The Sound of Silence
[NOTE: The following article is a sermon that was preached by an A.P. board member in Montgomery, AL in early 2019.]
The life of David is a spiritual treasure house that instructs, enriches, and warns the soul. There is a brief and yet profound event narrated in 2 Samuel 7:1-7 that contains five monumental truths and two questions exceedingly worthy of perpetual contemplation. First, there is the serenity of peace. “And it came to pass, when the king sat in his house, and the Lord had given him rest round about from all his enemies” (vs. 1). Cain’s bloody hand of violence commenced a flow of earth staining blood that would never end. Lamech, Cain’s great-great grandson, boasted of his violent nature, and when Cain’s vile descendants corrupted the offspring of Seth, the “earth was filled with violence” (Genesis 6:11). Implied in God’s general law for murder that embraces the whole of time, “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed, for in the image of God made he man” (Genesis 9:6), is the tragic truth that man would never live to see the door close on blood staining the earth.
War in any form is exceedingly injurious. It harms and disrupts life on every level. World, national, and civil wars have saturated the human family with death and endless sorrow. As the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6), Christ is the head, foundation, and savior of the church; yet, bitter strife and contention are as common in many congregations as light is to day or darkness to night. “From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?” (James 4:1) Innumerable homes are afflicted with the acrid sounds of family warfare. The tranquil environment in which David now lived would be shattered by his own adultery and murder, followed by lust, rape, murder, betrayal, fornication, and incest that infested his own family unit. God said, “Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from thine house” (2 Samuel 12:10). Wars rage in individual hearts where sin and its fruits are constant companions. “But the wicked are like the troubled sea when it cannot rest whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked” (Isaiah 57:20-21). There is no substitute for peace among nations, in the church, home, and heart.
Second, there is the presence of God. David said unto “Nathan the prophet, See now, I dwell in an house of cedar, but the ark of God dwelleth within curtains” (vs. 2). The Ark of the Covenant symbolized God’s presence with the nation of Israel. The top of the ark was made of pure gold, and it was called the “mercy seat.” The Day of Atonement was the most sacred day in Judaism. It was on that day, each year, that the high priest entered the Holy of Holies with the blood of a perfect lamb and made atonement for the sins of the people. God said, “And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat” (Exodus 25:22). During a battle, the ark was seized by the Philistines. When Eli was informed of this tragedy, he fell, broke his neck and died. In the process of dying while giving birth to a son, his daughter-in-law affirmed, “The glory is departed from Israel, for the ark of God is taken” (1 Samuel 4:22).
Third, there is mental preoccupation. As king of Israel, there would be numerous affairs of state demanding David’s mind, time, and energy, but his statement to Nathan the prophet in verse 2 stresses his desire to build the Temple as his principal aspiration. Life is composed of numberless things that require one’s attention and execution. Just providing for the three basic essentials of life—food, clothing, and shelter are time consuming activities. But loving and serving God and making preparation for Heaven should be the preeminent objective of life. It was this very sentiment that Paul was pressing when he said of himself, “This one thing I do” (Philippians 3:13). Life is a diverse affair involving a variety of essential pursuits, but the whole of life should have as its pivotal thrust to be among those to whom Jesus will say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord” (Matthew 25:21).
God had a work for David and a work for Solomon. It was God’s will for David to secure the nation of Israel, thereby enabling Solomon to construct the Temple without distraction. David’s work involved war and bloodshed. These were God’s righteous wars of judgment, and David was His agent to bring His will and plans to fruition. Solomon spoke to these very truths when he said, “Thou knowest how that David my father could not build an house unto the name of the Lord his God for the wars which were about him on every side, until the Lord put them under the soles of his feet. But now the Lord my God hath given me rest, so that there is neither adversary nor evil occurrence” (1 Kings 5:3-4).
Hence, God’s statements regarding forbidding David to build the Temple because he was a man of war and shedder of blood are not accusatory or condemning in nature. In two battles with the Philistines, David inquired of God as to what he should do. Regarding the first, God said, “Go up; for I will doubtless deliver the Philistines into thy hand” (2 Samuel 5:19). Concerning the second, God said, I will “go out before thee, to smite the host of the Philistines” (2 Samuel 5:24). Twice, in addressing David’s conflicts with the Philistines, Moabites, Syrians, Ammonites, and Amalekites, inspiration declares, “And the Lord preserved David whithersoever he went” (2 Samuel 8:6 and 14). David stressed this truth when he said to Solomon, “Is not the Lord your God with you? and hath he not given you rest on every side? for he hath given the inhabitants of the land into mine hand; and the land is subdued before the Lord and before his people” (1 Chronicles 22:18). Even though it was not God’s will for David to build the Temple, he did what he could as he reminded the people in his final words, “Now I have prepared with all my might for the house of my God” (1 Chronicles 29:2).
Four, there is the impropriety of granting permission void of divine authority. “And Nathan said to the king, Go, do all that is in thine heart; for the Lord is with thee” (2 Samuel 7:3). Nathan was a faithful prophet of God. He loved God, he loved the truth, and he loved David, and would never have intentionally misled him. He fully believed that he was doing the right thing by encouraging him to proceed with his earnest desire to erect an appropriate edifice for the Ark of the Covenant. But he was wrong. He was very wrong. He was granting permission where God had given none; authorizing where God had not authorized, and speaking where God had not spoken. Nathan had entered a realm where he had no right to be. No man can speak for God where God has not spoken Himself.
