Peace through strength

The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace. (Psalm 29:11)

Taken all by itself, this verse sounds like one of those lovely verses one reads on a bumper sticker or (ahem) a verse-a-day website. God gives me strength; God gives me peace.

But taken as the climax of this psalm, what does it mean?

1Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
2Ascribe to the Lord the glory of his name;
worship the Lord in holy splendour.

3The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the Lord, over mighty waters.
4The voice of the Lord is powerful;
the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.

5The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
6He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,
and Sirion like a young wild ox.

7The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.
8The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;
the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.

9The voice of the Lord causes the oaks to whirl,
and strips the forest bare;
and in his temple all say, ‘Glory!’

10The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
the Lord sits enthroned as king for ever.
11May the Lord give strength to his people!
May the Lord bless his people with peace!

This Lord is a loud god with a powerful and majestic voice; this Lord speaks, and you see lightning and hear thunder. This Lord speaks, and everything quakes. This Lord is a terrible thunderstorm, a hurricane, a gale-force wind, an avalanche, a flood. This Lord is a god of power and might, and this mighty power must be recognized.

So, when the Lord brings this mighty strength to bear on behalf of his people, what kind of strength will that be? A kinetic, energetic strength: the kind that can uproot trees, not just the kind of strength to get us through the minor ups and downs of the small storms of our lives.

So, when the Lord brings peace to his people, what kind of peace will it be? Not the kind of peace that means stillness and calm, but the peace of knowing that we are ready for anything, because God is stronger still. Does the wilderness of our sin and dis-ease threaten us? Do mighty oaks of danger overshadow us? God strips the forest, shakes the wilderness. We can face a host of enemies, knowing that the Lord, “in holy spendour,” is greater than our sins, diseases, and danger.

Walk today in peace, knowing that no matter what thing assails you today, God is greater still (and God looks on you, yes you, with favor). Take God’s gift to you.

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