Thursday, June 08, 2006

The God of Storm, and Peace and Blessing

Psalm 29 is a song which people sang or chanted during worship in the Temple dedicated to God in Jerusalem almost three thousand years ago.
Its subject matter is very daring, for it takes the characteristics of the pagan storm god, Baal, and reassigns them to the one true God.
The psalm is addressed not to other people on earth, but to the beings in heaven. They are asked to praise God using a description which pagan worshippers had probably used when praising Baal.
Baal was supposed to be the god who spoke in thunder and torrential rain. But now his worshippers declare that it is really the one true God who speaks with a voice like thunder.
Baal was supposed to be the god whose powerful storms lashed the trees and sometimes split them in half. But now his worshippers declare that it is really the one true God who sends the violent winds and shakes the earth.
Baal was supposed to be the god who sent bolts of lightning. But now his worshippers declare that it is the one true God who does this.
Baal was supposed to be the god who presided over the life-giving floods which brought fertility to the parched earth after the winter. But now his worshippers declare that it is the one true God who sits enthroned over the flood waters.
Baal is revealed as a fraud. People had imagined him to be responsible for storm and flood, but now we are told that the power of the one true God was really behind these things all of the time. He is the true storm God. But, unlike Baal, he is also more than a storm God.
He isn't a one dimensional being, someone who just cares about the weather and the seasons. Nor is the one true God really a 'he'. The one true God is a spirit reigning over the whole universe, giving strength to creation and blessing us with peace.
But Christians would go further than the Psalmist and say that the one true God is also a spirit which fills the universe and is present within everything that exists – including you and I.
Finally, Christians would also say that the one true God came and lived among us, and died for us on the cross, so that we might realise just how deeply God loves and cares for us. And the person in whom God lived like this was Jesus, who showed how much he was in harmony with God not just when he stilled a storm and took control of the winds, but when he gave up his life as a ransom for many.

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