Monday, January 09, 2012

God's voice in the key of nature

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Psalm 29:1-11

TO CHEW ON: "The voice of the Lord is powerful;
The voice of the Lord is full of majesty." - Psalm 29:4

I loved thunderstorms when I was growing up on a Saskatchewan farm (loved with just a tinge of fear). My parents treated them with respect. If one rolled in overnight, they herded us all from our upstairs bedrooms into the living-room to sleep on pullout couches, so I knew they could be dangerous. (In fact, some tall prairie houses were built with a lightning rod. Ours didn't have one so perhaps our parents' fear for our safety on the upper story was well founded).

I remember not being able to keep my eyes from the window as I waited for the next burst of light followed by the crack-crash-rumble of thunder. I felt safe and secure, like an onlooker, curious, even excited to see how bad this would get. (The wind, with its ability to knock things down and rattle them around, scared me more than the thunder.)

David in this psalm seems to write from a similar vantage point of safety, even detachment. With poetic details he word-paints cataclysmic acts of nature:
  • Storm: "The God of glory thunders / The Lord is over many waters" (vs. 3).
  • Earthquake: "The Lord splinters the cedars of Lebanon / He makes them also skip like a calf" (vs. 5-6).
  • Wildfire: "The voice of the Lord divides the flames of fire" (vs. 7).

However, nowhere in this Psalm does David attribute God-like qualities to nature in a pantheistic way. A footnote in my Bible comments:

"There is no evidence of superstitious fears as in pagan cultures (Jonah 1:4-6), nor is God equated with the storm and thunder as polytheistic religious depict; but here God is above and over nature commanding it with His spoken word as at creation (Genesis 1)" - New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 707.

We all know that natural events can bring with them devastation and death to believers and nonbelievers alike. The note of peace on which this psalm ends ("The Lord will give strength to His people; / The Lord will bless His people with peace.") reminds us that we can ultimately trust God who is behind and allows both the calm and the storm. They are part of His conforming us into the people of His destiny:
"And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son" - Romans 8:28, 29.

PRAYER: Dear God, Your power in nature can be fearful. I have only to see the after effects of an earthquake or tsunami to remind me of how puny I am. Help me to face whatever You allow into my life with peace, knowing that Your purposes for me in going through it are good and constructive. Amen.

MORE: Nature's power in pictures

The website runs a feature called "The Big Picture: The News in Photographs." It contains sets of newsworthy photos. Below are links to some of the natural disasters our world has seen within the last few years (be patient; these are large files which take a little longer to load than some):

"Massive earthquake hits Japan" - photos of the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami off the east coast of Japan.

"Remembering Katrina, five years ago" - photos of the August 29, 2005 Hurricane Katrina that devastated the Gulf Coast, centered on New Orleans.

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