Instead of involving ourselves in what pleases us, the Sabbath is to be a day devoted to what pleases God.
The inspiring story of Eric Liddel (in the film that portrayed his life, "Chariots of Fire"), who went to the 1924 Olympics as one of the world's premier runners, is a stirring example of this kind of dedication to God. Eric Liddel was unwilling to run on the day he considered the Sabbath, and he would not justify doing so even for a gold medal in the Olympics. Had he done so, the Olympics rather than God would have become the "god" that determined his righteousness. He gave up running the hundred meters because the running would be on his sabbath, and, in his conviction, he did not want to compromise that. So he changed it to run the 400 meters.
It is our duty, as servants of Christ, to help each other walk in righteousness, and we should not only praise each other for doing well, but, if we believe a brother is not glorifying God in a certain area, it is our duty to point these out and fellowship on that as well. One should not get offended when another points out possible errors, but should praise God that someone loves them enough to help them in their walk with God.
People with a Christian background usually believe that their only major obligation each Sabbath is to attend a "church service"—usually about an hour long. The more diligent may also attend a Bible study and/or a second service, but few see the Sabbath as an entire day to be observed. When people from this background learn about the Sabbath day in the scripture, they have little experience in how to keep it.
At the opposite extreme are people from a Jewish background. They usually grow up keeping a Sabbath with many rules, blessings, traditions, and customs. Some of these practices are taken directly from the scripture. Others are well-thought out decisions based on biblical principles (a few of which are mentioned in the scripture, though they are not commanded). But most Jewish practices are man-made rules.
It would help both of these groups to step back and take a look at the answer to this question: "What does the Scripture say about keeping the Sabbath?"
Regrettably many people view the seventh-day Sabbath and its regulations as infringement rather than liberation. If someone views God as a tyrant who desires to enslave His people then, indeed, the Sabbath regulations, along with the rest of God’s law, become oppressive. On the other hand, if someone's perspective of God is one of a loving Father who looks out for His children and who requires from them only what is best for them, then these regulations are liberating. Our brother John advocates the latter perspective:
1 John 5:3, "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous."
In John 9:13-16, because the Pharisees had a false view of the Sabbath day, it actually caused them to reject the Son of God. These people were lost because of this. This is why it is so important for us to make sure our view of the sabbath is in harmony with God's Will.
Many people think that they cannot afford to take off one out of every seven days. The opposite is true. It has been medically and scientifically proven that man’s biological rhythms are based on a seven-day week, and that he functions best when he rests one day out of seven. It has also been demonstrated that if one goes too long without taking sabbaths that it results in physical, emotional and spiritual deficiencies and sometimes complete breakdowns.
Consider the following questions:
This article will attempt to answer such questions using the scriptures themselves.
- What does the Sabbath mean to you?
- What is our duty on the sabbath?
- What is God's purpose for giving us the Sabbath?
- What criteria do we use to determine what we should or should not do on His Holy Day?
Our Duty on the Sabbath
Question: What is our duty on the sabbath?
Some may say it's to rest, but resting is not our duty, resting is only one of the things we should do on the sabbath. Some may say our duty is to do good to others, but this is not our duty, helping others is only one of the things we should do on the Sabbath.
Answer: Our duty is to keep it holy!
Exodus 20:8, "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy."
First and foremost, our duty is to keep the sabbath day holy. The word holy means "to sanctify, to separate from the world and to consecrate or dedicate to God." To be “holy” is to be separate from the world and to be dedicated to God. Let's take a closer look at God's fourth commandment, using two parallel passages from Exodus and Deuteronomy.
Exodus 20:8-11, "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it."
Notice that right in the 4th commandment it says to "remember" the Sabbath day, and to not work on the Sabbath day and to keep it holy. Each week we need to be mindful of the Sabbath, we need to bring it to remembrance, and to think on it. We also need to keep that day "holy", a "dedicated" day. We are actually resting on the Sabbath day in remembrance of God's rest after He created the world in 6 days.
Notice the fourth commandment also says we are to do "all" of our work on the other six days. It does not say we are to do most of our work on those days, and some of our work on the sabbath. In other words, no ordinary work is to be done on the sabbath.
The Sabbath is a day of rest; rest to the body from labour and toil, and rest to the soul from all worldly care and anxieties. God set it apart to be devoted not to secular but to sacred work. He who labours with his mind by worldly schemes and plans on the Sabbath day is as culpable as he who labours with his hands in his accustomed calling. It is by the authority of God that the Sabbath is set apart for rest and spiritual duties, as the six days of the week are appointed for labour. How wise is this provision! It is essentially necessary, not only to the body of man, but to all the animals that are in his service: take this away and the labour is too great, both man and beast would fail under it. Without this consecrated day, righteousness itself would fail, and the mind, becoming sensualized, would soon forget its origin and end. Those who habitually disregard its obligation are, to a man, not only good for nothing, but are wretched in themselves, a curse to society, and often end their lives miserably.
