Blog, Worship

The Silence in Scripture

Lately, one of the things I’ve been studying has been silence in Scripture and how we’re to react to it. My whole life I’ve heard the phrase “Speak where the Bible speaks, and be silent where the Bible is silent.” This principle always made perfect sense in my life. Of course, we practiced like the 1st-century church! Sunday school? Not in Scripture. Bible classes? Not in scripture. Kitchens, musical instruments, paid preacher, the list of things we didn’t have goes on and on and on. Not only were we Church of Christ… but we were the REAL Church of Christ because we didn’t let in the additions that some of our weaker brethren did. People would ask me, do these additions matter? Of course, they do! What about Nadab and Abihu using a fire not commanded? What about poor Uzzah who got struck dead for trying to steady the Ark? Of course, we don’t know if anyone will go to Hell because they have Sunday School, but… better safe than sorry.

Something’s always bothered me about the “silences”, though. They aren’t consistent. After all… I’ve never heard a lesson against Gospel meetings, song books, a rotation preaching schedule instead of one man minister, buildings, microphones, projectors, whiteboards, chalkboards, etc. I’ve never read any commands or examples of those things. What bothered me is that it’s not consistent. I like consistency… I like things to be the same every time. I’m analytical like that. So why are some silences permissive and some prohibitive? The answer I got back was that some things were expedient and others were additions. Additions were not allowed. For years now this has been stuck in my craw. How can we tell what’s expedient and what’s an addition? There’s no command on how to tell the difference, so how do I know that the difference in and of itself is not an addition?

Lately, I’ve been diving into this a lot. I’ve been emailing friends, reading blogs, and studying scriptures. I’ve been searching and searching for examples on what to do with silences. I started with Nadab and Abihu.

Lev 10:1-2 And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not. (2) And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.

Simple… the fire wasn’t commanded. Silence is prohibitive. Good deal. It was simple until I was reading in Exodus.

Exo 30:9 Ye shall offer no strange incense thereon, nor burnt sacrifice, nor meat offering; neither shall ye pour drink offering thereon.

This is talking about the incense altar. It piqued my interest because Nadab and Abihu were burning incense. It appears to me that they were violating a direct command of God, not taking liberty with a silence. The same goes for Uzzah. They were commanded not to touch the Ark.

Now I had to start searching fro silences. And I was having a hard time with it. One of my buddies remarked to me very wisely, “If they were written about in the Bible, they wouldn’t be called silences.” I didn’t really have a response to that one. He’s right. By definition if something is written about it is discussed. I was still bothered though until I was reading some comments about instrumental music on Jay Guin’s blog. I came across this comment.

He was right, the Law said that God could only be worshiped at the Tabernacle. Later it became the Temple. If we recall that’s what led to trouble between the Northern and Southern Kingdoms. In the North, the king was scared his people would leave him if they worshiped in Jerusalem. Neither Jesus nor the apostles condemn the addition to God’s Law of adding a synagogue. However, Jesus does disapprove of corban. Why?

Mar 7:9-13 And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. (10) For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death: (11) But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free. (12) And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother; (13) Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.

We can see here that the tradition of Corban was used to subvert direct commandments of God (not inferences). They used Corban so they didn’t have to treat their father and mother and they were commanded. Let’s contrast this with the synagogue that came about because the people were striving to serve God even though they were in a position that they couldn’t keep to the Tabernacle. This reminded me of the word of Christ.

Mar 2:27 And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath:

If we look at the context of this that Jesus and his disciples are traveling through a corn field on the Sabbath day. The disciples became hungry and started to pluck ears of corn, which is harvesting, which is work, which is forbidden. Bad disciples! Jesus responds by telling the story of David found in 1 Samuel 21 (good story to read). Jesus goes on to tell us that the Sabbath was made for man. It was made to give us a time to stop and reflect on God. The disciples had violated the law, but not its intent.

That is what we should look for in every silence we try to interpret. Not what rule do I have to follow… but are we serving God or rebelling against Him? Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 8 that some men can eat meat sacrificed to idols and not sin, but some men that eat meat sacrificed to idols sin. Everything goes back to our heart, and what we intend.