Sound vs. Noise

Teaching English as a second language isn’t always the easiest task in the world.

I don’t often think about the differences between the words “will” and “going to.” For example, in the sentence — I _____________ be 35 in February. Do you make that “I will be 25 in February” or “I am going to be 35 in February”? It’s an odd thing to teach.

I’ve also had to explain words like gene, cereal, and encyclopedia. It’s a weird but wonderful gig.

Several of my students have been learning about the senses lately. It’s fun to teach smell and sight because there’s a lot of play and funny faces. Hearing is always filled with laughter as we make all sorts of sounds and ask “What makes this sound?”

It’s gets a little more woolly when I have to explain the difference between “sound” and “noise.”

The simplest way to explain it is  —

Sound is what we hear. Noise is an unwanted sound.

Unfortunately, native English speakers often use these words interchangeably and you can only tell if it’s good or bad by the tone of the speaker. It’s a sticky wicket for sure!

Both “noise” and “sound” are found in the Bible numerous times.

  • Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises! – Psalm 98: 4
  • Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! – Psalm 100: 1
  • …the noise of their wings was like the noise of many chariots with horses rushing into battle. – Revelation 9: 9
  • But he said, “It is not the sound of shouting for victory, or the sound of the cry of defeat, but the sound of singing that I hear.” – Exodus 32: 18
  • And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. – 1 Kings 19: 12
  • The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” – John 3: 8

Random side note: sometimes in the New Testament “sound” is used but it has nothing to do with hearing. It’s used for good, in-line with Scripture teaching.

Now, back to hearing, sound, and noise…

I’ve not done any research on the Hebrew or Greek words for noise or sound so this post is less of a teaching and more of an observation.

So, without further ado, here are my top 5 observations regarding sound vs. noise.

1. God loves it either way.

Make a Joyful Noise

It must because God love us like He does that God doesn’t care if we’re making noise or sound, He’ll take it! He wants to hear our whining, our anger, and all of our woes. But when we praise, when we declare the Truth of Who He is and what He’s done for us, I think that’s His favorite. It doesn’t have to make sense. It doesn’t have to be coherent. It doesn’t even have to be actual words. He wants us to make “joyful noise” to and for Him — like a child telling an incoherent story or humming a tune that only exists in them. If you’ve ever listen to a young child tell a happy story, you probably weren’t able to follow along — as if anyone could! — but just listening to their excited voice is amazing because you know it’s flowing out of a joyful heart!

2.The enemy only hears noise when we’re glorifying God.

Make a Joyful Noise

Satan hates everything that God loves. If God loves our praise — even when it’s only noise — so it stand to reason that Satan hates it. Anything he can do to quiet our voices, he’ll do. So, sing it, say it, hum it, or mumble it but declare that praise because it’s sure to cause the enemy to flee.

3.God always make a sound. Never a noise.

Make a Joyful Noise

My research isn’t extensive but from what I’ve explored on Bible Gateway, whenever we hear God speak, it’s always a sound. He may send forth a noise, as if for war, as a consequence or preparation but He only speaks in a sound. His voice is calming, even when it’s corrective. His voice is full of love, even when it’s declaring discipline. His voice is never unwanted or annoying. What He said? Sure, maybe we don’t want to hear the message but His voice is always loving, comforting, and perfect. There can be no noise in it.

4.Sounds aren’t always “positive.”

Make A Joyful NoiseIf you read through Psalms, you’ll find several accounts referencing God hearing the sound of our tears. And I’m not talking happy tears. This isn’t exactly a positive thing — but it’s always good.

Tears, even though they hurt, are special. The ones we share them with matter. When we share our tears with God, He doesn’t dismiss them or treat them lightly. In fact, the Bible tells us that God keeps track of each one. He bottles them. Who else loves us that much?

Psalm 56: 8

5. War creates both sound and noise.

Make a Joyful Noise

I admit, this one kind of surprise me at first. How can war be a good thing? How can it be anything more than a noise?

Because sometimes it’s important to fight. War has sounds I’ve never heard. I’m blessed to live in country where war is only something heard about on the news.

However, Christians live constantly hearing the sounds of the spiritual battle – or, at least, we should. Our spiritual war should include the noise coming from the enemy camp as he calls out to the spiritually lost. We should hear the noises coming from those entering Hell. We should hear the sound of Grace being issued from our Commander coming from our lips. We should hear the sound of love coming from every action we do in His name.

Sound and noise may not be the easiest thing to teach my English as a Second Language students but I’m grateful for the questions they created. I’m glad for the words of wisdom that God shares regarding both words.

Do you have any thoughts on sound vs. noise? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Sound vs Noise



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