Thunderstorms are threatening, but the theology surrounding them can be thrilling! The term theological refers to something that is of or pertaining to the field of theology. Theology is the study of the nature of God and true religion. This word comes from a combination of two words, theo meaning "God" and logy meaning "study."
Bible commentators generally agree that Psalms 29 is a psalm of David. We do not know the occasion of its writing, but this in no way diminishes its value. All of us can appreciate this psalm. God's manifests His glory and majesty in a thunderstorm. This psalm is one of the best descriptions of a storm of thunder and lightning anywhere to be found. In Psalm 29, the psalmist, David, shares some wonderful thoughts about God. We will focus on three of them in this message.
I. The Axiomatic Praiseworthiness of God (Psalm 29:1-2)
Lexicographers explain the term axiomatic means "self-evident, taken for granted, evident without proof or argument," for example, "an axiomatic truth"; "we hold these truths to be self-evident." The U.S. Declaration of Independence contains the following: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." This sentence is arguably "one of the best-known sentences in the English language."
David exhorts, "Give unto the LORD, O you mighty ones, give unto the LORD glory and strength. Give unto the LORD the glory due to His name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness" (Psalm 29:1-2).
We read in Philippians 2:9-11 "Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
From Revelation 15:4: "Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? For thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest." Obviously, this is not true today, but it will be.
Dr. Lawrence O. Richards comments, "There is first a call to worship (vv. 1-2) as David invites the angels (literally the sons of God) to praise the Lord."
From The Wycliffe Bible Commentary: "In awe-inspiring poetry, this hymn of praise points to the thunderstorm as another evidence of God's glory. Notes of assurance are constantly intermingled with the phrases descriptive of God's omnipotence. Seldom does any psalmist exhibit more graphic poetical power than the one who wrote this nature psalm. The close parallels in terminology with Canaanite poems from 1400-1300 b.c. discovered at Ugarit in Syria indicate that this psalm is at least as old as David, but the psalmist is careful to recognize Yahweh alone as the true God."
II. The Almighty Power of God (Psalms 29:3-9)
David explains, "The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders; the LORD is 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, yes, the LORD splinters the cedars of Lebanon. He makes them also skip like a calf, Lebanon and Sirion like a young wild ox. The voice of the LORD divides the 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 everyone says, 'Glory!'" (Psalm 29:3-9).
John wrote about the Lord's voice in Revelation 1:10-15: "I was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet...His voice [is] as the sound of many waters."
We read the following about "The voice of the LORD" in The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, "Seven times this phrase is used to express the thunder of the storm. It is not God's anger but His majestic power which makes the storm move. It begins out over the Mediterranean Sea with power and majesty. then moves in over the mountains to the north of Palestine and over the wilderness to the south. The description of the effect upon trees, mountains, wilderness and animals is followed by the chorus of 'glory,' which comes from man's worship."
Dr. Albert Barnes explains, "The psalm has a universal applicability. It may be regarded as having been designed to show what feelings people should have in a violent storm, when the thunder rolls over sea and land, and when the lightnings flash along the sky; the effects which should be produced amidst such scenes; the influence of religion in keeping the mind from alarm—lifting up the soul in adoration of the great God—and inspiring confidence in One who has power to control elements so fearful. Amid all the terrors of the tempest the mind of the psalmist was calm. The effect of it was to lead him to confide in the power of God, and to fill his soul with adoring views of Him. We do not need to dread the fury of the elements when we know that they are under the absolute control of a Being of infinite goodness, truth, mercy and love. If these fearful elements raged without control; if they were independent of God; if they were restrained by no laws; if the thunder rolled and the lightning played by mere caprice, or under the dominion of chance, well might we tremble."
Rev. Matthew Poole (1624-1679) comments, "It is supposed this Psalm was made upon the occasion of some terrible tempest of thunder and rain; which God might possibly send in the time of battle to assist David, and discomfit his enemies; as he had done formerly upon like occasions."
For example, we read in 1 Samuel 7:10 "And as Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel: but the LORD thundered with a great thunder on that day upon the Philistines, and discomfited them; and they were smitten before Israel."
Modern history reveals God's deliverance through thunderstorms, as well.
Historians report the "invincible" Spanish Armada suffered ignominious defeat in the English Channel as severe storms cast these ships on to the rocky coast of Scotland on July 29, 1588. Historians used to say, "God blew and they were scattered." It appears the fleet of 130 warships was forced to anchor at sea allowing the less sizeable British fleet under Sir Francis Drake (1540-1596) to send burning tar ships toward the anchored adversaries. Only half of the Spanish Armada escaped as they fled through the English Channel.
Possibly you have heard the unusual account of how the news of the Battle of Waterloo reached England? Historians tell us they initially carried the message by sailing ship to the southern coast. From there, they communicated by signal flags to London. Upon receipt of the message at Winchester Cathedral, the flags on the cathedral began to spell it out: "Wellington defeated...." Unfortunately, before they completed the message, a heavy fog moved in. Gloom filled the hearts of the people as the fragmentary news spread throughout the surrounding countryside. However, when the mists began to lift, it became evident that the signals of Winchester Cathedral had really spelled out this triumphant message: "Wellington defeated the enemy!"
