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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Friday, January 19, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | Psalm 29

Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings,
   ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory of his name;
   worship the Lord in holy splendor.

The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
   the God of glory thunders,
   the Lord, over mighty 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 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 causes the oaks to whirl,
   and strips the forest bare;
   and in his temple all say, “Glory!”

The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
   the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.
May the Lord give strength to his people!
   May the Lord bless his people with peace! (NRSV)

“Mighty . . . glory . . . strength . . . splendor . . . powerful . . . majesty.” The God of Psalm 29 is a God of awesome power.

Scholars have postulated that David wrote this particular psalm during a thunderstorm, as the king reflected with awe at the might behind the wind and rain, flashes of lightning and cascades of thunder. It’s easy to imagine that experience as a soundtrack and backdrop to the words we’ve just read. My mind’s eye adds fast-moving clouds over Lake Michigan, huge waves crashing over the side of Lake Shore Drive, or even (especially this time of year) a blizzard or some thunder snow. The power behind those immense powers must surely be mighty, indeed.

Even for the mighty king of Israel. David remembered his origins, and the small shepherd boy with the stones and sling still breathed inside the nation’s ruler. God had guided the heart, mind, and actions of the young man with humble beginnings and led him to the position of authority he now held. And lest the king forget, the might of nature was there to remind him how small he truly was. David’s word choice makes it clear he got the message: he repeatedly refers to God with the sacred name “Yahweh.” Covenant God. “I AM.” The unpronounceable, holy name of the God of yesterday, today, and tomorrow, who alone has the might to grant us strength and peace (verse 11).

It’s so easy to get wrapped up in our own perceived authority and importance, until a natural or human-made storm blows across our path to remind us where we stand. Sometimes it’s worth taking some time to stare at the lake, at the skyscrapers, at canyons or forests or mountains, to remind us to whom we should ascribe power and glory and strength.

Mighty Yahweh God, to you alone are all glory and honor and praise. Grant us strength in our struggles and peace in our storms. Amen.

Written by Sarah van der Ploeg, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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