THE VOICE OF THE LORD IN THE STORM
by Walter Beuttler
The voice of the Lord is upon the waters:…The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty. The voice of the Lord breaketh the cedars;…The voice of the Lord divideth the flames of fire. The voice of the Lord shaketh the wilderness;…The voice of the Lord…discovereth the forests. Psalm 29:3-9.
In this psalm David describes a thunderstorm sweeping over the Palestinian country side in a fury of lightning and thunder accompanied by heavy rains and resultant in flood and destruction. It is evident from the psalm as a whole that this graphic description is but the setting in which God seeks to instruct His children when they find themselves in circumstances comparable to such a storm, e.g., the flames of the fire of testing; the rumbling thunder of fearful events; the floods of unexpected reverses and innocent sufferings.
In such circumstances it is of paramount importance that we are properly oriented. A Christian who is not sure of his position in the storm in relation to God is open to additional though unnecessary difficulties. He becomes an easy prey to the wiles of the enemy and a possible victim of the advice of ignorant advisers. In order to preclude any such eventuality one must turn to the repeated use of the phrase “the voice of the Lord” which occurs seven times. This might appear to be mere meaningless repetition in the eyes of the casual reader, yet this very repetition constitutes the heart of the remarkable psalm and provides the key to the whole problem, namely, that the storm is “the voice of the Lord.” Thereby God wants us to know that He speaks in the storm by means of the storm.
Now it might be rightly asked, “What does God say in the storm?” In answer to this question another repetition must be observed. The name “Lord” is used eighteen times. The meaning of the name “Lord” as used in this psalm is said to be “He (who) is.” This is very suggestive and so appropriate because the enemy of our souls will seek to defeat us in the storm by casting an aspersion at God as regards His promises endeavouring to make us believe that God is the God who isn’t. But in this psalm God declares that He is “He (who) is.” “‘He (who) is’ divideth the flames of fire” (lit. “sendeth forth the lightnings”); “the voice of the ‘He (who) is’ is upon the waters.” etc., etc. This repetition of “Lord” as the “He (who) is” leads us to the primary cause of the storm – God, who seeks to reveal Himself as “He (who) is” while some wonder where He is.
It must further be noted that there is a reference to God, not merely in every verse, but in every single statement. Altogether there are twenty-two direct and two indirect references to God. The entire psalm is saturated with God, so to speak. What is the meaning of this? That God is IN the storm; that He is “He (who) is” when it seems He isn’t. That He is in the lightning, in the thunder, in the water, in all. The psalm, we repeat, is saturated with God; so is the experience. The believer in the storm must see and believe that “He (who) is” sent it; that “He (who) is” is in it; and that “He (who) is” speaks by it.
God does not only send the storm, He comes with it. “The Lord sitteth upon the flood,” v. 10. This verse begins to throw some light on the purpose of the storm. Since God is pictured as sitting upon the flood, He evidently uses the flood as a means of conveyance so that the flood of the storm which comes into the believer’s life brings God with it. This remains true whether God’s purpose is to bring us more into the fellowship of the sufferings of Christ as in Phil. 3:10, or whether God seeks to teach us lessons in order to give us a ministry of help and comfort in God to those in distress as in II Cor. 1:4-5. This remains true whether God needs to demonstrate to Satan that we serve Him because of what He means to us and not merely because of what He does for us as in Job 1:1-2:10, or whether His purpose is to enlarge our capacity and desire for Him.
The storm will often effect this by tearing us loose from encumbrances that retard our progress and from preoccupation with things that compete with God for our attention and affection. Thus the storm becomes a means whereby we are conditioned for a closer walk with God, as well as a medium of conveyance, bringing God with it. “The Lord hath his way in the whirl wind and in thes torm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet,” Nahum 1:3b. After the sky has cleared and the flood has subsided, the trusting believer will be conscious of a fresh deposit of the reality of the presence of God in his heart, for “the Lord sitteth upon the flood.”
“…the Lord sitteth King forever.” v.10. Hallelujah! Not only does the “He (who) is” come with it and sit upon it, He sits upon it as King, as Ruler, as Sovereign. In other words, He controls the flood. The same Lord who uses the storm as a vehicle, who conveys Himself on the crest of the flood into the believer’s heart by a means and in a manner which could probably not be as well accomplished in any other way, exercises such a providential control that the flood is great enough to accomplish His purpose, yet not so great the believer would be engulfed beyond his ability to stand it. “…God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able…,” I Cor. 10:13. The “He (who) is” is completely Sovereign of the flood. He sits upon it, so He comes with it; He sits King, so He holds it in control; He sits King “forever”, so He is always in control. This is the believer’s assurance in the storm.
