We have heard the expression “Mother Nature,” but nature, of course, has no gender. Nature is the creation of God and can point us to God. But it is not God. Mother Nature is “a personification of nature that focuses on the life-giving and nurturing aspects of nature by embodying it, in the form of the mother.” But it is not our mother. Hinduism and pantheism are rooted in nature, with gods in rivers, mountains, trees and animals. But they are not God.
God does speak through “nature,” and we read that God answered Moses with thunder on the top of Mount Sinai (Exodus 19.18). It must have been loud and terrifying. In fact, when the people heard the thunder, “they trembled with fear and stood a long way off” (Exodus 20.18).
Thunder can be like that. Have you ever heard a sudden, loud clash of thunder, one that frightened you? Consider what happened when Samuel was offering a sacrifice and the Philistines were about to attack: “the LORD thundered against them. They became completely confused and fled in panic” (1 Samuel 7.10). God’s voice was heard: “the LORD thundered from the sky, and the voice of the Almighty God was heard” (2 Samuel 22.4). Or, as is recorded elsewhere, “Listen, all of you, to the voice of God, to the thunder than comes from his mouth” (Job 37.2). God questions Job: “Are you as strong as I am? Can your voice thunder as loud as mine? (Job 40.9). Obviously not because “The voice of the LORD is heard on the seas; the glorious God thunders, and his voice echoes over the ocean” (Psalm 29.3). When this happens, “Nations are terrified, kingdoms are shaken; God thunders, and the earth dissolves” (Psalm 46.6). Not a very calm picture when God decides to “thunder”!
Jeremiah was also warned that the Lord would thunder from heaven: “You, Jeremiah, must proclaim everything I have said. You must tell these people, ‘The Lord will roar from heaven and thunder from the heights of heaven. He will roar against his people; he will shout like a man treading grapes. Everyone on earth will hear him, and the sound will echo to the ends of the earth” (Jeremiah 25.30-32a).
In John 12, Jesus asks the Father to bring glory to his name and a voice speaks saying that he has brought glory to it. “The crowd standing there heard the voice, and some of them said it was thunder, while others said, “An angel spoke to him!” (v. 29). The magnitude of the voice was confusing to the hearers.
The book of Revelation is resplendent with stunning voices, rumblings and peals of thunder, even seven thunders. Thunder is most often interpreted as the voice of God and conveys the vast power of God when he speaks.
God not only speaks through nature, but he also controls it. In judgement, he sent scorching winds to destroy crops (Deuteronomy 28.22). God can also speak through that wind, but he is not the wind. He did so with Elijah when He passed by and “sent a furious wind that split the hills and shattered the rocks—but the Lord was not in the wind” (1 Kings 19.11). The notion of wind is also metaphorical: “He flew swiftly on his winged creature; he traveled on the wings of the wind” (2 Samuel 22.11; see also Psalm 18.10). He uses “the winds as your messengers and flashes of lightning as your servants” (Psalm 104.4).
God commands the winds (Psalm 197.25), just as Jesus did: “Jesus stood up and commanded the wind, “Be quiet!” and he said to the waves, “Be still!” The wind died down, and there was a great calm” Mark 4.39).
At one point, Job compared his talking to wind: “You think I am talking nothing but wind; then why do you answer my words of despair?” (Job 6.26).
God sees everything and He “gave the wind its power and determined the size of the sea” (Job 28.26). However, “The wind blows wherever it wishes; you hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it is going. It is like that with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3.8). Don’t confuse the wind as being God.
The shortness of our life can also be compared to a “puff of wind” (Psalm 39.11) and that we are “only mortal beings, like a wind that blows by and is gone” (Psalm 78.39). Nevertheless, we should “no longer be children, carried by the waves and blown about by every shifting wind of the teaching of deceitful people, who lead others into error by the tricks they invent” (Ephesians 4.14). And when we pray, we must believe and not doubt, for “Whoever doubts is like a wave in the sea that is driven and blown about by the wind” (James 1.6).
The power of thunder and the wind! They often occur together, like metaphors of nature, and they should point us to the immense power of God and his creation. Of course, sometimes the wind may be gentle and refreshing and the thunder may be far away, but we can always thank God that he sends them for our instruction and benefit.