Psalm 29

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Have you ever seen those "World's strongest man competitions?" Those guys are pretty impressive aren't they? Who's the most impressive person ever? Is it Lionel Messi, George Best or Mary Berry? Which person do you look up to and think they're wonderful or gifted or great or whatever? What has impressed you most this year? I remember seeing the new aircraft carrier built in Scotland and being stunned at its sheer size. What is the mightiest thing you've seen in your life? Perhaps it's the devastating storms in America such as the superstorm hurricane Sandy. What's the most powerful thing known to man?  Those impressive things, those powerful things; keep them in mind; we'll come back to them later. We're beginning a mini sermon series in the Psalms. And here we find a Song of David - the 'David and Goliath' David who became king over Israel. And as with many songs we can sing along and get the theme of it and then at times we can notice some of the detail, perhaps one line of it which stands out and speaks to us in particular season of life which we can dwell on and savour. Well that may be the case for the Psalms too so do have a read over it a few times over the next week, perhaps at bed time or when you wake up. And if you're into taking notes you could jot down 1 Chronical 16 and perhaps have a read of that alongside at as you'll find some similarities. Well my hope this evening is that we can pick up the theme of this song and also dip in to some of the detail too. We find that the NIV has divided it up nicely for us. We have a starter, a main course and a pudding; and a very sweet pudding it is too but let's not rush the meal, let's enjoy it all. So V.1-2 God deserves glory from us all. V.3-9 His voice has power over all. V.9-11 See what is given from the King of all.

V.1-2 God deserves glory from us all

V.1 This is not a great way to start but let me explain. I'm not entirely certain who this psalm is addressed to, who this is talking to. The mighty ones is sometimes translated as angels and that's because it means sons of the mighty, as in sons of almighty God meaning mighty people. It could even be a bit of a Joke, "You who think you're mighty; don't you know? God is the King, alone, no one else." So those mighty kings of victorious battles, those powerful successful business men and career women, those global pop stars and international footballers, "Don't you know; God is the King, alone, no one else. And what are you to do, you successful ones, you mighty ones? V.1 You are to ascribe glory to the Lord, glory and strength. It is Almighty God who has given you the strength to do that, whatever it is that you do. That's where it comes from. ALL strength and glory go to God alone. Some of us may not be quite so successful but we can apply it to ourselves in our ordinary everyday lives. Is it us; in our careers, our intellect, our abilities or parenting in which we want to take pride in, in which we don't give glory to God. I don't know how many of us would be tempted to have pride in our parenting. Children have a great habit of embarrassing us and bringing us back down to earth. But for each of us what is it that we are tempted to have pride in? What is it that we're tempted to think we're really good at and not give the glory to God and not realise that it is the Almighty God who has given us the strength to do it? That's where the strength comes from. All strength and glory go to God alone - because they are his and they are from him. Ascribe greatness to God. V.2 "due" his name. Does God ask us to anything which isn't right and proper? No. Three times in this psalm we have been asked to ascribe greatness to God, and we've not even finished verse 2! We must do it. It is due. It is not like we're being asked to give him something he doesn't deserve. Just imagine you owe someone £5. It's like them saying you owe me £5 and you reluctantly saying "Oh go on then." or "I suppose so." - you owe it. It's theirs. We owe glory God. We owe him praise. It is due. So next time we come to church and we just don't feel like praising God, perhaps we feel out of sorts, or feel quite down, or life is actually pretty rubbish, just think, "I still owe God praise." But this isn't just talking about praising God in Church. It says in v.1-2 ascribe glory. This is talking about giving God glory in all walks of life, in all things we do. Give him the glory that is due. You may have seen some of the world cup and you may have noticed how some of the footballer celebrate when they score a goal. Well it's quite telling. What do they do? They all run around the pitch. Some of them jump on each other. Some of them point their fingers in the air and point to God. Some of them ascribe glory to God. That is what we should all be doing. We are his creatures. Christian and Non-Christian; we should all be ascribing glory to God. Some wise person once said quoting psalm 148 "Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name. Which yet you cannot do, for his name is above all praise! Psalm 148:13; but you must aim at it."  Lets aim at him getting all the praise not us. V.2b. Worship includes us praising God but it encompasses more than just praise: Worship is literally to bow down and put him up there and us down here. Basically submission that's what worship is. Praise is part of it but not all of it. And how? Not in gold or fancy clothes or with loud cymbals etc or the most professional music but with the splendour of his holiness, which means with the adorning of his holiness -  That's what matters  - that people see his holiness. Him not us. There's more that could be said but lets move on to main course.

