The Sound of Water – Revelation 14
The routine has stayed the same for years now. A question about homework. Some tucking in of blankets. A short prayer.
The prayer has stayed the same, too. I always pray God would open her ears to hear his voice.
She doesn’t ask her question every night, but she asks it often enough that I have it memorized. I could ask it for her.
“What does his voice sound like?”
My answer is always the same: “like the roar of many waters” (Rev 1:15).
In my heart, I am a poet. My skill with language is no match for that title, but I carry the word with me, regardless. It is the best way I know to describe my love for metaphor. Few things speak as clearly to me as poetic imagery and wordplay.
And yet, I think I understand the discomfort some have with metaphor.
I see it in my daughter’s face when I talk about a voice like water. She thinks metaphor is a failure of language. Though she can’t quite put her frustration into words, I am sure she sees her mother’s metaphors as a symptom of the limits of our understanding and the limits of our language. Because we cannot be precise, we must talk around a subject, saying it is like this or like that.
I see metaphor differently. I believe it is God’s gift to us.
True, nothing could be more exact than hearing a particular voice. But what if we could not only hear that voice but see it? Touch it? Feel its rushing coolness in our mouths even while the sound of it pours in our ears? That is what metaphor accomplishes.
I read those words from Revelation, and I am immersed in the voice of my Savior.
I feel the powerful rush of the voice that spoke the universe into being.
When a metaphor is used more than once, it is like a flag waving. It is like an arrow pointing. It is like a spotlight.
There are words further on in the book of Revelation, in chapter 14, which might be easy for me to skim. Easy for me to pass over. Revelation can be so dense with symbolism and strangeness, even a poetry-lover like myself can feel rebuffed, ill-equipped to dig in.
However, as I skim the strangeness like a skipping rock, I see familiar words. And I hear the sound of water.
“Then I looked, and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven like the roar of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder. The voice I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps, and they were singing a new song before the throne …” (Rev 14:1-3).
I am more poet than theologian. I can’t squeeze the mysterious symbolism of the “144,000” into a neatly labeled box. But I’m fairly certain that you and I, brothers and sisters in Christ’s church, are included in that number. I know we bear the imprint of our Father. I know we are marked by the banner of His name.
And now I know something else.
One day our voices will join the one voice that has been calling us all our lives. Together, we will sing a new song.
And it will be like roaring water.
It will be like thunder.
It will be like the music of harps.
It will be so like yet so unlike anything we have ever heard.
The bedtime routine so near to Christmas feels a little different. We count the days left, and she is giddy. We pray the same prayer, but we also ask for snow.
When she offers the old question, what does his voice sound like?, I change my answer slightly.
I remind her that he once sounded just like her baby sister. Whimpering. Babbling. Full-out infant crying. But, I say, now he is a conquering King. Today, his voice sounds like “the roar of many waters.”
I also tell her this: he who came once, will come again. On that day our voices will join with his.
And together we will roar.
Christie Purifoy earned a PhD in English literature from the University of Chicago. She recently traded reading lists and classrooms for a vegetable garden and a henhouse in southeastern Pennsylvania. Now she writes stories at an old desk in the parlor of a Victorian farmhouse called Maplehurst. When the noise of her four young children makes writing impossible, she tends zucchini and tomatoes her children will later refuse to eat. The zucchini-loving chickens are perfectly happy with this arrangement.
The chickens move fast and the baby crawls faster, but Christie is always watching for the beauty, mystery and wonder that lie beneath it all. When she finds it, she shares it at ChristiePurifoy.com.