Caged in, concerned and confused
CAGED, CONFUSED, CONCERNED(Ps 29)
In the midst of a pandemic there is only one place to go, and that is to God and only one thing to do, and that is to worship....
Look down before God and worship (Ps19:1-2)
Look our for God in your circumstances and worship (Ps 29:3-10)
Look up to God in faith and worship (Ps 29:11-12)
So here I am, in my kids wendy house which is exactly the right setting for this sermon, which I’ve called caged, confused, concerned. I think that describes what many of us are feeling at the moment.
It’s a funny thing, we can sit Sunbathing on a deck chair for a whole day, enjoying the view and the fresh air and reading a book. In that whole time, we might occupy less than 2 m3 of space. But put us in 2m3 box and suddenly we feel claustrophobic, caged in. We don’t like to feel trapped, unable to move.
Leading up to these 21 days of quarantine, I think many of us had this sense of foreboding. We are going to have plenty of space to move around, but it’s still not enough. What if we need to get something, what if we need to go out?
We don’t like to have our movements or our freedoms restricted. We like to be in control, to do whatever we want, when we want it. We like to know what’s happening and what the future holds. We like to be prepared.
In a word, we like to be Sovereign…
And then things happen in our world that rob us of our sovereignty, that take away our freedom and control, our rights and privileges and possessions. Things happen which show us how small we are, how vulnerable we are, how powerless we really are – and we feel cagedin , confused and concerned.
What is happening, will I be ok, what does the future hold? How will I survive? Who would ever have thought that almost the whole world would be confined to our houses, aeroplanes grounded, shops closed and the armies of the world deployed to fight an invisible killer….
This morning I want us to take a lesson from a very powerful man, a sovereign, a king. A man who had every reason to trust in his wealth, position and power, but who had learned how easily these things are brought to nothing. A man who faced giants, who faced droughts and plagues, and a political coup by his own son – and had come to see God’s sovereignty in it all.
Psalm 29 is a psalm about God’s strength and deliverance. It demonstrates and celebrates that our God is the God of the storm. Since He is the God of the Storm, Ps 29 reveals to us how we can navigate through the storm. How should we respond when we are confronted with the reality that God is sovereign and we are not…..God rules and controls and directs the storms of life and we do not….
How should we respond when caged, confused and concerned? In a word = WORSHIP. Worship focusses where it should be – not on ourselves and our weakness but on God and His strength.
1: LOOK DOWN BEFORE GOD IN WORSHIP (29:1-2)
Verse 1 and 2 repeat three times “ascribe to the Lord.” It literally says give to the Lord.
God possesses all strength, glory and power. We can’t give to God anything He doesn’t already have. So this is a call to subscribe, to acknowledge the glory which God possesses. David is calling others to join Him in the worship of the glory and majesty of God.
Who is David calling to worship? Different translations say, “sons of the mighty”, or “sons of God” or “mighty ones.” The problem is the Hebrew word for God here, can mean either God or gods with a small letter g. David is either calling the mighty men of the pagan nations to worship God or he is calling the angels to worship God. Whether it’s the mighty men of the pagan nations, or the angels in heaven – the point is that David is calling an assembly to acknowledge the greatness of God.
This is a call to worship the God, not just any god, or our own notions of God. This is not just some generic, fuzzy acknowledgment that God exists and that He’s great. No, David immediately switches to the personal, covenant name of God. Ascribe to the LORD, the God of Israel, the God who has made himself known to us. The God we know personally.
He reinforces this in verse 2. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due to His name or belonging to His name. This is acknowledging the glory and strength which is specifically attached to the name of Yahweh. There are no other gods worthy of this kind of worship, who have revealed their glory so personally, tangibly and convincingly.
The term “glory” literally means “weightiness or heaviness.” It is most often used figuratively to refer to fame, honor or reputation before men. When used of God, He is the possessor of ultimate weightiness and honor, so it alludes to Gods inherent power and might as it is demonstrated in some perceivable way. So when we talk about God’s glory, we are not just talking about His reputation before men, but the magnificent attributes which are His personal and permanent possession despite the opinions of men. The glory of God depicts the essence and power which is reserved exclusively for God. That’s why it’s the glory which belongs to His name and His name alone. The same can be said of God’s strength here – it cannot be increased or surpassed.
Now I said we first need to look down for two reasons. Firstly we need to look down at our bibles. We need to look down at what the scriptures reveal about God, about who He is. We need to ascribe to Him the glory which is attached to His name.
There’s nothing worse than a misplaced complement. I’m sure you’ve had the experience where someone has come up to you, trying to win favor with you, or just trying to be nice, and they’ve complemented you for something that just isn’t you. They’re trying to encourage you, but they’re so off base that it’s almost like an insult.
