Discovering God’s Voice (Psalm 29)
Discovering God’s Voice
We are thankful that God has authorized us to sing praises to Him in worship. I like to sing. I might - probably do - sing off-key, but I like to sing. Now that I have a cell-phone, I have downloaded lots of songs to my play list. I took a class at FHU in “Fundamentals of Song Leading” when I was in graduate school. I audited the class, just in case I failed, it would not impact my GPA. Because knowing how to do something and actually doing it are two different things.
When it comes to getting the right pitch, you have to know what you are doing. There might be some of you who have an ear for the right pitch. I’ll mention Jayden Turner; she’s not here for me to embarrass, but you probably know that she is a very good singer. Maybe she has perfect pitch. We worshipped with a church in Orlando, FL a decade ago and that congregation had a professional opera singer in the congregation - you could here her singing that Sunday morning. It was encouraging.
But even if someone has perfect pitch, they can’t get the perfect pitch right all the time. If they have a cold or some other ailment that might affect their voice or lung capacity, they might not be able to hit that perfect pitch. That’s why we might need, from time to time, a pitch pipe or a tuning fork. I asked Dana about his tuning fork last week. It is an “A.” It vibrates at 440 Hz. From that “A,” Dana can modulate his voice to begin the song at the right place. With lots of practice, these song leaders can start the song where it needs to be, or close enough, and they might not always need a tuning fork or pitch pipe.
But we still have to have the standard to go back to, to know where we begin.
In Jay’s devotional last Sunday night, he began with a prayer - which is always a good thing to do when you are nervous about preaching! - and in his prayer, he expressed that what he said would be pleasing to God’s ears. There is no statement that we could make that is more important and more significant than that! What is it that is pleasing to God’s ears?
In the Law of Moses, with certain sacrifices, God said that the offering is a “soothing aroma, an offering by fire to the Lord” (see, for example, Exodus 29:18). That expression “soothing aroma” is used 42 times in the OT! In fact, they are nearly all found in the Law of Moses: once in Genesis, three times in Exodus, 16 times in Leviticus, 18 times in Numbers, and then only again in Ezekiel, with many of his teachings grounded in the Law of Moses, 4 times. It is an anthropomorphism, which uses human characteristics to describe God. God does not have a nose. But it is a figurative way of saying God is pleased with sacrifices that are offered according to His prescriptions.
The voice of the Lord is so very important for us to hear and to listen to. In fact, you might say that the fundamental command of the Bible is to listen: “O land, land, land, Hear the word of the Lord,” Jeremiah tells his people in Jeremiah 22:29.
This brings us to the text for our meditation this evening, the second psalm we will study this year: Psalm 29. “Discovering God’s Voice…”
This is a psalm of David, according to the superscription. Modern scholars almost universally reject these superscriptions as not being authentic, but they do so because they are knuckle heads. The oldest manuscripts we have of the Hebrew OT are the Dead Sea Scrolls and the inscriptions are associated with the text in those manuscripts. In fact, in the psalms which have those inscriptions, the Hebrew counts the inscriptions as “verse 1.”
So, David calls on his people, in Psalm 29, to hear the voice of the Lord. Let’s study…
JEHOVAH DESERVES WORSHIP - 29:1-2:
That sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Jehovah deserves worship. Even if we assemble together as Christ’s church three times a week, that’s not enough time to give worship to God. He deserves more than that! Even if we worshiped God every waking hour, it’s not enough. He deserves more. In fact, the only response that would be “enough” is to worship God for eternity…
The Hebrew text reads: “Give to Jehovah, sons of God. Give to Jehovah glory and strength.” The NASV translates “sons of God” as “sons of the mighty.”
Verse 2 reads: “Give to Jehovah glory to His name. Worship Jehovah in the beauty [or attire] of holiness.” Isn’t that a beautiful thought? When God instructed Moses to design clothes for the priests to wear, in Exodus 28:2, He said these clothes were for “glory and for beauty.” In verse 40, God said the tunics for the priests, their sashes, and their caps were for “glory and for beauty.” Of course, we are able to stand before God in glory and beauty because we are clothed in white garments because of the blood of Jesus Christ. It is His blood that sanctifies us so that we can even come into God’s presence in worship.
So notice this emphasis in verses 1-2: “Give to the Lord; give to the Lord; give to the Lord; worship the Lord.”
