Praise the Lord, you heavenly beings;
praise his glory and power.
Praise the Lord’s glorious name;
bow down before the Holy One when he appears.
The voice of the Lord is heard on the seas;
the glorious God thunders,
and his voice echoes over the ocean.
The voice of the Lord is heard
in all its might and majesty.
The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars,
even the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes the mountains of Lebanon jump like calves
and makes Mount Hermon leap like a young bull.
The voice of the Lord makes the lightning flash.
His voice makes the desert shake;
he shakes the desert of Kadesh.
The Lord’s voice shakes the oaks
and strips the leaves from the trees
while everyone in his Temple shouts, “Glory to God!”
The Lord rules over the deep waters;
he rules as king forever.
The Lord gives strength to his people
and blesses them with peace. (Good News Translation)
I have always felt comforted during thunderstorms. Having grown up in the Midwest of America, strong thunderstorms are a given every summer. When my daughters were small children and frightened by the loud clap of thunder, I routinely said to them, “That’s just God letting us know he is powerful and watching over us.”
God spoke and stirred up a storm… So, they cried out to the Lord in their distress, and God brought them out safe from their desperate circumstances. God quieted the storm to a whisper; the sea’s waves were hushed. (Psalm 107:25, 29-30, CEB)
Yet, there is even more going on in today’s psalm than a reminder of God’s glory and power throughout creation. God’s very voice is the source of all the power.
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth – with words. The Lord Almighty spoke the entire world into existence. God’s words are generative, that is, the speech of God creates and gives life. When God’s voice goes forth, things happen.
God said, “Let the waters under the sky come together into one place so that the dry land can appear.” And that’s what happened. (Genesis 1:9, CEB)
God generously gives through speech.
Yes, the mechanism of God’s provision for us is language. The Lord creates, gives, sustains, and blesses us creatures through language. Out of all creation, humans are the only creatures formed in the image and likeness of God with the power of connection through speech.
God said, “Now we will make humans, and they will be like us. (Genesis 1:26, CEV)
Not only are we as people capable of speech, but we also have the ability and the capacity to form our own generative words. We have the God-given means to give life with how we use our power of language.
I believe we all intuitively know this is true. As we reminisce the history of our lives, we can observe events where another’s words impacted us so significantly that it was as if they gave us the gift of life. We never forgot those words.
Unfortunately, we also have had times when another’s words cut us emotionally and it felt as if a part of us died. We remember those as well, and they hold us back in our own life-giving speech to ourselves and others.
“The godless destroy their neighbors by their words, but the righteous are saved by their knowledge.” (Proverbs 11:9, CEB)
We must listen to the voice of the Lord. God’s speech neither disappoints nor destroys. God’s Word is eternal life. The better we listen to God, the better we can have the generative power of words to provide life for others.
It only takes a cursory look at Holy Scripture to realize that words are powerful and are to be used with great care. We are all to continually develop the craft of wordsmithing so that we might ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name, as well as bless the world.
“As a tree gives fruit, healing words give life, but dishonest words crush the spirit.” (Proverbs 15:4, NCV)
The language we use—spoken and written words, sign language, facial expressions, bodily gestures, singing—helps us understand ourselves and lets us create relationships with others. Our words give us the power to describe our past, define our present, and dream of our future.
“Words from wise people are like water bubbling up from a deep well—the well of wisdom.” (Proverbs 18:4, ERV)
We adults may balk at the notion that words are anything more than a creative expression. Yet, as I believe is typical with most things, children are closer to the kingdom of God than us bigger folk. Kids effortlessly make connections between words and reality – whereas older people barely have an idea this even occurs.
My grandson once remarked, when I was talking to him about being cautious at the playground, “How am I supposed to meet new people if I can’t talk to strangers?”
“When I asked my son (5 years old) how his day was, he said it was awesome. I asked him what made it so awesome – his response was ‘because I wanted it to be.’” – Tanya Niedzwiecki (Huffington Post, November 2015)
As people in God’s likeness, our words are powerful tools to be used with wisdom and care. Our speech allows us to praise God and encourage one another. Even more, the use of language enables us to speak into existence new realities for ourselves and others.
May our words bring forth hope and blessing to a world in need of healing.
Mighty God, the Lord who is King and all powerful, I am overwhelmed before such awesome majesty, and my response to your voice is reverent worship through Jesus Christ, your Son, my Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.