Respecting the silence of the scriptures and of God is not practiced among various religious intitutions. There is discussion and debate for and against the teaching of speaking where the Bible speaks and being silent where the Bible is silent.
The characters of Nadab and Abihu provide for us insight into the sense of godliness we are to have toward God. This is something Nadab and Abihu rejected. What we find in this record is a principle of attitude that has not changed since the beginning of time nor can it. God's divine character and attributes are eternal in nature – he does not change. Therefore, any principle regarding a sense of respect, awe, or piety of devotion toward God does not change for human kind.
As was mentioned before in Part 1, in the religious world, of those who say they believe in Christ, there are at least two teachings regarding the silence of God's word. Some teach that if God, through His written word, does not expressly speak against a particular practice of worship, it is authorized to practice. Others teach that if God, through His written word, does not expressly speak against a particular practice of worship, and there is no express or implied authorization to practice the deed, it is not authorized to practice. The latter teaching respects God's silence, the former does not.
Then an illustration was used showing that playing instruments of music in public worship is not authorized. In the New Testament God is silent about playing instruments of music in public worship. However, not everyone believes in being silent where the scriptures (God's word) is silent.
A Lutheran, so called a "Reverend" named Keith Schweitzer says, "There is no express command of prohibition from God in Scripture against using musical instruments. Thus, if there is no express command in the Scriptures forbidding the use of musical instruments, it cannot be so imposed by any man or man-made church."
It appears that Keith assumes that the forbidding of the use of the instrument is arbitrary and without authority. His mistake is that he thinks that there must be an "express command in the Scriptures forbidding the use," that is, the scriptures must condemn the specific use of the instrument in worship before a "man" can forbid its use.
Keith attempts to thwart scriptural teaching, which by implication teaches us to respect the silence of God's word in the scriptures. Keith says, "Another argument frequently presented against the use of musical instruments is the account of Aaron's sons, Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10:1,2). These two men offered "strange fire" before the Lord and they were consumed by fire for doing so and put to death. Campbellites fail to mention that Nadab and Abihu did what God in Exodus 30:7-9 had expressly forbid."
I am a Christian and not a "Campbellite." The remark "Campbellite," is made many times in ignorance. We will overlook this remark so that we can deal with the issue at hand.
In Leviticus 10:1-2, Nadab and Abihu did not violate Exodus 30:7-9. In fact, I could not find a scripture expressly forbidding what they did offer. Exodus 30:9 condemns the offering of "strange incense" on the altar of incense. Nadab and Abihu offered "strange fire" before the Lord. "Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them." (Lev. 10:1 NASB, bolding mine ACW). There is a distinction between "strange fire" and "strange incense." Even in this passage, what they put in their firepans is distinctively written, ". . . after putting fire in them, placed incense on it . . ." (bolding mine ACW). Two other passages reference this sin to offering "strange fire before the Lord." Numbers 3:4; 26:61. The fire and incense was in their firepans, not on the altar of incense.
The Lord in Exodus 30:34-38 gave the express instructions regarding the preparation of the incense to be used by Aaron and the priests. Specific ingredients and proportions relative to each ingredient are given. "Then the LORD said to Moses
, "Take for yourself spices, stacte and onycha and galbanum, spices with pure frankincense; there shall be an equal part of each. And with it you shall make incense, a perfume, the work of a perfumer, salted, pure, and holy."" (Exodus 30:34-35 NASB). This incense was not to be used for personal use nor was anyone to prepare the same ingredients in the same proportions for their own use. This incense, including its "recipe," was holy and dedicated to the Lord's use. "And the incense which you shall make, you shall not make in the same proportions for yourselves; it shall be holy to you for the LORD. Whoever shall make any like it, to use as perfume, shall be cut off from his people." (Exodus 30:37-38 NASB).
Nadab and Abihu offered a fire, which God "had not commanded them." This is one thing that made the fire strange. That is, God did not command the fire they offered. This was unlawful because of their presumptuous attitude in respect to God's silence.
Therefore, strange incense used in the priestly service could also be incense, which God does not command. However, since we do see what God commanded the Israelites concerning the incense to use, strange incense would also be incense not according to God's instructions. Again, this is not what Nadab and Abihu violated, that is, offering strange incense.
Firepans and censers were used to hold fire or coals. Fire put in the firepans or censers was to be retrieved from some place. Aaron was instructed were he was to get the fire when he was to enter the holy of holies once a year to make atonement for himself and the people. "And he shall take a firepan full of coals of fire from upon the altar before the LORD, and two handfuls of finely ground sweet incense, and bring it inside the veil." (Lev. 16:12 NASB). On another occasion Moses told Aaron to get the fire from the altar, put it in his censer, then lay incense on it. (Numbers 16:41-50). This was to make atonement for the children of Israel for their rebelliousness. The Lord struck the assembly with a plague. When Aaron did as instructed, and ran into the assembly with his censer, the plague was checked; but by that time, over 14,000 souls were destroyed.
In these instances, it is clear that God required Aaron, a high priest, to get his fire from some specific place. However, it is not expressly stated where Nadab and Abihu, (also priests) were to get their fire, or even if they were to offer fire at this time. There is not recorded in the scriptures any explicit commands by God toward Nadab and Abihu, concerning what they were to do with their firepans (or censers).
Nevertheless, Nadab and Abihu were put to death, because offering something to God in worship, which God did not command, was a treatment to God as unholy and profane. "Then Moses said to Aaron, "It is what the LORD spoke, saying, 'By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, And before all the people I will be honored.'" So Aaron, therefore, kept silent." (Lev. 10:3 NASB).
APPLICATION OF THE PRINCIPLE
Since God did not command them to offer this fire, in Leviticus 10:1, then God did not speak. If He did not speak, then He was silent.
The bible does not say that God instructed Nadab and Abihu not to offer this fire. The bible is silent about "Thou shalt nots," regarding the offering of the fire that they offered.
Whatever God told the priests to do, that was enough! If God had not instructed them the fire they were to offer, then again, God's silence was to be respected. In either way, the actions of Nadab and Abihu were presumptuous. Because of their arrogance, they presumed too much of their importance, and took it upon themselves to worship God in a manner that pleased themselves. If they thought it would please God, without a "thus saith the Lord," this also is presumptuous and would be a demonstration of their irreverence towards God's silence. This is the lesson we are to learn.
"But the prophet who shall speak a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he shall speak in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die." (Deut. 18:20 NASB). This is the principle regarding words. Wrong thoughts lead to wrong words, wrong words lead to wrong deeds.
David said, "Also keep back Thy servant from presumptuous sins; Let them not rule over me; Then I shall be blameless, And I shall be acquitted of great transgression." (Psalm 19:13 NASB). Presumptuous sins can be committed by both words and deeds.
We now go back and make application of this lesson to the subject of playing instruments of music in worship.
God told us what to do and it is enough! Anything less, would be a lack of what God requires. Anything more, would be more than what God requires. If more than what God requires, then who requires it?
God commands N.T. churches to sing. (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). If we offer to God in our worship strange music, he will be displeased with us as he was with Nadab and Abihu when they offered strange fire. Playing instruments of music in worship is strange to God because it is music not according to God's instructions. It is music GOD HAS NOT COMMANDED. It is not required by God, but by man. Playing instruments of music in worship is "will worship" or "self-made religion." It is a perfect example of profane behavior and ungodliness regarding God's silence in the scriptures.
Finally, let us ask, no, DEMAND for a book, chapter, and verse for everything we say and do. If God does not say it in the scriptures, then He is silent. If when God is silent about a matter, why do men speak?