What Does God Sound Like?

Hearing the Voice of Majesty

Lightning can be majestic. That is, from a safe distance. Or from a secure shelter that frees us from the threat of electrocution, and allows us to enjoy the spectacular show.

The concept of majesty first brings to mind great sights, like distant lightning. Whether it’s a scenic vista of purple mountain majesties, the skyline of a great city, the dazzling beauty of gold or precious jewels, or the grandeur of a royal palace and its decorum, we typically associate the noun majesty, and its adjective majestic, with stunning glimpses, panoramas, and sights.

Majesty captures a greatness, power, and glory that is both impressive and attractive. And as with lightning, what is majestic from a safe distance can be terrifying when right overhead, without shelter. And so it is when the living God showcases his majesty at the Red Sea — his enemies panic with fear (Exodus 14:24), while his people, whom he rescues, know themselves safe and praise his majesty:

In the greatness of your majesty you overthrow your adversaries;
     you send out your fury; it consumes them like stubble. . . .
     Who is like you, majestic in holiness,
     awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders? (Exodus 15:7, 11)

Yet when Scripture mentions the majesty of God, the reference is not exclusively to the visible. Thunder, not only lightning, also may strike us as majestic, when we don’t find ourselves exposed and at risk. And so, as Scripture testifies, God’s voice is majestic.

His words ring out with divine greatness, and tangible goodness, in the ears of his people. His speech is both authoritative and appealing, imposing and attractive. His voice both cuts us to the heart, and makes our hearts thrill. His words wound us in our sin, and we welcome it in the Spirit. God’s majestic words, spoken and written, surprise and delight his people, even as his enemies cower at his thunderings. Their fear is terror; ours is reverent awe and joy.

His lightnings enthrall his saints. As does the thunder of his words.

Greatness of His Word

Consider, first, the greatness of “his majestic voice” (Isaiah 30:30).

“No voice speaks with such authority — or remotely close to such authority — as the voice of the living God.”

No voice speaks with such authority — or anywhere even remotely close to such authority — as the voice of the living God. His words, unlike any other words, are utterly authoritative, and on every possible subject he chooses to address. Like no other mind and mouth, his words are not limited to an area of expertise. His expertise, as God, is all things, without exception.

But the greatness of his word includes not only his right to speak on any given subject (and every subject), but also his ability to speak to the most important subjects and do so extensively, and perfectly, and have the final say. He not only takes up far-reaching, bottomless, eternal, truly great topics, but he never speaks above his head, or out of his depths, as even the world’s greatest minds do when they come to the topics that matter most.

God never speculates. He never overreaches or overextends his knowledge. He never over-speaks. As God, he may publicly address any subject matter he chooses, and with unassailable authority, and he does so perfectly, every time, in all he chooses to say and not say.

In Scripture, he does give us an extensive word, but not an exhaustive one. He chooses to limit his spoken revelation to a first covenant and then a new one, 66 books, and 30,000 verses across the span of a millennium and a half. However, he chooses not (yet) to speak to every possible subject in his created world and beyond, but to speak with both clarity and repetition, despite the trends and undulations of every generation, to the realities that are most timeless and essential. And in doing so, he cues his people in on the subjects and proportions of his focus that prove most important in every time and season.

Power of His Word

Ponder also the power of his majestic voice. His divine speech is not only authoritative on every subject but indomitably effective in accomplishing every purpose he intends. His words do not return to him empty, but effect, every time, precisely what he purposes (Isaiah 55:11).

“God has the ability to do exactly what he says — and to do it simply by saying it.”

Like no other being in the universe, God has the ability to do exactly what he says — and to do so simply by saying it. “Let there be light,” he says, and without delay or uncertainty, there is light. And he keeps the world he made in existence — he upholds it — says Hebrews 1:3, “by his powerful word.” And when he chooses, he speaks into the deaf hearts of “those who are perishing” — those whose spiritual sight has been blinded by “the god of this world” — and he says, “Let light shine out of darkness.” At that moment, dead hearts begin to beat. Deaf ears hear, and blind eyes see the light of his gospel. They believe and are saved (2 Corinthians 4:3–6).

