(All bible quotes from The Holy Bible, New International Version)
PSALM 29 TALK
WORSHIP THE LORD OF THUNDER AND MIGHT
(GLORY IN THE POWER AND MIGHT OF GOD AND ENJOY HIS PEACE)
For my fortieth birthday I decided to invite a few close friends to my house for a B.B.Q on a sunny May Saturday afternoon. The semi enclosed deck of my house in the lower Blue Mountains outside of Sydney faces directly west and looks towards Katoomba the highest point of the mountains west of Sydney. As I cooked the meat for lunch I witnessed the formation of a thunderstorm in the sky directly in front of me somewhere between my house and Katoomba. It started with a small group of white clouds quickly turning black and then came the crack of thunder and a large volt of lightning and then a heavy down pour of rain and hailstones. The lights went off and on and all my guests stopped what they were doing and looked outside at the power and might of the thunderstorm.
Psalm 29 follows the course of an ancient Middle Eastern thunderstorm in verses 3 to 9 and speaks of thunder as the voice of God. This is the third Psalm of David that we call a “Creation Psalm”, in Psalm 8 David looks into the night sky and cries, “How majestic is your name in all the earth”, in Psalm 19 David looked into the daytime sky and cries, “The Heavens declare the glory of God and now in Psalm 29 he looks into the dark thunder-storm sky and cries, “Ascribe to the Lord the glory due to his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness”.
Two of the commentators I looked up on this Psalm quoted Franz Delitzsch who insightfully notes that the Psalm starts with “Gloria in excels is (The glory of God in the highest) and ends with Pacem in Terries (Peace on earth)”.
As Christians we should do both we should understand the power and might of our God who’s voice is like a terrifying crack of thunder but we should also understand that the same God who is mighty and to be feared is the God who sent his son to the earth to bring peace between God and man.
As the Angels declared of his coming to the shepherds in Luke 2: 14, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests”.
In this study we will come to terms with the call to join the Angels in worship of a God who’s voice is likened to a powerful thunder and who in the end wants us to find in his mighty power and peace.
A FURTHER NOTE OF INTRODUCTION – PSALM 29 AND THE WORSHIP OF BAAL
Another introductory issue for this Psalm is the suggestion that this Psalm is an adapted ancient Canaanite hymn of Praise to the God of Baal. This came about because in 1929 at a place called Ras Shamra a number of artifacts were found including many clay tablets that contained, among other things, narrative religious poems. Some of these poems had terms and phrases that appear in Psalm 29. By 1935 a scholar by the name of H.L Ginsberg hypothesised that Psalm 29 was a copy of a Canaanite hymn of praise to Baal with the name of Baal changed to Yahweh. The problem with this is they have not found a Canaanite poem that mirrors Psalm 29. What we do have is a number of similar words and phrases used in Psalm 29 found in the Ras Shamra Baal worship poems.
I think I found the answer to this problem in a very interesting paper published on the net on a Web page called joelws.com. Joel hypothesise in his paper called:
“Yahweh Verses Baal : An Examination of the use of Psalm 29 in the Worship of Israel and its relation to Ancient Near Eastern Hymn Texts” that Psalm 29 is, “a deliberate attack on the gods of the Canaanites especially Baal, because it draws directly from Canaanite poetic sources and uses their language to affirm the superiority of Yahweh in everything” (Jeolws.com).
The article argues that this approach by David in his Psalm 29 was necessary because Israel lived constantly in a “culture saturated with Baal worship” (Jeolws.com) and all through the time of Judges and the Kings (which includes David’s time) Baal worship was the idolatrous alternative to the worship of the sovereign authority of Yahweh the only true God of Heaven and earth.
I found that this insight threw incredible light on my understanding of this Psalm and I will use it in some of my own explanation of this wonderful Psalm.
Psalm 29 has three sections, a two verse introduction, a central message and a two verse conclusion.
