“and in his temple, all cry ‘Glory.’” Psalm 29:9
Psalm 29 is just about perfect for the Mesowe Apostles, an indigenous African Christian group who worship in the grand open spaces of Northern and Central Africa. In fact, if you visualize the psalm—if you see it as David sings—what you see is a broad plain, a veld, a place so open only God can inhabit the emptiness. In this vast amphitheater, David says, the voice of the Lord has spoken in spectacle: trees blasted, mountains moved, deserts swept, forests laid bare.
Then suddenly, shockingly, instead of being outside, we’re not: “and in his temple, all cry ‘Glory.’” I'm sorry, but that’s disappointing. I thought we were watching this from a place like the Grand Canyon. Suddenly, we’re in church. Well, maybe an IMAX theater.
I’ll tell you how I’d like to interpret this—I’d like to believe that David is saying that all-of-this-world is God’s temple, that his Lord can’t be confined to four walls, that creation itself is his eternal dwelling. That’s what I wish he meant. The world is God’s holy temple. I feel that way every dawn I spend in open country.
But that idea is tough to believe because I know David wanted, more than anything, to build God’s own house with his own hands. I also know he didn’t get the job because those very hands were bloody, too bloody. I know no one treasured “the temple” more than King David. It’s difficult to imagine his using the word temple as a metaphor.
So how can I explain my being let down by this abrupt shift in point of view?—outside, one minute, in some vast natural amphitheater; to inside the next, and on our knees.
Maybe the spectacle of temple worship for David was a whole different experience than what church-going is to me. With all those buckets of flung blood, it was likely far more wild.
But maybe the point of view hasn’t changed. Maybe King David is still out there with his friends, shuddering at God’s thundering voice, then panning north or south or east—whatever direction—to the temple, where God’s people are down on their knees. “See that,” he says, “all the people cry ‘Glory.’ Psalm 29 is, after all, a poem for kings. Maybe the temple’s radiant and joyful offerings are but another vision in the spectacle of the sermon.
But then, maybe it’s me and not the psalm. Maybe I too should be hearing God’s voice as deeply in the temple, in my church, as I do beneath the dome of his sky. Maybe I should be more like David. We go, twice a Sunday, in fact, and have for years and years. We love our pastor, treasure his sermons. But there are times I feel God’s presence far more definitively at a sunset on the banks of the Big Sioux River.
But then, maybe what I’d like to read into this particular verse—that creation itself is God’s great temple—is what is really there, even if David didn’t think that way himself. Maybe his words, scribbled down under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit, transcend what he was thinking. With divine prescience, maybe he saw the whole unmistakable truth, even if he didn’t recognize it himself.
God reigns. I’d like to go to Africa, just to see the Mesowe apostles—hundreds of them, millions, at worship in the temple of the outdoors--because God reigns over forests and mountains and Great Plains. His kingdom stands wherever dawn lights the sky, and he is worshipped in that temple whenever and wherever his voice is clearly heard. Just listen, David is telling his royal friends. Just listen.
Then get down on your knees and sing, “Glory.”
Seems to me that’s the word of the Lord.