Posted in psalms, theology

The terrifying gentleness of God, or the gentle terror of God

By Elizabeth Prata

I love the poetry of the Psalms (and the Bible, really 😉

In Psalm 18, David is praising the Lord for being the Rock.

pulpit rock1
6In my distress I called upon the LORD;
to my God I cried for help.
From his temple he heard my voice,
and my cry to him reached his ears.

7Then the earth reeled and rocked;
the foundations also of the mountains trembled
and quaked, because he was angry.
8Smoke went up from his nostrils,
and devouring fire from his mouth;
glowing coals flamed forth from him.
9He bowed the heavens and came down;
thick darkness was under his feet.
10He rode on a cherub and flew;
he came swiftly on the wings of the wind.
11He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him,
thick clouds dark with water.
12Out of the brightness before him
hailstones and coals of fire broke through his clouds.

13The LORD also thundered in the heavens,
and the Most High uttered his voice,
hailstones and coals of fire.
14And he sent out his arrows and scattered them;
he flashed forth lightnings and routed them.

It’s a sweeping and vivid rendering of God’s might. You can feel the earth trembling and the smoke from His nostrils curling and the fire He’s breathing out. God’s protection of His children is no less real for this being poetic. No, it is majestic.

Then David writes in v 35-

You have given me the shield of your salvation,
and your right hand supported me,
and your gentleness made me great.

Do you love the terrifying vision of God aroused in His wrath, yet his gentleness of love for David as God raises David up?

The Psalms. They’re in the middle of your Bible.


Further Reading

The Treasury of David is Spurgeon’s commentary on the Psalms. It is  masterwork. Learn more about it here and also to access the commentary.

Phil Johnson has preached on many of the Psalms. Access the sermons here.



Christian writer and Georgia teacher's aide who loves Jesus, a quiet life, art, beauty, and children.