By Pastor Glenn Pease
Luciano Pavarotti is one of the most powerful voices in our world today. For decades he has thrilled people all over the world with his singing. He considers his voice a gift from God. Nobody could ever know the stormy battle he has to fight each times he performs had he not told the world in his book, My Own Story. Listen to his description of his path through the storm to the place of peace.
"The performance is starting. I sit there with sweat rolling
down my neck and I still have three hours to go. I would
rather be in any other profession. I would prefer to be
back teaching my monster school boys-anything. I pray.
I have one good God, but one is not enough to get me
through this. I don't think I have an enemy, but if I did
I would not want even him to suffer these terrible moments.
As the overture begins, the curtain rises and I know I
must soon enter to enact a little pantomime with Adina, who
likewise emerges from her little house across the stage. I
know from the many past performances that I am blessed
with a quality that helps me, when the moment is upon me,
shed those paralyzing nerves. As the time approaches when
I must make my entrance, something clicks in my mind. I
become the character, and everything else leaves my head."
With that, he comes on stage, and with his powerful operatic voice he tingles the spines of his audience.
Last week we looked at the revelation of how God loves to sing. He sings a love song over His people, His bride, when they are living in harmony with Him and are singing His praises. Imagine what it must be like to hear God sing! If our spines can vibrate with the voice of man, what must it be like to hear the voice of God? This is not a mere matter of speculation, for David in Psalm 29 has given us a fairly lengthy description of the voice of God, and what voltage, and what volume!
We have all heard the voice on TV that hits high C. and the goblet shatters, but when God hits it the cedars of Lebanon shatter in pieces, and we are not talking about pines here, but of trees more like the great redwoods of California. David describes God's voice as so powerful that when His song is over there are toothpicks where once there were mighty cedars, and in verse 9 he says even the more mighty oaks. It is almost an understatement to say the Lord's voice is powerful and majestic. It is more like awesome and frightening. What David describes here is a combination hurricane, earthquake, tornado, and mega lightning and thunder storm all rolled into one.
This goes a long way in explaining, as much as God loves to sing, why there are not a lot of mortals interested in going to one of His concerts. I was familiar with the Bible verses that tell us you cannot see God and live. It would be like looking into a blazing fire a million times brighter than the sun. Man would be instantly vaporized. That explains why we need new bodies to dwell with God in heaven. But now we see the odds are also poor of surviving if you hear the voice of God. This explains the still small voice of God by which He communicates to man. God has to whisper to keep from destroying those who hear His voice. An invitation to God's concert in our present bodies would be like an invitation to the major disaster of all time, for there would be thunder, lightning, mountains shaking, desert storms, and whole forests laid bear. Modern advertising likes to make music groups really seem spectacular with flashing lights, smoke, and mind blowing volume, but compared to God it is all a mere nursery toy for the baby's crib.
This Psalm is telling us we can get a sneak preview of God's concert in heaven by listening to the storms on earth. They represent the voice of God. It is called the Psalm of the seven thunders. David was obviously one of those people who can enjoy a good storm. Some people flee to the basement when the storm begins. Others need to be pulled down there by the rest of the family because they enjoy seeing the trees bend to the ground, the lightning flash, and the thunder roll. It is a form of entertainment to see such power. I am one of those people, for I love a good storm. Some people like weight lifting or wrestling, and others like tractor pulls, or other sports which exhibit power, but I like a good storm, for this is when we see the power of God.
David had seen his share of violent storms. Imagine this shepherd boy out in the fields with his flock, and a storm approaches. He may, or may not, have a cave to flee to. He may have to gather the sheep together and do his best to protect himself by laying under the sheep. If he did make it to a cave, he would stand as close to the entrance as possible to watch the mighty wind as it would bend the trees, and make the ground tremble with the concussion of its pressure on the hills about him. A young lad like David would never forget such experiences of being in a great storm. He realized that nature was one of the ways that God speaks to man. The storm was the voice of God, and it made a deep impression on him, and he was used of God to take this natural and secular experience and turn it into a sacred and spiritual experience.
Most of us can do this with a warm spring day. We can praise God for the beauty of nature, and the sacred and the secular become one. But in a storm most feel the frightening wind and lightning are totally secular, and are no basis for praising at all. Storms, and especially those of the ferocity that David describes here, are not what we would want to call worship weather. In the middle ages this Psalm was read to prevent one from being stuck by lightning. Most people want to figure out how to escape storms, and not how to enjoy them like David did. Columbus ran into a hurricane and he wrote, "Nothing but the service of God and the extension of the monarchy would induce me to expose myself to such danger."
