According to the National Geographic, about a 100 lightning bolts strike the earth’s surface about every second. Despite its commonality, the facts about lightning still boggle the mind. Each bolt of lightning can contain up to one billion volts of electricity. These bolts of energy streak toward the earth at around 200,000 mph, heating the air to five times hotter than the surface of the sun. Lightning is certainly an illuminating example of the power of God.
In the ancient world around Israel, many cultures worshiped storm deities. The Canaanites worshiped Baal, the Babylonians worshiped Marduk, and the Assyrians worshiped Asshur. In Psalm 29, David takes this storm imagery and applies it to the Lord. He argues that thunderstorms demonstrate the Lord’s power and should not be attributed to Baal or any other god.
The psalm begins with a call to all heavenly beings to “Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength” (v. 1). The heart of the psalm is structured around seven statements David makes about the “voice of the Lord” (vv. 3–9). He pictures the Lord’s voice thundering over the waters, breaking the mighty cedars of Lebanon, shaking the desert, and stripping the forests of their leaves. The imagery is mighty. God’s power is untamable and demands respect.
Because of the Lord’s power, the final two verses describe the Lord taking up His throne and reigning as King forever (vv. 10–11). Despite the Lord’s destructive power celebrated in this psalm, the poem ends with the line, “the Lord blesses his people with peace” (v. 11). He uses His power to bring wholeness and well-being to His people. The voice of the Lord is ultimately the voice of peace for those who acknowledge and submit to His reign.
How long has it been since you were overwhelmed by God’s greatness? In our churches today, we sometimes overemphasize God as our friend. While there is a sense in which that is true, this psalm reminds us not to take our relationship with God too casually. Today, let’s remember that “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty” (Isa. 6:3).