V.3-9 His voice has power over all

V.3-4. God's power is likened to the thunder. His power thunders through. His power is unstoppable. Who can imagine stopping a thunderstorm. It's unstoppable. It's going to do what it likes. And V.4 is like a little interruption; a reminder. This is not the kind of majestic that might me used to describe a graceful stag but as the king over all. Let's not forget that as we read these verses. V.5. These trees were mighty trees compared to anything in Israel. They were used for Ship building and Building Temples & palaces for kings such as David and Solomon. And this is something the Israelites would have been familiar with and they would have understood the psalmist saying God is greater than all these. All these thunderstorms and strong trees; all these strong things are nothing compared to God. And the psalmist is speaking to us too; all those things we think are great, that are dependable, that we are tempted to put our trust in, that better job, that better spending power, that safer home or car - things that are good and even great, but God is greater than all of them. V.6-8 Some people think this is talking about a thunderstorm rolling in from the west across the sea and then down from Lebanon in the north. It is probably talking about the Kadesh in the south. I don't think the exact geography is the most important thing. I think the hearers of this psalm would know of all the areas he is talking about. This is more than a normal thunderstorm!  Let's get in the mindset of an Israelite. This is describing incredible and terrible and frightening and destructive weather all around them - hemming them in, and being completely at the mercy of it, and the geographical areas mentioned serve as contrasts to show just how powerful God's strength is. E.g. the mighty water, the strong cedar wood, the high mountains, and so on. V.6 "He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, Sirion like a young wild ox." Lebanon is in the north and Sirion, otherwise known as Mount Hermon, is in the north east on the border with Lebanon and Syria today. These are two big mountains, and what are they doing? They're skipping. Are they falling? Perhaps it's talking about landslides but the picture is of these big and lumbering mountains, as if they could even lumber, but these tall massive lumps of rock - suddenly skipping, jumping, turning, moving - this is terrifying. Like Rev 6. They skip like young calves. You may be more familiar with lambs skipping but what is it that makes calves skip? When they are let out from their stall (Malachi 4.2) and they skip for joy or when they're in fear. Both. But which is it here? These mountains aren't leaping for joy. Far from it. It's fear. Judgment is what is going on. And these two mountains were among the highest mountains the Israelites would have been familiar with. Perhaps these mountains are referred to as often the high places were the kind of places where people used to go to worship false gods in the hope that by climbing higher they could get closer to their gods, and again it's a contrast to them. Either way- the God Almighty of the Bible is God over all. He is more powerful than the strongest and most powerful things known to man. V.7-8 Shakes - literally means twists - perhaps this is talking about whirlwinds or tornados. V.9a Some versions translate this as the deer giving birth, perhaps being shocked into early labour or just them twisting in pain as one might from labour pains. 'Twists' is the same word as 'shakes' in the verse above. However "oaks" also seems to fit as we've been taking about seas, mountains and trees. The point is; this is scary and the initial hearers of this would know where these places were. This is shocking. This is terrifying. Even the solitary and barren places are affected too; the wilderness. So where has been affected so far? Recap- the wilderness, the forests, the great trees, the high mountains, the mighty vast waters. There isn't anywhere that God does not have power over, there isn't anywhere that he does not reach. And what is it that reaches these parts? - what is it that is so powerful? What is it that controls the waters, that breaks the mighty trees, that makes the mountains skip, that brings lightning and thunder and tornadoes.  What is it? God's voice. God's voice will go out. It will be far reaching and will have its affect. What is that shows God's power, his greatness, his strength and glory? His voice. v.4, v.5, v.7, v.8, v.9 "The Voice of the Lord". It is through his voice that we see his strength and glory. In his creation we his strength and his glory. The Lord's voice is heard through creation. Creation is his handiwork. It shows that he is a creator God. But ultimately God has something else to say. Hebrews 1.1

In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.