1. A CALL TO WORSHIP THE TRUE AND MIGHTY GOD (1 – 2)
2. THE POWER OF THE THUNDERING MIGHTY VOICE OF GOD (3 – 9)
3. THE GOD OF MIGHT AND POWER OFFERS PEACE TO HIS PEOPLE ON EARTH (10 – 11)
1. A CALL TO WORSHIP THE TRUE AND MIGHTY GOD (1 – 2)
The Psalm starts with a call to worship, “Ascribe to the Lord, O mighty ones, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength, Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name: worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness”
In Canaanite literature Baal was chief among many God’s and the lesser God’s were often pictured in their gatherings as a divine assembly. Of course Israel believed that there was only one God as God revealed to Moses as recorded by Deuteronomy 6 : 4,
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one”
However David paints a different picture of assemblies in heaven, he sees the one great God, Yahweh (translated “the Lord”) sitting on a throne, verse 10 and surrounded by heavenly beings (Sons of mighty ones) who worship and praise the God they seek to serve. The Hebrew words for “Sons of Mighty ones” or “Sons of God” are the same words to describe another group of heavenly beings gathering around the throne of God in the book of Job in Job 1: 6 and 2: 1. A similar Hebrew expression is used in Psalm 89:7 to describe a gathering of heavenly beings.
Criticism of these Hebrew words describing Angels includes, how could a lowly King of a Jewish state have the authority to order the worship of Angels in heaven?
I don’t think David is ordering Angels to do what they are made to do but this is a poetic description of what true worship of the one true God is all about. The Angels give us the lead and their worship defines the essence of all true worship which our God deserves, glory, strength, worship, splendour and holiness.
This call to worship sets up the more specific praise to come. It also makes it clear who we all should be looking to as our Lord and God. Israel so often got their worship wrong by slipping or falling into the adulterous worship of false God’s like Baal. We to must be careful that the prevailing culture that surrounds us does not dictate our worship. Worship services should be contemporary but they must also be biblical and the word of God must be at the centre of any true worship. I remember being asked in Bible College by one of the lecturers, what is the most important part of any Christian worship service? The answer is when we hear God’s word read to us for this is when God is clearly speaking to us.
This introduction now leads to the central concept of the Psalm namely :
2. THE POWER OF THE THUNDERING MIGHTY VOICE OF GOD (3 – 9)
H.C Leupold makes an amazing observation of this section when he writes, “The past tense is consistently used through vv. 3 – 7, then vs. 8 and vs. 9 appear in imperfect, here the present but verse vs. 9 goes back to the past”, he goes on to explain what this might mean, “The perfects describe what thunders have known to do. The present or imperfect might record what is actually going on in a storm at the moment the writer is composing this Psalm”.
Another interesting observation is about the Canaanite connections to thunder. Baal and particularly Baal Hadad, was a storm God, a God of the rain, thunder, fertility and agriculture, and the Lord of Heaven. Israel sat in the middle of a very dry part of the world and the constant need for rain and water was always on the minds of the ancient civilisations that lived there. Baal Hadad is pictured even today in ancient carvings and statues as a male warrior figure with a lightning bolt in his hands.
However in Psalm 29 thunder, is not God but rather, “the voice of God” and God is not the storm but the Sovereign Lord behind the storm. These verses in the ears and minds of the original hearers would have been an amazing revelation. Yahweh, The Lord was not a riding on a thunder-storm like Baal Hadad but he was the God sitting on his throne controlling and speaking through the thunder of the thunder-storm that could be heard and seen by the lightning bolts, verse 7.
This section plays on a number of words, “The voice of the Lord” appears 7 times and the names of God “Yahweh” translated “The Lord” appears 18 times throughout the entire Psalm and 10 times in this section. This again would be a revelation to a people often fooled into thinking that the thunder-storm and indeed the rain coming down from the sky to make the barren soil fertile was Baal Hadad in action. Psalm 29 says no the thunder is merely the voice of the one true God, Yahweh speaking of his power and might as he sends down the life-giving rains from heaven.
Lets now follow the course of this great thunderstorm described in verse 3 to 9.
