I was privileged to visit the awesome country, Iceland, in recent months. I have never experienced such raw exposure to God’s power in Creation as we encountered there! It is a land of water, fire and ice – manifested in storms, waterfalls, rivers, darkness, glaciers and volcanoes. Unfortunately, we did not go in-season for animal life (other than the lovely ubiquitous sheep and horses) – but puffins, whales and seals will be on the agenda for my next trip. Iceland is truly a magnificent, startling and frightening place! I was reminded of that amazing country when I read The Storm Psalm (29) today. Our God is magnificent, startling and frightening at times, as well.
This Psalm has always been one of my favorites. I love to sit in the middle of a good Midwestern Thunderstorm and read this passage on our screened-in front porch. Like Iceland, I am reminded of the power in the control of our Great God, and I am moved to ascribe more glory, strength and worship to Him.
The emphasis of this Psalm is on the Voice of the Lord that accomplishes mighty works. His voice is repeated 7 times as it causes natural phenomena including; lightning, thunder, wind, earthquake, flood, and tornado – all in the midst of a stupendous storm. This alone, is a great message to take away from our reading. God is in nature. God is in natural disasters. His power is clearly displayed to those who humbly observe it. Many times throughout history (up through our own day) He has brought both judgment and deliverance through storms and the forces of nature. Even angels, “in His temple” say “Glory!” when they observe the out workings of God’s voice. v.9
Since I was intrigued by the number of times His voice was mentioned, I decided to drive deeper in my study. I discovered that the Hebrew word for voice means: voice, sound and noise. So at times, words including the “sound” of a trumpet and “thunder” are the same word as God’s voice. Interesting to note that the “sound of the Lord God walking in the garden” (from Genesis 3:8) is also this “voice” word. For Adam and Eve, His voice that day brought judgment. This led to the thought that not everyone has the same type of encounter with God’s voice.
All people, then and now, are commanded, like Israel,
You shall follow the LORD your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him.
The forefather Abraham is commended and highly blessed by God because he “obeyed My voice” in a very difficult test of faith. (Genesis 22:18) Later, the Prophet Samuel said,
“Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams.
And thus the “man after God’s own heart,” David, replaces faithless King Saul who miserably failed to hear the voice of his God. (2 Samuel 13:14)
Perhaps you will recall the most dramatic Old Testament Voice of the Lord encounter – of Israel at Sinai. It is described as a “Great Voice” in the midst of fire, cloud, darkness, gloom, smoke, thunder, earthquake, lightning flashes, and a very loud trumpet sound -growing louder and louder. (Exodus 19:16-25, Deuteronomy 5:22-27) “When the people saw it, they trembled and stood at a distance.” (Exodus 20:18) While they took notice this day, for the most part, they were characterized by lives that did not listen or obey – in spite of awesome experiences like this one.
Surely all the men who have seen My glory and My signs which I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness, yet have put Me to the test these ten times and have not listened to My voice, shall by no means see the land which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who spurned Me see it. (Numbers 14:22-24)
Unfortunately, even close encounters with God’s unearthly Voice and miracles cannot generate faith in human hearts.
God promises that He will meet His enemies with the power of His Voice. Woe to those who this includes!
…they have chosen their own ways, And their soul delights in their abominations, so I will choose their punishments, and will bring on them what they dread. Because I called, but no one answered; I spoke, but they did not listen. And they did evil in My sight And chose that in which I did not delight. Hear the word of the LORD, you who tremble at His word: “Your brothers who hate you, who exclude you for My name’s sake, Have said, ‘Let the LORD be glorified, that we may see your joy.’ But they will be put to shame. A voice of uproar from the city, a voice from the temple, The voice of the LORD who is rendering recompense to His enemies.
And God’s voice thunders in the New Testament as well. At Jesus’ baptism and his transfiguration His voice booms out for men to take heed of His son. (Matthew 3:17, 17:5) Jesus claims his teaching is only what His Father would have him speak and thus qualifies as the Voice of the Lord as well. (John 14:10) Jesus too, tells us only his true followers know his voice. (John 10:27) It is interesting to note that not all people understand the words of God’s/Jesus’ voice when they speak. To some it is just garbled noises. (cp. Acts 28:26-27, 22:19) Others think they know the voice of the Lord and wear religious garb but have never truly heard His voice. Their condemnation will be great. (John 5:37-40)
So I see the Bible outlines a variety of stances we can take to the Voice of the Lord in our own lives:
- We can be frightened and amazed by its power (in the moment) but soon forget it’s constant reality
- We can be momentarily impressed but not bother to truly understand the words or their message
- We can think we know it inside out and yet have no idea of the true spirit – and thus be enemies of God, deceived into thinking we are friends
- We can recognize it’s majesty, consistently listen to it and obey it over the course of our lives
It occurs to me that God’s voice has a variety of volumes in different people’s lives too. His enemies hate its sound. Others (like Elijah) need only a still small voice to respond, because they have built relationship and faith in Him over time. (1 Kings 19) Some think they have the God-radio turned up loud all the time, but actually they are on the wrong station! Some need the dramatic voice of God as expressed through His mighty works to begin to hear Him. (cp. Rahab)
Since there are so many voices in our modern lives – it behooves us to ask, “Just how loud is the Voice of God for me?” In our moments. In our days. In this new year? Is it really there at all? If not, rest assured we can approach His presence, like Sinai, and faithfully hear it grow louder and louder. It takes concerted action on our part – turning off or down other clamoring voices in our lives – but He is certain to respond.
So let us resolve to hear His Voice more often. Let us hear it in His Creation. But more importantly let us hear it in His Words,and in His Word made flesh – His Beloved Son. Ultimately, by His grace, we will be a part of a New Creation where His knowledge covers the earth as the waters cover the sea. (Habbakuk 2:14) Of this we can be certain; on That GREAT Day everyone will know The Voice of the Lord.