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Author:Rev. Mark Chen
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Congregation:First Evangelical Reformed Church in Singapore
Title:The Mighty Voice of the Lord Comforts Us
Text:Psalms 29:1-11 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Comfort in a World of Pain

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Trinity Hymnal Revised 1990, The Psalter 1912

TH 44 - How Great Thou Art
Psalter 76
Psalter 295 - The Sovereign of the Sea

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mark Chen, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Sounds can create different reactions in us. A bomb explosion could mean danger - but a firework explosion means celebration. Both are loud. In World War II, the sound of explosions during the Battle of France was a sound of war. The Germans came, the people hid. Air raid sirens drove them to bunkers. They feared German invasion. But imagine the relief 4 years later. France was liberated on D-day. At Normandy, the boats landed and airborne troops fell from the sky - there were the sounds of jets, bombs, and sprays of bullets. Normandy sounded the same as the Battle of France, but these sounds brought not fear but relief. On our own National Day, we rejoice at the sound of jets flying overhead, and when we hear the 21 gun salute. We are comforted by these mighty sounds.

There are many loud sounds that cause us fear and panic. There are inner voices - we fear for our future, health, finances, and kids. These voices can be deafening. We also hear voices on the news - inflation, oil prices, moral failures, COVID up, COVID down. These generate fears. But there are also greater, deeper, and more powerful fears that only we know. Things we won’t voice to others. And this Psalm acknowledges those fears. But it directs us to an even louder sound and voice, the Lord’s voice. If we listen to it, we receive comfort. Without knowing this voice, the thunders of life and even the gentlest whisper will cause unease. There are 3 comforting thoughts from this psalm. Firstly, the Lord is supreme and glorious over all powers. Secondly, the Lord’s decree controls all that comes to pass. Thirdly, the Lord’s mercy comforts all his people.

Firstly, the Lord is supreme and glorious over all powers. Psalm 29 shows us who God is - he is a glorious God. Verse 1 says, “Give unto the LORD, O ye mighty, give unto the LORD glory and strength.” This is a praise Psalm. It tells us to give glory to the Lord. The Psalm uses the word “the Lord” or Jehovah 18 times. This is God’s name. He uses it to identify and distinguish himself from other gods people worship. God told Moses his name on Mount Sinai. It’s not just any god, but the living and true God. And these 11 verses tell how glorious he is. If we survey the Psalm, we’ll see the theme of glory runs throughout it. Verse 1 - it commands the mighty ones to give God glory. Why? glory is DUE to God, verse 2. Even God’s title is glory - he’s the God of glory, verse 3. So much so that in verse 9 - after the voice of God makes its way from the waters, the mountains, wilderness - and finally to the temple, all people cry out “Glory!”

 That’s why we worship him. Verse 1 says to give the Lord glory. Verse 2 - “Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.” 3 times we’re told to give or ascribe glory to him. To be sure, giving glory does not mean adding glory to God. God can’t be more glorious. He’s not improved by our worship. We don’t need to puff him up by our praises. God is completely self-sufficient, infinitely good, beautiful, and holy. But to give glory means to praise God for being glorious. To be in awe of his gravity. And that’s what glory means - heavy. We treat him with the holy gravity and seriousness he deserves. A good synonym is gravitas. And that’s why in response to his heaviness, we worship him, verse 2. But this glory is also not a common one. His glory is a holy one. Verse 2 says to worship the Lord in the beauty of his holiness. His glory is separate or a cut above everyone else. That’s why we worship. And the word worship literally means to bow down or prostrate. We fall before God in awe of his glory. Like ancient people who kowtowed before their king, placing their heads on the ground. It’s a response to God’s holy glory. The angels in heaven, in Isaiah 6, they responded in their worship not by bowing but by covering their eyes and their bodies and praising - Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of Hosts, the whole earth is full of his glory. He’s to be worshiped for his glory.

