Who was the LORD" of the Old Testament?

Part 2: The Voice of God

John Plunkett

December 16, 2017

In the sermon today, I would like to talk to you about the voice of God.

But by way of getting there, I have an introduction that may, at first, seem to be totally unrelated!  But I’m sure that, as we go through it, you’ll see that it is, in fact, related. 

Let’s begin with two scriptures – both written by the apostle Paul:

II Timothy 3:
14:  But continue you in the things which you have learned and have been assured of, knowing of whom you have learned them.
15:  And that from a child you have known the holy scriptures, which are able to make you wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
16:  All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
17:  That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

We all know what doctrine, correction and instruction are; but what about “reproof”?  That’s not a word that we frequently use, is it?

From the Thesaurus, we find that its English synonyms include: criticism, blame, accusation, rebuke and scolding.  Don’t like the sound of that too much!

But the word reproof is translated here from the Greek noun elegchos (Strong’s 1650), which is elsewhere translated as evidence.  Its extended Greek meanings include:

• A proof, 
• That by which a thing is proved or tested
• Conviction

Like all of those who speak at church services, I have a grave responsibility to do my very best to speak the truth in my sermons.  And, if I find that anything I have said was not – or may not have been true – according to God’s written Word, I need to be man enough to admit it, confess it and repent of it, so that I can strive to avoid making similar errors in the future. 

And so, I find that there is a possibility that I may need some reproof and correction!  I say “possibility” and “may be” because, whether I am actually in need of reproof and correction or not seems to hang on the meaning of the intent of Jesus’ words in a scripture that I quoted – and commented on dogmatically – in my last sermon on November 25th.  This scripture:

John 5:37:
And the Father Himself, which has sent me, has borne witness of me.  You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His shape…

I quoted this verse as part of my proofs that God the Father was not the LORD/YHVH of the Old Testament scriptures.  

I said – correctly, I believe – that Jesus was speaking to some Jews who were planning to kill Him.  I did not quote the verses that tell us this; but here they are now:

John 5:
18:  Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill Him, because He not only had broken the Sabbath, but said also that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.
19:  Then answered Jesus and said unto them
{those murderous Jews}, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, ‘The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for what things soever He does, these also does the Son likewise…

And in the subsequent verses of John 5, Jesus was talking about God the Father and their relationship. 

My error, I believe, was that I may have been wrongly dogmatic when I said that the “you” in verse 37 refers, not just to that group of Jews to whom Jesus was talking at that time; but to all Jews, all Israelites – and in fact, all of mankind!

And I backed up that statement by quoting this other statement of Jesus’ in the very next chapter: 

John 6:46:
Not that any man has seen the Father, save He which is of God, He has seen the Father.

Now, in addition to the other verses that we read in my last sermon, this verse – John 6:46 – certainly does back up and expand the second phrase of John 5:37 – the “nor seen His shape” phrase – expands it from just that group of Jews – to “any man” – i.e. all of mankind in all eras.

But the target audience of the phrase “You have neither heard His voice at any time” is somewhat questionable.  Not that Jesus was straying from the truth, of course.  But there’s some possibility that I may have been.  

Not that I did so purposely, of course.  But the mistake I made was that I failed to obey one of the first rules of Bible study – which is: Check the context and the other scriptures on the subject!

I was aware of the scriptures that do seem to state that the voice of God the Father was heard on a few occasions.  We’ll start looking at these in a minute.  But I honestly believed that Jesus’ statement here in John 5:37, if taken on its own, “trumped” those verses (if you’ll excuse the term); and that there were logical explanations for what is said in those verses: e.g. perhaps God the Father was speaking through angels.  Personally, I still believe that this may have been the case.

But, after examining the Greek, consulting various Bible commentaries, and reading other Church of God ministers’ explanations of this verse, I found that there may be some reason to soften my former dogmatic stance on it.

However, by the way, this clarification today in no way negates anything that I said in my last sermon – other than the possibility that some human beings may have heard the Father’s voice on a very few occasions.  I still stand solidly behind the fact that Jesus – not God the Father – was the LORD of the Old Testament.

Okay, so let’s home in on the subject of God’s voice!  The powerful voice of God the Father!  And the mighty voice of Jesus Christ, our great Prince!

What language do they speak in heaven on a daily basis?  To each other?  And to their angels?  Do they speak Hebrew, perhaps?  Or their “pure language” mentioned in Zephaniah 3:9? 

We’ll get into these questions in a future sermon.  But for today, what do their voices sound like?

