Revelation 1–3 and Psalm 29
Yesterday’s reading of Revelation 1–3 was paired with one of my favorite Psalms. It was fascinating to read the introduction to the book of Revelation, which signals the gathering of a great storm on the earth, alongside a psalm in which the author, David, likens the majesty of God to a great thunderstorm.
If you read Psalm 29 geographically, this great storm appears to be sweeping southeast, coming off the Mediterranean (the “many waters,” Psa 29:3), making landfall near Lebanon (29:4), breaking the great cedars (29:5), frightening Mt. Hermon (“Sirion,” 29:6), and passing over Kadesh much closer to Jerusalem (29:8).
But the beauty of the psalm is that David never mentions the storm. Not exactly. Instead, with a masterful use of chremamorphism (look it up!), David attributes the storm directly to the person of God, “ascribing” appropriate glory to his name (29:1–2).
When we read the psalm, we do not hear thunder, we hear God’s voice:
The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the Lord, over many waters.
The voice of the Lord is powerful;
the voice of the Lord is full of majesty (29:3–4)
We do not see dazzling lightning, we see the Lord as he “flashes forth flames of fire” (29:7).
We do not behold the storm shaking the wilderness and the mountains, and frightening the animals, we behold the power of the Lord himself (29:6, 8–9a).
It is not a flood that overwhelms us. That flood is the throne of the Lord (29:10).
Those who worship the Lord respond to this great scene in the most appropriate way. In God’s temple, everyone cries, “Glory” (29:9b). Glory is the Hebrew word kavod. It means “heavy,” or “weighty,” or “significant.” It refers to anything that makes us step back and say, “Whoa.” Or, more fittingly, causes us to stand in stunned silence. But those who worship also realize that this powerful God cares for them. Thus, the prayer that ends the psalm:
May the Lord give strength to his people!
May the Lord bless his people with peace! (29:11)
When we experience a great storm, it should make us think of the formidable power and awesome majesty of God. God is in the storm. But this should also be true for other experiences that threaten to overwhelm us. This is exactly how the book of Revelation opens. God the Father through Jesus Christ is about to “reveal” to John through angels “the things that must soon take place” (Rev 1:1). In a way that is similar, perhaps, to the scene in Psalm 29, the Lord is
… coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen (Rev 1:7).
There are many other events taking place on the earth right now besides Coronavirus. The BBC reported earlier in March that hundreds of billions of locusts are swarming parts of East Africa and South Asia. There are “wars and rumors of wars” in the Middle East. Earlier this year there was a new peace plan announced between Israel and her neighbors. Global stock markets crashed, reeling from the impact of government responses to COVID-19.
On the other hand, this is not the world’s first pandemic. Or locust swarm. Or time of war. Or peace accord. Or stock market crash. But every time a major event befalls the world people begin to ask, and rightly so, “Are things shaping up for the end? Is this the beginning of events that Revelation describes?”
They could be. We really do not know. But we do know one thing: God is in the storm. He is reminding us that the judgment of the wicked and the ultimate salvation of the righteous is coming. And we, his people, should cry, “Glory!” while we look to him for strength and peace.