The point is that God's word can make big mountains skip. How powerful is God's voice, God's word. Before we move on let's keep in the mindset of an Israelite. Here it is midsummer and the sun is still shinning this evening, but just imagine that the storms are raging, that landslides are occurring, that tornados are whipping up the dust and earth and grit and debris, and it is awesome and frightening, that all around us is more powerful than us. And we recognise that this power is far greater than our own, that it is God's power. There is no room for the sentimental voices such as Adele's singing 'fire to the rain' No. There is only room for ONE voice. All other voices are hushed. All other voices are silent. Everyone is brought to their knees. Everyone realises they are powerless against such forces so much bigger and beyond their own strength and power; even the mighty ones! God leaves every voice silent accept his own. He will speak and we will listen. God will have his majesty, whether anyone else likes it or not. People will know that Christ is Lord and King - that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow. And it will be awesome and frightening. So here's the pudding;

V.9-11 See what is given from the King of all

V.9b Why do they cry 'Glory!' and not 'Oh help!', or 'Mercy!'? Why? Because they are in his Temple; the place where God is, in God's presence, with him and they give him glory. Amidst all the fear. They give him the glory. V.10 Completely in control.  No man is in control in a flood, especially THE flood. Noah wasn't in control. He was just sat in a boat, waiting at God's mercy. The only other time this word for 'flood' is used is with Noah. And what was going on then, at that time, in that flood? Judgement. These last few verses are making a distinction between those who are God's and those who are not. His people; those who he has made a covenant with and those who will perish. This psalm shows us that God is a God of power but also a God of judgment. Do we object to the fact that God shows himself as a God of judgment and power? God's word is like a hammer and a fire (Jeremiah 23).  Hebrews 4.12

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double- edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. 

V.11 Strength to do what? Strength to bear up? Like at Pentecost with the sound of rushing water and flames of fire resting on their heads they were given  strength and boldness to fearlessly preach the gospel. Strength to give him the glory. Strength to ascribe glory and strength to God in everything we do, in true worship. So in the storm can we give glory to God and rely on his strength? In the storms of life when all around us is falling apart, when life seems rubbish and we look for other ways out, when life is getting on top of us, when we have a mountain to climb and we don't think we can do it. When things are bigger than us and too much for us to cope with, can we give glory to God and rely on his strength? Why are we troubled when we have the greatest peace the world has ever known; peace with Almighty God? Can we praise God even amidst the storm? Can we praise God even in the middle of trials and tribulations? Surely because of the gospel we can. You are washed. We are washed clean so don't feel rubbish. Do feel rubbish about sinning. We should do and that should motivate us to not sin, but Jesus says, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." John 14:27. You see the world doesn't understand. We have peace. Be strong. We have peace that others don't. Be strong. So what's impressed you most this year? All that's impressive is under God's control. To the Israelites; the sea, the mighty trees, the high mountains, the wild desert. The power that creates the world - that raises the dead - that breathes new life into us is given and is given to us! (if we are one of God's people). And we are given strength. Contrast God with all the powerful things of this world and we'll see that that power comes from God. Think of the judgment which is to come, which this decaying and groaning world points to, the judgment which we deserve and we see that we don't have a word to say in defence of that judgment. We deserve it. We're hushed. But look to what God has done for us in Christ bringing us undeserved peace with God, that we have nothing to fear, that God is in control, that we are his forever. We are in his presence and he gives us HIS strength. Realise that and we realise that God is SO deserving of glory. Let's not keep any glory to ourselves. Let's give him the glory. You might be a good teacher, a gifted musician, a patient mother, a superb doctor, a meticulous cleaner, a good whatever; don't keep any glory to yourself, give it all to God. Let me close with these words from Ephesians 1.18

I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

Paul then goes on to say how were dead in our sins but God has made us alive and then continues.

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations.

And later he says

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge –that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

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