HIS VOICE DESERVES HEARING AND OBEDIENCE - 29:3-9:
“Voice” is used seven times in this paragraph, and of course, you recognize “seven” as being a symbol of completeness in biblical teaching. In this psalm the expression “voice of the Lord” begins verses 4, 5, 7-9.
The “voice of the Lord” is found 38 times in the OT!
In verse 3 here, the voice of the Lord is heard above the waters. The God of glory thunders with His voice and the Lord is heard, ought to be heard, above many waters.
There is only one other time when this expression - the “God of glory” is found in the Bible: Acts 7:2 where Stephen tells the Jewish Sanhedrin that the “God of glory appeared to our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran.”
Listen to this poem on “God’s Autographs:
I stood upon a hill one night / And saw the great Creator write / His autograph across the sky / In lightning strokes, and there was I / to witness this magnificent, / Tumultuous divine event! / I stood one morning by a stream / When night was fading to a dream / The fields were bright as fields may be / At spring, in golden mystery / of buttercups - then God came on / And wrote His autograph in dawn.
One night I stood and watched the stars; / The Milky Way and ranging Mars / Where God, in letters tipped with fire, / The story of His tall desire / Had writ in rhyme and signed His name / A stellar signature of flame. / Creation’s dawn was deep in night / When suddenly: “Let there be light!” / Awakened grass, and flower, and tree / Chaotic skies, the earth, and sea; / Then, to complete creation’s span / In His own image, God made man, / And signed His name, with stroke most sure / Man is God’s greatest signature!
The God of glory dwells in glory, think of “Revelation 4,” and the God of glory shares His glory with us, in Jesus Christ.
In the two storms on the Sea of Galilee in which Jesus had a role, His voice was heard above the thunder of the wind and the waves and it was His voice that calmed the storms: Mark 4:35-41 and 6:45-52. In the first storm, Jesus said two words in Greek: “Hush! Quiet!” That second verb connotes the imagery of muzzling a dog. Jesus used the same verb when He “muzzled” a demon in Mark 1:25.
Back to Psalm 29:4 - The “voice of the Lord” is powerful. In verse 1, David said: “Give to the Lord ‘strength.’” That is, recognize that all strength comes from the Lord. Here, He says the word of the Lord is “powerful.” All God has to do is say something and it is done! God created the world with His voice. That’s what we’re trying prove in our Wednesday night class with these videos on creation versus evolution. True science substantiates the fact that this world had to have been, not just created by a supreme power, but sustained by a supreme power. The psalmist in Psalm 33:6 writes: “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth all their host.”
The voice of the Lord is also “majestic,” David writes. This word is translated as “beautiful, splendor, honor, dignity.” Can you imagine a voice that is dignified? A voice that, by its very sound, is dignified? It compels you to fall to your knees out of respect? That’s the voice of God. His very voice demands respect. That’s the reason why God muffles HIs voice from mankind. If God spoke audibly, it would cause the whole world to fall before Him out of honor and respect. But then where would our free will be? His voice will be heard, one day - on the day of judgment and that’s when everyone who has refused on time’s side of eternity, will fall down and confess the name of Jesus Christ. They will have no choice - when they hear His voice. Because it is majestic!
The voice of the Lord - verse 5 - breaks the cedars, it breaks into pieces the cedars of Lebanon. You know the “cedars of Lebanon” were famous in Israel for their strength and their beauty. Rachel and I have a cedar chest; probably many of you do. It has a beautiful smell. The “cedars of Lebanon” are mentioned eight times in the Scriptures. Lebanon itself is mentioned 71 times. God’s voice is powerful, and God’s voice can be destructive when it needs to be.
Isaiah wrote of the voice of the Lord in Isaiah 55:11 - “So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”
God’s voice is powerful enough to make anything do what God wants it to do (verse 6). He can make Lebanon skip like a calf. He can make “Sirion” - a reference to Mount Hermon - skip like a young wild ox. Mount Hermon was the tallest peak in Israel - 9,230’ above sea level.
The “voice of the Lord” hews out (or “flashes”) flames - or lightning, perhaps - of fire (ver. 7). The weather, we might say, is under God’s control. The weather can be “voice activated.” When we think of the storm that led Jonah the prophet to be thrown overboard, the text says God “hurled a great wind on the sea” (1:4), but really He did it by His voice, right? He just spoke and it happened. Because the weather is under God’s control. Which means when Jesus calmed the storms on those two occasions, He was showing that He was Jehovah God in the flesh.
