“The voice of the Lord shakes the desert;
the Lord shakes the
.” Desert of Kadish
Years ago, when our son, just a twirp, made a fuss in church, I took him out and sat on a small bench just outside the sanctuary. The church stood alone on the edge of town, and, perched right there where we were seated, I could look out on almost ten miles of open land, here and there a farm place bundled in trees, smudges on a landscape that had already taken an emerald hue in early spring.
I don’t know why exactly, but the open land prompted some awe in me, some joy, in fact. I remember looking out over the rippling fields and reminding myself how beautiful prairie really can be. I know it’s an acquired taste, but once a sense for that spacious glory is in the heart somewhere, it warms into conviction. That Sunday was a perfect spring morning, the sun shining, the land greening, my son settling down, behind me worship moving along at its own devoted pace.
I was an elder at the time, and, in our church, holding that office meant having to deal with some of the problems that arise wherever two or three are gathered. I remember thinking that the broad vista of that gorgeous Sunday morning was probably more beautiful than the sum of its parts. If I would have shifted my seat a bit south, I would have seen the farm of a guy causing all kinds of headaches. Just over a rise was a family who wasn’t doing well. It was the broad vista that was gorgeous. The particulars weren’t at all so awe-inspiring.
And I remember thinking right then that mortals like me needed both a wide angle lens and a zoom, a view from afar that gives some foundation for a stand right there at the very heart of things. No inspiring landscape is ever perfect, I suppose.
Psalm 29 must have been written one afternoon atop a fire tower or some blessed promontory where David watched a rogue storm rumble from forest (vs. 5) to mountains (vs. 6) to desert (vs. 7), taking its own thundering time. In some place fit for kings, David had to have been watching and writing and singing, surveying a yawning landscape skewered more than occasionally by bolts of lightning.
Psalm 29 isn’t interested in details, save one. Psalm 29 is a perspective poem; it offers a place to stand and see the big picture. Psalm 29 is kingly, not only in its scope, but its rhetoric. Psalm 29 is a Jeremiad for potentates.
This is the big picture, David says to his royal friends. This is something you take note of. This is the voice of the Lord.
Ascribe to him glory and render him honor, he says, a warning. All this timber-rattling, this mountain-moving, this desert flinging—it’s only part of what’s there in the sheer power of his magnificent hand.
“You think you’re big time?” he says. “Listen to thunder.”
The big picture has one detail that’s not to be missed. Watch lightning explode the cedars of Lebanon and don’t ever forget you’re sawdust too. Next time you’re dealing with your people, when you’re belly-deep in problems, when you’re trying to keep your head above water, remember who flings lightning.
As the old hymn says, “Ascribe to him glory and render him honor. In beauty and holiness worship the Lord.”
That’s the big picture.