Storms can be dangerous and deadly, and we can thank God for man's growing knowledge that provides warnings so people can find shelter. This too is a Biblical concept, and God is pictured as our rock, refuge, and shelter in the time of storm. But this Psalm is dealing with the experience of hearing the voice of God in the storm, and being in awe of its power and message. It is a subjective thing, and Spurgeon recognized that as he gave his own testimony. "I do not know how it may be with you, but I scarce ever hear the rolling thunder, but I begin to forget earth and look upwards to my God. I am unconscious of any feeling of terror or pain; it is rather a feeling of delight that I experience, for I like to sing that verse-
"The God that rules on high,
And thunders when He please,
That rides upon the stormy sky,
And manages the seas,
This awful God is ours,
Our Father and our love,
He shall send down His heavenly powers
To carry us above."
We are dealing with a paradox here, for nature's power can be scary, and yet it is to cause us to cry out with those in the temple in verse 9-"Glory!" Mixed emotions are normal because we are mere mortals confronting powers that can crush us. We are twigs in the path of an elephant.
The scariest storm I ever remember was when a tornado came through Warren, Pa. The fear was tripled by unusual circumstances. We were a scattered family. Lavonne was in a campground with Steve and Mark outside the city. I was in town, and Cindy came back to town with me, and she was out riding her bike with a friend. The storm hit like lightning and trees were falling everywhere. The roads were blocked in every direction, and it was a long time before we could all make connections. Cindy and her friend made it to shelter in someone's home, and no trees fell on our camper, and so we all survived, but nobody was having fun. It was a frightening experience. David had this feeling also, for he writes in Psa. 55:8, "I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm."
David did not like being caught out in the storm. So what we have is duel perspectives on the power of nature. We can flee from them in fear, or face them in faith, and cry "Glory!" Both are valid experiences in the presence of such awesome power.
The focus of this Psalm is on hearing the voice of God in the storm. It is not the still small voice of the spirit, but the thundering voice of the storm. There are Psalms that are nature focused, and others more man focused, but this is a God focused Psalm. The name of God as Lord is used 18 times, and remember, Jehovah is the Hebrew name behind the name Lord. If you add the other names of God, He is mentioned 25 times in these 11 short verses, which is over twice per verse. This is a Psalm about listening to the voice of God.
David heard the voice of God. It is supposed to be a sign of insanity to hear voices, but history tells us it can also be a sign of one's longing for the guidance of God. Many have heard the voice of God in some circumstance of total aloneness, such as Moses in the desert when he was confronted by God at the burning bush. Reinhold Messner, the mountain climber, says when he has been high in the Himalayas he hears sounds that make him feel one with the universe. Lindbergh on his solo flight across the Atlantic heard voices in his aloneness, and he wrote, "At times, voices come out of the air itself, clear yet far away, travelling through distances that can't be measured by the scale of human miles; familiar voices, conversing and advising on my flight, discussing problems of my navigation, reassuring me, giving me messages of importance unattainable in ordinary life."
We know the air is filled with voices from the radio and TV waves from sources all around the world. There are voices without number that can be picked up and heard with the right instrument. We can pick up voices from the other side of the world on short wave radio. The question is, can we also pick up the voice of God, and the voice of Jesus, or the voice of the angelic host praising them in heaven? Can we hear voices from the spiritual dimension?
Dr. Wilbur M. Smith, the great Bible scholar, said he checked 30 Bible dictionaries and the word voice is not even dealt with in them. The Greek word for voice is phonee from which we get telephone and phonograph. It is used 141 times in the New Testament, but it is an ignored subject. The reason is likely because some truths are so easily abused that it is felt one is better off ignoring them then giving people ideas that they can get hung up on, and so be led astray. If you start listening to voices, you might here the tempting sound of Satan's voice alluring you, as he did Jesus, into the forbidden.
The whole occult world is into the hearing of voices from the dead. God has strictly forbidden this for His people. Some truth is like guns and sharp knives. They have a purpose, but they are so dangerous that we keep them hidden lest the children get hold of them and do serious damage to themselves or others. The voice of God is just such a subject. Lunatics who chop up people, and do other horrible deeds often say they heard the voice of God telling them to do it. This hearing of the voice of God is connected with the strange and insane. Most conclude that it is best left hidden, for it is a dangerous truth.
The folly of this conclusion is that by this choice we let Satan control the whole realm of voices, and we miss the blessing of much of God's Word. God has made every being who has a voice unique with a different voice from all others in the universe. The voice is like a fingerprint and a snowflake. There are no two alike, and so the voice is the key to one's identity. Jesus has a voice that is the only voice that all of reality will respond to. It is the voice of the Creator who alone has the right and power to command obedience from all He has created. When Jesus rebuked the wind, and said to the waves, "Be still," they obeyed His voice. So did the demons every time He said for them to come out. His voice made all come into being, and His voice is the greatest power in the universe.