1. Where it originates from (vs. 3 – 4)
“The voice of the Lord is over the waters, the God of glory thunders, the Lord thunders over the waters”.
“Most thunderstorms in Israel, even today, originate over the waters of the Mediterranean
ocean to the east. Poetically water also represented chaos and Yahweh is seen as being
Lord over what seems chaos to mankind. This is the same idea in verse 10,
where waters is replaced with the word “flood”,
“The Lord sits enthroned over the flood”
Over the waters could also mean the buildup of water in the clouds as the thunderstorm is forming as we read in Jeremiah 10 : 13,
“When he thunders, the waters in the Heavens roar, he makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth. He sends lightning with rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses”
Maybe both ideas are here. Over the ocean comes the storm that is water rich clouds which announce their coming with the roar of thunder and that thunder is said to be in this Psalm “the voice of the Lord”
This idea is picked up in the book of Revelation in a verse like Rev. 19 vs. 6,
“Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder”
In Revelation this is the sound of the hosts of heaven praising God but here thunder is God’s voice so what seems to be random forces of nature is totally controlled by the Sovereign Lord of Heaven.
Verse 4 describes even more clearly what that voice is like :
“The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is majestic”
When I heard that thunder crack right over my house on the day of my 40th birthday celebration my heart skipped a beat and I felt a pain in my ears. One can feel uneasy and anxious as thunder and lightning roars over us. Some people and particularly animals can become terrified by the sound of thunder. This is what God is like only even worse. The writer to the Hebrews in Hebrews 12 : 29, says,
“Our God is a consuming fire”
This God of power and might is also called “majestic”, thunder and lightning are a marvel to behold. All my guests at my party stopped what they were doing and came out onto my semi enclosed deck to witness the wonder and strange beauty of the thunderstorm. All the earth will stop what it is doing when our Lord returns in his glory as Philippians 2 : 10 and 11 says,
“At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, in the glory of God the Father”
2. Where the storm crosses the earth (Vs’s 5 – 7)
From the Mediterranean ocean the storms that often hit Israel, even today, cross land to
North over the coastal country of Lebanon, which in David’s time would have been the
Powerful nation Phoenicia a Baal worship stronghold. Here David describes what often
“The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars; the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon. He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, Sirion like a young wild ox.”
Lebanon is a narrow coastal country that has a range of high mountains to its west and as thunderstorms smash into those mountains they can become some of the most ferocious thunderstorms on earth. Even the largest known trees of that time, the cedars of Lebanon are like brittle match sticks as bolts of lightning strike them down.
This image of the power of the thunderstorm being a God on the warpath would not have been strange to the ears of a Canaanite as the fragments of poems found at Ras Shamra reveal. What would have been strange or disturbing to their ears was that this show of power in a thunder-storm was merely “The voice of Yahweh” the God of Israel.
David is saying to Israel that Baal Hadad even over Lebanon, where he is worshipped is nothing compared to the true God who sits on his throne in Heaven (verse 10) and merely speaks and the world shudders at his voice. This is the one true God who controls everything even the forces of nature itself.
This is a message we need today, so often I watch nature programs on TV and they speak of the awesome power of “Mother Nature”. Who is this, “Mother Nature”, she is just a modern form of Baal, a false name and false idea of God. When we see the awesome power of nature we are witnessing the awesome power of the true God of Heaven and earth.
Even the mightiest peak of the Lebanon range Sirion, today called Mount Heron shudders or skips like a young wild animal. Then in the shortest verse of the Psalm we are introduced to lightening. Leupold quotes Hengstenberg when says it is designed to be short as it, “represents the jagged explanation of Lightning”,
“The voice of the Lord strikes with flashes of lightning”
During my study of this Psalm and its links with the Canaanite Baal terminology I was lead to reflect on the famous story of Elijah’s contest with the 140 Prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel in 1 Kings 18, a hundred or so years after this Psalm was written. Israel was in a drought of probably 3 years when this contest took place and the challenge was really who’s God gets the thunder storm lightning to come and strike the altar of sacrifice first.
