God’s Voice—Psalm 29
The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
The God of glory thunders,
The Lord, over many waters.
The voice of the Lord is powerful;
The voice of the Lord is full of majesty.
The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
The Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes Lebanon to skip like a calf,
And Sirion like a young wild ox.
The voice of the Lord flashes forth 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 give birth
And strips the forests bare,
And in his temple all cry, “Glory!” (Psalm 29:3-9)
Martin Scorsese’s most recent film takes its name, indirectly, from our theme this week: The Voice of God. It is called Silence, but to me it was like thunder. In fact it was deafening. The film effectively silences neat western constructs of the Gospel and the Great Commission. In Silence two young priests take off from Portugal with zeal to find their mentor, who has reportedly recanted while reaching out to the Japanese as a Catholic missionary. I will not ruin it by telling you the outcome, but I will warn you that it might be very hard for you to watch depending on your passionometer’s current reading.
Scorsese’s setting is the 17th century, but some things never change. In my hometown, a cadre of young zealots has its own God-construct underway. How did it get there? Its answer: God spoke it.
I notice that the promoters of this event are in their thirties and forties. Yes. I vividly remember those years. It was a season of zeal for sure. Passion was in my bones. (Something else is there now—I’m pretty sure.) I recall attending the late Bill Bright’s Prayer and Fasting Events in Kansas City and Los Angeles. My co-zealot and I even sought out Azusa Street—the birthplace of modern Pentecostal revivalism. I can tell you after my forty day fast (which I presumed was integral to God’s plans), I was truly ready to see Jesus do something big; I was also truly ready—as soon as possible—to devour either a Whopper or a Big Mac.
What’s a boy to do though with all that passion? At the very least we translate it into expectations. After all, if Paul (a guy who had seen Jesus) is on record that God desires that all men be saved and that he wants to do exceedingly above and beyond our grandest expectations, how shall we govern our longings and calibrate our expectations? Given the incalculable height and depth of God’s love, is there really any ceiling? Rescuing an errant priest or spearheading the next great awakening seems quite doable given God’s greatness and our zeal to see God be who we want him to be and do what we want him to do.
The movie Silence was a poignant and brutally painful reminder that God is a mystery, which not only strips the forests bare, but will also strip the soul bare of its neat and tidy religious constructs. That is likely why Job was included in the scriptures, so that we would not speculate from afar about God and his ways.
My 30 and 40-year-old friends and family cannot help but think I’m jaded about the supernatural and their coming revival. They would be right, at least as far as it has to do with my role as a catalyst towards those ends. I pray as fervently today for seismic outcomes as ever. The scope of my prayer is actually as large as it has ever been. The folly, to me, is the expectation that these grand events will prosper in proportion to my contribution or that of the local revival committee.
The thing that we zealots do not hear in the midst of our passion is just how much, due to our own hurts and needs, we confuse our voice and the voice of others with God’s. For me to confront my young friends would be unwelcome and probably unprofitable. Within the mystery of God, passion, zeal, tears, and screams are not wasted. In fact, they are probably essential. They are like the steam coming off the refining pot where the dross is being skimmed away and pure faith, with its enviable award, is being perfected. So, while we are asking, “How long oh Lord”, we shall still:
Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.
The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; The Lord sits enthroned as king forever.
May the Lord give strength to his people! May the Lord bless his people with peace!
Father, while I am sobered by the possible depths of my delusions, I am, at the same time, comforted that Jesus is an exact representation of your nature. In Christ, I never saw anything that would make me cower beneath his glory and strength. I never saw anything that would cause me to fear the splendor of his holiness. That I might rest my head upon the chest of my God is my comfort and my glory. Amen.