(Psalm 29 and John 8: 52-56)
During the summer months we’re following a short series entitled ‘Names of God – Glimpses of His Character’.
The Bible provides a whole range of names that refer to God. Each name or title gives us a window into his character.
As we begin to understand his names it helps us to understand what God can do in our lives.
This week we’re thinking about the God of Glory.
Father God, we thank you for your word the Bible. Thank you for all it teaches us and reveals to us about your character and ways. Help us to understand more, not just in our heads but in our hearts, that we might trust in you, and follow you in all we are and do. Amen
I love thunderstorms… When the thunder starts rumbling at night, I’ll often get up to watch the lightening out of the window and listen to the wind blowing.
I can remember one very heavy thunderstorm I experienced while I was in Nigeria twenty years ago; it was absolutely electrifying… so powerful, so majestic, so glorious. The whole sky looked like one superb firework display.
Thunderstorms are among nature’s most awesome displays. Thunder is caused by lightening. The intense heat from lightening causes the surrounding air to rapidly expand; and create a sonic wave that we hear as thunder. The huge electrical discharge is spectacular – the sights and sounds for me demonstrate the power and majesty of God.
I wonder what natural events reveal God’s power and glory most dramatically to you?
Have a think, and a chat with your neighbour for a minute.
Now our first reading today Psalm 29 was written by David.
The shepherd boy turned King…and without a doubt, as a young boy David would have experienced many a storm, out in the countryside caring for the sheep, David knew what storms were like, and we see that reflected in this Psalm which illustrates God’s power, and glory.
We also see that David was not fearful, but rather faithful and trusting.
So, you may want to open a Bible close to you, as we look now at this Psalm in a little more detail. You’ll find it on page…??
This Psalm is in 3 sections, a brief introduction, a main section and a short conclusion. It also contains a lot of repetition…
The word ‘ascribe’ is used three times in verses 1-2, ‘the LORD,’ four times in verses 10-11, and the ‘voice of the LORD’ seven times in verses 3-9.
Now repetition does not mean boring. Far form making the poetry mark time, these reiterated phrases drive it vigorously forward.
The movement of verses 3-9 is that of a thunderstorm which rolls in form the Mediterranean to the cedar-clad slopes of Lebanon and Mount Sirion in the north, turns to travel the whole length down the length of Israel, and sweeps away into the southern desert of Kadesh.
Lightning, like the axe of a heavenly woodsman, hews out flames, wind, as it twists and strips the trees, making the hills themselves seem to heave and sway, though even the treeless desert is shaken by it.
There is also a movement in the psalm as a whole… from heaven in verses 1-2 where praise is given to God by his angels, to earth in verses 10-11 where peace and strength is given by God to all his peoples.
The temple is verse 9 is not a building, but simply refers to ‘where God dwells’ – now at the outset it seems that that is heaven. There the mighty ones, the heavenly beings, praise him, declaring what they know him to be and bowing in obedience to him. They recognise and acknowledge that God is holy, that God is glorious, that God is powerful and strong, that God is worthy of all praise. And of course, that is what ascribe and worship mean, and that is where true praise begins, when mind and will are engaged, heart and emotion will surely follow.
Yet God is just as really present here on earth. Here, where he presided over the flood – and David is almost certainly thinking of Noah’s flood, he presides still, and earth is as much his temple – his dwelling place – as heaven is.
This Psalm also points forward to the Lord Jesus, at whose coming the angels sang, ‘Glory, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace.’
John 8: 52-56
And so quickly just let me turn our attention to our Gospel reading. Here we find people questioning, doubting Jesus… They want to know ‘who are you…are you greater than Abraham, and the prophets?’ they jeer.
And Jesus’ response, is clear, straight to the point… ‘God glorifies me… I know my Father, I do his word…and he glorifies me. Before Abraham was, I AM.’
Here Jesus is referring to the name that is revealed to Moses at the burning bush, where God says to Moses, ‘yes I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but further still I AM WHO I AM – this is my name – my title for all generations.’
Now this name was considered so special, so holy to the people, the Jews, they dared not utter the name, and so in Hebrew is was recorded as YAHWEH – which we see recorded in our modern translations as the LORD – all in capital letters.
So, in our gospel passage Jesus directly identifies with this name, this GOD – I also am the I AM. Jesus is clear that yes, he is glorified, for he is God himself… and that through him, his life, his teaching, his death and resurrection God’s glory will be seen, salvation for all the world.
So, returning back to our Psalm – right from the very start, in heaven, God is recognised as a God of glory… the one who is due all praise and worship. And the angels worship his holy splendour. And then, as the Psalm progresses this God of glory, is a God who by his very voice commands and directs nature – his power and majesty seen in all their glory. Just as in creation, where God spoke… and atom by atom, bit by bit, order was created… beauty formed, new life given, and identity and purpose sculpted. This God is a glorious, indescribable, uncontainable, incomparable, unchangeable, an awesome and amazing God.
By the end of the Psalm the earth and the people have been shaken up. It has been traumatic on earth; all around is the evidence of that in the aftermath of storm damage.
But in contrast to earth – heaven is calm! God has not been shaken up, he has not been fearful or panicking.
So, David draws our attention to a God who is enthroned. He is the one in total control; nature is his tool and not his master.
The psalmist knows that God has more enough power to control the elements; Note: 18 times in these 11 verses, the title used for God is “Lord”; again linking back that this God is the I AM, YAHWEH – And that means he is Lord of heaven and earth, Lord of all!
So, this psalm concludes with God blessing his people:
It is a twofold blessing:
God gives to us “strength” and he gives to us “peace”.
Strength to cope in the storms of life;
His peace is our legacy – when after the storm the calm appears.
Let me share this story with you….
A competition was held to determine who could represent ‘peace ‘through painting.
Three finalists were determined and a crowd of art enthusiasts, were used to declare the winner.
The first painting was unveiled to reveal a portrait of a peace valley, with a quiet sunset in the background.
Applause ran through the room.
The second painting was unveiled to show a portrait of tranquil waters of a seashore, with the soft glow of a lighthouse.
Applause, once again.
When the final entry was unveiled, there was a collective gasp in the room,
because this painting was of a dark, threatening sky.
Rain poured down upon a sharp, cold cliff with one straggly old tree jutting out.
However, from an elbow on the branch of that tree, could be seen a mother bird sitting atop her nest,
sheltering her baby birds from the storm.
Once the audience realize this detail in the picture,
a winner was chosen: this third painting.
Peace, strength in the midst of the storm!
And all this reminds me of a quote that I often see floating around on Facebook… it goes like this:
Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass…
It’s about learning to dance in the rain.
Now this quote isn’t biblical – but there is a truth within it….
All too often in our lives, oceans rise and thunders roar,
storms appear, often when least expected,
and for all sorts of reasons.
Times when life feels messy, hopeless, tragic even.
And it is in those storms we’re not meant to sit around passive, waiting for the storm to pass and leave us,
rather we are called to join with the angles,
to give God the glory, to worship Him, to ascribe greatness to Him, and we will find that ultimately, He is Lord of all, that He is King over the flood, and he will give to us his strength and his peace.
Our God is a God of glory – let’s worship him and trust in Him – even amid the storms, for then we will know his peace and strength. Amen
As I finish now, I want us to listen to a track of music… this is an alternative to our creed this morning.
It is a worship song that acknowledges the storms that appear in life – the thunder, the oceans that rise – but recognises that God is king over all, the great I AM – the King of glory.