Fifth, there is the deafening sound of prohibition in divine silence (vss. 4-7). This matter was so spiritually grave that God did not delay in dealing with it. That very night He instructed Nathan to go to David with His first question, “Shalt thou build me an house for me to dwell in?” (vs. 5). The very nature and tone of this question resounds with the need for God to speak in order for man to have the right to act. Divine legislation is the sole prerogative of God. David’s heart was in the right place when he expressed a desire to provide a suitable habitation for the Ark of the Covenant. This intent was in the mind and plan of God, but not for David to accomplish. Both David and Nathan needed instruction from God that would enable them to act by faith in harmony with the will of God.
God took David and Nathan’s mind on a journey encompassing the whole of Israel’s history from Egypt to that present day. As they pondered God’s relationship with the nation over all the preceding centuries. God demanded that they point to a single moment in time when He addressed one of the tribes, saying, “Why build ye not me an house of cedar?” (vs. 7). The significance of this simple question cannot be overstated. As David the king and Nathan the prophet deliberated upon this potent question from God, what sound did they hear? They heard the sound that only a diminutive number of people in the world have heard. They heard the sound that Catholicism, denominationalism, and the church of liberalism have never heard. They heard the sound of silence. In all of the previous centuries, God had never commanded or authorized a man, leader, or tribe in Israel to construct for His symbolic dwelling place a house of cedar. Wholly devoid of authority from God, all that David and Nathan could hear regarding His question was the sound of silence.
It is a display of unbelief to attempt to thwart the necessity of divine authority for a specific act or religious practice. Such is the nature of the argument of the spirit of liberalism that sanctions any action or behavior that is not expressly forbidden by a “thou shalt not.” This self-will disposition of heart is an intrusion upon the silence of God. If David and Nathan had adopted the spirit of liberalism as their own, they could have argued with God’s question, declaring, “But you never said to Israel, ‘Thou shalt not build me a house of cedar.’” The foundation of faith is “God said” (Romans 10:17). Love for God can only be manifested by obeying the commandments of God (John 14:15). Both faith and love are dependent upon the word, statutes, commandments, precepts, or laws of God. God supplies grace (Titus 2:11). Christ provides blood (Matthew 26:28). The Holy Spirit furnishes revelation (2 Peter 1:21). Paul pointed to man’s only role in the redemptive process when he said, “faith which worketh by love” (Galatians 5:6). Love for God cannot move faith in God to do anything without a word from God. It is impossible for biblical faith and love to presume upon the silence of God. Demanding a “Thou shall not” to deny one’s right to any form of conduct or religious activity nullifies both faith and love.
Noah framed the ark by “faith” (Hebrews 11:7). Noah’s faith did not need a list of specific prohibitions to keep him from tampering with God’s blueprint for the ark. His faith did what faith always does and can only do, “according to all that God commanded him, so did he” (Genesis 6:22). Inspiration devotes seven chapters to God’s pattern for the tabernacle and its components (Exodus 25-31). These chapters were not accompanied by a host of explicit restrictions to assure Moses’ compliance with God’s will and their absence did not constitute an invitation for him to make additions or adjustments according to his own thinking. When the time arrived for Moses to erect the tabernacle, his faith did what faith always does. Eight times the divine record affirms that he did “according to all that the Lord commanded him” (Exodus 40:16-32). On one occasion, Moses momentarily discarded his faith and intruded upon the silence of God by striking instead of speaking to the rock (Numbers 20:7-11). God described what Moses and his brother Aaron did as an act of unbelief and rebellion (Numbers 20:12; 27:14). The absence of a specific prohibition from God regarding striking the rock could not justify their sinful conduct, nor convert their unbelief into faith.
God’s authorized means of transporting the Ark of the Covenant called for Kohathites, shoulders, and staves (Numbers 7:9; Exodus 25:15). Walking in the steps of Moses and Aaron, David temporarily relinquished his faith, supplanted Kohathites, shoulders, and staves with oxen and a cart. As the ark tilted and Uzzah attempted to steady it, he paid for his transgression with his life (2 Samuel 6:1-7). Later, David acknowledged his error, declaring, “We sought him not after the due order” (1 Chronicles 15:13). The lack of a “Thou shall not” concerning oxen and a cart did not constitute divine permission for their use. Faith seeks God according to His due order, His will, His Word, commandments, laws, statutes and precepts. Faith honors both the sound and the silence of God. The very nature of Biblical faith will not allow it to presume upon the sound or silence of God by speaking or acting where God has not spoken, authorized, or commanded.
God’s choice for music in New Testament worship is congregational singing (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16);1 for partaking of the Lord’s supper is Sunday (John 16:12-13); Acts 20:7);2 for leadership in worship is male (1 Timothy 2:12; 1 Corinthians 14:3-4);3 for gathering funds to support His work in Sunday contributions (1 Corinthians 16:1-2), and His only reason for divorce and remarriage is fornication (Matthew 19:9).4 Where lies the difference in “strange fire” (Leviticus 10:1-2), and strange music in worship, strange days for taking the Lord’s Supper, strange leadership in worship, strange ways of collecting funds for spiritual work, and strange reasons for divorce and remarriage. Speaking or acting where God has not spoken is an intrusion upon the authority and silence of God.
The Bible is permeated with this principle. It stands like a sentry on every page. It is as easy to perceive as the sun at high noon on a cloudless day. It instructs, warns, and threatens. It longs to keep man spiritually safe. It is the mind of God at work for man’s good. Only the self-will disposition of liberalism, which is the spirit of unbelief, would be so arrogant and full of pride as to quarrel with it. “Why build ye not me an house of cedar?” That question points to the realm of divine silence, where there is no word from God.