When I was a speech teacher in college, I spent a little time toward the end of the semester talking about the human voice. I always joked with my students about how there were so many other things to work on that I did not have time to spend on the voice. However, the voice is an important part of hearing a message.
Dr. Willard speaks of three factors in God’s voice that we need to attend to.
Today we are going to talk about one of those, the weight of authority or what I am going to call vocal quality.
Vocal quality on a basic human level is the sound that a person makes with the vocal equipment that God has given them. We make sounds depending on certain physiological factors like nasal passages, vocal folds, and lung capacity. The mouth cavity has an impact, especially how we manipulate the tongue, jaw and lips. We can alter the quality of our voices on purpose. For example, we can have the guttural sound of a pirate with manipulation of our vocal equipment. As well, we can sound like an insecure person through the use of pitch, speech speed and a halting delivery.
But when we are normally talking, we have our own distinct vocal quality.
What would you think God would sound like?
Dr. Willard says God’s voice has the “weight of authority.”
What does that mean to a speech teacher? If I wanted to show authority in my voice, I would do three things. 1. I would talk at a slower pace. A slow pace shows confidence and thoughtfulness whereas a fast pace may mean excitement and lack of thought. 2. I would talk with a low pitch. A lower pitch shows a person who is in control whereas a high pitch may indicate more lack of control. 3. I would speak at a steady cadence rather than a halting, unsure speed.
Some may argue with my descriptors, but a policeman or figure of authority would want to exude authority, not insecurity. They would want to exude seriousness because they expect a response. They would want to demand attention rather than encourage a person to ignore their commands.
Jesus spoke with authority to those He addressed in His earthly ministry. Dr. Willard cites Matthew 7:29 “for He taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.” When I was in the business of creating scholarly writing in my university classes, I tried to learn as much as I could about my topic but my main authority rested on the expert sources that I cited in my footnotes. My authority rested on others who knew my subject.
When you turn to Jesus’ words in the New Testament He did not reference others as He spoke His words. He had the power of God behind Him. His words had the “weight of authority.” Dr. Willard describes the people who spent time with Jesus. [They] “left the presence of Jesus with heads and hearts full of thoughts and convictions that He had authored in them through the power of God’s voice and word with which He spoke.”
I find it fascinating that Dr. Willard draws from John Wesley’s first sermon to describe the qualitative voice of God. “How, I pray, do you distinguish day from night? How do you distinguish light from darkness; or the light of a star, or a glimmering taper, from the light of the noonday sun? Is there not an inherent, obvious, essential difference between the one and the other? And do you not immediately and directly perceive that difference?…. In like manner, there is an inherent, essential difference between spiritual light and spiritual darkness…and that light wherewith the Sun of Righteousness shines upon our heart and that glimmering light which arises from ‘sparks of our own kindling.’”
In my experience, as with Dr. Willard, I have become more aware of God working within me as I have felt His word affect me and others around me. Keep in mind that when God reveals something to you it is a special revelation for you and you alone. When I have revealed God’s words to me to others, something has been lost in translation. That’s ok. The word was not for others; it was for me and me alone.
I am going to close with a quote that Dr. Willard uses to describe God’s word of authority. From Adele Rogers St. John: “You can mistake rhinestones for diamonds, but you can never mistake a diamond for a rhinestone.”
When you hear that voice with its weight of authority, you will know. When you act on that command, you will know…