The prophets of Baal, the God of Lighting, thunder, rain and fertility went first and for two days they danced, slashed themselves and shouted for Baal, the Thunderstorm God to act. There was of course no answer. Then Elijah simply prays to his God Yahweh after covering his altar with water and in verse 38 we read,
“Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also liked up the water in the trench”.
This was indeed a miracle from heaven as no rain cloud is recorded at the time of the sacrifice and it is much later in the day that Elijah prays for the drought breaking rain and God sends rain through a thunderstorm that starts out over the Mediterranean.
Elijah’s lightening could had come from what is called a “dry thunderstorm” but we do not know but what we do know is that this story confirms that the true Lord of Heaven is the one who lies behind all the forces of nature and the supposed thunderstorm God called Baal Hadad is nothing more than a figment of fallen man’s imagination.
3. Where the storm ends up (Vs’s 8 – 9)
Now David changes the tense of this Psalm to the present tense and writes,
“The voice of the Lord shakes the desert; the Lord shakes the desert of Kadesh, the voice of the Lord twists the oaks and strips the forest bare”
David is writing these words as though he is witnessing them happening. Is he in the southern desert of Kadesh that lies south of Jerusalem?
Some commentators believe he is a little north of this in the Desert looking up to the hills and mountains of the Lebanon mountain range. Kadesh in the time of the exodus from Egypt was much more south where spies were sent into Canaan and an unsuccessful attempt to enter the promised land was made.
However David speaks of witnessing the destruction of the forests in the same breath of the effects of the storm on the desert area. Kadesh could simply stand for any southern desert area.
The storm then has made a sharp right hand turn once it crossed the mountains and headed straight for Jerusalem and the desert areas to the south. This is apparently a common course for thunderstorms even today in the Israel area. Even in the desert the landscape seems to shake with the power of the storm. Being caught out in the open desert in a ferocious thunderstorm would certainly have been a terrifying and memorable experience.
David would have had many opportunities to experience this. He would have had a chance to experience this as a shepherd boy out in the open areas around Bethlehem while keeping his sheep. He spent a number of years on the run from King Saul and was out in open desert areas for many days. But he would have also had the chance of being caught out in the open desert area’s when he was going to or returning from battle with his many enemies. A number of the Nations who opposed him followed the thunderstorm God of Baal Hadad. This could be the reason why he chose to use Baal like worship terminology in this Psalm.
Then David moves back to past tense when he writes,
“And in his temple all cry, “Glory!”
Of course we know that “The Temple” was not built-in Jerusalem to after David died and his son Solomon built the first Temple in Jerusalem. The Temple was the earthly representation of God’s real heavenly sanctuary. It is this Temple I believe David is referring to at the start of this Psalm where the Angels gather around the throne of heaven to worship the God of Heaven.
Interestingly in Baal mythology Baal’s has two opponents Yamm (God of the sea) and Kothar (God of craftsmen) and they fought over Baal’s Palace made out of cedar but Baal wins the battle and destroys the cedar palace and rebuilds it out of silver and gold.
Psalm 29 presents Yahweh sitting on his throne in heaven in his heavenly sanctuary (palace) and destroying with his voice the very materials Baal’s palace is made out of (namely Cedar). Again Yahweh reigns supreme over the false God’s of the Canaanites and at the end of verse 9 we read,
“all cry, Glory”.
Today we to need to learn this lesson that anything but the worship of the true God of heaven is a delusion. Satan will throw up all kinds of worship alternatives, false faiths, materialism and even worship of nature itself which sounds so much like Baal worship in many ways. These false “God’s” are powerless in the face of the almighty sovereign Lord of Heaven and earth presented to us through the bible.
