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God's Silence According to Noah

It was once famously stated that we should “speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent.” Some quote this as if it were a Bible verse, and some are adamantly opposed to it because it’s not found in the Scriptures. Certainly, they are right: this phrase is not found in the Scriptures, but it is a biblical idea. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that Scripture is breathed out by God, is profitable for training in righteousness, and completes the man of God, equipping him for every good work. This means that nothing else is needed; if God is silent on a matter we should abstain from that action because it is not “profitable for training in righteousness.” Many argue against the authority of God’s silence, saying things like “If God did not expressly forbid this action, I can do it.” However, I believe that Noah teaches us the opposite on two different occasions.

When God came to Noah in Genesis 6, he told Noah that he was going to destroy the earth by flood. Because Noah was righteous and walked with God, he found favor in God’s sight, and God told him he would have to do to be saved: Noah would have to build an ark according to the instructions God had given him. A few of the instructions given to Noah were: the ark was to be made from gopher wood; it was to be 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide,  and 30 cubits tall; it was to have three stories. While I’m certain that God likely gave Noah additional instructions in the building of this great craft, I imagine that God did not have to expressly forbid all other woods that the ark was not to be built with. God did not have to explicitly forbid maple, oak, mahogany, pine, bubinga, birch, etc.; these were implicitly forbidden because God told Noah what he wanted, not what he didn’t want.

Noah teaches us this lesson again when he is waiting to leave the ark after the flood subsides. In Genesis 8:13 Noah removes the covering of the ark and sees that the face of the ground was dry. It is nearly two months later before God instructed Noah and his family to leave the ark. We aren’t told that God told Noah to not leave the ark when Noah saw that the earth was dry. God didn’t have to; he simply didn’t tell Noah to leave. God’s silence demands that the action not be taken; it does not have to be expressly forbidden.

Today, we should take these lessons to heart: His silence is not permissive and his law is all encompassing—that is, it surrounds the whole matter with no loopholes or fine print. We must take God for what he says and for what he doesn’t say just as Noah did.