So much of what is passed off as worship is an insult to God because its offered in ignorance of who God really is. It’s not worship worthy of His name, in line with His character and attributes as they are revealed in Scripture.
The second reason we need to look down is because when we see who God is, we need to come to the realization that He is glory and I am not, that He is strength and I am not, that He is Holy and I am not. The second part of verse 2 says worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness. The poetry is building to a climax, ascribe to the Lord, ascribe to Him glory, ascribe to Him the glory due His name. The climax is worship.
Worship = The verb here literally means bow yourself down. We need to bow ourselves down in humble acknowledgment of who God is. This is heart wrenching, heart felt, flat on your face worship….
The time has come for us to simply get down, way, flat on our face down – and to worship….to ascribe to God the glory due His name. To acknowledge that God alone is God and we are not. That He has strength and glory and power – and we do not. That He is sovereign and we are not.
To Him alone belongs the highest praise.
LOOK OUT - FOR GOD IN YOUR EXPERIENCE (29:3-9)
We not only need to bow ourselves down before God – but we need to look out in the midst of the storm and see God at work, see God sovereign in the midst of it all.
Vs 5 – the voice of the LORD. The voice of the Lord is repeated 7 times from verse 3 – 9. So this section is all about the Voice of the LORD. This is the sound of God, or the noise of God.
David is careful to avoid any pantheistic notions here because the pagan often equated their gods with various elements of nature. God is not the storm, but the sound of God, the evidence of God’s presence over the storm can be heard. Why not seen? Because no-one has ever seen God or can see God in all His glory, but we can hear His voice, we can listen to Him as H speaks.
The picture is of a massive torrential downpour. The kind of dramatic display that strikes fear in the heart of every man and creature. Only if you’ve been in a really big storm can you begin to imagine what the Psalmist is speaking about here – the absolute fear, the terror of being completely unable to control the forces of nature or protect yourself from them.
Many people are anxious and fearful as the consider what is happening in our world today…and they have every reason to be. When you hear that a Tsunami is coming, you know the destruction and loss of life and property which lies on the other side and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it. Even if you can escape with your life – you can’t stop the carnage that it creates. Despite the loss of life, the social and economic impact of what we are facing is massive. It’s likely that this pandemic will leave permanent scars on our world and way of life.
Can you feel the force of vs 3? The God of glory thunders. More precisely causes the thundering. Again making sure that we don’t confuse the storm with the God of the storm. The Lord over many waters. God is sovereign over this torrential downpour. This is a massive storm, which is pointing us to a massive God. It’s like David is taking the scientist in us, who has studied all the theory about how storms work, and the laws of nature and now he’s saying – stand here in the storm and let the theory penetrate your soul, let it strike fear in your bones and call forth praise from your lips.
Vs 4 His voice is truly powerful and majestic. It’s so powerful, that vs 5, it breaks the cedars, even the cedars of Lebanon. The poetry is constantly building, it keeps taking us to the nth degree.
· The cedars of Lebanon were the massive conifers which grew on the mountain range to the North of Israel. They became the symbols of permanence and strength, so much so that the pagan believed that the gods used them to build their celestial palaces. These were like the twin towers of the ancient world. Well, the voice of God breaks, really he shatters, He smashes to smithereens these stately symbols.
· Vs 6. Lets take it a step further. What is more rock solid than trees? The rock in which the trees grow. Lebanon and Sirion were the towering mountain ranges just above Israel. Well, God’s voice makes those mountain ranges skip around like a calf, like a young ox. When God speaks the mountains tremble at His command. Israel had experienced that at Sinia, so much so that they said, stop, rather don’t speak, because we’re going to die!
· Vs 7 The Lord flashes forth flames of fire – probably a reference to lightening. It literally says “cleaves out” or “hews out” and so emphasizes the great strength and force which is displayed behind these flashes.
· Its not just the trees, not just the mountains, not just the sky, but also the wilderness which God causes to shake, or to whirl around.
· Vs 9 the voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth or literally drop their young. The image here may be that in terror, the animals begin giving birth or that in the terror of running from the storm they just abandon their young.
· Vs 9 The voice of the Lord strips the forest bare. There is no place to run or hide.
· The most stately symbols of permenance and majest, the cedars. The most immovable foundation – the mountains of Lebanon, the Sky, the wilderness, the foundations of the earth, the forests and everything in it – the whole world is pictured as being violently shaken – by the voice of God who thunders from heaven……
Illustration – our world is shaken
Can we not see how God is shaking or world and literally bringing it to its knees. All our armies are useless to fight this enemy. All our wealth is being drained, all our technology is being thwarted, all our infrastructure is being overwhelmed, all our plans are being overturned, all our wisdom is being confounded, all our hopes are being dashed…In a word – we are being dethroned and made to bow before the God of heaven who alone is sovereign…..
