Psalm 29 exudes power throughout. It speaks of strength, honor and glory. When I read it I want to stand up and join with His people and cry "Glory!" (Psalm 29:9) But before we dive into the content lets take a quick look at the structure.
This psalm has a very precise word count.
There are 3 sections. The The first and last each have 16 words. The phrase "the voice of the Lord" is repeated 7 times, probably hinting towards the 7 days of creation, but also speaking of completeness. Seven is the divine number in Jewish numerology.
God's name, YHWY, occurs 18 times. This is a very high count for a short psalm - more than once per verse! Obviously the psalmist wanted to magnify the Lord in this psalm. The name YHWY (Lord) occurs 10 times in the middle section and, in combination with the repetition of "the voice of the Lord", seems to be hinting back to the 10 uses of the phrase "And God said" in Genesis 1.
The main theme is the glory of God and the psalm reaches its peak when, at the end of verse 9, all cry out "Glory!"
Part 1 - Ascribe to the Lord Glory
The psalm begins with the repeated command to "ascribe to the Lord" glory and strength. This command in the original Hebrew is literally given to the "sons of gods." A phrase which occurs only here and in Psalm 89:6. It is typically translated in modern versions as "heavenly beings." Although one could simply see this as a reference to angels, the image this paints in my mind is that of a figurative assembly of all the known gods of the nations gathering to see Yahweh, the true God, in all His splendor. David commands them to all recognize His glory, strength and holiness and worship Him.
... worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness. (Psalm 29:2)
Part 2 - The Voice of the Lord
The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the Lord, over many waters.
The first image we see is taken directly out of Genesis 1:2. The voice of the Lord is hovering over the waters. From a Christian perspective we see a hint to the trinity in this simple statement. In Genesis 1:2 we are told the Spirit of God is hovering over the waters. In Psalm 29:3 we see the voice of the Lord hovering over the waters. In John 1 we are told that the Jesus is the Word of God and in Colossians 1:16 we learn that all things were created by Jesus. Finally in Hebrews 11:3 we learn that creation happened by God's command. And so we see all parts of the Trinity active in creation.
The waters represent chaos and trouble both in Middle Eastern mythology and in Old Testament stories. Notice that Genesis 1:2 begins by telling us that the world was formless and void. It is the chaos of the deep waters of the Red Sea that held the fleeing Israelites captive as the Egyptian army approached and it was the turbulent waters of the flooding Jordan that kept the Jews out of the promised land.
In each of these cases the Lord steps in and brings order and salvation out of chaos and fear. The gods of the nations are completely outclassed by the voice of the Lord.
The image then changes to that of a storm. The voice of the Lord blasts through the forest and desert with fury and strips the forest bare. All of nature is under God's control and is easily devastated by simply the power of His voice. At this great display of God's power all the gathered heavenly beings have only one response:
The voice of the Lord twists the oaks
and strips the forests bare.
And in his temple all cry, “Glory!”
We hear them say in one collective voice of awe: "WOW!"
Part 3 - The Lord Sits Enthroned
The final sections takes us back to the image of waters.
The Lord sits enthroned over the flood
God is King. All the other "gods" - all the other angelic and demonic forces, all the powers of nature, all the powerful people who have ever lived, are nothing compared to the Lord. The chaos of your life, the turbulent waters that envelope you at times, are all under the watchful eye of the Lord who with but His voice can bring order out of chaos and salvation out of certain death.
The Lord blesses His people with peace.
I find it interesting that this psalm full of power ends with the word "peace." It is only as we learn to trust in the power of God over the chaos of life that we can experience the fullness of His peace. When we ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name we can then rest in the knowledge that our God is Lord even over our chaotic lives and experience true peace.