We have been brought out of the darkness and we are now living in the light of God in Christ as Paul writes in Colossians 1 : 13 – 14:
“For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins”
3. THE GOD OF MIGHT AND POWER OFFERS PEACE TO HIS PEOPLE ON EARTH (10 – 11)
Up to these final two verses David has presented to us a very big and Powerful God, A God who is so superior to all other false God’s including the false God’s of the Canaanites headed by the Thunder storm God Baal Hadad. Now David brings this description of God’s declaration of God’s mighty voice in thunder-storm with a statement of who this God is and what he offers his true followers.
Vs. 10, reads: “The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord is enthroned as King forever”
This is a final statement of the superiority of Yahweh he does not ride around the earth on thunderstorms like Baal Hadad, the thunderstorm is merely his voice and this comes from the very throne of heaven. God speaks and things happen which takes us back to the creation and Genesis 1. The words “The Lord sits enthroned over the flood” takes us back to Genesis 6 – 9. Here God used the chaotic waters of the flood to judge mankind. He also divided the waters of the red sea. Floods, tsunami’s and any other natural disasters we might experience are the consequences of sin in this world. Sin puts us out of step with the God of heaven and the world he made for us.
However David does not leave us there, facing a hostile fallen world under God’s judgment without help or hope as he completes’ Psalm 29 with these words,
“The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace”
The world might be out of step with the true God of heaven and earth but there is a way back to God and Jesus declares that way for us in John 14 : 6,
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”
Coming back to God through Christ was not known in David’s time as he looked forward to it but he lived under the covenant of grace as much as we do. Through God’s Covenant given to Abraham and made clearer through Moses by faith in the God of that Covenant. David and anyone in Israel who had faith in God’s covenant could call themselves “God’s People”.
Derek Kidner quotes a commentator named Delitzsch when he writes, “This closing word of peace is like a rainbow arch over the Psalm”. The whole Psalm has presented to us a powerful God to be feared and this would have been very much in the mind of Noah and his family when they stepped off the ark onto dry ground but then God made a covenant with Noah and gives him the sign of the rainbow as a sign and that is a for runner of the covenant of grace with its final sign of the cross of Christ.
I close with the words of Paul in Colossians 1: 18 – 20, which speak of the supremacy of Christ over all things and how he brings us God’s peace through his death on a cross:
“And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross”.
3 NEW TESTAMENT INSIGHT PASSAGES
1. GOD AND THUNDER IN THE BOOK OF REVELATION (Rev. 10:3-4 / 14: 2 and 19:6)
The book of Revelation is a very difficult book to understand as it is written in a special kind of Language called “apocalyptic” which like the Psalms contains a lot of poetic imagery, which comes from many Old Testament sources. This is why “thunder” is used a number of passages in the book of Revelation (thunder only appears in one other place in the N.T. is John 12 : 29 when Jesus was predicting his death God spoke and some of the crowd thought it was thunder). Lets look at three times “Thunder” is referred to in Revelations.
Revelation 10: 3 – 4 – Thunder: the heavenly revelation of the seven thunders
As we see from Psalm 29 “thunder” is closely linked to the voice of God and in our first “thunder” reference we hear of the “Seven Thunders”:
At the start of this chapter we are told that John saw an angel coming down from heaven. Many commentators believe this “Angel” (Heavenly being) is The Glorified Lord Jesus himself as only he fits the awesome images we are told of in this passage. He is described as:
- Robed in a cloud with a rainbow over his head
- His face was like the sun
- His legs like fiery pillars
This description is similar to Johns description of The Risen Glorified Lord in Revelation 1 : 13 – 15.
So holding a little scroll Jesus speaks and when he speaks we have our verses that which refer to “thunder”,
“And he gave a loud shout like the roar of a lion. When he shouted, the voices of the seven thunders spoke. 4 And when the seven thunders spoke, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven say, “Seal up what the seven thunders have said and do not write it down.”
All through the Book of Revelation numbers are used to convey a variety of messages and the number 7 is always used to describe “perfection” and even God himself who is the one and only perfect one. Matthew Henry explains what the “Seven Thunders” is when he writes describing them as the “solemn and terrible ways of discovering the mind of God”.