The Bible gives us some idea.  The apostle John tells us that the voice of the glorified Jesus is like the sound of many waters:

Revelation 1:
13:  And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the chest with a golden girdle…
Verse 15:  And His feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and His voice
{Greek "phone"} as the sound {same Greek word: phone} of many waters…

John also wrote that the Father’s voice may be very similar:

Revelation 14:
1:  And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with Him a hundred forty and four thousand, having His Father’s name written in their foreheads.
2a:  And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters…

But more than just the sound of many waters:

2b: … and as the voice of a great thunder: 

The Greek word translated as "voice here – and in many other New Testament “voice” scriptures – is “phone” (pronounced fo-nay – Strong’s 5456).  Although it is translated 131 times as voice, it is also translated eight times as sound and twice as noise

Does this voice in Revelation 14:2 refer to the Father’s voice?  It doesn’t actually say so.  It just says that this voice (or sound, or noise) came “from heaven.”  It could, perhaps, be referring to the combined voices of the 144,000.

Just as John did here, David too was inspired to link the sound of God’s voice with many waters and of thunder:

Psalms 29:3:
The voice of the LORD is upon the waters: the God of glory thunders: the LORD is upon many waters.

In fact, if my counting is correct, most human beings in both Old and New Testament times who have heard God’s voice – either in a vision or reality – have likened it to the sound of very loud thunder.  Here are some of the relevant scriptures:

II Samuel 22:14:
The LORD thundered from heaven, and the Most High uttered His voice.

Job 37:
4:  After it a voice roars: He thunders with the voice of His excellency; and He will not stay them
{i.e. He will not restrain the thunderous sound} when His voice is heard.
5:  God thunders marvellously with His voice; great things does He, which we cannot comprehend.

Job 40:9:
Have you an arm like God?  Or can you thunder with a voice like Him?

Psalms 18:13:
The LORD also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave His voice; hail stones and coals of fire.

Psalms 77:18:
The voice of your thunder was in the heaven: the lightnings lightened the world: the earth trembled and shook.

Psalms 104:7:
At your rebuke they fled; at the voice of your thunder they hasted away.

Also, we find that the voice of God has a few connections with, and comparisons to, to the sound of trumpets:

Exodus 19:
16:  And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled…

The Hebrew word for “voice” is “kole” and, just like its New Testament Greek counterpart, it can also mean an inanimate sound or noise.

17: And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with God {Elohiym}; and they stood at the nether {lower} part of the mount.
18:  And Mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the LORD
{YHVH} descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly.
19:  And when the voice
{kole} {kole} of the trumpet sounded {kole} long, and waxed louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God {Elohiym} answered him by a voice {kole}.
20:  And the LORD
{YHVH} came down upon mount Sinai, on the top of the mount: and the LORD {YHVH} called Moses up to the top of the mount; and Moses went up.
21: And the
LORD {YHVH} said unto Moses, “Go down, charge the people, lest they break through unto the LORD {YHVH} to gaze, and many of them perish.”

This was such an amazing event that it was remembered centuries later by the writer of the book of Hebrews:

Hebrews 12:
18:  For you are not come unto the mount
{Sinai} that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest,
19:  And the sound
{Greek: echos} of a trumpet, and the voice {phone} of words; which they that heard intreated that the word should not be spoken to them anymore:
20:  (For they could not endure that which was commanded, “And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart”:

The thunder, the blackness, the cloud and the noise was so intense that the Israelites couldn’t stand it. 

Here are some of the other verses that connect God’s voice with the sound of a trumpet:

I Thessalonians 4:16:
For the Lord
{Kurios} Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice {phone} of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God {Theos}: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:

This verse might indicate that God might sometimes speak through His angelic servants.  We’ll examine this possibility some more – probably next time.

Revelation 1:
10:  I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day
{the Day of the Lord}, and heard behind me a great voice {phone}, as of a trumpet...

The voice of a trumpet?  Yes.  But in John’s vision, this voice was understandable – and identified its Speaker:

11a: Saying, “I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last”…

We know that when that "Day of the Lord" comes to pass, this "Alpha and Omega" will be Jesus.

Still in John’s Revelation vision, he heard a similar-sounding voice again – from the same Speaker:

Revelation 4:1: 
After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice
{phone} which I heard {i.e. the same voice as John had heard in chapter 1} was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, “Come up here, and I will show you things which must be hereafter.”

We have read about the sounds of trumpets, the sounds of thunders, and the sounds of many waters (and in a future sermon we will look into the sound of the “still small voice” (I Kings 19:12)). 

But there have been some human beings who have heard God’s voice verbally!  Plainly and understandably!

