Light leaches from the sky, absorbed by dense, roiling clouds heavy with rain. The air holds its breath yet emits a sharp metallic scent, a forerunner of the storm to come. The long, flat horizon of the prairie is suddenly transformed into a vast stage on which sheets of lightning streak and flash. Frozen by brilliant light, trees, fences and farmhouses stand out in brilliant relief on the edge of the world. Then the curtain drops and miles away another silhouetted scene blazes forth.
I count after each lightning flash, waiting for the sound of thunder. At first it is a distant rumble, a growl far off. But as the storm draws closer, agitation in the clouds breaks out in fury close behind each burst of lightning. I feel the power of cosmic sound waves reverberating in my chest; I thrill at the forces unleashed in the heavens.
A scientific explanation of thunder does not capture it for me. “Thunder is caused by the rapid expansion of the air surrounding the path of a lightning bolt.” (Library of Congress) Not nearly dramatic enough to define this amazing phenomenon. I need to dip into my allegorical imagination and describe thunder as the voice of God in nature.
“Listen! Listen to the roar of His voice, to the rumbling that comes from His mouth. He unleashes His lightning beneath the whole heaven and sends it to the ends of the earth. After that comes the sound of His roar; He thunders with His majestic voice. When His voice resounds, He holds nothing back. God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways; He does great things beyond our understanding.” – Job 37:2-5 NIV
A thunderstorm brings me up short out of my small, self-absorbed life. Each day I make decisions, perform duties, seek knowledge, seldom looking beyond the next item on the agenda. I live with an air of entitlement, a smug expectation that all will continue as it has been, not often remembering at whose hand the universe holds together. But when my ears ring with primal thunder, I snap to attention.
This is His voice; the voice of my God, the voice of my Creator! I need to be reminded in just such a dramatic way. I need to know in the depths of my soul the answer to all the questions the Lord asks Job in chapters 38 to 40. “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? What is the way to the place where the lightning is dispersed? Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain, and a path for the thunderstorm?” And to the myriad of other rhetorical questions the Lord asks Job there is only one answer … El Shaddai, God Almighty.
The reality is, this God of thunder Who moves vast forces of nature at will is also the Lord Who is mighty to save, Who takes great delight in me, Who quiets me with His love, Who rejoices over me with singing. (Zeph. 3:17)
Come, thunder! Come, lightning! Proclaim the power of the Almighty before the whole earth and remind me Whose voice you speak with. I delight in the sound of it.