It’s easy to see David as the author of Psalm 23. We can imagine the young shepherd musing on how his dependence on God mirrors the way the sheep look to him for protection and guidance:
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
There is a less familiar psalm, also attributed to David, that may reflect another aspect of the life of a shepherd. Psalm 29 begins and ends with four-line hymns in praise of God’s majesty and power (verses 1 and 2, verses 10 and 11). But in between, the rhythm of the poem is stepped up by the use of graphic triplets describing the effects of a memorable violent thunderstorm that David and his flock may have experienced together. He remembers the powerful sound of the thunder (verse 3) and the brilliance of the lightning flashes (verse 7). However, this particular storm was also remarkable for the destruction it left in its wake: it “breaks the cedars of Lebanon” and makes them “skip like a calf” across the landscape (verses 5 and 6); it “causes the oaks to whirl and strips the forest bare” (verse 9).
David did not just comfort himself and the sheep with reassurances that the storm would soon be over. He did something more; he claimed the storm as an expression of God’s power and authority:
“The God of glory thunders, the Lord, over mighty waters.” (verse 3)
He hears the thunder as “the voice of the Lord” (verse 8). Other fearsome forces in nature, such earthquakes (verse 8) and floods (verse 10) are also claimed as God’s self-expressions. The violence of the forces of nature may sometimes cause both the shepherd boy and the sheep to panic, but God “sits enthroned” through it all (verse 10); he doesn’t bother to get up. The fact that he is in control of every situation “gives strength to his people,” and even in the middle of a violent storm, “he blesses his people with peace” (verse 11).
Are you going through a threatening storm? Maybe your first impulse to outwit the storm by sidestepping its full force. But now you realize you’re in for it and are just hoping to outwait the storm. However, if you catch the spirit of Psalm 29, you may be ready to claim the storm. You can’t outwit it; may not even be able to outwait it. But God outranks it, and he may have a constructive purpose in allowing this storm to throw its fury at you. Embrace his purpose, whatever it is, and he will bless you with strength and peace. Read the psalm again, thinking about your personal life storm.
Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings,
Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory of his name;
Worship the Lord in holy splendor.
The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
The God of glory thunders,
The Lord, over mighty waters.
The voice of the Lord is powerful;
The voice of the Lord is full of majesty.
The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
The Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,
And Sirion like a young wild ox.
The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.
The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;
The Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
The voice of the Lord causes the oaks to whirl,
And strips the forest bare;
And in his temple all say, “Glory!”
The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.
May the Lord give strength to his people!
May the Lord bless his people with peace!
— Pastor George Van Alstine