“The Lord will give strength unto his people; the Lord will bless his people with peace,” v. 10. Strength and peace is the believer’s provision for the storm. The God who sends the storm also grants the strength to endure it. He “will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” I Cor. 10:13 This way of escape is not so much deliverance FROM, as it is deliverance IN. We are delivered from being overcome by the storm by means of the grace and strength of God to bear it while the purpose of God is being accomplished.
This strength will be imparted as we wait upon Him, not as we wait for the sympathy of the people. “…they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength;…” Isa. 40:31. Waiting upon God is as indispensable (and as delightful) a Christian exercise as it ever was. There is no substitute. Israel complained in Isa. 40:27 in the manner in which a Christian might be tempted to complain in the storm. “…My way is hid from the Lord, and my judgment is passed over from my God.” In other words, God does not see, God does not care and, as another version has it, “the justice due me is passed over…” This questions the justice of God. There is great danger in this attitude. The context uses the words “faint,” “weary,” and “fall.”
As far as the passage in Isaiah goes, this fainting, wearying and threatened falling is due to lack of confidence in the attributes of God, Isa. 40:28; failure to realize that God provides the ability to walk with Him, Isa. 40:29; and that we are doomed to failure even at the height of our own resources, Isa. 40:30, unless we wait upon God for His enabling by His strength, Isa. 40:31. “The Lord will give strength unto his people.” “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles…” It has been said that in an approaching storm all the birds will scurry for cover in fright except the eagle. He is said to face the storm with wings spread, and will allow the howling, contrary wind to carry him to great heights. This is the Christian’s privilege in the storm. Such an achievement takes strength which only God can give, and time which must be spent in waiting before Him.
“…the Lord will bless his people with peace.” v.10. This is the promise of a tranquil mind and heart in the middle of the storm. Peace, not just after the storm, but during the storm. The kind of peace that Christ had when “he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow…” during a storm that filled the ship with water and, naturally speaking, jeopardized their lives. Mark 4:37; Luke 8:23. Let it be noted that these disciples were in the will of God despite wind, waves, and danger, for they had obeyed His command “Let us go over unto the other side of the lake.” Our very obedience to God may lead us into a storm which we would not otherwise experience, but also to a compensating revelation of His power which we would not otherwise experience either.
The peace of God is not a mere negative peace, not a mere absence of disturbance. It is a positive peace, the conscious presence of a supernatural calm produced in our hearts by the Spirit. This peace is “not as the world giveth;” it is not dependent on favorable circumstances. In fact, it is independent of both favorable and unfavorable circumstances alike. In short, it is truly His peace, the peace of God.
This peace acts as an insulator, as a defense against the disturbance of the storm. The strength of the Lord enables us to bear the pressure of the storm, but the peace of God which passeth all understanding (and all misunderstanding too), keeps the disturbing elements of the storm without from penetrating to within the periphery of our being. This twin provision of strength and peace logically leads to the consideration of our activity in the storm.
“Give unto the Lord, O ye mighty, give unto the Lord glory and strength. Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name; worship the Lord in the beauty of Holiness.” vs.1-2. This then is our activity in the storm, to give unto the Lord worship, to give Him glory. The angels are doing it. “…and in his temple doth every one speak of (his) glory.” v.9. In the storm God calls for worship; we owe it to Him. “Give unto the Lord, O ye mighty.” Who are the mighty in the storm? Those who know that it is “the stormy wind fulfilling his word,” Psa. 148:8, who see God in the storm and wait upon Him for strength. They are called upon to give Him strength, the fruit of the strength He gave them, even praise in the midst of the storm, despite the storm, and even because of the storm. The mighty in His strength will give Him glory and praise while they behold the effects of the storm, the broken cedars of their fondest hopes. They worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness without charging God foolishly though their hearts are oppressed with a terrible sense of loneliness, feeling as bleak within as is the desolation without. Though the spirit may be crushed and the will to go on faltering because the future may seem to be a mere void, God calls for worship with repeated emphasis. “Give unto the Lord,” He calls, “Give unto the Lord.” Faith will respond and say “It is the voice of the Lord in the storm, therefore will I join the angels, saying glory!”