January 29, 2010 on 8:14 pm | In REVELATION FOR BEGINNERS | Comments Off on A VOICE LIKE MANY WATERS, Rev. 1:15b

What are we to make of a voice that sounds like “many waters”? Is there any symbolism here? How would this fit in with the theme that we have been following so far—justice and mercy combined in Christ?

It’s possible this is simply an attempt by the writer to use as descriptive a word as possible to explain the sound of Jesus’ voice, i.e. it sounds sort of like a babbling brook or a waterfall perhaps. In fact, Ezekiel 43:2 uses the same phrase to describe the voice of God. In addition, Ezekiel 1:24 expands on the idea when it describes the sound of the wings of the “living creatures” as being “like the noise of many waters, like the voice of the Almighty, a tumult like the noise of an army.” Revelation repeats the phrase in chapter 14:2 where a voice from heaven is heard “like the voice of many waters, and like the voice of loud thunder.” In Revelation’s sister book, Daniel, chapter 10:6 again refers to “the sound of his words like the voice of a multitude.”

So what’s the point, you may be thinking. The exact sound of the voice may not be as critical as the fact that He is speaking. A person’s voice may arouse either joy or fear. In Revelation 3:20 Jesus is portrayed as knocking at our door. He says if anyone hears His voice and opens the door, He will come in and have dinner with that person. That presumably would be a welcome voice. On the other hand, note in Genesis 3:10 Adam’s reaction after eating the forbidden fruit: “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.” Had God changed? No, but Adam had. It’s sort of like a child who gets into trouble during the day and his mother says, “Wait till your father gets home!” What is his reaction when he hears his father’s voice as he enters the house? Fear, likely, perhaps fear of punishment ( a judgment of sorts). On the other hand, suppose he dearly loves and misses his father who is serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. If the father should make a surprise visit home, (like you may have seen on TV), the child is overjoyed to hear his father’s voice.

Jesus uses an illustration from a common occurrence in His day. In John 10:4, 5 He says the sheep follow him, “for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”

One more thought on this topic: In Revelation 17:15 it mentions that waters represent “peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues.” So if Jesus’ voice sounds like many waters, it might also suggest that He speaks in behalf of those multitudes, including those perhaps whose voices had been silenced by persecution or death, but had been His faithful followers. That could be the mercy side of the issue. But when He stands up for His people, it is an act of judgment against their oppressors. Some look to the judgment fearfully, even as God’s people. But note in Daniel 7, the chapter with a fascinating judgment scene, verse 22 says that “judgment was made in favor of the saints of the Most High”—that means they “win” and the judgment goes automatically against their prosecutors and oppressors.

Revelation has this final invitation: “the Spirit and the Bride say ‘Come!’….And let him who thirsts come. And whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.” The important thing is not so much how His voice sounds, but that we respond positively to His voice calling to us.

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