By His voice He guides His sheep, but if they do not listen they can miss that guidance. Jesus said in John 10:27-28, "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand." The voice of Jesus is the source of our guidance and our security. If we do not listen to the voice of our shepherd, we will be led astray by the voices of the enemy. Salvation begins with the hearing of the voice of Jesus. In Rev. 3:20 Jesus says, "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and he with me." The Gospel is the voice of Christ saying open up and let me in.
Jesus spelled it out in greater detail in John 5:24-25. "I tell you the truth, whoever hears my words and believes Him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live." Hearing the voice of Jesus makes the dead come to life, not only spiritually, as He is speaking of here, but literally as well, for He goes on in verse 28 to say, "Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear His voice and come out..." The resurrection of the dead is a response to the voice of Christ, just as was the resurrection of Lazarus. You talk about a powerful voice! It is the voice of life.
I hear thy welcome voice
That calls me, Lord to Thee,
For cleansing in Thy precious blood,
That flowed on Calvary.
Hearing the voice of God is a vital part of life with God, and the point of this Psalm 29 is that we need to learn to hear the voice of God, even in the storms of life, both literal and spiritual. The bottom line is, do we listen for the voice of God in all of life's experiences? The one I listen to is sirens. Others have told me they do it too. When they hear a siren they know someone is going through a crisis. They hear it as a call to prayer, and so they pray for those in the crisis. Learning to listen for the voice of God is a key factor in making all experiences spiritual experiences.
This Psalm ends with peace-the peace after the storm. The wild lightning is over; the clash of thunder is still, and now there is a sense of quiet strength, for all the power of the storm is in the hands of our Lord. There is security in the storm because we know the Master of the winds and the waves, and He can, by His voice, say "Peace be still," and there is calm.
"O Christ, whose voice once made fierce billows rest,
And chased from sorrow's eye the blinding tear,
Calm Thou the heavings of each troubled breast,
And soothe to quietness its waves of fear.
Let Thy great Words of heavenly power and peace
Speak comfort to the hearts of wearied men,
Till sin and death and pain and sorrow cease,
And earth is made a Paradise again."
"In the world you will have tribulation," Jesus said, "but be of good cheer I have overcome the world." In the worst of storms you can rest secure, for it will be followed by peace if you are in the hands of Him who is in control of all storms. Psa. 29 is about the peace of unity. When the mind is focused and sees the Lordship of Christ over all reality, there can be peace, for there are no loose ends to life. Life gets to be a terrible storm when there are so many voices proclaiming they are the way. There is no single focus to give unity to the whole. Life is as chaotic as a storm, and everything gets blown to pieces, but when Jesus is king over all, then even the destructive power of the storm can be seen as part of the whole picture over which He reigns. It is not a multiverse, but a universe, with one king, and in His hands we are secure no matter what gets blown away by nature or by man.
John McFarland tells of a baseball game in Kansas City where a dog ran out onto the infield and sat on third base. The crowd began to shout, "Get off the field," "run for home," "bite the umpire." But the yelling was to no avail, for as one sports writer said in commenting on the incident, "There was no dominant voice from the crowd." One dominant voice from the master could have done what thousands of voices could not do. Here is a case where more is less, and less is more, for one voice is often superior to many. In the storms of life it is no time to be confused by many voices. We need to be unified and established in peace by hearing only the voice of the king. The poet wrote:
I woke in the night,
The wind was pawing at my shutters
With his wild prancing hoofs;
The swishing of his tail lashed the trees to fury,
The flowing of his mane rattled the shingles on the roofs;
The shriek of his neighing was as a siren
Announcing all the fires of hell;
The sound of his going was all the engines
Of earth rushing to extinguish them.
I cowered under the cover with my wildly beating heart,
Then-the truth came to my mind,
God rides that wind,
He holds the reins by His arms of might,
He guides those curving hoofs aright,
That flying black Pegasus of the night
Obeys God's voice in his untamed flight,
I'm safe-if God guides.
We may not be able to rejoice in storms, for we are threatened by them. It is the angels in this Psalm that are doing the praising and shouting "glory!" Verse 1 says the mighty ones, that is the angels, are to ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. In verse 9 it is those in His heavenly temple who cry glory. It is the heavenly perspective looking down on the devastating storm from the safety of God's presence. David does not say that men can always see from that perspective, but what he is saying is that even men, if they will listen to the voice of God in it all, can have the strength and peace of God that will enable them to ride out the storms with a sense of security.
"When the storms of life are raging,
Tempests wild on sea and land,
I will seek a place of refuge
In the shadow of God's hand."
May God help us, even in the wildest storms, to listen for His voice.