Deuteronomy 5:12-14, "Keep the sabbath day to sanctify it, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee. Six days thou shalt labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; that thy manservant and thy maidservant may rest as well as thou."
The 4th commandment also says we are to sanctify this day, "as the Lord thy God has commanded us," not as we believe we should sanctify it, and not as the world would like us to keep it. We are to rest from the things of the world, not only physically, but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually as well; our thoughts are to be on the things that God commanded us to do (through His Law), not on the things that men have commanded us to do.
Throughout scripture, God stresses the importance of making this day a holy day. This is our duty, and the main criteria by which we determine what we should or should not do on the sabbath day.
Exodus 31:14-15, "Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD: whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death."
Exodus 35:2, "Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you an holy day, a sabbath of rest to the LORD: whosoever doeth work therein shall be put to death."
Leviticus 23:3, "Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; ye shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the LORD in all your dwellings."
Jeremiah 17:24, "And it shall come to pass, if ye diligently hearken unto me, saith the LORD, to bring in no burden through the gates of this city on the sabbath day, but hallow the sabbath day, to do no work therein;"
The Purpose for God giving us the Sabbath
Question: Why did God give is the Sabbath?
Some may say so we can rest, but this is not the purpose. Some may say so we can help others, but this is not the purpose.
Answer: The purpose for God giving us the Sabbath is so it can be a sign between Him and us.
Ezekiel 20:12,20, "Moreover also I gave them my sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the LORD that sanctify them. And hallow my sabbaths; and they shall be a sign between me and you, that ye may know that I am the LORD your God.”
Exodus 31:13-17, "…Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the LORD that doth sanctify you. Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD: whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed."
The Sabbath is the only sign between God and His people. It is a sign that we are his children. When this passage speaks of "the children of Israel," it is speaking of God's people. Literal Jews are not God's people anymore. Bondservants of Christ are spiritual Israel or spiritual Jews today (Romans 1:16; 2:28-29; 9:4-8; 10:12, 1 Corinthians 10:2-4, Galatians 3:16,26-29, Colossians 3:11), and this sign applies to us.
On the contrary, for those who do not keep the Sabbath Holy, this is also a sign. It is a sign that one is not a child of God.
When to Keep the Sabbath
Question: When is the Sabbath day?
Is it Sunday? Is it any one day during the week? The fourth commandment says "the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God." When is the seventh day? Well, the first day of the week is Sunday, and the seventh day of the week is Saturday. But when does the day start? According to scripture, and God's way of reckoning time, each day begins at sundown, and ends at the following sundown.
Answer: We keep the Sabbath from sundown on the sixth day (i.e. Friday) to sundown on the seventh day (i.e. Saturday).
The beginning of the day begins at night because of Genesis 1:1-2; in the beginning of the first day it was dark!
Genesis 1:5, "And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day."
If you look at all of chapter 1 in Genesis, you'll see this sequence repeated for each day of Creation....evening and then a morning constitutes a "day". Now we in the Western world usually associate a day as a morning and then an evening, but if you study this out with other scriptures, you'll see that the scripture delineates a day as evening and morning....so someone is bound to ask..."what constitutes evening?" Even, or evening, occurs "at the going down of the sun" (Deuteronomy 16:6).
This explains why the Sabbath is described in these words, "It shall be unto you a sabbath of rest, ...from even unto even, shall ye celebrate your sabbath" (Leviticus 23:32). But when does the evening begin according to the scripture? "And at even, when the sun did set, they brought unto him all that were diseased, and them that were possessed with devils" (Mark 1:32). Since the Pharisees taught that it was wrong to heal on the Sabbath, the people waited till the Sabbath was over before bringing their sick to Jesus (Mark 1:21). So they brought them "at even, when the sun did set."
In Nehemiah 13:19 we are given another description of the Sabbath, when it "began to be dark before the sabbath, I commanded that the gates should be shut." This tells us therefore, that when it began to get dark towards the end of the preparation day, which was just before the sabbath, they finished their work, so their work would not run into the sabbath. If they waited until it was dark to close the gates, that means the merchants would be closing up shop, and cleaning up, and walking home from work on the sabbath day, and this is all to be done before the sun sets fully.