We also learn that he’s greater than all other powers. Verse 1 says, “Give unto the LORD, O ye mighty…” The placement of Psalm 29 is important. It follows Psalm 28 - which is a plea to God for help; to deliver his people from the hands of the wicked, and to destroy the wicked. So Psalm 29 is an answer to the plea in Psalm 28. Here, it sets God higher than the wicked and powerful people - that could be the meaning of mighty ones in verse 1. No matter how powerful they are, no matter how much trouble they can stir, God is greater. Pharaoh was powerful - he was feared among the Hebrews. But compared to God, he had no power. God could harden his heart. Send the plagues. Destroy his first born. Or, the mighty ones, or as some Bible translate - heavenly beings, may refer to angels. Psalm 89:6 says, “For who in the heaven can be compared unto the LORD? who among the sons of the mighty can be likened unto the LORD?” The angels are powerful beings - but God is more powerful that they are. What help could these angels possibly render? God is the only help we need. Or, following the danger theme. These could also be the fallen angels that deceived the nations around Israel. Ephesians and Colossians call them powers and principalities. Satan tried to destroy Adam and Eve, but God intervened and spared them. Satan tried to destroy Jesus, but it was God’s plan all along to save mankind. So in Psalm 28, David was asking God for help and deliverance from dangerous circumstance brought about by enemies - seen or unseen. Psalm 29 says that God is more powerful than any of these things. He’s the God of glory. 

And this is why, secondly, we should not be alarmed - because the Lord’s decree controls all that comes to pass. God’s glory is not confined to heaven but seen on earth. Whatever God wants to happen, happens. He’s not surprised by anything. He controls everything. His decrees are absolute. And this is seen in the phrase “the voice of the Lord.” As in verse 3 - “The voice of the LORD is upon the waters: the God of glory thundereth: the LORD is upon many waters.” His voice is like a powerful storm - with lightning and thunder. It appears 6 more times in these verses. Verse 4 - the voice of the LORD is powerful and majestic. Verse 5 - the voice of the LORD breaks the cedars. Verse 7 - the voice of the LORD divides the flame of fires. Verse 8 - the voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness. Verse 9 - the voice of the LORD strips the trees bare. The point the Psalmist is making is God is powerful to do these things. Normally, storms are fearsome things. They’re loud. But God is louder. Revelation 1:15 talks about Jesus’ voice - that “his voice as the sound of many waters.”  Ezekiel 43:2 also says the same thing - “his voice was like a noise of many waters.” He speaks and it is done. This is the force and power of God’s decrees. 

His voice is described like a hurricane. It is over the waters, God sits on the flood, verse 10. Waters and floods are ways of describing chaos and evil in the Bible. But God is over the waters, he sits on the flood. He is not submerged by it nor controlled by it. And his decrees are more powerful. They can breaks the cedars of Lebanon. These are huge trees with thick trunks and roots that span deep and wide. But God’s voice breaks them as if they’re toothpicks. We are generally safe and shielded in Singapore - so we don’t exactly know the power of storms. But even we experienced the residue from regional storms. In 2010, a typhoon hit the Philippines but the after effects were felt in Singapore. It rained so much that it caused severe flooding in various parts of our island, trees fell. God’s voice is powerful. Verse 6 says God’s voice makes Lebanon and Sirion, another name for Mount Hermon to skip like a calf and a horned ox. Hermon is Israel’s highest mountain - it’s a symbol of permanence. But God’s voice moves it aside. It is nothing. It’s like a calf that skips aside. God’s decree will obliterate any obstacle. No ocean, king, nation, angel, philosophy, no loud scary voice and trial can overcome God’s decrees. And in the end, verse 9, there can only be one reaction - all in his temple cry glory. There’s nothing else to say.

But these verses don’t only show that God’s decrees are absolute. They also show that God’s decrees are good and serve his purpose. Notice from where the storm starts. It starts in the waters - meaning the ocean. Verse 3 describes how the storm moves from the waters to the Lebanon, to Hermon, to Kadesh, and all the way to the temple. It’s an eastward movement from the Mediterranean sea. Storms in Israel usually brewed from the ocean and then made their way inland. And it was always a terrifying thing. In fact, the sea was always used as a symbol of evil, death, and chaos in the Bible. Psalm 74 speaks of dangerous monsters in the sea. Isaiah 57:20 describes the wicked as the troubled and restless sea - “whose waters cast up mire and dirt.” Jesus described the tribulation of God’s people as the roaring and tossing of the sea. Even Psalm 46 describes how the waters roar and foam. Revelation describes how the beast will rise up from the sea. So the sea describes evil, chaos, and death. And this is why in heaven, there will be no more sea, Revelation 13. There’ll be no more mourning, weeping, pain, curse, or night. Psalm 29 describes how a storm is coming from the sea - the place of evil and spreading across Israel. But it’s God that’s the storm. He rides on top of the sea, he’s not inundated by the sea. Therefore, neither should his people. There will be storms of life. There may even be evil that comes our way. But God’s decrees are good. They serve his purpose. And the evil or chaos that comes, God has decreed it. But they’re not more powerful than he is. 

