Epiphany 1 – The Voice of the Lord – Psalm 29

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I’d like to begin this morning by asking you to take out your worship bulletin and turn to page 8. The Psalm appointed for today – ‘The Baptism of our Lord,’ is the 29th Psalm and I’d like to have us hear it again by singing it again. (Congregation sings Psalm 29)

I. Psalm 29:1-2 – Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength

voice-of-the-lordNow with your worship bulletin still open, I want you to notice how the Psalm is organized. Verses 1 and 2 call us to “ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.” “Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name.” To ‘ascribe’ is to ‘recognize’ or ‘acknowledge’ that “glory and strength” belong to the Lord.

Special emphasis is placed on the Lord’s ‘glory.’ The word “glory” in the Hebrew is ‘chavod’. And it literally means ‘weight.’ The Lord is ‘heavy.’ He is not to be taken ‘lightly.’

His ‘glory’ is ascribed to His ‘name.’ This is why we dare not take the ‘name of God’ ‘lightly.’ You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. His name is ‘glorious,’ it’s ‘heavy.’ We are to ascribe to it the ‘weight’ it is due.

The call to ‘ascribe to the Lord glory and strength’ goes out to the “heavenly beings.” And the ‘heavenly beings’ do just that. They ‘worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.’

Just to be sure we hear that right let’s rephrase it like this, “They worship the Lord, splendored in holiness,’ or ‘clothed in holiness.’ It’s a holiness that they ‘ascribe to the Lord,’ it belongs to Him, He is the source and the author of the ‘holiness’ that they are splendored in. The ‘heavenly beings’ are ‘worshipping’ the Lord of glory clothed in the glory that belongs to Him.

II. Psalm 29:3-9 – “The voice of the Lord…”

And now we come to verses 3-9 where we have this incredible repetition of the phrase, “the voice of the Lord…” In the Hebrew it’s the “qol yahweh”. The word “qol” tells you something about its meaning by the SOUND of the word. It’s “QOL” with a hard ‘qaph’ that is meant to sound like ‘thunder.’

Counting them, we see that this phrase, “The voice of the Lord…” is repeated in these 7 times in 7 verses. 7 is the number for completeness, as in the 7 days of creation.

“The voice of the Lord is over the waters, the God of glory thunders…” “The Lord, speaks His voice over many waters – as He did in the beginning when the whole world was a watery deep – “Let there be light.” “And there was light.”

“The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.” And now listen to the effect that this ‘powerful,’ ‘majestic’ voice of the Lord has on those who hear it.

“The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.” The cedars of Lebanon were known for being the tallest, most majestic trees you could find. They’re what Solomon ordered for construction of the Temple. But the voice of the Lord snaps them like twigs.

“The voice of the Lord makes Lebanon skip like a calf, and Sirion like a young wild ox.” Lebanon was a powerful nation and Sirion is another name for Mount Hermon which was the tallest mountain in Lebanon. They skip and jump like frightened animals at the sound of the “voice of the Lord.”

“The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.” “The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness; the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.” The picture here is of a fire and an earthquake that the voice of the Lord.

“The voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth and strips the forest bare…” The poor deer is so frightened when it hears the ‘voice of the Lord’ that that it goes into labor and gives birth early.

Israelites at Mt. Sinai

This is the “voice of the Lord” that the Israelites heard from the top of Mt. Sinai in the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land and they said, “If we hear the voice of the Lord anymore, we shall die.”

And so they sent Moses up the mountain to listen to God speak saying, “Go near and hear all that the LORD our God will say, and speak to us all that the LORD our God will speak to you, and we will hear and do it.’” (Deuteronomy 5:25-27)

They could only stand to hear the “voice of the Lord” if the glory and the majesty were covered up in human flesh and bones like their own.

The Flood of Noah

“The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.” The ‘voice of the Lord thundered over many waters and churned them up into a devastating flood that could well be the flood of Noah that destroyed the whole earth.

All of this Psalm up to this point has called our attention to the terrifying power and might of the ‘voice of the Lord.’

