Noise of God, God of Noise
by Dave Skipper
This is a summary version of the original article Voice of Noise 1/4.
Click here for full list of Pocket-Sized Summaries.
- The voice is the most immediate, raw, personal, and unique sound/noise source.
- Psalm 29 introduces some of the noise-laden dimensions of the Voice of God.
Context and literary style: Psalms
- Many of the psalms (songs) in the Bible were penned by King David, Israel’s greatest king of old, who lived about 3,000 years ago.
- The psalms are part of the Old Testament (the large proportion of the Bible that was written before Jesus).
- The New Testament (the remaining part of the Bible that was written by Jesus’ contemporaries) contains many references to various psalms as finding their meaning and fulfillment in Jesus.
- Jesus himself said: “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” (Luke 24:27)
- I approach the psalms as God-breathed and therefore as absolutely true, but truth is more profound and nuanced in its scope than a strictly literalist approach.
- Jewish literary devices commonly used in the psalms include:
- Imagery from the natural world.
- Anthropomorphism: God is described metaphorically with human features, even though he is pure uncreated spirit.
- Parallelism: a pair of lines which correspond to or counterpoint each other in form or concept.
- Chiasm: a symmetrical structure focussed on a central pivot, in which the second half often develops or contrasts or adds a twist to the first half.
- Numbers with strong symbolic meanings or associations as used throughout Scripture.
A psalm of David.
1 Ascribe to the Lord, you heavenly beings,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
2 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due to his name;
worship the Lord in the splendour of his holiness.
3 The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the Lord thunders over the mighty waters.
4 The voice of the Lord is powerful;
the voice of the Lord is majestic.
5 The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.
6 He makes Lebanon leap like a calf,
Sirion like a young wild ox.
7 The voice of the Lord strikes
with flashes of lightning.
8 The voice of the Lord shakes the desert;
the Lord shakes the Desert of Kadesh.
9 The voice of the Lord twists the oaks
and strips the forests bare.
And in his temple all cry, ‘Glory!’
10 The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
the Lord is enthroned as King for ever.
11 The Lord gives strength to his people;
the Lord blesses his people with peace.
- “The God of glory thunders”
- God’s divine nature and attributes are inescapably bound up in all he has made.
- Thunder is a potent and vivid expression or reminder of God’s voice.
- True and original thundering in all its characteristics belongs to God alone. His voice is ultimate and primary.
- “The voice of the Lord…”
- Psalm 29 deals exclusively with the timbre and powerful effects of God’s voice, not with any word content.
- His voice communicates and expresses concrete truths and realities, whether implicitly or explicitly.
- God’s voice is art: dramatic art, inescapable art, transcendent art.
- God’s voice is art that speaks across boundaries, across cultures, across the ages.
- God’s voice is art that is both beautiful and raw, both comforting and terrifying.
- Art needn’t be representational (one-to-one correlation, concept more important than symbol).
- Art cannot be truly abstract (devoid of content, divorced from all context).
- Art is inherently reflective (revelatory of its creator, rich and nuanced in its scope).
- There is no escaping the noisiness of this psalm in the destructive forces of the elements.
- Trees snap and mountains shake from flood, earthquake, and tempest, each event adding its own unique type of noise in the process.
- The sounds of the storm are some of God’s “noise tools” or “noise equipment”. By his word he directly causes the very molecules and materials to move, to vibrate, to sound, to exist!
- The sound of the noise of God’s voice triggers cumulative layers and detail of noise:
(ultimate) noise source: God’s voice
noise: thunder (rumbling, crackling, roaring)
= new (immediate) noise source (e.g. cedars breaking, mountains leaping, deserts shaking)
more noise (e.g. splintering, snapping, crashing, crumbling, smashing, vibrating)
- “And in his temple all cry, ‘Glory!’”
- The only spoken word in the whole psalm is, intriguingly, not from the voice of God!
- “Glory!” is the ultimate word of praise, recognition, wonder, humility, severity, and joy, all mixed together.
- “Glory!” is one of the words that most fully defines and encapsulates the nature of God in all his God-ness.
- One word, and therefore the cry is comprehensible and accessible.
- Myriad voices, and so the cry is deafening in its density, its intensity, its roar.
- Such a glorious noise microcosmically demonstrates in its unified utterance the majestic force and profound meaning of the word itself.
- When thunder rips up the sky, remember that:
- God made and loves the sound of thunder;
- it is responding to the command of God;
- it is a pale reflection of the voice of God.