When you hear a meteorologist forecast thunderstorms, how do you react? How do you feel? I, for one, love a good storm, as long as I’m not driving or trotting across a parking lot carrying groceries.
And lightning? I enjoy watching white hot bolts streak across the sky. They’re beautiful to me. It’s a good thing, too, since I grew up in Tampa, Florida, the lightning capital of the nation. I recall almost daily thunderstorms and lightning displays during summer afternoons. I have fond memories of sitting on the front porch with my dad enjoying the smell of the rain during milder summer storms.
Intriguing to me are how thunder and lightning are characterized in the Bible. According to Job 37:5, “God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways.” David says, in Psalm 29:3, “The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders.” If thunder is God’s voice, I don’t need to be afraid of it. After all, sound itself is not destructive. When I hear the rumbles I can’t help but think He wants us to remember who created this earth and all its inhabitants. God is still—and always will be—in control.
Lightning, however, can cause devastation in a flash. So, how is it characterized in the Bible? In the Old Testament Daniel describes a man he saw in a vision, thought to be either Jesus or an angel, with “his face like lightning” (10:6). In a song of praise for God composed by David, he sings, “Out of the brightness of His presence bolts of lightning blazed forth” (2 Samuel 22:13).
The book of Matthew, in the New Testament, says the “angel of the Lord” who rolled the stone away from the tomb of Jesus had an appearance like “lightning, and his clothes were white as snow” (23:3). According to Revelation 4:5, from God’s “throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder.” Lightning from a distance is awe-inspiring, but up close and unprotected, it’s fear-inducing. It reminds me that God is not to be trifled with.
Thunder and lightning, signifiers and tools of God, capture my attention. Thunder and lightning tell me to stop and pay attention. Thunder and lightning give me comfort in this topsy-turvy world where God’s Word is not just being ignored, but being blatantly defied under the guise of individual freedom. Thunder and lightning remind me of who’s on His throne and the power He possesses, which soothes the anxieties that threaten my peace of mind.