In almost every case of God’s voice being heard by human beings, in both Old and New Testaments, it was the voice of the LORD (YHVH) or that of the Lord Jesus that was heard.  This makes sense, of course, because, as we saw last time in Part 1, Jesus was and is the Logos.  He was and is the Spokesman.  He was and is the Word of God!

Hebrews 1:
1:  God
{yes, God the Father}, who at sundry times and in divers manners spoke in time past unto the fathers {their human forefathers} by the prophets,
2:  Has in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, whom He has appointed Heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds;

I said, “Almost in every case.”  So, I ask the question again: Have there been any cases at all when the voice of God the Father has been heard by a human being?

If you read John 5:37 on its own, it seems to negate that possibility.  But let’s look at the scriptures that seem to state that the voice of God the Father was heard by human beings.  

At Jesus' Baptism

Let’s start with Jesus’ baptism:

Matthew 3:17:
And lo a voice
{phone} {phone} from heaven, saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” 

Mark 1:11:
And there came a voice
{phone} from heaven, saying, “You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

Luke 3:22:
And the Holy Spirit descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon Him, and a
voice {phone} came from heaven, which said, “You are my beloved Son; in you I am well pleased.”

Please note that none of these three accounts – nor their contexts – state who actually heard the voice from heaven.  They do not say whether or not any of the other people present heard it.

Both Mark and Luke use the word “You” – showing us that the voice was directed to Jesus Himself.  Maybe only to Jesus!

If so, one might ask, how did the three synoptic gospel writers know what the voice said?  This is no mystery.  We can ask this same question about many events in which the authors were not present or could not have known the details first-hand – without the LORD/YHVH or the human Jesus telling them – either directly or by inspiration through the Holy Spirit.

At the Transfiguration

Matthew 16:28:
"Verily I say unto you, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in His kingdom."

This was fulfilled almost right away.  The “some standing here” did eventually “taste death,” of course; otherwise they’d still be alive today.  But they’re not.  No.  Jesus allowed three of His disciples to experience a vision of seeing Him in His Kingdom.  It is important to notice that it was a vision!

Matthew 17: 
1:  And after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and brought them up into a high mountain apart,

I’m not totally sure which "high mountain" this was.  Peter calls it “the holy mount” in his second epistle – which we’ll come back to in a few minutes.  

2:  And was transfigured before them: and His face did shine as the sun, and His raiment was white as the light.
3:  And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with Him.

As we shall see, this was a vision.  One in which the three disciples were transported, in spirit, perhaps to another location; but certainly, to some future instant in time after the First Resurrection – a time when Elijah and Moses will be alive again.

It was like a dream to the disciples.  They were transported in vision, possibly to another place.  Maybe to the Mount of Olives just after Jesus has landed on earth.  We don’t know, as it does not say where the location is.  But certainly to some future instant in time, after the First Resurrection.

5:  While He yet spoke, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice {phone} out of the cloud, which said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear you Him.”
6:  And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid…
Verse 9:  And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying, “Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead.”

Two other accounts of this vision can be found in the other two synoptic gospel accounts of Mark and Luke.  Both mention that the voice came from a cloud:

Mark 9:7:
And there was a cloud that overshadowed them: and a voice
{phone} came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my beloved Son: hear Him.”

I wonder if that cloud was the same one – or a similar one – as the cloud that the LORD/YHVH used during the Exodus period.  

Here’s Luke’s version:

Luke 9: 
34:  While He thus spoke, there came a cloud, and overshadowed them: and they feared as they entered into the cloud…

Who wouldn’t have been afraid?!

35: And there came a voice {phone} out of the cloud, {phone} out of the cloud, saying, “This is my beloved Son: hear Him.” 
36: And when the voice
{phone} was past, Jesus was found alone.  And they kept it close, and told no man in those days any of those things which they had seen.

Peter was one of the three disciples who were blessed to have been given that amazing vision.  He recalled it in his second epistle:

II Peter 1:
16:  For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty…

The Greek word translated “majesty” is “megaleiotes” (Strong’s 3168) which can also mean mighty power and/or magnificence… just as Peter, James and John had witnessed in the transfiguration vision.  In that vision, they saw Him in His glorified state – or maybe a necessarily "dimmed-down" version of it.

17:  For He {Jesus} received from God the Father honour and glory {Greek: doxa}, when there came such a voice {phone} to Him {Jesus} from the Excellent Glory, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
18:  And this voice
{phone} which came from heaven we heard, when we were with Him in the holy mount.

