"The voice of the Lord twists the oaks and strips the forests bare. And in his temple all cry, 'Glory!'" Psalm 29:9
When I was in seminary, I can remember a violent hurricane that swept through the New England area, one of the most powerful storms I've ever experienced. I stood looking out our window at the way that huge oaks and maples were bucking to and fro in the wind, tossed around like they were blades of grass. Some of them couldn't withstand the force of the wind, and decades of growth was instantly terminated, thrown to the ground with ease by the power of moving air. As I stood gazing at the effects of that storm, I was overwhelmed by the power of the Lord. And this wasn't even a powerful hurricane!
On August 24, 1992, a truly awesome hurricane named Andrew ripped through southern Florida, with winds that reached 200 miles per hour. These winds were powerful enough to suck the walls off high-rise apartment buildings, powerful enough to lift school buses off the ground and deposit them on their backs on the top of nearby gas stations, powerful enough to remove an entire 325 acre forest of Australian pine. Many people who lived through that storm testified to the awesome power of the Lord as displayed through the strength of this wind.
Here, in Psalm 29, it seems that David is actually witnessing a storm as it was occurring, and its terrifying effects made him immediately meditate on the awesome majesty of the power of his God. He begins by beckoning “mighty ones” (perhaps angels) to ascribe to the Lord the glory he deserves. From verse 3 through 9, David takes us through the storm, using its destructive power to contemplate what God can do. One can hear the wind, the thunder, the crack of the lightning as David adds line to descriptive line in a staccato rhythm: “The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord thunders over the mighty waters. The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is majestic. The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars...The voice of the Lord strikes with flashes of lightning. The voice of the Lord shakes the desert...” David is clearly overwhelmed with the power of this storm, but he considers it just a reminder of his own frailty and God's exponentially greater power. The storm is a tempest in a teacup compared to what God can do... to what God WILL do at the end of the world (cf. 2 Peter 3:10, 12).
"Perhaps even more amazing than the awesome power of the Lord is his restraint, leaving peace in the hearts of those he blesses."
Amazingly, however, the last word in this Psalm is the word “peace.” How can God show his power in such an overwhelming fashion, yet leave his people at peace? Well, in the evening of the very same day as that hurricane I saw at seminary, I went outside to run an errand. The last remnants of the storm had passed by hours ago, and as I stood there, I felt a gentle breeze caress my face. I looked up at a thin sapling that had somehow survived the hurricane - one of its tender leaves was barely lifted by that breeze... and I marveled at the range of the wind's power. Perhaps even more amazing than the awesome power of the Lord is his restraint, leaving peace in the hearts of those he blesses.