The “voice of the Lord” shakes, twirls, or makes to dance the desert, the desert of Kadesh (ver. 8). Kadesh was a well-known place where Moses and Israel camped on their way from Egypt to the Promised Land. Everything that God does, He does through the power of His voice.
The “voice of the Lord” (ver. 9) makes the deer to calve and strips the forests bare. And, in worship, in His temple, everything says “Glory” to Jehovah God.
415 times - “thus says the Lord” - in the OT.
106 times - “the Lord spoke”
349 times - “declares the Lord”
What does the “voice of the Lord” have to say? Because the voice of the Lord demands to be heard and to be obeyed.
Back to the verse… the voice of the Lord makes the deer to calve. In other words, nature itself obeys the voice of the Lord. Isn’t that the essence of God’s questions He hurls at Job in Job 38-41? God controlled the animals through His voice that came to Noah and the ark. God controlled Balaam’s donkey through His voice. God controlled through His voice the venomous snakes that bit Israel in Numbers 21, the fish that swallowed Jonah. The Lord can even strip the forests bare. Again, not only can God’s voice be constructive for blessing, but it can also be destructive for judgment.
Then again, we see the voice of the Lord was instrumental in designing both the tabernacle and the temple for man to worship Him. Everything has to be done under the “voice of the Lord.” We should not be surprised that Jesus requires us to obey His voice in the NT as He has designed both His church and His worship to glorify Him and we must listen to the voice of the Lord if we wish to honor Him as He deserves.
The whole temple and its individual pieces of furniture as well as the rituals, sacrifices, and everything point to the glory of Jehovah God. And the only reason why they do is because they were under the guidance of the voice of the Lord. If you are going to create a “tent of worship” for the presence of Jehovah God, it has to be done under the “voice of the Lord!” Doesn’t that have application to us as Christians? When we say, where is the book, chapter, and verse to support a certain belief or practice, what we are really asking is: “Where is the voice of the Lord?”
THE FLOOD AS AN EXAMPLE OF THE “VOICE OF THE LORD” - 29:10-11:
The Hebrew text reads in verse 10: “Jehovah over the flood sits; Jehovah sits as king forever.” The NASV has “as King” in italics showing that these words were added by the translators.
Now, please note this… The word “flood” here - mabbul - is used 13 times in the OT - twelve times in the book of Genesis to refer to the flood of Noah’s day. This is the only use of this word after the flood. David is talking about the flood in this passage. Jehovah God reigned over the events of the flood - and He did so through His powerful word. In the account of the flood, there are three references to “God said” and four references to the “Lord said.” God was in control of the flood as a King is in control of His subjects - total authority. And, of course, the flood was a dividing line of blessing - to Noah and his family who obeyed - and judgment - to the rest of the world who did not hear the voice of the Lord.
Jehovah God reigns forever as King. The first reference to Jehovah God as a king is in Moses’ song from Exodus 15:18. Among the texts which teach us that Jehovah God reigns are: 1 Chronicles 16:31; Psalm 93:1; 96:10; 97:1; 99:1; 146:10; Isaiah 24:23; Jeremiah 23:5 (Messianic); Micah 4:7.
Just as God gave Noah strength to build the ark and be saved from the flood, so Psalm 29:11, David reminds us that the Lord gives strength to His people. This is the same word for “strength” from verse 1. Jehovah God gives strength to His people. And, through the “voice of the Lord,” the Lord will “bless” His people with peace. Peace comes to the people of God through the voice of the Lord because He blesses with His voice. When God’s people respond to His voice.
THE NT IS THE “VOICE OF THE LORD”:
Why is the gospel the “power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16)? Because the gospel is the voice of the Lord! And the NT writers accepted the OT as the “voice of the Lord” as well. For example, in Hebrews 3:7, the Hebrew writer says, “just as the Holy Spirit says,” and then the writer quotes Psalm 95. The OT does not have a superscription over Psalm 95, but that doesn’t matter. The NT teaches that the Holy Spirit was the author behind Psalm 95, regardless of who the penman was.
Another interesting turn of phrase is used in Galatians 3:8 where Paul writes that the “Scripture preached the gospel to Abraham” and then Paul quotes Genesis 12:3. In other words, “Scripture = the voice of the Lord = the testimony by the Holy Spirit.”
Take home message: Worship God for revealing through His voice what we need to know, feel, and do in order to glorify Him.