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Sunday, July 9, 2017

That Voice (Psalm 29, Revelation 5)

Sermon by: Robert Austell; July 9, 2017 - Psalm 29; Revelation 5:11-14

:: Sermon Audio (link) ::
Click link to open and play in browser; right-click to save. Sermon audio is also accessible as a free podcast in iTunes. Search for "Good Shepherd Sermons" or "Robert Austell." 

:: Scripture and Music ::
Singing Together: O Worship the King (LYONS)
The Word in Music: I Sing the Mighty Power of God (arr. Fettke)
Song of Response: I See the Lord (Falson)
Song of Sending: Revelation Song (Riddle)

:: Sermon Manuscript (pdf) ::
This "manuscript" represents an early draft of the sermon. Some weeks  the spoken version varies more than others from the early manuscript. Nevertheless, if you'd prefer to read than to listen, this is provided  for that purpose.

I’ve written songs since I was a kid. When I was younger the music came first and the words were a labor. As I experienced more of the world I found that I preferred to write the words first, then compose music that fit them. Sometimes I write in my “man cave” and my mind roams to situations or settings that inspire what I’m going to write. Other times I have taken time away in a beautiful setting like the mountains or the beach and found inspiration away from the clutter and distraction of daily life.

I share that to say that I believe this particular “song” that is Psalm 29 was written in the middle of a huge thunderstorm. I can’t prove that, but I can relate to it. Maybe the Psalmist just imagined such a storm. Regardless, that is the backdrop for this songwriter, this poet, to write about the glory of God. With each crash of the thunder, the Psalmist thought of the voice of God; and it inspired praise.

There are many Sundays where the scripture text gives us something to do, some application into our life. And certainly this Psalm has application, but it is primarily focused on our glorious God. I mean, think about a thunderstorm. It doesn’t really generate a to-do list in your head. You may think about getting in out of the rain, but mostly it’s just a “wow!” I may draw out some implications for us today, but mainly my hope is that you and I will get a sense of “whoa!” as we think about God. If we can catch even a bit of that, I think it generates its own application in our lives.

Along those lines, I want to share a video clip with you. I saw this when it circulated on the Internet – maybe two years ago. It may make you giggle, which is fine. But it’s for real. You may think the man is intoxicated, but I don’t think he is. (Remember the apostles were accused of the same on Pentecost!) This 53 year-old farmer saw a rainbow and the sheer beauty of it overcomes him. In the last two years this video clip has been viewed over 44 million times.

I believe that’s what is going on in Psalm 29 (and in our other text in Revelation 5).

That Voice (vv. 3-9)

I’m going to start in the middle of Psalm 29, because that’s where the storm is happening. Then we’ll look at the beginning and ending.

In seven verses the Psalmist delivers seven visuals to go with seven thunderclaps. Like the guy in the rainbow video, I can imagine the Jewish songwriter sitting in the storm with the words rolling out in sequence:
[boom] The voice of the Lord is upon the waters – the God of glory thunders! (v. 3)
[crash] The voice of the Lord is powerful, the voice of the Lord is majestic! (v. 4)
[crack] The voice of the Lord breaks ...even the mighty cedars of Lebanon. (v. 5)
The mighty countries of Syria and Lebanon skitter and buck like animals terrified
by the storm. (v. 6)
[boom] The voice of the Lord spits lightning like fire and rattles the earth. (vv. 7-8)
[crack] The voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth (or twists the oaks?)
and strips the forest bare. (v. 9)
And after all that, this powerful verse: “And everything in His temple says, ‘Glory!’” (v. 9)

When the whole created world seemingly yields before the mighty sound of thunder, the Psalmist sees in that a powerful glimpse of all Creation declaring the glory of God.

It bears a striking resemblance to the scene in Revelation, where all the angels, creatures, elders, and nations gather around the throne of God and declare, “Glory!” They say, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.” (Rev. 5:12) Every created thing in heaven, on the earth, under the earth, on the sea, and all things in them join in, “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.” (v. 13)

Like the cascading peals of thunder and the response of nature to those, the gathering in Heaven offers praise after praise before the throne of God. The Psalmist has caught a glimpse, inspired by something in this world in the general revelation of God’s creation.

Have you glimpsed it? Can you imagine even the smallest part of what all Creation means by “Glory!”?

The Lord as King (vv.10-11)

The Psalm ends by coming out of that metaphor. Moving from God’s voice as thunder, the Psalmist declares God as King:
The Lord sat as King at the flood; yes, the Lord sits as King forever.
The Lord will give strength to His people; the Lord will bless His people with peace. (vv. 10-11)
This is the Psalmist’s conclusion – not an “if you do this, God will do this” statement, but a recognition of what God does with all that power and glory and might. It is more praise and wonder, as if recognizing that with the mighty thunder comes the needed rain. The one with this voice is also the one who rules over us and does so with compassion, strengthening and blessing His people with peace.

Maybe the inspirational thunderstorm gave way to rain or maybe the Psalmist just recognized the goodness of God alongside the wondrous power and might. But it is a wonderful connection and reminder to us of who God is.

Giving Praise (vv. 1-2)

So to the beginning of the Psalm. It begins with this word, “Ascribe.” It literally means ‘give’ but here carries the sense of “recognize and respond.” O sons and daughters of the mighty One, recognize the glory and strength of the Lord. The recognize part is to realize who God is. God is not a deity of your or my imagination or creation. We could not invent such a God. Like the thunder that will follow, God IS and (at some point) we will be confronted with God on His own terms. Just as we have to “respect the storm” – God demands respect. Not ‘demand’ in a petulant, “won’t you worship me?” way, but demands like if you really caught a glimpse of that voice, that power, that glory, there is only one response. Whoa! Glory!

So the Psalmist appeals to those who will hear his song, “Recognize and respond!” And if you don’t know what he’s talking about, he’s about to tell you all about that time the mighty thunder reminded him of an even greater God. So recognize the Lord’s glory and strength, and respond. That is what worship (v. 2) is… it’s the response we make after recognizing who God is. If worship is dull or boring or shallow, it may well because we’ve not seen or heard the thunder… or the power behind it.

I want to invite the worship team to come up. The prophet Isaiah wrote about a vision he had of the Lord. Let me read it and then we’ll sing in response:
In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.” And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. Then I said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.”  Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar with tongs. He touched my mouth with it and said, “Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven.” (Isaiah 6:1-7)
After we sing ‘Holy’ we will confess as Isaiah did; then we will hear God’s assurance of mercy and grace. Come, let us ascribe glory to the Lord!

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