Brrr! It’s very cold outside and light snow has fallen all day. The temperature is a little warmer now; it is minus two degrees Fahrenheit, but feels like minus twenty degrees Fahrenheit. Our energy company has notified customers to expect rolling outages as this extreme cold continues for the next few days. While news like this frustrates people who like to run or bike outside for exercise, and strikes fear into the hearts of others because of health, work, or education concerns, it reminds us all that some aspects of our environment are beyond our control.
In times of severe weather or other emergency situations, we are forced to pause and evaluate what basic functions must be done, what can be delayed because it’s not required, and what we absolutely cannot achieve. Now, as I prepare for the possibility of the power outages and try to anticipate various contingencies, I also admire the beauty of the snow and respect the danger posed by the wind and frigid temperatures.
Psalm 29 is not a prayer, but it forcefully reminds us of the One to whom we pray and why it is he to whom we pray. The psalmist recognizes the power of storms and of the ocean, powers which pagan contemporaries had identified as weapons of the gods or as gods themselves. However, it is God whom he, and we should worship and praise:
“Ascribe to the LORD, you heavenly beings, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness. The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the LORD thunders over the might waters. The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is majestic…The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars; the LORD breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon…The voice of the LORD strikes with flashes of lightning. The voice of the LORD shakes the desert; the LORD shakes the Desert of Kadesh. The voice of the LORD twists the oaks and strips the forests bare. And in his temple all cry, ‘Glory!.” (Psalm 29:1-6, 7-9).
While many ancient peoples worshipped thunder and the sea, the psalmist sings that God controls them. Psalm 29 echoes the early chapters of Genesis, where God creates what the nations around Israel worshipped. It is the LORD (Yahweh in Hebrew) who creates, who sets the conditions, who controls. Planets, stars, moons, seas, wind, earthquakes, and thunder are God’s creation, not divine personalities. Our God, to whom we pray, should be the object of our awe and our worship, because as Psalm 29 concludes,
“The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace” (Psalm 29:11).
We worry about power outages that may expose us to life-threatening temperatures while life-sustaining food spoils. We wince when thunder roars and swim cautiously in the ocean. We plant vegetables with reference to the seasons and to the stages of the moon. Yet all these, powerful or dangerous forces though they might be, are like us part of God’s creation. God is in control. Let’s pray with confidence, react with wisdom, and live with calm assurance that God is in control.
God of glory,
We praise you and thank you for life. We thank you for sustaining us with air that enables us to breathe and with food that energizes. The forces of nature startle us and sometimes we cringe with fear at their powers. We stagger in gusts of wind; we lose control in the waves of the ocean; we shudder when thunder roars and lightning flashes. Remind us that these also are your creation, as are we. We believe; reinforce our faith and forgive our doubts. Right now, much of our country is staggering under the impact of frigid temperatures, mighty winds, and icy, snowy conditions. Give us strength and restore our peace. Warm our hearts and our bodies. Grant us wisdom to know how we may live best in this world you have fashioned. May we remember to thank you, to praise you, to bow humbly before you when we struggle with fear of the world around us. In Jesus’ name, amen.
- Quotes from the Bible are from the New International Version 2011.