The Voice of the Lord

“Give unto the Lord O you mighty ones, give unto the Lord glory and strength. Give unto the Lord the glory due to his name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness. The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders; the Lord is over many waters. The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty … The Lord sat enthroned at the flood, and the Lord sits as King forever. The Lord will give strength to his people; the Lord will bless his people with peace” (Psalm 29:1-4,10,11).
Storms are awe-inspiring. In southern Bangladesh we have for the past five days been in the path of a low-pressure system coming up from the Bay of Bengal. We have had almost constant rain and several days of strong winds. At times there has been lightening and thunder. We have surely heard “the voice of the Lord.” Our experience here pales however beside that of the witnesses of hurricanes Charley, Frances and Ivan in the southeastern United States and the islands of the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. Winds up to 150 miles per hour, rainfall measured in feet, and billions of dollars in damage are evidence of the power of such storms.
During this same season, other parts of the world have also experienced hurricanes or typhoons. Japan was hard hit, and other parts of Asia have also been struck. No doubt there were storms elsewhere that did not receive the same attention. Constant in all these occurrences is the tremendous power of the forces of nature, and the wonder with which we observe them.
In Psalm 29 David is describing the glory of God as revealed not in destructive storm, but in the life-giving rainfall which Israel receives coming out of the Mediterranean Sea. First there are the clouds and the lightening and thunder over the Sea (vv. 3,4). Then comes the wind, blowing the trees along the coastal ridges (vv. 5-7). Finally there is the rain itself falling on the interior, accompanied by wind and the sound of thunder (vv 8,9). Evident in each of these is the power and glory of God. The rain is his gift. Nature is His domain.
This conviction is not without problems. It is easy and uplifting to credit God with the blessed gift of rain which enables our crops and gardens to prosper. His “smile” in the beauty of the sunrise, and his warm embrace in the golden glow of a spring afternoon are pleasant affirmations of faith. But if God is credited with the blessings of Nature’s bounty, is he also to be blamed for the destruction of nature’s wrath? Scores of people have died in these recent storms. Thousands of homes have been destroyed. Is this to God’s glory? Does it compel our praise?
These are not easy questions with which to wrestle. God’s role in human suffering has always been one of the greatest philosophical and theological problems known to us. There are no pat answers.
Perhaps we need to recognize that God’s nature is as infinite and complex as the manifestations of nature in the world of his creation. There is gentle life-giving rain, and there is destructive, hurricane. So too, God is love, and yet he is also the God of wrath and everlasting destruction. These concepts are not easy to reconcile. Yet they are repeatedly and clearly affirmed in Scripture. It seems to me that they are just as clearly affirmed in the revelation of nature. God’s love is seen in the gentle rain, his wrath in the storm. Does that mean that every victim of storm is an intended recipient of judgment? No, but it is a demonstration of the complexity and infinitude of the nature of our God. And it is motive for our worship and our awe.

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