The Sabbath begins on the sixth day (i.e. Friday evening) when the sun goes down. But then we have the "morning" part of the day (remember "evening and a morning"...) so when does the "morning" part of the Sabbath end? It ends when the sun sets on the Sabbath day (i.e. Saturday evening). Therefore a full Sabbath "day" starts Friday evening and ends Saturday evening and therefore consists of an "evening" and a "morning". The first day of the week begins after the sun goes down on the sabbath.
Principle Elements of the Sabbath
The purpose of us resting on the sabbath is so we can be mentally, spiritually, and physically refreshed.
Exodus 23:12, "Six days thou shalt do thy work, and on the seventh day thou shalt rest: that thine ox and thine ass may rest, and the son of thy handmaid, and the stranger, may be refreshed."
Isaiah 58:13 says twice that we should not do our own pleasure on God's holy day. To take it for our pleasure is to rob Him of His own pleasure. This is the very way in which the Sabbath is mostly broken; it is made a day of carnal pleasure instead of spiritual "delight." Now, this "pleasure" does not refer to the pleasure of learning God's Word, or the pleasure of eating, or the pleasure of helping others, etc., it refers to the pleasures of the world, such as entertainment, traveling for our mere pleasure, doing our own ways. In other words, the sabbath is not made for our recreation!
- We are to do no ordinary/secular work on the sabbath (Exodus 20:10; 23:23; 31:14-15; 35:2, Leviticus 23:3, Deuteronomy 5:14, Jeremiah 17:24), nor carry a burden on the sabbath day (Jeremiah 17:21-24). We should not do unnecessary things on the sabbath, such as going on journeys, paying worldly visits, washing, working, etc., especially if it could be done on another day. It is a day not to be devoted to worldly business, conversation, reading, travelling, visiting, or amusement, nor to sleep, idleness, or worldly thoughts and feelings, but to be employed in worship, and in the promotion of our own spiritual good and that of our fellow-men.
- One shouldn't prepare an elaborate meal on the Sabbath day....but should try to either have meals ready (on the 6th day, the preparation day)...or at least fix very simple meals on the Sabbath (Exodus 16:23).
- We shouldn't buy or sell on the Sabbath day, not even food. God says this will “profane the sabbath day.” The gates to Jerusalem were shut as it began to get dark towards the sabbath, and were opened again after the sabbath was over. This was to keep the merchants and sellers from buying and selling on the Sabbath (Nehemiah 10:31; 13:15-22).
- It's good to heal and do good to both people and animals on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:10-13, Mark 3:1-5, and Luke 13:10-17, John 5:8-13).
- We should not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, but comfort and exhort one another (Matthew 18:20, Hebrews 10:25), especially on the sabbath day (Leviticus 23:3). This also includes reading books and materials from those who write about God's Word, or listening to and watching others preach on pre-recorded devices (provided we do not watch or listen to the things of the world, such as being bombarded with commercials while listening to a sermon).
- And finally, we should not do our own pleasure on the Sabbath day (Isaiah 58:13-14).
Isaiah 58:13, "If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, so as not to do thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, holy to the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words:"
To keep the Sabbath in an idle manner is the sabbath of oxen and asses; to keep it in a jovial manner is the sabbath of the golden calf, when the people sat down to eat and drink, play and engage in physical pleasures; to keep it in overindulgence, excess, or to keep it unrestrained, arrogantly ignoring God's Will, is the sabbath of satan, the devil's holiday.
Isaiah 58:13 also says we are to avoid speaking certain words! We should not only avoid doing our own pleasure on the sabbath, but we should avoid speaking words concerning it. We should avoid speaking vain and profane words, and the words of the world. You should not talk about yourself or your past history, or your personal life, for this concerns "me, myself, and I," whereas we are to concern ourselves with God. God has appointed the Sabbath as a day of holy rest, not only from worldly labor, but also from worldly thoughts and conversation.
Isaiah 58:13 also says that we should call the Sabbath a delight....do we call the Sabbath a delight? When it gets toward the end of the week, are you anxious for the Sabbath to come? It should be our favorite day of the week because in our thoughts we can spend the whole day with Jesus. Now I realize that we should have Jesus in our thoughts Sunday through Friday, and I'm sure we do, but not like on the Sabbath. During the week we've got to think about what we're doing while working, and we try to keep a dialog going with God as we work....but on the Sabbath, we don't have to think about work at all.
Verse 14 continues by telling us what God will do for us if we honor his sabbath. It says we will delight ourselves in the Lord, God will cause us to ride upon the high places of the earth and will feed us with the heritage of Jacob. These are biblical sayings for the experience of feeling joy, and peace, and being filled with love for God and His Son.
