occupied with cleaning up or life without power.
But now that life returns to normal—there are all these storm clouds.
In Jesus Christ, and in him alone, all those things can be redeemed.
You can know that the storms will pass, and the Lord will bless you
with strength and peace, just when you need it most.
How do you know? Because Jesus died and rose again and he has promised—
that all things work together for good for those who love him,
who have been called according to his purpose.
Do you love him? Have you been called by him?
Have you heard his voice in you, calling you to repentance and faith—
then you can look at the peace after the storm and know that is just
a little picture of the grace of God to you.
Rest in that, trust him, and worship him.
John Calvin said: From this Psalm we learn that we ought to stand in awe of the majesty of God, hope in him for all that is necessary for our prosperity, and be assuredly persuaded, that since his power is infinite, we are defended by an invincible fortress.
So let’s come to the Table, and remember the Lord’s death,
and commune with our great Lord who is both the Lord of the storm,
and the one who went through the storm for us—and let’s worship him.