Voices are distinctive. When you hear a familiar voice from someone out of sight, you automatically recognise and identify. You don’t need to analyse the pattern of frequencies, the combination of harmonics, or the different degrees of resonance. The subconscious sifts.
The psalms, poetic and mystical though they may be, are full of voices. The fact that we do not always immediately identify them may be something to do with familiarity but it’s also because they are indeed poetical and mystical, not physical.
Take the voice of the divine power. In the business of daily life we seldom pull up short and say: ‘That’s a heavenly voice speaking.’
Psalm 29 says the voice of God:
- is over the waters
- full of majesty
- breaks the cedars of Lebanon
- flashes forth flames of fire
- shakes the wilderness
- causes the oaks to whirl, and strips the forest bare;
How much of that would we instantly recognise as not just the weather or global warming? Those who have suffered severe losses in recent bushfires raging in South Australia and Victoria may find it hard to hear a voice of comfort and strength from that source. It may come from that or another direction. Our thoughts and prayers go out to them.
John Greenleaf Whittier‘s prayer was: “Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire, O still, small voice of calm!”
We need to listen, of course. But the psalmist seeks more than just hearing: the final verse of Psalm 29 is a prayer:
May God give strength to his people! May God bless his people with peace!