"Ascribe to the Lord Glory and Strength" (Psalms 28-30) June 23-25
David begins Psalm 28, a prayer for deliverance, with an intense supplication: "I lift up my hands toward Your holy sanctuary" (verse 2; compare 1 Kings 8:6-8). In his prayer to God, David makes two requests: "Do not take me away with the wicked" (verse 3), that is, to the pit or grave (verse 1); and "Render to them [the wicked] what they deserve" (verse 4)—a just punishment.
Of course all have sinned and deserve the penalty of sin—death (see Romans 3:23; 6:23). But God has made provision for forgiving those who repent and devote their lives to him. David rightly states that the wicked have not met these conditions: "They show no regard for the works of the Lord and what his hands have done" (verse 5, NIV).
David then praises God for having heard his supplications (verse 6) and for being his strength (verse 7) as well as their strength (verse 8)—that is, the strength of His people (verse 9). Ultimately, Jesus Christ will save and bless His people. As King, He will shepherd them (returning to the imagery of Psalm 23) and will bear them up forever, lovingly carrying them (see Isaiah 9:6-9; 40:11).
Psalm 29 is a worship hymn composed by David "in praise of the King of creation, whose glory is trumpeted by the thunderclaps [constituting His "voice"] that rumble through the cloudy mass of winter's rainstorms as they rise above the Mediterranean ('the mighty waters,' v. 3 [NIV]), and move from east to west across the face of the sky" (Zondervan NIV Study Bible, note on Psalm 29). The thunderclouds cover the whole land of Israel, from the northern forests of Lebanon and Sirion, denoting Mount Hermon, to the southern Desert of Kadesh (verses 6, 8).
The booming thunder shakes the ground (verses 4, 6, 8) and terrifies wild deer into giving birth prematurely (verse 9). With the thunder come "flashes of lightning" (verse 7, NIV), these strikes splintering great trees in two (verse 5) and stripping the forests bare (verse 9).
David calls on the "mighty ones" to ascribe to God the glory due Him as the Almighty Creator (verses 1-2). The phrase translated "mighty ones" here literally reads "sons of God," this expression appearing to denote God's angels, which are referred to this way in the book of Job (Job 1:6; 38:7).
At God's great display of power in nature, everyone "in His temple" expresses awe (Psalm 29:9). As David wrote this before the building of the physical temple, it seems that the temple in heaven is intended—especially given David's urging to the angels in verse 1. However, some suggest that David may be referring to all of creation as God's temple.
The NKJV translates verse 10 as saying that "the Lord sat enthroned at the Flood"—that is, the Flood of Noah's day. The NIV, however, renders this in the present tense: "The Lord sits enthroned over the flood." The latter seems likely, given that the great thunderstorm was accompanied by torrential flash flooding in the desert wadis. However, all of this could well have brought to mind the former Flood, a product of God's sovereign rule over the natural realm. Moreover, a great flood is also symbolic of chaotic, threatening circumstances (compare Psalm 32:6-7).
As a final thought in Psalm 29, David considers in verse 11 that it is this same great and powerful God who empowers His people—and blesses His people not with the destruction witnessed in nature but, as all forces are subject to Him, with peace.
The translation of the superscription of Psalm 30 is disputed. The KJV and NKJV explain the psalm as a "song at the dedication of the house of David"—evidently referring to the king's royal palace. The NIV and others, though, think the translation should be "A song. For the dedication of the temple. Of David." The Hebrew word here is beyt— "house" in a general sense. Yet the idea of the latter translation is that le-David, as in other psalms, should denote authorship rather than any connection with this house. And "the house" on its own can be a designation for the temple, the house of the Lord—though it could also refer to the palace.
Considering the very personal and specific nature of this psalm with regard to the life of the psalmist, it does not seem to fit very well with the dedication of the temple, which took place several years after David's death. The most likely conclusion appears to be that this psalm was written by David to be sung at the dedication of his palace. For this reason, we earlier read Psalm 30 in the Bible Reading Program in conjunction with other passages concerning that period (see the Bible Reading Program comments on 1 Chronicles 14; 2 Samuel 5:11-25; 1 Chronicles 3:5-9; Psalm 30).
David reflects on the events that have led up to the joyful occasion of his now-firm establishment at Jerusalem. He praises God for lifting him up, healing him, keeping him alive (verses 1-3). He thanks God for not letting his enemies rejoice over him (verse 1). Indeed, David's enemies now have no cause to rejoice because God has overturned his prior circumstances: "You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness" (verse 11).
This is to serve as an example to all of God's people—they are always to praise Him for He will ultimately turn hard and dark times to light and joy (verses 4-5). This is especially good to remember in the years before us as we approach the darkening end of the age.
In verse 6, David declares that he is now prosperous and firmly established. He further says to God, "By Your favor You have made my mountain stand strong" (verse 7). The reference here "may be to David's security in his mountain fortress, Zion; or that mountain fortress may here serve as a metaphor for David's state as a vigorous and victorious king, the 'mountain' on which he sat with such secure confidence in God" (Zondervan NIV Study Bible, note on verse 7).
David ends the psalm with an important reason God has lifted him out of affliction. "You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy so that my heart may sing to you and not be silent" (verse 12, NIV). All of God's people have been called out of spiritual darkness to do the same—to sing praise and give thanks (1 Peter 2:9-10).
God is intimately attuned to the fact that we can endure only so much. (Typically, He knows we can endure more than we would choose to on our own!) The promise of 1 Corinthians 10:13 remains a comfort to us when we are afflicted: "No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it."