The Psalmist declared,” “The heavens are telling of the glory of God” (Psa. 19:1). The estimated number of stars as of 2010 was 300 sextillion. That is 300 followed by 21 zeroes! Scientists at Kitt Peak National Observatory southwest of Tucson recently reported the discovery of a supercluster of galaxies believed to be the largest known entity in space: one billion light years across! Light travels almost six trillion miles in one year. Wow, the immensity of God’s created universe is totally beyond our human comprehension. The Psalmist was very impressed and he didn’t have nearly the knowledge of the universe that we now have.
Our amazing planet and the variety of plant and animal life is also a reflection of our glorious Creator. David wrote: “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is Thy name in all the earth, who hast displayed Thy splendor above the heavens” (Psa. 8:1). In Isaiah’s vision, he saw seraphim near the throne in heaven calling out, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory” (Isa. 6:3). Nature is rich with the glory of God, yet probably nothing on Earth reflects holiness quite like a phenomenon that we have witnessed on numerous occasions this summer here in the northwest and that is lightning which often accompanies summer thunderstorms. I believe we had more thunderstorms early summer (and one again last week) than I’ve seen before here in this area. As long as you are in a safe location they are pretty awesome to watch. These blinding veins of glowing air and the accompanying booming thunder are reminders of the brilliant purity and unimaginable power of our Lord God.
“We do not completely understand the mechanics of lightning and how God creates it or why He uses these powerful rivers of electricity to pierce the sky with the searing heat and brilliant light left in the wake as it tunnels its way through the atmosphere. A lightning bolt can reach a temperature of 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit–five times as hot as the surface of the sun! That heat causes the air to violently explode as it expands sending out a shockwave of thunder in all directions. Compared to man-made electricity, the power of a thunderstorm is staggering. A single bolt of lightning can deliver an electrical punch of 100 million volts and 100,000 amps. The violent turbulence of a thunderhead, with its powerful updrafts and swirling downdrafts, is what creates the potential for lightning. Like a dam breaking under a surge of water, an electrically-charged thunderhead bursts open, plunging electrons down toward earth. A brilliant rush of light then travels upwards of 60,000 miles per second (greater than 200 million miles per hour), followed by a deafening flood of sound. The current of electricity that causes a lightning flash may travel many miles through the air but is only an inch in diameter–as a result, most lightning appears to be slender and thin. Jesus fashions each bolt with several distinct upward strokes. These strokes move so quickly that our eyes cannot tell them apart. What we do see is a ‘flickering’ to the lightning flash.” (Information taken from His Nature, issue 2, by Tyndale House Publishers).
After Job’s long ordeal of suffering and loss, one of his counselors, Elihu, spoke and described the “unknowableness” of God in His mighty power. He uses thunder and lightning as an illustration: “Listen closely to the thunder of His voice, and the rumbling that goes out from His mouth. Under the whole heaven He lets it loose, and His lightning to the ends of the earth. After it, a voice roars; He thunders with His majestic voice; and He does not restrain the lightnings when His voice is heard. God thunders with His voice wondrously, doing great things which we cannot comprehend” (Job 37:2-5). Then God finally speaks to Job out of a whirlwind, guiding him on a panoramic sweep of nature, showing Job the vastness of the mind of God and smallness of mortal man. He mentions laying the foundations of the earth, enclosing the seas, forming the clouds, causing the earth to spin to provide day and night and season, bringing forth springs in the seas. He speaks of storehouses of the snow and hail, and wind currents. Then He also mentions how He made “a way for the thunderbolt” (Job 38, esp. v. 25).
Jesus even used lightning as an illustration for His return in glory to the earth. “For just as the lightning comes from the east, and flashes even to the west, so shall the coming of the Son of Man be” (Mt. 24:27). He goes on to explain that at the end of the Tribulation, the sun and the moon will be darkened and the powers of heaven shaken, “and then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky…coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory” (vv. 29,30). The sky will be completely dark when Christ returns in all His glorious, radiant light to reign as “KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS” (Rev. 19:16). Several passages in the book of Revelation describe a close mingling of lightning with the holy presence of God (Rev. 4:5; 8:5; 11:19; 16:18). Christ’s holiness can be understood as his “absolute purity” and his “otherworldliness.” God is without sin, and is utterly different from us (Isa. 55:8). In this sense, lightning is an apt reflection of God’s holy character–lightning is composed of pure electrons and nothing else. The lightning we experience against the darkened sky is the afterglow of a stream of electricity tunneling its way through the air, creating heat and light as it goes. We don’t see the electricity itself. Similarly, no one has seen God either, but God the Son, Jesus Christ, “He has explained (declared) Him” (Jn. 1:18). If we want to know our Creator we must look to the brilliance of Jesus Christ, who “is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature” (Heb. 1:3). There is no other way to see our invisible God.
The effects of electricity and lightning are stunning, to be sure, but the Son of God possesses infinitely greater beauty and power. Some people are frightened by lightning and thunder, and that’s understandable. But we are all amazed by it and hopefully, these “flickers” of God’s glory will inspire us with a deeper wonder of our Creator as we contemplate trembling with joy and awe one day as we stand before the breathtaking throne of our loving and holy Lord.