David was an outdoorsman who appreciated nature and celebrated the power of Jehovah the Creator. Jewish worshipers today use this psalm in the synagogue as a part of their celebration of Pentecost. When you read Acts 2 and discover the sound of wind, tongues of fire, and the “thunder” of God’s voice through His Word, you can see that God’s church today can also use Psalm 29 to celebrate Pentecost. Israel’s neighbors believed that Baal, the storm god, controlled rain and fertility, but this psalm says otherwise. It magnifies the sovereignty of God and the power of God in His creation, both of which bring glory to God. The word “glory” is used four times in the psalm (1–3, 9), for David saw in the storm God’s glory revealed in three different places.
God’s Glory in the Heavenly Temple (vv. 1–2)
Heaven is a place of worship (see Rev. 4–5), and here the command is given for the angels (“mighty ones, sons of the Mighty”) to ascribe (attribute; 96:7–9) to God glory and strength, because these divine attributes magnify His name. The psalm begins and ends mentioning God’s “strength” (v. 11), and verses 4–9 demonstrate that strength in the description of the storm. Angels are called “sons of God” in Job 1:6, 2:1 and 38:7; and see Psalm 89:6. The Jewish priests and Levites had to dress properly as they served at the sanctuary (Ex. 28:1ff), and even God’s angels must come before Him in proper “attire,” what is called “holy array” (NASB) and “the splendor of his holiness” (NIV). (See 27:4 and 96:9.) True holiness is a beautiful thing to behold, and certainly the greatest demonstration was in the life of Jesus Christ when He ministered on earth. Sin is ugly, no matter what we may call it, but true holiness is beautiful and brings glory to God.
God’s Glory in the Earthly Tempest (vv. 3–9)
This is an inspired and dramatic description of a thunderstorm that started somewhere over the Mediterranean Sea (v. 3) and moved eastward to the Lebanon mountain range in the northern part of the land of Israel (v. 5). The storm continued moving eastward overland to Mount Hermon (v. 6; Sirion, Deut. 3:8–9), where it turned south and traveled about two hundred miles down to Kadesh in the wilderness (v. 8), and there it dispersed. It was accompanied by loud thunder (“the voice of the Lord”—see 18:13–14 and Job 37:1–5; 40:9) and also by lightning (v. 7). Seven times you find the phrase “the voice of the Lord” (see Rev. 10:3–4), and it was “the God of glory” who was thundering and revealing His majesty. He is also “the King of Glory” (24:7).
The Lebanon range was about ten thousand feet above sea level, and the Canaanites believed it was the home of their gods. It was famous for its cedar forests (72:16; 1 Kings 4:33), but the thunder of God broke even those stalwart trees (v. 5). In fact, the thunder made the trees and the mountains skip like calves! (v. 6; see 114:1ff). In Scripture, the cedar tree is sometimes a symbol of a nation or a kingdom, including David’s dynasty (Ezek. 17:1–3), Assyria (Ezek. 31:3), and even Israel (Num. 24:6). The prophet Isaiah saw the fall of the proud cedars as a picture of the defeat of the nations in the day of the Lord (Isa. 2:10–17). Note that it was the thunder—the voice of God—that broke the trees, and not the wind or the lightning. The voice of God is powerful and can shake the wilderness like an earthquake (v. 8). So frightened were the animals that the hinds went into premature labor and delivered their calves. Imagine being born in a thunderstorm! During this demonstration of God’s great power, the angels were watching with amazement and shouting, “Glory!” The angels learned about God’s grace, wisdom, and power by watching the Son of God when He served on earth (1 Tim. 3:16). They also learned during the week of creation (Job 38:7), and they are learning today as they behold the church on earth (Eph. 3:10; 1 Peter 1:12). According to verse 9, after the angels watched the storm described in this psalm, they cried, “Glory!”
God’s Glory on the Heavenly Throne (vv. 10–11)
Seeing the rain and the mounting streams of water, hearing the thunder and watching the lightning, David began to meditate on the flood that occurred in the days of Noah (Gen. 6–9). “The Lord sat as King at the flood” (v. 10, NASB); He was in charge, not Baal. He sent the rain, He opened the fountains of the deep, He stopped the rain, He waited for the water to drain off and the land to dry, and then He brought Noah and his family out of the ark. As he watched the storm move down to Kadesh, David rejoiced that the God who created the universe was also in control of the forces of nature, and there was nothing to fear. Eighteen times in these eleven verses, He is called “Lord,” and that means He is Lord of heaven and earth, Lord of all.
The Lord is King today and will sit as King forever! He can give strength to His people and see them through the storms of life. After the thunder, lightning, wind, and rain comes the calm after the storm when “the Lord blesses His people with peace” (v. 11, NIV; and see 107:29 and 148:8.) Noah saw the rainbow of the covenant after the storm (Gen. 9:8–17), the apostle John saw it before the storm (Rev. 4:3), and Ezekiel saw the rainbow in the midst of the storm (Ezek. 1:26–28). We always have God’s promise to encourage us.