What is said by the sound of seven thunders is not known as John is told to “Seal up what the seven thunders have said and do not write it down” verse 4.
Mathew Henry believes that this is “great events in history, perhaps relating to the Christian church, which is not noticed in open prophecy”. Like a lot of Revelation what is spoken about to come is not clear to us at this time but I believe all will be clear once our Lord returns, the ultimate prophetic conclusion of the Book of Revelation and history itself.
Revelation 14 : 2 – Thunder: the heavenly chorus of the Lamb
At the start of chapter 14 we have The Risen Glorified Jesus appearing again this time described as “The Lamb” similar to a number of references where Jesus is described as the “Lamb that was slain”, like Rev. 5:6, and 5: 12 – 13. This time Jesus is joined by 144,000,
“who had his name and his father’s name written on their foreheads”
vs. 1. Again the use of numbers in the book of Revelation is a form of symbolism to convey a truth. A publication called “The Christian Courier” has this helpful quote,
“The number is obviously symbolic. 12 (the number of the tribes) is both squared and multiplied by 1,000 — a twofold way of emphasizing completeness” (Mounce, 168)”.
The number 1,000 is used to denote completeness in Revelation and other parts of the bible and so 144000 is a number symbolising the complete number of all true believers.
This heavenly chorus headed by the Lord Jesus himself sounds like thunder and verse 2 says:
“And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like the loud peal of thunder”
Again when the risen glorified Jesus in heaven and God himself speak it is likened to the sound of thunder.
Revelation 19: 6 – Thunder: the heavenly chorus of heaven
Similar to the use of thunder in Rev. 14:2 is the use of thunder in chapter 19 verse 6. This chapter is devoted to the Church in heaven praising God for Christ’s judgement over the forces of evil. The start of this chapter verses 1 – 11 describe a wonderful worship of God in heaven and in the midst of this worship is verse 6 :
“Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder shouting”
This picture of the worship of heaven is like what we have just studied in Psalm 29. Psalm 29 started with a call to the Angels and us to “Ascribe to the Lord” and “Worship the Lord” and moves on to describe the voice of the Lord to be like “thunder” and it leads to the words in verse 10 which say;
“The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord is enthroned as King forever”
So these three passages show us that “thunder” is often used in the bible to describe and denote the powerful voice of God and this passage in Revelation reveal that we will one day join the heavenly chorus of praise that will be powerful and wonderful like the sound of thunder.
When I meet with other Christians and we sing and worship the Lord together I get a strange and wonderful thrill and often think this is what heaven is like. It is joining with others singing and harmonising together as we praise the Lord of heaven and earth for what he has done for us.
2. JESUS AND HIS FALL AND RISE TO GLORY IN THE LETTER TO THE PHILIPPIANS (Philippians 2 : 9 – 11)
Psalm 29 presents an awesome powerful God who controls even the many thunderstorms in this world (it has been estimated there are up to 1,800 thunderstorms each day). Psalm 29 presents our God as a majestic and powerful God and he is to be feared and worshipped. As Christians we believe that God has made himself known through the coming to earth of his only Son, Jesus Christ and he now sits in heaven as our powerful risen saviour.
In Philippians 2 : 9 – 11 Paul presents us with the full picture of what our saviour is like and what he did to become our saviour and rise to heaven for us. This passage in means a lot to me personally because it was the first passage of scripture I preached on publicly when I was only 22 years of age, now over 40 years ago. It is a passage that many commentators believe is a New Testament hymn that Paul used in his teaching to church in Philippi.
The church in Philippi suffered as all churches suffer from, the spirit of self-interest and self promotion. Paul refers to conflict and rivalry between two women in chapter 4 but in this chapter he starts with advice for mutual love and fellowship with the supreme example of humility expressed in the life and work of The Lord Jesus Christ.
This then moves to the New Testament hymn that reveals the steps that Jesus took from death to glory to make our salvation secure.
In my original first sermon I spoke of this passage presenting a stairway or ladder with 3 steps down and then 3 steps up. In verse 6 Jesus takes the first step down the ladder or stairway.
