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Listening to Voices of Authority
S Herd 12/27/99
You have something no one else has–your voice. Your voice is unique to you. Not another person has a voice identical to yours. It is a gift from God. Others have voices that may be similar in tone, but are not the same. There are similarities between family members. For instance, sisters may sound almost alike. The key is almost the same. The human voice is versatile–what range! Prima donnas can sing and reach such high notes, it is a marvel. Some enjoy listening to such varied singers as Luciano Pavarotti, Barbra Streisand, or Willy Nelson. Some have voices that are distinct, deep and resonant, such as actor James Earl Jones. Then there is the voice of Dan Sydlik, “How good it is to be alive.”
However, we have yet to hear the most pleasant voice in the universe, that of Jehovah God. His is the ultimate voice of authority in heaven and on earth. We might liken it to a waterfall in power, or even crackling thunder. Psalm 29:1-9 tells us to “Ascribe to Jehovah, O YOU sons of strong ones, Ascribe to Jehovah glory and strength. Ascribe to Jehovah the glory of his name. Bow down to Jehovah in holy adornment. The voice of Jehovah is over the waters. The glorious God himself has thundered. Jehovah is over many waters. The voice of Jehovah is powerful; the voice of Jehovah is splendid. The voice of Jehovah is breaking the cedars; Yes, Jehovah breaks the cedars of Leb'a•non in pieces, and he makes them skip about like a calf, Leb'a•non and Sir'i•on like the sons of wild bulls. The voice of Jehovah is hewing with the flames of fire; The voice of Jehovah itself makes the wilderness writhe, Jehovah makes the wilderness of Ka'desh writhe. The voice of Jehovah itself makes the hinds writhe with birth pains and strips bare the forests. And in his temple each one is saying: “Glory!””
We listen with both ears when Jehovah speaks to us, as we know it is good for us. Jehovah never talks just for the sheer joy of talking. When Jehovah speaks he always has something worthwhile to say, something we need to hear and recognize as the voice of authority. We must give it our attention.
Notice Psalm 29:3 says his voice is over the waters. My wife and I had the privilege of viewing Niagara Falls. What a sight! Tons of water tumble over the Falls. The problem was we couldn’t hear each other speak even when we were standing close together. We had to stop talking and just view the Falls. Yet, Jehovah’s voice is over the waters. If we were to gather all of the water on earth into one waterfall, and Jehovah wanted us to hear him, his voice would be crystal clear. His is the ultimate voice of authority.
Verses 4, 5 tell us “His voice is breaking the cedars.” We had the opportunity to hear a prima donna sing. Her voice was so high, it actually shattered glass into thousands of pieces. But, Jehovah’s voice can splinter the very cedars of Lebanon! These trees can grow to a height of 120 ft and a circumference of 40 ft. This gives us insight into the magnificent voice of God. Psalm 29 also said the voice of Jehovah itself makes the wilderness writhe, as a windstorm shifts sands on the desert. This too gives us insight into the ultimate voice of authority.
Can humans hear the voice of God? They did so on three occasions. One was at Matthew 3:17 at Jesus’ baptism. How many humans heard it on that occasion? There was Jesus, who was perfect, and John the Baptizer, who heard God’s voice and lived beyond the hearing. This tells us Jehovah had to modify his voice so John , an imperfect human, could hear his voice and still live Just as a father holds his newborn son and modifies his voice so as not to hurt the infant, Jehovah did so on this occasion. Neither Jesus nor John were harmed. At Matthew 17:5 at the transfiguration His voice was heard by Jesus, Peter, James, and John. They heard and lived to tell about it. The final occasion was in 33 CE before Jesus’ last Passover. John 12:28, 29 tells us the crowds heard it.
Yet, what about Adam? Did he not hear God’s voice even after sinning? And what about Moses? When he received the Law, did he not hear God speak? The Law was most probably given through God’s spokesman. Acts 7:53, Gal 3:19 and Heb 2:2 tells us that the Law was transmitted by angels. Then why do we endorse the first three occasions as being Jehovah’s voice and not any of these others? It is because Jesus was the focal figure in these three accounts. Jehovah wouldn’t need to speak through another angel to convey a message to his son.
How is the voice of God heard today? Not like John the Baptizer, Peter, James, John, or the crowd at Passover. It is through his written Word. Deut 28:1, 2 tells us that we must “without fail listen to the voice of Jehovah your God” How? “By being careful to do all his commandments . . . keep listening to the voice of Jehovah your God:” :” We hear by means of the Bible. God’s voice is the ultimate voice of authority. We must study his voice to know it. We need to listen to it and spend time with it. We may need to know it in a hurry. Whatever it says needs to be said. We cannot study it too much. A few years ago a man named Ross Perrot ran for president. One comedian studied his mannerisms and speech so much, he became an expert at mimicking him. How did he get him so “down pat”? By studying him at length very carefully. We need to get to know the voice of God, so that we will recognize him when he speaks, and not be fooled by someone mimicking him. That is why we go to the meetings to hear his words over and over again. We need them. It is true, we don’t always learn new things. That is not why we go to our meetings. Just as at dinner, we don’t always get new dishes. Often it is the same food we have had before. At our meetings, we get the voice of God over and over again so that we will know his voice when we need to know it; quickly, without hesitation. We will not be fooled by other mimics, such as apostates. They say things that mimic God. We should be alerted that something is wrong. They may say things "in the name of God", but it is neither the mind of God, nor the voice of God. They may say “Just use your conscience, don’t worry. Preach? Just go when you feel like it. There is no urgency.” Be careful–it is not the voice of Jehovah.
