Robert D. Pace
Of all experiences that exhilarate people, chief among them is when God speaks directly to the human soul. One inspired word to a thirsty, hungry traveler can refresh and sustain more than a thousand meals. It was Elijah who heard God’s instruction to “rise and eat” that received nourishment to navigate 285 miles for the following forty days (1 Kings 19:7—9). Elijah’s obedience discloses how God-sent “words” can propel us over mountains, through deserts, past obstacles, until we land in the presence of God. How is this possible? Because Jesus proclaimed, “The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life” (John 6:63).
It is indisputable that Holy Scripture is the supreme source of God’s communication to humanity. Yet, it is wonderful that God continues speaking by his Spirit, through dreams, visions, prophecies, and angelic encounters (Acts 2:17; John 16:13–18; 1 Corinthians 12:10; Hebrews 13:2). Why is this? It’s so God can disclose all the information you need to fulfill his purpose! He won’t tell you everything about your future or it would ruin your faith. But he delights in disclosing whatever is necessary for creating beauty and fruitfulness through you. Thus, there is the need for the “inner witness of the Spirit” and the whisper of God upon our soul.
But exactly how can we ascertain, with certainty, that it’s God speaking and not the voice of “another”? For Christ has proclaimed that “his sheep shall know his voice and a stranger they will not follow” (John 10:27). I’ll illustrate it this way: Suppose you were a disciple of Christ that lived in the first century. You listened to Jesus teach the crowds during the day and you heard him in the house at evening. It wouldn’t be long until you recognized his voice whether it surmounted the curfuffle of the marketplace or gently cascaded past ears at the dinner table. After spending 3½ years with him, isn’t it plausible that you would recognize his voice even if you couldn’t see him?
When I was young, there was never a doubt when I heard my parents calling for me. I could be two blocks away, but when their call echoed through the neighborhood, I instantly recognized it; and knew I shouldn’t delay! But since we cannot fellowship with Jesus face-to-face—like the first century disciples—we must learn to recognize his voice differently. Moreover, it’s Psalm 29 that inscribes the metaphors of thunder and lightning in regaling the attributes of divine articulation.
It’s interesting that when comparing the regal and royal character of God’s voice to anything in Nature nothing more supremely expresses it than thunder. Not the roar of lions or the rumbling of prodigious waterfalls, it’s the epic reverberations of thunder that best depict the grandeur of God’s utterances. And his voice has no equal, though Heaven’s jubilee rises in symphony seeking such recognition.
Next, as the metaphor of choice describing God’s power, Psalm 29 pictures fierce shafts of lightning. From this portrait, the writer pictures massive oaks and towering cedars being struck from above and falling prostrate before their Creator. Throughout the Bible, neither man nor devil can stand before him.
It’s clear why the writer used these literary instruments to express the superlative nature of God’s voice. It’s because nothing “of the earth” compares! Thus, the Psalmist looked “to the heavens” to find his metaphors. Not earthly, but heavenly is the majesty of God’s voice! Not earthly, but heavenly is its power thereof!
Now, let me re-ask the question: Do you think you’ve heard God’s voice? Do … you … “think” … you’ve heard it? If a “word” came to your ears devoid of majesty and power, then no, you have not heard a “word” from him. For whether God speaks with a whisper or a roar, you’ll know it’s him because he speaks like none other!