The voice of the Lord is powerful,
The voice of the Lord is majestic.
The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
Yes, the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon…
The voice of the Lord hews out flames of fire.
The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;
The Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
The voice of the Lord makes the deer to calve
And strips the forests bare;
And in His temple everything says, “Glory!”
–Psalm 29:3-9, NASB
We hear a lot of voices around us these days. Our brains are constantly being bombarded with media messages telling us we need to look this way, vote for this agenda, buy this-and-such a product because it will make us popular or happy or sexy. And the noise is only getting louder, and the marketing people don’t seem to want to give us a break. Now, walking thru Walmart, strategically placed flat panel screens shout out specific products to us as we walk by. And my local gas station recently installed televisions at the pump so they can entertain me with commercials while I fill my car. Seriously?
The media blitz is not the only source of the noise. We also have lots of other voices around us–friends, family, acquaintances, and so on. When we have issues come up in our lives, these voices are often eager to speak up and tell us what to do. Sometimes there is wisdom there, and sometimes it’s just armchair quarterbacking. It can be confusing to tell the two apart.
As if that isn’t enough, there are the voices in our heads–and we all have them, though we don’t always like to say so (we don’t want the guys in white coats to take us away). But the voices are there. Often they are voices from the past–people who deeply shaped us for better or worse by the things they said. We also speak to ourselves–the voice of our own reason as we grapple with different issues. And many times the voice of accusation comes into our head; sometimes we accuse ourselves, or it is those voices from the past, or it just comes from who-knows-where. No matter what this voice sounds like, as a Christ-follower I’ve come to recognize it as coming from Satan, whose name literally means “accuser.”
But the Scripture above (go re-read it if you need to) tells us about another Voice, one that shakes the wilderness and breaks trees in two.
This rather poetic way of describing the voice of the Lord holds special meaning for me because there have been numerous times when I believe God has spoken to me–and this is how it feels. It is a voice that often brings comfort, sometimes conviction, sometimes encouragement, and always truth. But one way I recognize it as the Lord’s voice is that shakes my soul and rocks my world.
The whole idea of hearing the voice of God boggles the minds of some, and on the other extreme, many people fancy they hear the voice of God when it really isn’t there. Some people tell themselves what they want to hear, and say God said it; and sadly, some people believe God will always tell them what they don’t want to hear, and would rather not even hear it. I think at one time or another I’ve been on both ends of this spectrum. But when I think back to the times I had that inner knowing I’d heard God, each time it has been pretty much the same: a Voice that shakes my soul, and somehow settles my soul, both at the same time.
There are times when I need guidance, times when I don’t understand what’s happening, times when choices need to be made, and times when the whole world seems one big mass of chaos. At times like that, all the other voices don’t seem to help much. At times like that, I find myself trying to hear beyond the cacophany of voices telling me what to do, to find that One Voice that shakes my soul above all others. His voice doesn’t come the same way every time. Sometimes it’s an inner witness, sometimes it comes through Scripture, and yes, sometimes it comes through the voice of a trusted friend. But in those times of chaos, it is that one Voice that brings order.
For some who don’t believe in God at all, or think it’s over-spiritualizing to believe He speaks, this might seem a bit odd. All I can say is that for someone who chooses to follow Christ, it’s natural to assume that Christ will bring a bit of guidance when we need it. In times when I feel lost or confused or discouraged by my surroundings, I find myself wanting to listen above the background noise, and the prayer in my heart is, “Lord, I know what all the other voices are saying about this. What do YOU have to say?”
And I wait for that Voice. I listen for it–the Voice that shakes my soul, and the Voice I have come to love above all others.