Respecting God’s Silence
“Our God shall come, and shall not keep silent; A fire shall devour before Him, and it shall be very tempestuous all around Him.” – Psalm 50:3
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We’ve been talking about how God speaks to us today. He doesn’t speak to us in dreams, or through our feelings, but He speaks through His Word. Just as Solomon reminds us that there is “a time to be silent and a time to speak” (Eccl. 3:7), God speaks, but He also, at times, keeps silent (Psa. 50:21).
Whether God is speaking or keeping silent on a matter, we must respect what He says – and what He doesn’t say. All of us would agree that loving, obeying, and God are all signs of showing proper respect to Him. And cursing God, robbing God, and hating Him are all disrespectful of Him.
When we attempt to make adjustments to the Word of God, we do not show God the appropriate respect due Him. No one has the right to add to or take away from God’s Word. The apostle Paul encourages us through the Scriptures to learn not to go beyond what is written (1 Cor. 4:6).
Those who go beyond the teachings of Christ do not have God (2 John 9). If we go beyond His teachings, we are not showing God respect.
When God gives a specific command to us, we must respect it. And when He is silent on a matter, we must respect it also. No one has the right (or the authority) to change God’s Word.
Adam and Eve did not have the right to go beyond God’s word in the Garden (Gen. 3:23-24). That’s why mankind was punished and driven out of the Garden of Eden. Moses didn’t have a right to go beyond God’s Word. God told him to take his staff, assemble the people of Israel, and speak to the rock to provide them water. Moses struck the rock instead and was punished for it (Num. 20:12). The priests Nadab and Abihu did not have a right to offer unauthorized fire to the Lord as a sacrifice. When they did, they died because of it (Lev. 10:1-2).
None of them had the right to change God’s Word, and we don’t have the right to alter God’s Word either.
Notice that God told Moses to speak to the rock. Some people might say, “Well, God didn’t tell him not to strike the rock so he didn’t do anything wrong.” That’s faulty logic. God giving a specific command ruled out everything else. He didn’t have to tell Moses “don’t sit on the rock,” “don’t push the rock,” or “don’t hit the rock” because speak is a specific action that did away with all the others.
It’s sort of like when you go to a restaurant and order your meal. You tell the waiter exactly what you want to eat. Doing that excludes everything else on the menu that you did not choose. It’s not necessary for you to go down the entire menu and tell them everything that you don’t want to order. And if they bring you something that you didn’t order, you’re likely to send it back to them.
The same concept applies to God’s commands. He doesn’t have to tell us everything not to do if He has told us exactly what He wants us to do. In that way, God is silent.
Some often say of instrumental music in worship that God did not say not to use mechanical instruments. But God told us explicitly how to worship Him – “in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Eph. 5:19).
Singing and making melody in your heart exclude anything that’s not singing and that’s not making melody in your heart. That is, singing excludes playing a mechanical instrument. We must respect what God says and what He doesn’t say.
Still, there are others who say, “Why can’t I give God more than what He asked for of me? If he said sing and didn’t say not to play an instrument, why can’t I offer it as a gift to play the piano or guitar or whatever other instrument?” Remember, we are not to add or take away from what God has commanded us (Rev. 22:18-19). Those who do so will be punished.
“If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen” -1 Pet. 4:11
If we fail to respect what God says and commands us to do, we sin. “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4). When God requires something of us, if we add to it, take away from it, or substitute something else (Like Nadab and Abihu), we are not showing God proper respect and we are violating God’s Word.
God doesn’t need to tell us everything that’s wrong and everything for us not to do. The Bible would be a whole lot thicker, if that was the case.
He has told us to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:32). The command to be kind rules out anything that is not kind. God is silent in not saying “don’t be mean, don’t be abusive, don’t harass, and don’t take advantage of another person’s vulnerabilities. It’s not nice.” Him saying be kind and tenderhearted covers those things mentioned above that you are not supposed to be doing to another person.
God speaks to us today through His Son (Heb. 1:1-2), through His Word. We must respect what he speaks and commands us to do, and we must respect how He remains silent. We can’t try to force someone to speak when and just because we want them to speak – especially not God. That’s not kind.
God has spoken where He has chosen to speak and He is silent where He has chosen to be silent. Will you respect what He says?
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*Adapted from “God Speaks Today” lessons by Jerry A. Jenkins