(Excerpt from teaching/training classes, used also in pastoral counseling and prison ministry)
This was written in September and posted now because people are still recovering from Hurricane Harvey and from other personal disasters.
Hurricane Harvey. Harvey was an extremely destructive Atlantic hurricane that caused catastrophic flooding in southeastern Texas and Louisiana. It dissipated September 3, 2017, but many are still recovering from its effects. Many areas received more than 40 inches of rain and Harvey is the wettest tropical cyclone on record in the continental U.S. Flooding necessitated more than 17,000 rescues, displaced more than 30,000 people, and flooded hundreds of thousands of homes. Economic losses are estimated at between $70-$200 billion, with a large portion of the losses suffered by uninsured homeowners. Many hearts are still broken and people continue to struggle in the aftermath of this crisis.
Harvey reminds me of the smaller Hurricane Charley which hit Orlando, Florida in 2004. The violent storm brought 100-mile per hour winds which knocked down many billboards, but one sign resisted the hurricane’s fury. Layers of newer ads were torn off the billboard to reveal an earlier advertisement. The underneath message read: “We need to talk. God.” That’s not an urban legend. Snopes.com reports that it really happened.
Psalm 29. Hurricane Harvey reminds me of Psalm 29. It is called “The Psalm of the Seven Thunders” because God’s voice is mentioned seven times in controlling the storm’s approach (v. 3,4), the storm’s outbreak (v. 5-7), and the storm’s passing away (v. 8,9). The Hebrew word QOL means both voice and thunder. Before Jesus’ crucifixion, He prayed to God the Father for help. The Father answered audibly from Heaven and the crowds thought it was thunder (John 12:27-29). Psalm 29 speaks of the Lord’s almighty forcefulness and also of His amazing tenderness. Unexpectedly, it ends like this:
The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; The LORD is enthroned as King forever. The LORD gives strength to His people; The LORD blesses His people with peace. (v. 10,11)
That’s a surprising ending to this roaring Psalm. Hurricane Harvey wakes us up to seek comfort, hope, peace, harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity, well-being, and tranquility from Jesus, the King of kings and Lord of lords. The gallons of rainfall remind us to ask the Lord to fill up our heavy hearts with His joy and strong confidence in Him who loved us and gave Himself for us (Gal 2:20). Psalm 29 and the whole Bible point up to Christ in whom we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). I need lots of reminding. Maybe you do too.
Christ exercises absolute authority and power over His world. He created it and He never lets it go. Jesus rules our planet for His own glory and our ultimate good (Rom 8:28). Hurricane Harvey was terrifying, unstoppable, and violent. It showed us how powerless we are over all the problems we face and calls us to look up to Jesus for everything. He’s the Lord of the Storm and the Ruler of all Nature. He is so wise, He knows what’s best for us; so merciful, He wants what’s best for us; and so strong, He does what’s best for His people. We must keep on begging Him to help us and our neighbors.
Psalm 62 declares: One thing God has spoken, two things I have heard: “Power belongs to you, God, and with you, Lord, is unfailing love”; and, “You reward everyone according to what they have done.” (v. 11,12)
Remember, none of us deserve good things from God because our human hearts are inclined to evil from childhood (Gen 8:21). But by the Lord’s free grace and goodness, He spares us from His wrath and blesses us because of Jesus’ obedience, dying, and rising in our place. All His gifts are rewards of grace. Christ reconciles us to God and makes the fearsome Lord of Psalm 29 our Father and our Friend who is devoted to saving, helping, keeping, loving, and being with us forever!
The flood language in Psalm 29 reminds us of God (the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) creating our planet and pushing back the waters (Gen 1:2). Later in history, the Lord rescued Noah and his family from the world-wide flood. Later, God delivered the Hebrews from Egypt through the Red Sea and crushed their enemies. Later, Jesus demonstrated His Kingship over winds and waves that threatened His disciples. William Cowper’s hymn sums up Scripture and reminds us: God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform; He plants His footsteps in the sea and rides upon the storm.
Some Lessons. We learn so much from Psalm 29 when considered in light of the rest of the Bible. Here are a few encouraging thoughts it brings to my mind:
1. The Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express (Rom 8:26). When rivers, bayous, levees, and reservoirs overflow, when homes are flooded, when lives are in danger, when other calamities threaten us, the Spirit prays for us down here on Earth and His prayers always reach God’s throne. In addition, our risen Lord Jesus is in Heaven also praying for us (Rom 8:34; Heb 7:25). That’s the only way we survive and thrive in this fallen world for one second. Hurricane Harvey reminded us of that.
2. The Lord says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” It’s good to admit our fragility to God and to others, so that Christ’s power may rest on us (2 Cor 12:9). This includes begging for Jesus’ help daily for our spiritual struggles, for resisting temptation, and for recovery from addictions, as well as asking Him to care for our physical needs and wants. The Lord taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matt 6:11), so that we ask God to give us everything we need to live and serve Him. We are always totally dependent on Christ. Hurricane Harvey reminded us.
3. The Scriptures teach us of the Lord’s care in Creation, in Noah’s day, in Moses’ day, in King David’s day, and in Jesus’ day to encourage us to trust Him to care for us now in Houston and beyond. If God has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into Christ’s kingdom in whom we have redemption and forgiveness of sins (Col 1:13,14), won’t He care for our food, clothing, and shelter? Yes, He will! If He cares for birds and flowers, won’t He care for us? Surely! See Matthew 6:25-34.
Allen Golding’s Story. Hurricane Harvey reminds me of Allen Golding. He was a missionary in the Philippines and visited The Silver School, where silversmiths are trained. He admires their workmanship and buys a souvenir, a silver money clip with a distinctive design. Allen carries that money clip for 24 years. One day it breaks as he slips a few bills into it. So Allen takes the broken pieces back to The Silver School. A craftsman, John, offers to help. Allen explains what happened and lays the pieces in John’s outstretched hand. After examining the pieces, John looks up, smiles, and says, “I was the only one to make this kind.” Allen asks, “Can you fix it?” John answers, “I designed it. I made it. Of course I can fix it!”
Jesus Christ made us; He saves us; He can fix us. So let us bring Him all the broken pieces of our lives. Christ can restore the years the locusts have destroyed (Joel 2:25) and He can restore us after Hurricane Harvey’s devastation and after all the harm other events and people cause us.
Our help is in the name of the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. (Psalm 124:8)