If we want to understand more about the lightning of God, which is His love, then we need to know a little bit about the thunder, too. For never in the world as we know it is there lightning without thunder.
Yesterday, we saw Moses reminding Israel that God brought lightning out of His right hand because of His great love for them, and we know that it must be true. For only love cuts light through darkness, makes a way in the storm, ignites a fire - all things that we know that lightning does. Even when it seems like a power play, we know that God does what God does out of the depths of His love.
We know it even better when, after the lightning, the Lord speaks. Hence, the thunder.
When you look at thunder in the Bible, you see quickly a pattern developing: thunder is the noise that the people hear when God is speaking directly to someone in their presence. Someone within earshot hears the voice of the Lord speaking, but the rest of the camp just hears thunder.
This was the case when Moses was on the mountain, and it's actually why the people so quickly deferred to his leadership. They heard the thunder and knew that the Lord was speaking to him, and it was such a powerful noise that they trembled before it and decided they did not want the Lord speaking directly to them. It happened when Saul/Paul was blinded on the road to Damascus; he heard the voice of the Lord, but those traveling with him just heard thunder.
What if it's still happening today?
I know, I know. We've taken all the fun out of thunder by "explaining" it with our scientific notions. Thunder follows lightning because light moves faster than sound, so the force of the light pushing through the dense air creates a sort of sonic boom that is then heard as thunder. And if you listen closely, you can determine how far away the storm is by calculating the amount of time between the flash of lightning and its subsequent thunder.
What if thunder is still the sound of God speaking to His people? What if every time you heard thunder, someone, somewhere within range, was hearing the voice of God Himself? What if what they were hearing was an answer to their prayer? What if it was a word for the community? What if it was an affirmation of all that God is, of the greatness of His love?
It's not too far of a stretch to say that in the same breath that God cuts through the darkness with light, He speaks a new word to someone listening. We know that He does. It is the pattern of our faith, not just in the stories that we have in the Scriptures, but in our own stories. Every time our darkness is lifted, it's replaced with a new word from God for living redeemed. Every time the power of God shows up, so does His love. Every time His right hand moves, His heart speaks.
Moses was right. It's absolutely love.
In lightning and thunder, of all things.