Well did Martin Luther, author of “A Mighty Fortress,” marvel at the majesty of the divine voice when he wrote that we tremble not for the prince of darkness — because “one little word shall fell him.” According to John’s Apocalypse, the God-man, with his risen, glorified, human mouth will speak the decisive, effective word in the end. On the isle of Patmos, John first heard “a loud voice like a trumpet” (Revelation 1:10), and turned to see — among the visible majesties of Christ’s robe, sash, hair, eyes, feet, and face — that “from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword,” and “his voice was like the roar of many waters” (Revelation 1:15–16). With no weapon in hand, but fully armed with the power of his perfectly effective word, Christ will defeat his enemies, making “war against them with the sword of my mouth” (Revelation 2:16).

From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. . . . And the rest [those who had received the mark of the beast] were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse. (Revelation 19:15, 21)

The day fast approaches when the risen Christ, as the divine-human mouthpiece of the Godhead, will have only to speak and fell the devil and his hordes with one majestic word from his mouth.

Glory of His Word

Finally, consider the glory of his majestic voice. Even more than greatness and power, glory comes closest to the heart of what majesty signals.

Majesty is typically emotive. It’s the worshiper’s word of choice, not the scientist’s. Applied to God’s word, his majesty relates to the moral beauty of his speech. The divine voice is not only great in volume and pitch but good in the ears of his people; not only powerful but wonderful for his church; not only true but desirable in the hearts of his saints.

More to be desired are [his words] than gold,
     even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
     and drippings of the honeycomb. (Psalm 19:10)

And we note, in a fallen world like ours, and with sin-swayed palates like ours, the divine glory often comes with unexpected or peculiar majesty. His majestic voice rarely speaks as human ears anticipate. With our own short-sighted and sin-shaped notions of what a glorious voice will say, we find ourselves startled again and again by Scripture. Here, in the words of God, we find a majesty, a glory, that does not meet our eyes and ears like the world and sin have taught us to expect. His voice rings out with a distinctly divine glory, a peculiar majesty, that far outstrips our small assumptions.

His majestic voice upstages the wisdom of the world, and unnerves the scribes and debaters of this age. It arrests the wise, powerful, and nobly born according to worldly standards. It shames the world’s wise and strong, while exalting the low and despised (1 Corinthians 1:20, 26–28). As the Bible’s great meditation on divine majesty, Psalm 8, celebrates,

     Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
you have established strength because of your foes,
     to still the enemy and the avenger. (Psalm 8:2)

The one who “set [his] glory above the heavens” (Psalm 8:1) puts his peculiar majesty on display — or makes his majesty audible — in the mouths of the weakest, even babes and infants. And in such peculiar majesty, God’s people hear an undeniably self-authenticating glory: this voice is indeed God’s, not man’s. Humans may forge swords and devise missiles. They may construct towers and adorn palaces. But the Majesty on High will bring them down with the praise of children.

Victory of His Word

So we hear that when God himself came to dwell among us, “the Word became flesh” (John 1:14). He did not come with the majesty man expected. The Word came to Nazareth, to a virgin, to thirty years in obscurity, with “no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him” (Isaiah 53:2). That is, no majesty for the eyes and ears of natural man.

But when God opens our eyes, and ears, we encounter his majesty. We hang on his words, as some did when he taught in the temple (Luke 19:48), and we testify in awe, with those officers who confessed, “No one ever spoke like this man!” (John 7:46). We say with the crowds in Galilee, Finally, a teacher with real authority! (Mark 1:22, 27). And we anticipate the day when he will smite our foes with the sword of his mouth, even as we his church praise him, with the tribute of Psalm 45:2, “grace is poured upon your lips.”

Then we will see even more of the majesty of his lightning, that comes with his thunderous word.