Summary: This sermon’s aim is to lead the audience both to tremble and to exult at God, especially at his Voice (whenever & however heard), and above all at Christ Jesus, the Voice of God.
THE VOICE OF THE LORD
Text: Psalm 29
One of our favorite hymns is, “How Great Thou Art.” In it we sing about some of the sublime features of God’s creation. We sing of worlds, of stars, and of rolling thunder; of woods and forest glades and the sweet singing of birds; of lofty mountains grandeur, of the sound of the brook and the feel of gentle breezes. We praise and adore God because of the greatness of God implied in these things.
The theme of this hymn is a biblical theme. There is a theme in scripture, that the natural world displays the majesty and glory of the spiritual God who created it.
For example, one Psalm speaks of how the heavens, with sun and stars, “declare the glory of God.” Our text this morning is another example. It too sees the majesty of God in his natural works, and cries, “How Great Thou Art!”
But the phenomenon of nature that our text observes is very specific. Like the other Psalm mediated on sun and sky, this Psalm focuses on the Storm -- the “rolling thunder” of the beloved hymn.
Seven times the Psalm speaks of “the voice of the Lord.” “The voice of the Lord,” however, is plainly referring to thunder. The Psalmist hears the voice of his God in the thunder and lightning of a mighty storm.
This is not the only place in the Old Testament where thunder is called “the voice of the Lord.” In Exodus 9:28, where Pharoah says, “Enough of God’s thunder and hail,” what is translated “God’s thunder” literally says, “Voices of God.” “No more Voices of God!” Pharoah says. And Job 37:3-4 speaks of how God lets loose his lightning across the earth, and that, “after it, his voice roars, he thunders with his majestic voice.”
In truth, it was not uncommon for the ancient ear to hear God’s voice in the thunder. The common belief in times past, was that God was the direct cause of thunder and lightning. This has been true of all peoples and all religions. The Canaanites, who lived among the children of Israel, saw the work of Baal in the storm. The Greeks believed that Zeus hurled the thunderbolts, and the ancient Germans heard the hammer of Thor when the thunder pounded.
But these facts take nothing away from the power of this Psalm. The Psalmist is well-aware of how the heathen view the storm. So he takes the storm away from their gods, and gives it back to the One who truly made it. It is not Baal or Jupiter or Thor, but it is the voice of Yahweh the Lord of Israel, the one and only God, that sounds forth in the storm.
In our day we do not tend to see any natural event as directly caused by God. We emphasize the natural causes of things. We theorize on the rushing of hotter air up and colder air down, and the resulting violent frictions between the water droplets they carry. We hypothesize electrical charges produced and massed together, like two poles of a giant battery, and the great spark, miles long, that flies between these charges. It is a spark of some millions of volts, powerful enough to explode the air in between. The flash of this spark, we explain, is the lightning, and sound of this explosion is the thunder.