And then this final prayer which sounds very strange in light of all that we have just heard. “May the Lord give strength to his people. May the Lord bless his people with peace!” And we wonder, how is it possible that this POWERFUL, MAJESTIC ‘voice of the Lord’ that is so HEAVY that it causes such destruction and devastation on the earth, could “give strength to his people, and “bless his people with peace.”

III. Isaiah 42:1-9

In our Old Testament reading, the prophet Isaiah points us to the “servant of the Lord” who speaks with an entirely much different tone of voice than the one we heard in our Psalm. He is the One whom the Lord of glory and strength “upholds,” His “chosen One in whom my soul delights. I have put my Spirit upon him. He will bring forth justice to the nations.”

And what about His voice? Does He ‘thunder over many waters’ and frighten the poor animals to skip and go into labor?” No, quite the contrary. “He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street.”

Rather than snapping great cedars, “a bruised reed he will not break.” Rather than “flashing forth flames of fire,” “a smoldering wick he will not quench.”

“He will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law.”

IV. Matthew 3:13-17

Of course, the “servant of the Lord” whom Isaiah was pointing to is the One who is standing in the Jordan River. The Lord puts the Spirit of the Lord on the Lord Jesus and “the voice of the Lord is over the waters, the God of glory thunders, the Lord, over many waters.” “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

Jesus Christ is the servant of the Lord, whose voice is the voice of the Lord of glory and strength, but who “speaks tenderly…” ‘Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins. (Isaiah 40:2)
Jesus is the “VOICE OF THE LORD” who speaks to the crowds that are not threatened by Him but gather around Him saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted…” And His voice comforts and strengthens His people.

• He is the “VOICE OF THE LORD” who speaks to the raging sea, “be still,” and it goes instantly calm.
• He is the “VOICE OF THE LORD” who speaks tenderly to Jerusalem, “come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and you will find rest for your soul.”
• He is the “VOICE OF THE LORD” who says, “young man I say to you, arise,” and “Lazarus, come out,” and the dead are raised to life.
• And He is the “VOICE OF THE LORD” who says, “take heart, my son, your sins are forgiven,” and joy takes over where fear had ruled.

• Jesus is the ‘VOICE OF THE LORD’ who “will not cry aloud or lift up his voice” even while sinful men who refuse to “ascribe to Him the glory due His name,” lift up their own voice to insult and mock Him and speak all manner of evil against Him.
• Jesus is the ‘VOICE OF THE LORD’ who spoke into the darkness in the beginning saying, “Let there be light. And there was light.” But who now, will not “make His voice be heard in street,” even while all the people are raising their voices shouting, “Crucify Him, crucify Him.”
• Jesus is the ‘voice of the Lord’ who “will not grow faint or be discouraged till justice is established in the earth” and with His still, small voice says, “It is finished.”

The point here is that apart from Jesus Christ, the ‘VOICE OF THE LORD’ is a threatening and terrifying voice that causes sinful men and women to flee in fear. Like the Israelites of old, no one can stand to hear the VOICE OF THE LORD unless it comes to us covered in flesh and bones.

In Jesus Christ, God speaks to us gently and tenderly with words filled with mercy and grace and love. His voice speaks forgiveness and peace and life and salvation. And as we listen, His voice creates faith in us and we actually receive we have heard Him speak.

This is how God wants to speak to us and this is how He wants us to hear Him. When God wanted to speak to the prophet Elijah, He told him to “stand in the mount before the Lord. And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. (1 Kings 19:11-12) And it’s in the “low whisper” that Elijah hears the VOICE OF THE LORD speak to him.

This is how God wants to speak to us too and how He wants us to hear Him. Jesus Christ is the “sound of a low whisper.”

And so we do well to hear God speak to us through the voice of the One who stands in the water of the Jordan River for baptism; and hangs from the cross at Golgatha for atonement; and comes to us today in the bread and wine. We hear the voice of the baptized, crucified and risen Lord, speak to us in a “low whisper” saying, “take and eat this is my body; take and drink, this is my blood.”

And we are glad to hear the ‘voice of the Lord’ speak to us like this. And we joyfully, come and receive what He gives. And as we do, we “ascribe to the Lord, the glory due His name and worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.” And the Psalmist’s prayer is answered for us, “May the Lord give strength to his people. May the Lord bless his people with peace!”

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