Gimme Shelter – Psalm 29


Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
   Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.
   The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders,
the Lord, over many waters.
   The voice of the Lord is powerful;
the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.
   The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
   He makes Lebanon to skip like a calf,
and Sirion like a young wild ox.
   The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.
   The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;
the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
   The voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth
and strips the forests bare,
and in his temple all cry, “Glory!”
10    The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.
11    May the Lord give strength to his people!
May the Lord bless his people with peace!


One of the hit movies of 1996 was the Summer blockbuster, Twister. The film opens as a little girl named Jo and her family take refuge from an F5 tornado that ultimately destroys their home and kills the father. The rest of the film follows an adult Jo who obsessively chases these violent storms to understand them and help save people from the same fate as her own family.
Now, aside from the visual effects, what makes the film so captivating is this: everyone knows these storms are caused by natural forces, but they seem to have a mind of their own. They show up unexpectedly and move unpredictably, and the unspoken assumption is that these storms actually target Jo’s family. At one point in the film, the storm chasers are explaining a scale that measures the destructive power of a storm. There’s an F1, F2, F3, and F4. And when someone asks, “What about an F5… what would that be like,” the room goes silent. “The finger of God,” is the response.

In other words, even though these storm chasers believe these tornados are entirely physical weather phenomena, they sense divine power behind them.
In Psalm 29, David watches a storm brew at sea, gather strength, and as it moves onto land it shakes the mountains and causes devastation. It’s a moment of awe, terror, and even praise. First, let’s summarize the text and then we’ll move into application.


Psalm 29 divides into 3 sections: a call to worship (v. 1-2); a description of God’s power beheld in a thunderstorm (v. 3-9); & a final statement of God’s eternal power and blessing for his people (v. 10-11).
The Psalm begins with a call to ascribe or give unto God the praise he deserves. But who are these “heavenly beings or “mighty ones” to whom David is calling? I believe it’s a reference to false Canaanite deities, and we’ll see why in a moment. (v. 1, 2)

The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders

North of Israel, over the Mediterranean Sea, a thunderhead gathers steam. As it rumbles David says this is like the voice of the Lord. The thunder which shakes the ground, points us to the even greater strength of God’s power (v. 3, 4)

The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes Lebanon to skip like a calf,
and Sirion like a young wild ox.

Lebanon was the northern border of Israel in Syria. Sirion is also called Mt. Hermon. Lebanon was the northernmost border of Joshua’s conquest. It was also home of the Canaanite god of storms, Baal. (1 Kings 18) David watches a thunderstorm thrash the homeland of the god of thunder and writes this Psalm to praise the one true God while mocking the false gods of the nations. (v. 5, 6)

David connects every detail of the storm to the divine action of the Lord. The Lord breaks the cedars (v. 5) He makes the Mt. Hermon skip and shake like a wild ox (v. 6) The Lord divides every bolt of lightning. (v. 7) When does are frightened by the storm and prematurely give birth, this is the Lord’s doing. (v. 9) And when the storm exhausts itself and moves west into the wilderness of Kadesh, it was the Lord who told it to go there. (v. 8)

10 The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.

The same Lord who brought the flood in Noah’s day brings the thunderhead that passes through Lebanon today. And he is the same Lord who strengthens and blesses his people. This is because he is the Almighty Creator who breaks no rivals. (v. 10-11)


Psalm 29 critiques two false views of the world. First, it critiques the ancient myths that believed in hundreds of deities who all competed with one another. We moderns may scoff at the ancient myth, but Psalm 29 exposes the modern myth that everything can be explained by material causes; that we don’t need God to explain anything. We know how storms work! But do we know why storms are

From a strictly scientific point of view, human beings are “Little more than a chance deposit on the surface of the world, carelessly thrown up between two ice ages by the same forces that rust iron and ripen corn.” – Carl Becker (Historian)

Man’s … origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; [and] … no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labors of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the débris of a universe in ruins—all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built. – Bertrand Russell (Philosopher)

Here is the wisdom of our age: “You come from nothing and no one and you are going to nothing, and no one, now built a life of love and joy and hope.”

Here is the wisdom of Scripture: The voice of the Lord is upon the waters. He knows where you come from and where you are going because he spoke you into existence along with every water molecule. He can direct your path because he directs the path of every lightning bolt. Nothing is impossible for him. Nothing is outside of his control.


Three times we are told in this Psalm to give or ascribe glory to God. Glory (kabod) means weightiness. How do you ascribe glory to the Grand Canyon? You stare at it. How do you give glory to a thunderstorm? You feel small as you watch it. And you give glory to God by recognizing that in comparison to him, the Grand Canyon is a divot and a hurricane is a mist.

Allow yourself to be caught up in the wonder of a thunderstorm, and as you are, sing or pray or simply sit in silent meditation on the one who rides the storm.

One of the temptations we face when reading this Psalm is to demand an explanation. How can God be the cause of such a devastating storm? But Psalm 29 wasn’t written to satisfy our skepticism. It was written to humble our pride.

We don’t sit over God as the arbiter of his creation, laws, and actions. This is someone you cannot control. You have zero chance of manipulating this God. He doesn’t answer to Lebanon, and he doesn’t answer to you.


11 May the LORD give strength to his people!
May the LORD bless his people with peace!

This God, who breaks trees and shakes mountains also offers peace to his people. He is both the storm and the shelter. But how is that possible? Every single one of us has offended God. We have not given him the glory he is due. We have not ascribed strength to him. We’ve questioned him, ignored him, and disobeyed him?

How is it that this thunderous God can withhold the hurricane of justice that he has every right to send our way? How can he be good and righteous and just if he does not deal out justice for every act of evil?

The answer of course is that 2,000 years ago the Son of God stood in our place. He lived the life that we ought to have lived. He ascribed glory to his Father’s name. And yet, in our place, he was condemned. We’re told that when Jesus Christ was crucified the skies turned black and the earth shook. The thunderhead of divine justice was unleashed upon his head. All of this was done so that God could be both just in punishing sin and yet provide merciful shelter for his people.

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