A few questions arise from Peter’s account.  Let’s cover them in reverse order:

1. With Peter calling the mountain on which they experienced the transfiguration vision “the holy mount,” I personally would think that it might have been Mount Moriah/Zion on which His temple will stand (Isaiah 27:13; 66:20), or the Mount of Olives (to which He will return), or even Mount Sinai/Horeb from where His law was given. 

However, some scholars teach that, due to the group’s proximity to Caesarea Philippi prior to the vision (Matthew 16:13; Mark 8:27), it must have been either Mount Hermon or Mount Tabor.

But as is evidenced by the three locations of Jesus’ temptation by Satan (Matthew 4; Mark 1; Luke 4 (i.e. up into the wilderness, back to the temple in Jerusalem, up to an exceedingly high mountain)), in the spiritual realm, actual geographical proximity is not a limiting factor.

2. Also interesting is that Peter – who was there in person – wrote that the voice "came from heaven," whereas Matthew, Mark and Luke, who were not there, wrote that the voice came "out of the cloud."  Could it be possible, therefore, that Jesus took them – in this bright cloud – and in vision – not just to a high mountaintop – but to heaven?

There are numerous scriptures – too numerous for us to go through all of them today – that associate the heaven of God’s throne to a mountaintop; but please consider just these few:

Nehemiah 9:13:
You came down also upon Mount Sinai, and spoke with them from heaven, and gave them right judgments, and true laws, good statutes and commandments:

Psalms 144:5:
Bow your heavens, O LORD, and come down: touch the mountains, and they shall smoke
{something like a cloud?}

Isaiah 64:1:
Oh that you would rend the heavens, that you would come down, that the mountains might flow down at your presence,

Isaiah 14:
13: For you
{Heylel: Satan} have said in your heart, “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:
14: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be {like} the Most High.

Hebrews 12:22:
But you are come unto Mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels,

Could it be possible that Jesus took the three disciples, in the vision, through this bright cloud, not just to a high mountain top; but to heaven?

Or, as some of these scriptures imply, that God can temporarily bring some partial representation of heaven down to a high mountain top and that that is where Jesus took the three disciples in vision.

That is what these scriptures suggest to me.  These are wonderful and amazing things for us to contemplate.

3. Who or what was “the Excellent Glory”? 

II Peter 1:16-18 tell us that, in the vision, he (Peter), James and John:

But was it the actual voice of God the Father?  

And again, who or what was “the Excellent Glory”?

The Greek translated as Excellent is Megaloprepes (Strong’s 3169).  It is only found this once in the scriptures.  Its extended Greek meanings include: Befitting a great person, Magnificent, Splendid, Full of Majesty and Majestic.  The word stems from two others Megas and Prepo which are also significant when used separately:

Megas (Strongs 3173) means great.  And it can also mean loud, which is very interesting when applied to God’s voice.  Extended Greek meanings include Greatness:

The Greek word Prepo (Strong’s 4241) means to stand out, to be conspicuous, to be eminent, to be comely, becoming, seemly or fit.

These two words when used together tend to double the holiness of the Subject.  The word Glory actually trebles the magnificence of it.

In II Peter 1:17, the word "glory" appears twice and in both cases is translated from the Greek word Doxa (Strong’s 1391), which is translated elsewhere as glorious, honour, praise, dignity and worship.  Its extended Greek meanings include: 

Although all of these terms also apply to Jesus, it would appear that, in this case, “the Excellent Glory” was/is God the Father, and that this was His voice.

But!  It is very important for us to remember that the whole transfiguration experience – including the voice the three disciples heard – was a vision of a future event.  Not “real-time”!   They did not hear the voice of God the Father in “real time”!

It was a vision of a future event (probably toned down for their benefit).  A vision of a future event which will take place at a time when they will be able to withstand what they could not withstand back then as human beings – just as the Israelites weren't able to either.  They too were exceedingly fearful.

At that future event, as resurrected Spirit beings – newly born sons of God the Father – they will be able to withstand seeing the blindingly brilliant appearance of the glorified Jesus, their Elder Brother, in full brightness, and also to be able to hear the thundering voice of God the Father at full volume.

They saw and heard what they did in a God-given vision.  From what we understand, a vision is something like a dream.  In a dream, we might think that we are in another place, we might "hear" somebody talking and we might "see" things happening; but in reality, we are lying in our bed at home and we didn’t really see or hear the things that we dreamt we did.

The bottom line here and the main thing to remember is that the transfiguration vision and experience were not real time, and that the three disciples did not actually hear the voice of God the Father in real time.