“Who being in very nature of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped”
STEP 1 DOWN : Jesus is God in heaven and chooses to give up heaven for us.
Verse 7 now presents what he gave heaven up to take on,
“but made himself nothing taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness”
STEP 2. DOWN : Jesus becomes a human being like us.
This is an amazing thing something some people cannot believe and refuse to believe. I heard last year Richard Dawkins say that one of the reasons he rejects the Christian message is he simply cannot believe that the supposed creator of the universe would become a man with all its limitations and problems. Yes it sounds far-fetched but it is true and it is only far-fetched because it simply makes no sense to selfish sinful beings like us but to the God of pure love it was the only way he knew to rescue us.
Verse 8 presents the bottom of the ladder or staircase to which our Lord descended for us.
“And being found in appearance as a man he humbled himself and became obedient to death even death on a cross”
STEP 3 DOWN : Jesus dies on a cross for us
It was not enough just to become a man like us he had to stoop even further and die a horrible criminals death on the cross.
I learnt recently that to the first century person death on a cross-meant that this person was the lowest and vilest of criminals. To the Romans someone being executed this way was not only suffering great physical pain but was publicly despised and ridiculed.
Then we have three great steps up in this passage.
In verse 9a we read of the first step back up,
“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place”
STEP 1. UP : Jesus is raised from the dead and ascends into heaven
The gospel message does not leave Jesus rotting in the grave but on the third day God raises Jesus from the dead and thirty days later he ascended into heaven. This proved that Jesus death was a victory over sin and death. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15 that if Jesus did not rise from the dead than, “our preaching is useless and so is your faith” 1 Cor. 15 : 14.
The next step takes place in heaven when we read in vs. 9B
“And gave him the name that is above every name”
STEP 2. UP: Jesus is given a new name as the Lord of All
The final step makes it clear what this new or restated name actually is and what his status is now and what that means for everyone in the future. We read of this in verses 10 and 11,
“that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on the earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the father”
STEP 3. UP: Jesus ascends to the highest position in heaven and will be acknowledged by everyone as Lord of all
This acknowledgement of Jesus as Lord by everyone will take place when he returns not next time as the suffering servant but as the glorious risen awesome God who is even more powerful than the most ferocious thunderstorm we could ever imagine.
3. JESUS THE ONE WHO BRINGS PEACE TO THIS WORLD AS PRESENTED TO US IN THE BOOK OF ROMANS
The last verse of Psalm 29 speaks of God blessing his people with peace,
“The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace”
After the Psalmist presenting an awesome and powerful God, who’s voice is the thunder of a thunder-storm he now offers all true believers of this God hope and peace. So the same God who is behind the power and might of the thunderstorm is the same God we can find peace and hope.
Paul uses the word “peace” 6 times in his letter to the Roman church. Paul’s letter was written to prepare the way for Paul’s expected visit to that church. It contains Paul’s desires and hopes for his future ministry with them and it contains above all what Paul believed in, namely the Gospel message of The Lord Jesus Christ which he describes as, “the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes first for the Jew then for the gentile” (Romans 1: 16). To Paul this message brings hope and peace to this world so let us look briefly at the six times Paul uses the word “Peace” in this letter.
1. A Christian greeting 1 : 7
All of Paul’s letters contain a similar formula and always contain the words, grace and peace.
Paul was following a standard greeting of his time but added some unique Christian aspects to it. Paul was all about the Gospel and even in his greetings he was seeking to communicate something of the message of the grace of God through the redeeming work of Christ which won for us God’s peace.
The word peace appears for the first time in the book of Romans at the end of Paul’s long greeting in verse 7,
“To all in Rome who are loved by God and called saints: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ”
2. Peace from the Wrath of God (2: 10)
Paul’s concept of peace was not some kind of wishy washy vain hope of no war and conflict but is the answer to all problems in this world which he presents in Romans 1 to 3 as coming from sin. Sin Paul says is rebellion to the true God of Heaven, Romans 1 : 18 – 20:
“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse”
Note how Paul tells us that this universal rebellion has brought upon us the wrath of God. Our conflict with God lies behind all conflict in this world both on a personal and national level.