On Sunday, June 18, 1815, Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) met defeat in the Battle of Waterloo because of a thunderstorm. This epic battle spelled his doom. Author Victor Hugo (1802-1885) observed, "The shadow of a mighty right hand is cast over Waterloo; it is the day of destiny, and the force which is above man produced that day." "If it had not rained the night between the 17th and 18th of June," noted Hugo, "the future of Europe would have been changed."
Many accounts of divine interventions happened during World War II. For example, the Germans broke through French lines after launching a blitzkrieg offensive in May 1940 leaving the Belgians defeated while holding the British army against the ocean at Dunkirk. Historians reveal several British generals said "only a miracle" could save their forces. Even though victory seemed certain for Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) and the Germans, he halted their tanks only 20 miles from Dunkirk. He felt they were too low on supplies and vulnerable to attack at that point. A severe thunderstorm came grounding German airplanes, thus allowing Allied troops to pass toward Dunkirk to set up a line of defense.
King George VI (1895-1952) led a National Day of Prayer for the hopelessly trapped British forces. Afterward, it only took nine days for the British to evacuate on the English Channel, which was unusually smooth as a "mill pond."
However, the day after the evacuation ended, Walter Lord (1917-2002) explains, "The wind moved to the north, and giant breakers came rolling over the empty beaches."
A British general reportedly stated, "The evacuation of Dunkirk was surely a miracle." Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill (1874-1965) called the evacuation of more than 330,000 British soldiers a "miracle of deliverance." The Daily Telegraph described the thankfulness of "officers and men who have seen the hand of God...delivering them from the hand of a mighty foe" (June 8, 1940). Doubtless the British people knew that God miraculously intervened! Later, The Daily Telegraph wrote on April 7, 1947: "And miracles happen still. How many of them have we not seen enacted before our very eyes in these past few years. The history of them is now in the writing..."
English poet and hymnodist, William Cowper (1731-1800) wrote:
"God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.
Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.
His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.
Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain."
Matthew records, "Now when [Jesus] got into a boat, His disciples followed Him. And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves. But He was asleep. Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, 'Lord, save us! We are perishing!' But He said to them, 'Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?' Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. So the men marveled, saying, 'Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?'" (Matthew 8:23-27).
This passage reveals that Jesus Christ is God, as He has power over the storm. There are innumerable evidences from Jesus' earthly life and ministry to attest to His divinity. John wrote: "And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen" (John 21:25).
III. The Abundant Peace of God (Psalms 29:10-11)
David expresses, "The LORD sat enthroned at the Flood, and the LORD sits as King forever. The LORD will give strength to His people; the LORD will bless His people with peace" (Psalm 29:10-11).
Note the word translated flood refers to the Flood of all the earth and is the same word translated "floodwaters" in Genesis 6:17, where we read: "And behold, I Myself am bringing floodwaters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; everything that is on the earth shall die."
Peter wrote: "Knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, 'Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.' For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men" (2 Peter 3:3-7).
In Psalm 29:10-11 we discover tranquility after turbulence. This is the silence after God speaks. This peace is the beginning of the quiet of the skies. There seems to be an allusion to the priestly benediction with which the sacred services of Israel were concluded: "The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the LORD life up His countenance upon you, and give you peace" (Numbers 6:24-26).
Isaiah prophesies of our Lord Jesus Christ, "For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this" (Isaiah 9:6-7).
Jesus said, "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" (John 14:27).
Paul the apostle writes in Philippians 4:6-7: "Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."
From Isaiah 32:16-20 we read about a time yet in the future when, "...justice will dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness remain in the fruitful field. The work of righteousness will be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever. My people will dwell in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places, though hail comes down on the forest, and the city is brought low in humiliation. Blessed are you who sow beside all waters, who send out freely the feet of the ox and the donkey."
At another time David wrote: "But the meek shall inherit the earth; and will delight themselves in the abundance of peace" (Psalms 37:11).
We read about rain and rainbows in the Book of Genesis. Moses wrote in Genesis 2:4-6: "This is the history of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens, before any plant of the field was in the earth and before any herb of the field had grown. For the LORD God had not caused it to rain on the earth, and there was no man to till the ground; but a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground."
Moses also wrote in Genesis 9:12-17: "And God said: 'This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud; and I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. The rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.' And God said to Noah, 'This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth.'"
Dr. George Matheson (1842-1906) wrote: "O joy that seekest me through pain, I cannot close my heart to Thee; I trace the rainbow through the rain, and feel the promise is not vain that morn shall tearless be."
Rev. Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) affirmed: "God is too good to be unkind. He is too wise to be confused. If I cannot trace His hand, I can always trust His heart."
Great and precious promises fill the Bible. One is found in Romans 8:28 "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose."
Recently, I became aware of a book written by Joel R. Beeke and Diana Kleyn published by Christian Focus titled How God Used a Thunderstorm and Other Devotional Stories. The following is found in the product description: "The mountains are dark and looming as the lightning splits across the sky. The forest offers shelter and in the distance the traveller spots a lamp. Rushing toward the door, he doesn't realize someone has planned this journey -- there is a woman in the house who needs to hear about her loving Savior, Jesus Christ. God has sent the traveller to tell her about Himself."
While we know "[God] maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust" (Matthew 5:45); we understand God can use thunderstorms to intervene in the lives of His people, as well as those yet to become His people. May the Lord apply to our hearts these theological thoughts from a thunderstorm.