By J. L. Leifeste

“At this also my heart trembles, and leaps from its place. (2) Hear attentively the thunder of His voice, and the rumbling that comes from His mouth. (3) He sends it forth under the whole heaven, His lightning to the ends of the earth. (4) After it a voice roars; He thunders with His majestic voice, and He does not restrain them when His voice is heard” (Job 37:1-4).

Thunder is a natural occurrence that occasionally frightens and often bewilders us. Scientists still find problems in fully understanding the different aspects of storms and their effects. Lightning is electricity. It can occur within a cloud, between a cloud and air, between two clouds, and between a cloud and the ground. The last kind is what most people see. During a thunderstorm, opposite magnetic poles of electric power can reach up from the earth and down from the clouds. The bright flash is called a “return stroke” and travels at about 186,287.490 miles (or 299,792,458 meters) per second. This number is generally listed as the speed of light. A return stroke can surge with an electrical discharge of about 100 million volts. For a moment, this searing heat burns the air in a stroke’s path to over 60,000 degrees Fahrenheit (33,000 degrees Centigrade). Such heated air pressurizes and expands violently against the surrounding cooler air. This sudden expansion causes an atmospheric shock wave. If happening nearby, this wave sounds like a very loud clap, crash, or explosion. It can also be heard very far away as a rumbling sound. The English word for this sound is “thunder.”

The sound of thunder can be ominous, yet beautiful. It denotes a mighty warning of a storm. Scientists estimate that lightning strikes somewhere upon the earth about 100 times every second. It kills approximately 1,000 people worldwide each year. Thunder conveys the power and glory that God created in lightning. Lightning is not completely bad. It is also beneficial. It produces ozone, which, in the upper atmosphere, helps to protect us from some of the sun’s harmful rays. Lightning also helps put nitrogen into the soil, which aids plant growth.

We are usually startled by thunder when it occurs close to us. The Bible compares the voice of God to thunder. “Have you an arm like God? Or can you thunder with a voice like His?” (Job. 40:9; see 2 Sam. 22:14-15; Ps. 18:13-14; 29:3-8). However we may think of it, thunder is difficult to ignore. Due to its warning and its revelation of power and glory, we must not ignore it. More importantly, this is also true of God’s voice. We must not ignore it.

God’s Word Warns Us

In Ex. 20:18-22, we find that the Israelites feared the great trumpet blast, lightning, thunder, and smoke that covered Mount Sinai. The mountain even quaked because of God’s presence. There, God delivered the Ten Commandments to Israel through Moses. These, with subsequent laws, explained sin (Rom. 3:20; 7:7). The people feared the physical manifestations of God’s presence. God meant for them to fear Him. However, they also needed to understand that breaking God’s laws would separate them from Him (1 Jn. 3:4; Ex. 32:33; Isa. 59:2). The Israelites lived under those laws for hundreds of years. However, God eventually used His own Son, Jesus Christ, to remove the Old Law and replace it with the New Covenant of Christ (Jn. 1:17; 4:24; Acts 15:5-11; Rom. 7:4-6; Eph. 2:15; Col. 2:14; Heb. 8:6-7; 9:11-12, 15).

The laws given through Moses exemplified righteousness so that the Israelites would understand the meaning of sin. They also stand as illustrations for us to understand the meaning of sin. Throughout the Old Testament, the gospel accounts, and the book of Acts, we find many true stories of people in history. Some obeyed God’s word because of their faith and received physical blessings (Gen. 6:8, 22; 7:23; Num. 21:5-9; Josh. 2:8-13; 6:25; Dan. 3:13-30; Matt. 9:19-22; Mk. 7:25-30). Some people did not obey God’s word and received physical punishments for their sins (Num. 16:28-35; 20:7-12, 24; 21:5-9; 27:12-14; 1 Kings 14:1-17, 22-30; 2 Kings 21:1-15; Acts. 5:1-11; 9:1-18; 12:20-24; 13:8-11). These are examples and admonitions from God (1 Cor. 10:11).

Sin also brings the most horrible punishment of spiritual death. Everyone sins (Rom. 3:10, 23; Gal. 3:22; 1 Jn. 1:8). Therefore, everyone needs to understand sin and its consequences (Ezek. 18:4; Gal. 3:19, 24; Rom. 5:12; 6:23; Jas. 1:15). We can read about these things in the Bible, or we can hear about them through someone’s Biblical teaching and preaching. Of course, we must always confirm what we hear by our own reading of God’s word. We must not ignore the thunderous voice of God’s warnings.

God’s Word Saves Us

In Jn. 12:26-30, we find that God spoke to Jesus in a voice that some people thought was thunder. Jesus explained that God did this for the sake of the people. God spoke so that the people would believe in Jesus. But some of them rejected what they heard, and some misunderstood it.

The Bible tells us of salvation for our souls. This salvation is through the gospel of Jesus Christ. It contains power and glory. Lightning produces thunder. Jesus is the light that entered the world (Jn. 1:1-14; 3:19-21; 2 Tim. 1:10). His gospel is like a thunder of salvation (Matt. 7:21-27; Jn. 6:63; 12:48-50; Rom. 1:16).

Christians should be lights in the world (Matt. 5:14-16; Eph. 5:8-10). Christians who carry that light of the gospel carry God’s word of salvation (Matt. 10:27-40). Many people may reject it. Many may misunderstand it. However, to be saved eternally, we must obey the entire gospel, including being baptized into Christ (2 Thess. 1:7-8; Col. 3:1-16; Heb. 5:9; 1 Pet. 4:17; Acts 2:38; Rom. 6:3-4). We are commanded to deliver that gospel to the world (Matt. 28:18-20; Mk. 16:15-16). We can do so through television, radio, computers, tapes, mail, preaching, inviting people to attend worship with us, and by simply talking to others about Jesus. By whichever method of hearing, we must not ignore the thunderous voice of God’s salvation (Matt. 13:18-30, 36-43; Jn. 5:24-29).

There are important differences between physical thunder and God’s word. Physical thunder and its danger is momentary. In contrast, God’s “thunderous” word comes to us through inspired writers. It is definite (Jn. 6:68; 14:24; 1 Tim. 6:3-5; Jude 3). It is also more powerful than any physical thunder (see Jer. 23:29; Lk. 4:32; Heb. 4:12). And it is eternal (Mk. 13:31).

Physical thunder is a part of God’s creation of this world. It warns us of the danger of lightning. Lightning can kill people very quickly. The thunder of God’s voice warns us. Both physical death and spiritual death can descend upon us very quickly (1 Thess. 5:1-10; Jas. 4:14; 1 Pet. 5:8; 2 Pet. 3:7-13). Thunder also helps to reveal a wonderful power and glory of lightning. The thunder of God’s voice reveals a wonderful salvation through His power and through the glorious light of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Much more important than physical thunder, God’s voice is absolutely the voice that we must not ignore.

“From where then does wisdom come? And where is the place of understanding?…(23) God understands its way, and He knows its place…(26) When He made a law for the rain, and a path for the thunderbolt, (27) then He saw wisdom and declared it; He prepared it, indeed, He searched it out. (28) And to man He said, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding’” (Job 28:20, 23, 26, 27, 28).