A Gentle Thunder
Hearing God Through the Storm
When you were in trouble, you called, and I saved
you. I answered you with thunder. Psalms 81:7
HIS VOICE, OUR CHOICE
A good pilot does what it takes to get his passengers home. I saw a good example of this while flying somewhere over Missouri. The flight attendant told us to take our seats because of impending turbulence.
It was a rowdy flight, and the folks weren’t quick to respond; so she warned us again. “The flight is about to get bumpy. For your own safety, take your seats.”
Most did. But a few didn’t, so she changed her tone: “Ladies and gentlemen, for your own good, take your seats.”
I thought everyone was seated. But apparently I was wrong, for the next voice we heard was that of the pilot. “This is Captain Brown,” he advised. “People have gotten hurt by going to the bathroom instead of staying in their seats. Let’s be very clear about our responsibilities. My job is to get you through the storm. Your job is to do what I say. Now sit down and buckle up!”
About that time the bathroom door opened, and a red-faced fellow with a sheepish grin exited and took his seat.
Was the pilot wrong in what he did? Was the pilot being insensitive or unthoughtful? No, just the opposite. He would rather the man be safe and embarrassed than uninformed and hurt.
Good pilots do what it takes to get their passengers home.
So does God. Here is a key question. How far do you want God to go in getting your attention? If God has to choose between your eternal safety and your earthly comfort, which do you hope he chooses? Don’t answer too quickly. Give it some thought.
If God sees you standing when you should be sitting, if God sees you at risk rather than safe, how far do you want him to go in getting your attention?
What if he moved you to another land? (As he did Abraham.) What if he called you out of retirement? (Remember Moses?) How about the voice of an angel or the bowel of a fish? (A la Gideon and Jonah.)
How about a promotion like Daniel’s or a demotion like Samson’s?
God does what it takes to get our attention. Isn’t that the message of the Bible? Isn’t that the message of the Bible? The relentless pursuit of God.
God on the hunt. God in the search. Peeking under the bed for hiding kids, stirring the bushes for lost sheep. Cupping hand to mouth and shouting into the canyon. Wrestling with us Jacobs in the muddy Jabboks of life.
For all its peculiarities and unevenness, the Bible has a simple story. God made man. Man rejected God. God won’t give up until he wins him back. From Moses in Moab to John on Patmos, the voice can be heard: “I’m the pilot. You’re the passenger. My job is to get you home. Your job is to do what I say.”
God is as creative as he is relentless. The same hand that sent manna to Israel sent Uzzah to his death. The same hand that set the children free from Egypt also sent them captive to Babylon. Both kind and stern. Tender and tough. Faithfully firm. Patiently urgent. Eagerly tolerant. Softly shouting. Gently thundering.
That’s how John saw Jesus. John’s gospel has two themes: the voice of God and the choice of man. And since this book is based on John, you’ll see the same tandem: His voice. Our choice.
Jesus said, “I am the bread that gives life. I am the light of the world. I am the resurrection and the life. I am the light of the world. I am the door. I am the way, the truth, and the life. I will come back and take you with me.”
Jesus proclaiming—ever offering but never forcing:
Standing over the crippled man: “Do you want to be well?” (John 5:6).
Eye to eye with the blind man, now healed: “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” (John 9:35).
Near the tomb of Lazarus, probing the heart of Martha: “Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Martha, do you believe this?” (John 11:26).
Testing Pilate’s motive: “Is that your own question, or did others tell you about me?” (John 18:34).
The first time John hears Jesus speak, Jesus asks a question, “What are you looking for?” (John 1:38). Among Jesus’ last words is yet another: “Do you love me?” (21:17).
This is the Jesus John remembers. The honest questions. The thundering claims. The gentle touch. Never going where not invited, but once invited never stopping until he’s finished, until a choice has been made.
God will whisper. He will shout. He will touch and tug. He will take away our burdens; he’ll even take away our blessings. If there are a thousand steps between us and him, he will take all but one. But he will leave the final one for us. The choice is ours.
Please understand. His goal is not to make you happy. His goal is to make you his. His goal is not to get you what you want; it is to get you what you need. And if that means a jolt or two to get you in your seat, then be jolted.
Earthly discomfort is a glad swap for heavenly peace. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble, but be brave! I have defeated the world” (John 16:33).
How could he speak with such authority? What gave him the right to take command? Simple. He, like the pilot, knows what we don’t, and he can see what we can’t.
What did the pilot know? He knew how to fly the plane.
What did the pilot see? Storm clouds ahead.
What does God know? He knows how to navigate history.
What does God see? I think you get the message.
God wants to get you home safely.
Just think of him as your pilot. Think of yourself as his passenger. Consider this book as in-flight reading—and think twice before you get up to go to the potty.