In chapter 2 of Romans Paul continues to set out the nature of this conflict in how it influences our relationship with others and the certain judgment of God that will come because of our sinful actions towards one another.
In verses 9 Paul speaks of the trouble and distress sinful actions bring in this world but goes on to say in verse 10,
“But glory, honour and peace for everyone who does good; first to the Jew, then for the Gentile”.
So peace can only come when we stop doing evil and seek to do that which is good.
3. How we find real peace with God 5 : 1
So peace can only come to us and this world when we stop doing evil and seek that which is good. In Romans 3 and 4 Paul paints a black and hopeless picture of our in ability to save ourselves. In Romans 3 : 23 he says:
“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”
And in Romans 4 Paul brings to a head our in ability to be right with God by obeying the law (the way of the Jewish faith) when he shows us that the law failed but faith in God succeeded.
In fact the founder of the Jewish faith, Abraham only got right with God by faith as he says in Romans 4 : 1 – 3,
“What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, discovered in this matter? 2 If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. 3 What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness”.
At the end of Romans 4 Paul speaks of God’s plan to save us based on the concept of Faith first made clear by the example of Abraham. In verses 23 – 25 Paul brings this way of salvation out into the open with theses words:
“The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him (Abraham) alone, 24 but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification”.
Now Paul declares at the start of chapter 5 what Jesus has done for us :
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”.
Note here what Paul believes God’s peace is, it is being made right with God it is salvation from the wrath of God.
4. Living by the Spirit the life of peace 8: 6
Paul then sets out all the wonderful benefits of being made right with God through being justified by faith in Jesus Christ. The next use of peace appears in chapter 8 when Paul is telling us about life in the Spirit made possible by what Jesus has done for us, Romans 8 : 1 – 2,
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death”
He then contrasts life in the spirit and life lived according to the sinful nature and makes this statement, Romans 8 : 6,
“The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace”.
So we will live a life of peace when we live the way God wants us to through the power of God’s spirit working us.
5. Seek to live a life of peace 12: 18
After Paul sets out his understanding of the Gospel he then applies it to a number of practical issues relating to the Christian life from chapters 12 to 16. One issue is how we relate to others and an important issue here is as Paul puts it in Roman 12:18,
So we are to show each other and the world at last that we have peace with God through Christ by seeking to show that peace in our everyday relationships.
6. Seeking to show peace at all times 14 :19
Paul returns to the same idea of seeking to show peace to the world around us as an important part of our Gospel witness in his last use of the word peace in Romans 14 : 19,
“Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and mutual edification”
So we have seen what real peace with God is, not being under the wrath of God because Jesus has paid the price of sin for us on the cross.
We have seen how this peace is possible to be in our lives by the work of the holy spirit helping us live by him and not our sinful fallen nature.
Finally Paul has taught us to show this Gospel to the world by the way we seek to live a life of peace in our everyday relationships with others.
Throughout our study of Psalm 29 we have seen what a great and powerful God is the God of the bible. He sits on his throne in heaven surrounded by all the heavenly beings being praised for his majesty and might. He controls from heaven even what seems the chaos of nature, floods, other natural disasters and thunderstorms. Thunder should remind us of the great and powerful voice of God that created everything and keeps everything going in our universe. Finally this God of awesome power is the God who offers though Christ his peace a peace Paul describes in Philippians 4:7, “transcends all understanding”.
Father in heaven we acknowledge your great power and might and we join with all the heavenly hosts in worshipping you as the God who is Lord over all that is including what seems random and chaotic like a thunderstorm. We thank you for sending your only Son into our world to die for our sins on the cross so that we might no longer be your enemies but rather know your peace which transcends all understanding. In the great and glorious name of Jesus Christ we pray Amen.