The Red Sea prevented Israel from escaping from Egypt, but God split the sea. The Jordan Rivers was an obstacle to them entering into Israel, so God had to stop the flow. Jonah tried to escape God’s purpose, but a storm blew him back on course. The storm came upon the disciples at Galilee, but Jesus calmed the storm simply by his word. The voice of the Lord came even to Kadesh Barnea. That’s where Israel sent the spies and they came back with an evil report and refused to enter. But the decrees of God were not thwarted by sin. He removed every obstacle to accomplish his will. Israel entered the land eventually. And the assurance is this - in the midst of the storm, the loud voices, the fears - God is there. He’s never left. He comes along with the storms of life. God runs through earth and history and God does whatever he decrees. Nothing stands in his way. His decrees thunder over the water, break the cedars, shakes the earth. And God’s people find comfort in it and we shout glory.

And that’s the third point - the Lord’s mercy comforts all his people. This Psalm culminates at a certain point. From the west in the sea, the raging waters, comes a storm - moving from the north in Lebanon and Hermon all the way down south to Kadesh Barnea, and finally to the temple. Verse 9 - “and in his temple doth every one speak of his glory.” Everything culminates at the temple. It’s the place of God’s mercy. The Psalmist may or may not have the temple in Jerusalem in view. In fact, probably not because it had not been built. Psalm 30, the next psalm speaks about the dedication of the temple or the items to build the temple. There are generally 2 terms for temple in the Bible. There’s beit Yehvah, or the House of the Lord; and there’s hekal Yehvah. Beit speaks more about the temple proper. The word here is hekal - it speaks of the place of meeting. And God has always had a variety of meeting places with his people. In Genesis 1, Eden was the garden temple, where God dwelt with his people, and walked with them in the cool of the morning. Moses met with God at Sinai, where there were thunderings and fire - it was holy ground. Whenever God came to his people and called to them to meet him - there was always power accompanied by wind, fire, and glory. When the Tabernacle was built, glory stood above the sanctuary as a pillar of fire. When the temple was built, glory filled the house so that the priests couldn’t see. At Pentecost, when the Spirit was poured out and came to dwell with the people, there was wind and tongues of fire. He came to dwell with his new temple.

Again, the assurance is this - God comes to bring salvation. He is with his people. His voice is loud - louder than any of the loud voices and fears in the world. He can accomplish all things. When David cried for help in Psalm 28, God answered in Psalm 29, by assuring them his decrees were more powerful. And the goal of his decrees are his salvation and mercy. He will save his people. That’s why verse 10-11 say, “The LORD sitteth upon the flood; yea, the LORD sitteth King for ever. The LORD will give strength unto his people; the LORD will bless his people with peace.” God is doing his work of salvation. God who has power over the seas, sits enthroned above the flood. Over the seas, through the cedars, from west to east, from chaos and evil to mercy and salvation. Nothing can stop God from giving his people strength and peace. That’s why we respond with “Glory!”

Dearly beloved - what do we do with that we’ve just read and described? How can we distill this imagery? There are many sounds that we are afraid of. Many voices. If we listen to them, we fear. Until we can hear God’s glorious voice - that he loves us and will take care of us and has redeemed us in Christ - we will always fear. And it’s especially during tumultuous times, he’s there. And he has a good purpose.

Some of you here do not know his voice. You do not know this God. But today, hear him speaking to you - that he will save you from evil and sin and judgment, if you turn to him. If you receive his mercy. He calls to you and can save you from sin itself. But he commands you with a loud voice. Do NOT dismiss it. There will come a day when those who refuse him will face a greater and louder voice of judgment. Hebrews 12 tells us - “See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven: whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven.”


Sermon Outline:

1. The Lord Is Supreme and Glorious Over All Powers

2. The Lord’s Decree Controls All that Comes to Pass   

3. The Lord’s Mercy Comforts All His People

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mark Chen, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2022, Rev. Mark Chen

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