· Vs 9 In His temple, everything says, “Glory. It literally says “all of it” cries glory. It’s not just the worshippers, its not just the believers, but all of it, everything – it’s all to the praise of His glory!
We need to look down and be abased, be humbled in worship. We need to look out and see our God who sovereignly controls it all. Who merely speaks and creation trembles at His voice. Who is controlling of all this? Who’s voice is above it and over it and through it and in it. God spoke and all of creation came into being, God speaks and all of creation carries out His purposes.
We need to look up – and worship.
LOOK UP - TO GOD IN FAITH (29:10-11)
Vs 10. Here, David makes his statement of faith. He’s humbled himself before the God of the storm, he’s looked out and seen the voice of God over the storm and now He looks up to see the God of the storm, the king who is on His throne.
Vs 10. The grammar here focuses our attention on the position of God. It says literally God of the flood sat and will sit God as king forever. So the center of the repetition is on sitting. God is sitting on His throne as king. Despite the storm, despite the seeming chaos, God is still on His throne. The word used for “flood” here, is only used in Genesis 6-11. It also has a definite article, so this is not just any flood, but the flood, the Genesis flood.
The flood in Genesis is surely the greatest storm ever known to humankind and yet God sat down at that flood, as king. Some translations say at the flood, others say over the flood, they’re not too sure how to take the preposition. I think it should be taken temporarily. In other words, David is affirming here that God has sat on His throne since the flood and will continue to sit on His throne into eternity future. He’s not going anywhere, He’s the sovereign ruler and king. Like a popular song from Michael Card says, “The Lord of the gentle breeze is the Lord of the rough and tumble, He is the king of the jungle.” The more havoc is caused by a storm, the more we wonder whether God is on the throne. That’s why we must affirm with David here – God is still on His throne.
The God of heaven is not running around frantically like the presidents of the nations, trying to try maintain some semblance of control. He’s so sovereign that he’s sitting. He’s sitting on His throne from whence He controls it all by merely speaking the voice of authoritative command.
When the worst calamity that has every struck humanity – came in the flood and literally reshaped the geography and climate of the world and left humanity obliterated, and creation ruined except for one family and those who were with Him on the ark…..It was taking place at God’s command, by God’s plan, as God’s judgment – and every calamity and storm and plague and pandemic ever since has been at His command - That is a statement of faith – Our God is in the heavens and He does all that He pleases. Our God is in control.
Makes it personal
And David takes His faith a step further and looks to the future.
Note the change to the future tense…..in vs 11.
He affirms that that the LORD will give strength to His people, He will bless His people with peace. This is a statement of firm trust in God, not only that He is on the throne, but that He is good and His goodness will overflow into my life yet. To bless in the OT means "to endue with power for success, prosperity. When God blesses, it means He confers ability onto someone. This is very significant coming from the pen of David. David fought a lot of battles in his life. He expanded the boarders of Israel and brought about peace and prosperity for the nation. Yet as he went out to fight those battles, with the arrows flying in every direction, this gives us some insight into where He placed His faith. It is from God that peace, strength and prosperity in this endevour will come.
· From where will you get peace in the midst of this turmoil?
· From where will you get strength to endure through this?
· How will you provide for your family, how will you protect yourself and your loved ones?
Our confidence doesn’t come from ourselves our our plans, it doesn’t come from knowing what the future holds – it comes from knowing the God who holds the future.
God provides, God protects, God strengthens, God knows, God controls, God is with- who?
All people, all nations? That’s not what the Bible teaches. HIS people.
· This is certainly a time for us to ask – do we know the one true God who is creator and sovereign ruler?
· Do we know Yahweh, the God whom David is describing? Do we know Him personally as He has revealed himself in the Scriptures and in Jesus Christ.
· Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth an the life, no-one comes to the father but through me.”
· There is only one true God and one way to know and worship this God and that is by turning from our sin, turning from our pride and selfish independence and humbling ourselves before Him and entrusting ourselves to Him through Jesus Christ.
· If you are not a Christian, you don’t know God and you will never know His favour, His strength or His peace – all that is reserved for you is His judgment.
· You can no more escape the future judgment of God than you can the chaos of the present…
But if you do know Him – then you must learn from this Psalm – that God is sovereign over every storm. The God of heaven sits on His throne and He is worthy of our worship.
We need to look down in humble worship, we need to look out and see God in the midst of this storm and worship, and we need to look to Him in faith and to Him alone for strength and peace, and worship.
Worship focusses our attention on where it most needs to be in the mist of the storm – not on ourselves, but on God who rides on the wings of the storm.
Feeling Caged – feeling concerned – feeling confused? – There is only one place to God, go to God and one thing to do – worship!