In 2010, a teacher in Northern Ireland named Annalisa Flanagan set the world’s record for the loudest shout ever recorded. Her shout registered 121 decibels. That’s ear-piercing! The normal human speaking voice averages about 70 decibels, while the average shout comes in at about 88 decibels. At those levels, most of us would have no trouble hearing the voice of the person speaking or shouting. But what about the voice of God. How loud is His voice?
Psalm 29 gives us a picture of what God’s voice sounds like. In the New Living Translation, this psalm tells us that God’s voice echoes above the sea. In fact, it thunders over the sea (v. 3). God’s voice is powerful and majestic (v. 4) and is able to split the mighty cedar trees of Lebanon (v. 5). At the sound of God’s voice, mountains skip and leap (v. 6). His voice strikes with bolts of lightning and can make the wilderness shake (v. 7-8). Mighty oaks twist when God speaks and forests are laid bare. The story of creation in Genesis 1 tells us that God used His voice to create the heavens, the earth, and all living things. God’s voice is powerful. So, why do we sometimes have such difficulty hearing it?
Think about it. A voice that is louder than the seas, that can split and knock down trees, cause mountains to jump, and lay bare the wilderness has got to be a voice that you couldn’t possibly miss. In Scripture, God’s voice is often described as thunder. Unless you’ve lived in a soundproof booth all your life, you know that thunder is quite loud. In fact, thunder usually ranges between 120 and 135 decibels. That compares to the sound of an ambulance siren or to someone shouting in your ear. So if God has a voice like thunder, why do we sometimes have such difficulty hearing it?
In 1 Kings 19:11-12, Elijah waited on the Lord at Mount Horeb. As he stood there, a wind blew that was strong enough to break rocks. But Elijah did not find God in the wind. After the wind died down, an earthquake shook and a fire raged, but Elijah did not find God in them either. But following the fire, there was a gentle blowing sound. In the King James Version, it refers to the sound as a still small voice. And it was in this quiet sound, this gentle whisper, that Elijah found God. In Psalm 46:10, God tells us to be still and know that He is God. In Isaiah 55:3, He tells us to incline our ears and listen to Him. So, although God has a voice like thunder, He speaks to us in a whisper, in a still small voice. Why? Because He wants us to give our full attention to His voice.
The average person’s whisper registers 20 decibels, well below the decibel range of a normal speaking voice. When someone whispers something to us, we need to lean in, we need to get close to that person in order to hear. That’s why God speaks to us in whispers. He wants us to lean into Him. Our heavenly Father wants us to draw close to Him just as an earthly father wants his children to draw close. God speaks to us in whispers. He speaks to us through promptings in our hearts. But, if we are to hear Him, to hear His voice, we need to give Him our full attention. We need to push aside all of the other voices that clamor for our attention and incline our ears to Him and listen.