Psalm for the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (B)

Psalm 29: 1-2, 3-4, 9-10

The responsorial psalm for the Baptism of the Lord comes from Psalm 29, a hymn of praise that describes the LORD as sovereign over the heavens and the earth.

Give to the LORD, you sons of God, give to the LORD glory and praise,

The psalm begins with a call to praise. Unlike most psalms of this kind, here the call is addressed to heavenly beings (“sons of God”) instead of humans. The scene is the celestial court where the divine council assembles (Job 1:6, 2:1).

The imperative verb form used here indicates that this is not an invitation; it is a command. These heavenly beings in attendance at court are charged to sing praise to God’s glory and might.

Give to the LORD the glory due his name; adore the LORD in holy attire.

The glory of God usually refers to some kind of divine manifestation. The psalmist declares that this glory is revealed in God’s name.

Traditional people believe that there is power in a person’s name, since the name embodies part of that person’s very essence. How much more is this the case with the name of God! The great respect with which God’s name was held explains why the people of Israel were forbidden to pronounce it.

The voice of the LORD is over the waters, the LORD, over vast waters.

God’s sovereignty is further manifested in the power God exercises over the forces of nature, as seen in how the voice of the LORD thunders over the waters. This is a description of the mighty primordial storm-god whose voice is the thunder itself, who in the beginning conquered the forces of chaos, characterized as ruthless, destructive water.

The voice of the LORD is mighty; the voice of the LORD is majestic.

Although the characterization within the psalm suggests that God acts here as a mighty warrior, the imagery paints a slightly different picture. According to this psalm, God did not need a heavenly army to quell the chaotic waters; God’s commanding voice was powerful enough. This is reminiscent of the creation account (Genesis 1:1 – 2:4a), in which God’s voice is itself creative power and divine splendor.

The God of glory thunders,

God thunders. While this may appear to be a demonstration of the devastating power of God’s voice, the context of the psalm reminds us that its focus is God’s superiority over the powers of destruction.

and in his temple all say, “Glory!”

The closing verse brings us back to the divine council, to the heavenly temple and the throne of God. All who are present there praise God with the joyous acclamation: “Glory!”

The LORD is enthroned above the flood; 

God sits triumphant above the flood waters. (The only other place in the Bible where the word “flood” is found is in the story of Noah, Genesis 7:17.)

the LORD is enthroned as king forever.

The scene is majestic. God’s thunderous voice has silenced the forces of chaos, and now God reigns supreme forever as king of heaven and earth.

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