Summary: How do we find peace in a world full of chaos?
It’s All About the LORD
This psalm bears the title, “A Psalm of David.” David was known as the “Sweet Psalmist of Israel.” He was also King over a unified Israel and a mighty warrior. He was an excellent shepherd and had deadly accuracy with a slingshot. Before he killed Goliath, he had killed a lion and a bear with his sling. Even though he was the eighth son of Jesse and was on first appearance the least of them, he could later find many reasons to boast about himself. But this psalm shows the true reason for his success.
This psalm is all about Yahweh. His name appears 18 times in the eleven verses in the psalm along with “the God of Glory.” David’s name does not appear a single time. The deeds of any man are not mentioned. It is all about Yahweh, who He is, what He has done, does, and will do.
The psalm begins with the word “Give unto the LORD.” This also begins the second verse as well. Our response to the LORD comes first. The mighty who might boast in their own accomplishments are not to boast about them. It is the LORD who is mighty. He is to be given glory and strength. If one is mighty like David, then it is because the LORD has raised him or her up for that reason. It is the LORD who is to be worshiped in the beauty of holiness. The word holy means that the LORD is set apart from His creation. There is none beside Him. There is no one else to share His glory with. The LORD is our God, He alone.
Another theme which comes up seven times in this psalm is the voice of Yahweh. The voice of the LORD is over the waters. This should bring us back to the account of creation. We remember that the Spirit of God hovered over the waters like a brooding hen. We remember that God did not create all things with the metaphor of hands but spoke all creation into existence. Men make things. Men also make idols. The word “manufacture” comes from the Latin “manibus” “hand” and “factum” “made.” The Holy God makes a distinction from all creation, and man in particular in the way He makes things. He speaks and the universe comes into being out of nothing. The word “water” here in the creation account also brings into the Hebrew mind the idea of chaos and disorder. The idea here is that it is the LORD who makes structure and meaning out of chaos. The material of the universe was created first and was without form and void. Then God spoke to this material, and a beautiful and ordered creation was made, of which mankind was the crown jewel.
“The voice of the LORD thunders.” After this “water” is repeated. This time instead of water in the singular, it is in the plural “many waters.” The LORD’s voice does not just make order out of the universe where He separates the water above from the water below. There He also separates sea and dry land. That singular act is the paradigm for all other acts. So when we see “many waters” we should see that the LORD is still at work making order out of chaos and life from death. This means He is still involved with His creation today. This means He is with the greatest of all creatures who alone bears His image. We think of the sound of thunder. It shakes the ground. It instills fear. It is often associated with heavy rain and floods. But the LORD’s voice is far more powerful than the thunder and the flood. He is to be feared above both as both the thunder and the rain are subject to His command. It is written that “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.” If one is out of sorts with the LORD, then this fear is indeed great. If the floods sweep away without mercy, how much more will the unrepentant be swept away by the one who is Sovereign. But for the believer, there is great comfort that the same voice of Yahweh can speak to the floods that threaten to overwhelm you and say “Peace be still.”
David goes on further to describe the effect of the voice of Yahweh. It is powerful and full of majesty. Some would call this a “tautology” or the piling on of adjectives. These fact that one can clearly see that the voice of Yahweh is both from the previous verses. But we never can be reminded too much as we so quickly drift away and forget who Yahweh is and what He has done and all too soon return to what we will do and who we are. We forget that He has made us and not we ourselves (Psalm 100). As the hymn says “Prone to wander, LORD we feel it; prone to leave the God we love. Living a life of constant remembrance of who the LORD is and what He has done for us is the antidote to the wandering and idolatrous heart; it is the seal which prepares us for the courts above.