Saturday, June 7, 2008

Lightning and thunder

by John D Ramsey

It is June in Kansas City, and that means thunderstorms. Weather forecasters try to make themselves relevant at this time of year, but as Bob Dylan sang, “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.” In Kansas City during the spring, the wind blows predominately from southwest to northeast. Tonight it brought some marble-sized hail, lots of rain, thunder, and lightning.

Lightning just struck close by a few minutes ago. I did not need a meteorologist or even an audiologist to discern this. I did not need to see the lightning or hear the thunder (although I did). If I had not noticed the flash of light and the deafening boom, there was still a clue to the lightning's proximity: the coffee grinder turned on by itself. That convinced me that the strike was as close as it sounded. I took a tour of the house. Everything seemed to be okay. Gabby slept through the thunder, but it startled Claire. I reassured her, but I think she would prefer silence to the crashing of June thunder especially when she is sleeping.

Earlier this evening Gabby and I sat in the garage with the door open. We watched the clouds roll in and listened to the thunder rumble. The rain splashed on the driveway, and the resulting mist drifted in through the open door and tickled our bare feet. It was nice to share the splendor of Creation with Gabrielle for a few minutes. I am glad that she does not fear the sound of thunder.

At the time of this writing, I have the backdoor open in the sun room. Gabby closed and locked the casement windows probably because she likes to operate the cranks. Still the thunder resonates through the house and the sound of raindrops on the patio reminds me how much I missed Kansas City thunderstorms when we lived in Minnesota. Minnesota has storms, but thunder in Kansas City seems to echo on forever. This thunder lets you hear the expanse of the sky.

The Bible compares the voice of God to thunder. In Exodus 19, Israel had just miraculously departed Egypt. They had crossed the Red Sea and watched the collapsing waters destroy Pharaoh’s army. God had provided food and water for them in the desert wilderness, and then they camped at Sinai:

So it came about on the third day, when it was morning, that there were thunder and lightning flashes and a thick cloud upon the mountain and a very loud trumpet sound, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain.

Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the LORD descended upon it in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked violently. When the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and God answered him with thunder.[1]

Israel trembled at the sound of the trumpet and thunder and the sight of lightning, smoke, and fire descending upon Sinai. There in the veil of smoke surrounding the mountain, God gave Moses the Ten Commandments. Prior to this spectacular display, God had instructed Moses to give Israel a message, “‘Now then, if you will indeed [hear] My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’” [2]

Israel knew that they were about to hear the voice of God, when it came as thunder, they trembled and told Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die.”[3] God never repeated the offer to make Israel a kingdom of priests again. Instead the priesthood went to the Levites, but only the high priest could enter the presence of God. He could only enter once per year, and he had to have his back turned to the mercy seat while he sprinkled the blood of the atonement.

Israel could not hear God’s voice because its thunder was more than they could bear. The choice they made at Sinai followed them through history. In the New Testament, Hebrews 12 contrasts the heavenly Mount Zion with Sinai. The writer says,

For you have not come to a mountain that can be touched and to a blazing fire, and to darkness and gloom and whirlwind, and to the blast of a trumpet and the sound of words which sound was such that those who heard begged that no further word be spoken to them. For they could not bear the command, “IF EVEN A BEAST TOUCHES THE MOUNTAIN, IT WILL BE STONED.” And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, “I AM FULL OF FEAR and trembling.” But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.[4]

The atoning blood of Jesus Christ provides for us a better covenant. 1 Peter 2:9 tells us that we who believe are a kingdom of priests who proclaim “the excellencies of Him who has called [us] out of darkness into His marvelous light.” What Moses and the Law could not accomplish because no one could bear it, Jesus Christ accomplishes because he fulfilled for us the righteous requirements of the Law. Hebrews 4:16 tells us that we can now “draw near with confidence to the throne of grace,” and “receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Gabby was unafraid of the approaching storm largely because she trusted me. She could sit in the garage watching the wind and lightning and hearing the thunder because I was with her. She was confident in her safety even with the overwhelming power of Creation dancing before our eyes. Likewise, we can approach the Father with Jesus Christ in confidence. If we trust Jesus, we will not shrink away from the presence of God because Jesus, being both God and man, has paid our atonement with his blood on the cross. The Father accepted Jesus' sacrifice, and raised him from the dead. We are acceptable before God because Jesus has made us acceptable.

God is now approachable through our mediator, Jesus Christ. However, Hebrews warns us, “See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven.”[5] How Israel responded to God in Sinai determined whether they entered into the land of promise. Likewise, how we respond to Jesus Christ will determine whether we enter with him into his glorious kingdom and resurrection.

God spoke in thunder on Sinai, but Israel would not hear him. Today he speaks from heaven by the testimony of Jesus Christ through the convicting work of the Holy Spirit. Will we choose to hear him when he calls to us?

[1] Exodus 19:16-19 (NASB)
[2] Exodus 19:5-6 (NASB)
[3] Exodus 20:19 (NASB)
[4] Hebrews 12:18-24 (NASB)
[5] Hebrews 12:25 (NASB)

No comments:

Post a Comment