Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” – John12:28- 29
I get many questions in Bible studies, particularly in Bible studies with young people. Some questions I have answers for, most I do not. A question the other morning struck me for its blatant simplicity, but what struck me deeper still was that I began answering the question.
Question: What does the voice of God sound like?
I only hesitated a few milliseconds to initially explain that, “we do not know if God’s voice sounds more like a Morgan Freeman or a James Earl Jones (what many most likely imagine) however (I said, surprising myself), I think scripture gives us some clear indicators as to what God’s voice is like.” We find a scene in John 12 where Jesus prays, “Father, Glorify Your name,” and there is a reply, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify your name.” Some standing there say that it thundered. Later, we find the Resurrected Christ Himself appearing to Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9), as he is knocked from his horse, and the Lord Himself commissions him, those traveling with Paul reportedly saw nothing but “heard the sound.” In the first chapter of Revelation, John the Apostle reports two interesting observations, “His voice was like many waters,” and this, “I turned and saw the voice,” (emphasis mine). I said, “so in a sense, we could say that God’s voice is like thunder, and like many waters.” I then turned to one of my favorite Psalms, Psalm 29, that rooted itself deep in my soul not long after Hurricane Katrina:
3 The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the Lord, over many waters.
4 The voice of the Lord is powerful;
the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.
5 The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
6 He makes Lebanon to skip like a calf,
and Sirion like a young wild ox.
7 The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.
8 The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;
the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
9 The voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth
and strips the forests bare,
and in his temple all cry, “Glory!”
We find here (vs. 3-4) something very similar to our observations from the New Testament, that God’s voice is still closely associated with thunder and water. I then asked, “Is thunder a good or bad thing?” With mixed responses I said, “Yes, sometimes thunder is calming, when it rumbles in the distance, but if it is close, it jars your liver.” I subsequently queried about water, with similar responses. Yes, babbling brooks, waterfalls, and pitter pattering rain could create tranquil rest, but tsunamis and hurricanes and floods have caused the greatest natural destruction we have ever known. It is the same with the voice of God. As we see in this Psalm, His voice is not the thunder and the rain, it is over the waters and it is powerful and majestic, and it is like thunder and many waters because it “sooths our doubts and calms our fears,” and it can create the greatest of fears. His voice not only tears down the greatest trees, but is also performing gentle miracles like the birth of a fawn, something that the vast majority of men will never see in the wild in person. Therefore, His voice is Holy, full of Glory, and Majestic – it is to be feared, but it is good.
This was my answer, imperfect as it is, which I can only attribute to years of Bible Study and the Holy Spirit. Awesome enough, later in that morning’s service, we sang “My Lord is Near me all the time,” which in part proclaims, “I’ve seen it in the lightning, heard it in the thunder, and felt it in the rain – My Lord is near me all the time.” I add today from one of my favorite passages (1 Kings 19) where the prophet Elijah stands on the mountain of the Lord and He sends a strong wind, an earthquake, and a fire, but each time it says, the Lord was in none of these. Then, He speaks in a still, small voice. Imagine, a God so huge, that He can create and direct something He is not even in – something like a Divine Ventriloquist. Then we realize, thunder is not His voice, a rushing river is not His voice – His voice is like thunder, His voice is like many waters, and He speaks.
If you wish to hear the voice of God, listen for the still small voice that will shake your foundations and flood your soul.
I must add to all of these observations, that what also quickened my heart, was to think of these particular descriptions of the Voice of God, and realize that one does not necessarily have to be able to hear to experience either thunder or water – he may feel thunder and will experience the rush of water. Perhaps this kind of thought helps us think deeper about John’s turning to “see” the Voice. For one who has deaf relatives, knowing that the voice of God need not be audible is something that causes me to bow deeper into “humble adoration” – realizing that His voice will be heard – even if we cannot.