Commentary on Psalm 29 Eastertide
Commentary by Dr Noel Donnelly
Psalm 29 / 30
Psalm 29 is a heartfelt song of thanksgiving for delivery from sickness or some dark experience. Our liturgy selects seven of its thirteen verses, but we can of course be enriched by reflecting on the whole psalm.
The song begins with “I praise you to the very heavens Lord, for you have raised me up. My God, I cried to you for help and you healed me.” In verse four the singer goes on to call his / her friends to join with him in a joyful song: “Make music to the Lord, you his faithful and give thanks to his holy name.” Interestingly he confesses to everyone that he had grown a bit smug and self-centered, distancing himself from God and community: he confesses in verse 7, how he had boasted, “Nothing will ever disturb ME!” In retrospect, he has come to his senses; he feels now that “God had hidden his face and I was put into confusion” (verse 8). Assuming that after death there was absolutely nothing, he describes in verse 10, how he argued with God, “What point is there in my death, my going down to the abyss? Can the dust praise you or proclaim your faithfulness? Listen, Lord, take pity on me, O God, be my help!” Now he rejoices that God has “changed his mourning into dancing!” verse 12.
This joyful psalm of new life makes a lovely response to the reading from Acts where Peter’s defiant speech to the authorities about the resurrection; and that joy extends to the Gospel where Peter again features in the resurrection appearance of Jesus at breakfast on the shore of the Sea of Tiberius.
Today for our Jewish friends this psalm has become associated with the Feast of Hanukkah, when the Temple was restored and reconsecrated after the horrible abuses in the time of the Greek ruler Antiochus Epiphanes 164 BCE.
For all of us, Jews and Christians alike, there lies in this psalm a reminder: God is always ready to restore any weakened relationship on our part. It might be undignified if we were to dance while singing this psalm. But at least can we let our facial expressions show that we mean what we sing, especially in this Easter season.
Psalm 29: Words (c) The Grail, England; music (c) Gerry Fitzpatrick. Recorded by Grace Buckley
Graphic (c) Netta Ewing.