Bank tellers are first trained to know a genuine bill (currency) ), not the false. By studying the real dollar, they can recognize a false one right way. There is the story of one man who needed to go to get medicine late at night. He told his wife to lock the door, and not to let anyone else inside. When he returned and knocked at the door, she asked him who it was. He mumbled, “me.” She opened the door. How did she know who it was when he only mumbled “me”? She was so well acquainted with his voice after 25 years of marriage, she immediately knew who it was. We too need to study the voice of God.
The voice of Jesus, too, is awe inspiring like a waterfall ,as Revelation 1:15 shows: “His voice was as the sound of many waters.” This is fitting, as he is the “Word.” He is second only to Jehovah. At Matthew 28:18 it tells us he spoke with all authority. He has the voice of authority. He heads a government of universal domain. He probably is the one who spoke to Adam and guided Israel through the wilderness. What is he telling us to do today? As Matthew 28 in verses 19, 20 show he tells us “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, . . . teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.” This means to preach. We need to ask ourselves, “Am I listening and obeying?” Jesus said at John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the light.” There’s a lot in that expression. Yes, he is the way to happiness, salvation, and eternal life; the way to life of the highest degree this side of Armageddon, and the truth. He never lies. Meditate on his life, such as in the Greatest Man book. His name stands for the executive authority Jehovah placed in him. He has confidence in us as his sheep. At John 10:3 tells us he “calls his own sheep by name.” Whatever your name is, he knows it. Elders, do you know the sheep by name? Do you try to use it? Can we greet them, using their name? It takes time. One day we will know every human on earth. All of the other sheep will know the names of the holy ones, the 144,000. Get in the habit to try to know our brothers.
There is another voice. It is that of “the faithful and discreet slave,” and the Governing Body. They are slaves placed in position by Jehovah and Jesus. It is an arrangement of Gods that we may lose sight of if we are not careful. We may think, “These men are like me–imperfect.” This would cancel out the fact that Jehovah has positioned the slave. Remember Exodus 16:2. The nation of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron. Against whom were they really murmuring? Exodus 16:8 tells us “Jehovah has heard YOUR murmurings that YOU are murmuring against him. And what are we? YOUR murmurings are not against us, but against Jehovah.” They may have thought they were murmuring against imperfect men, but in reality they were guilty of murmuring against God. We would not do so deliberately, but this is a good reminder. Another voice of authority is that of the elders. They are gifts in men to the congregation Ephesians 4:8-12 : ““When he ascended on high he carried away captives; he gave gifts [in] men.” . . .And he gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelizers, some as shepherds and teachers, with a view to the readjustment of the holy ones, for ministerial work, for the building up of the body of the Christ.” Notice–they are given to readjust and build up the flock. They are a gift from Jehovah to us. Do we accept the gift? At Christmas, people receive lots of gifts. Yet, the day afterward , the stores are mobbed as they take them back. Their gifts were not to their liking, or they did not favor them. We must favor gifts from Jehovah, and not “scratch them off.” Jehovah chose the gift. He knows what we need. Will we say, “I don’t know about these elders. Something is wrong with your gift!” They are spirit appointed with the voice of authority. As Hebrews 7:17 says, we must accord them respect and respond.
On the other hand, elders need to listen to the voice of fellow elders. At Exodus 18, Moses listened to Jethro. Verse 24 says “Immediately Moses listened to the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he had said.” Sometimes we do not respond immediately. Maybe it will be too late. We need to give thought to the tone of voice. A man can say “I love you” to his wife in a brusque tone. But what if he said so in a much kinder, loving way? He would get a different response. Let the music match the words, and the voice the message.
What about the voice of husbands? Wives need to listen with deep respect. The same Greek word is translated at Matt 10:28 (“And do not become fearful of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul”) as fearful. Not a morbid fear, but fearful in the sense of not wishing to displease, because of love. Husbands and wives are yoked and need to pull together, not compete. Wives, this doesn’t mean you have no voice in marriage. You have a voice and a wise husband will listen to his wife. He may need to be reminded at times. We recall Jehovah had to remind Abraham to do so. I also had to be reminded of this. One day, while traveling through the Lincoln Tunnel, my wife observed that I was too far from the other cars and should drive a little closer. But I didn’t listen until I heard a policeman’s loud voice on a blow horn say, “Close that gap!” Now that was a voice of authority! I closed the gap immediately.
We need to recognize authority when it speaks to us. The voices of Jehovah, Jesus, “the faithful and discreet slave,” the Governing Body, elders, and husbands are all voices of authority.