Criteria to Measure our Actions on the Sabbath
We must be careful about how we justify our acts on God's Sabbath Day. The following questions are designed to help us determine how to judge what we should or should not do on the sabbath.
God's Will and Commandments
Question: If scripture reveals a certain act to be God's Will, does that mean it is okay to do that act on the Sabbath? Or, in other words, if God commands us to do something in scripture, does that mean it will be okay to obey this command on the Sabbath?
Answer: No. It is actually irrelevant if something is God's Will or if something is not God's will; these have no bearing on how we keep the sabbath. What matters is if our actions are holy. There's a difference between what is God's Will, and what is Holy. Just because something is God's Will, it does not mean it is holy.
First Example:Is it God's will that some people harvest the fields? Yes, He commanded we work, and he lays down harvesting laws in His Word (Leviticus 19:9-10; 23:22; 24:19-22). Is it holy to harvest the fields? No. Is it a sin to harvest the fields? No. Is it a sin to harvest the fields on the Sabbath? Yes (Exodus 34:21). Even though work is commanded by God to be done on the other 6 days? Yes (Exodus 34:21). Why is it a sin? Because it is not holy. Because we are to separate this one day from the others by doing what God commanded us to do on the sabbath day. We are not to do on that day what God commanded to be done in general, we are to do on that day what God commanded to be done on that specific day.
Second Example:Is it God's will that we not muzzle an ox when he plows the corn? Yes (Deuteronomy 25:4). If we obey this command, and not muzzle the ox when he plows the corn on the sabbath, will we sin? Yes. Why would anyone allow an ox to plow the corn in the first place, when God strictly forbids an ox from working on the sabbath (Exodus 20:8-11, Deuteronomy 5:12-14)? One cannot use the excuse of “mercy” to do whatever one wants to do and sin against God. Therefore, we can obey God's will and still sin, because exercising this Law of God is not a holy act! And God specifically forbids oxen from working on the sabbath in His fourth commandment.
Third Example:God commanded that all new houses have a railing on the roof (Deuteronomy 22:8), does this mean it is God's Will to have a railing on the roof? Yes. Does that mean that house is holy? No. Does it mean the act of building a railing is holy? No. Is obeying this command holy? No. Does the fact that this is commanded by God justify us building a railing on the Lord's Sabbath? No. Why? Because, it is not a holy act. We must differentiate between what is God's Will, and what is holy, if we are to understand how to keep the sabbath.
You may ask, "But isn't building a railing around a roof showing mercy to others? It prevents others from falling off and getting hurt or killed!" The answer is "No, it is not holy." It would be a sin to build a railing on the sabbath day. Ordinary construction work is something that should be done on a day other than the sabbath. Even the construction of the Holy Temple of God was forbidden to be done on the Sabbath Day (Exodus 35).
To illustrate, when someone is in pain, you can try to ease their pain by giving them medicine, taking X-rays, etc, that's okay to do on the sabbath, because this is a merciful act. However, if someone is not in pain, and you take their X-rays and give them medicine, just to help prevent them from getting sick, or because they might get sick sometime in the future, that is not showing mercy to them. There was no immediate need for you to do this, and therefore, it is something that could and should be done on another day, for both the doctor and the patient. Check-ups are not merciful, Check-ups are designed to prevent sickness. Likewise, building a railing is not merciful, it simply prevents an accident from happening. We are commanded by God to do all work during the other six days of the week.
Therefore, just because something is commanded by God, and it is His Will, that does not mean it is okay to obey that command or to do that act on His Sabbath day.
Keeping our Mind on God
Question: How about keeping our mind on God? If we do a certain act, but “keep our mind on God” while doing that act, does that mean it will be okay to do this act on the Sabbath?
Answer: No. It is irrelevant if we keep our mind on God while doing some physical act. If a maidservant works by cleaning windows during the week, would she be obeying God's command to work? Yes. If a maidservant works by cleaning windows on the Sabbath, would she be sinning? Yes. But what if that maidservant kept her mind totally on God, and meditated on God's Law, while cleaning those windows…is it okay to do that work on the Sabbath now? Absolutely not.
Even though keeping our mind on God is holy and is good to do on the sabbath, cleaning windows would be considered a sin! Why? Because it would violate God's fourth commandment; “Six days thou shalt labour, and do all thy work.” If a maid works 7 days a week, then she is not doing all her work on the other 6 days. Furthermore, the command “that thy manservant and thy maidservant may rest” would be broken also because she would not be resting from her worldly activities, which is a sin against God Himself.
Therefore, just because we keep our mind on God while doing a physical act, it does not mean it is okay to do that physical act on the Sabbath, even though the mental act of keeping our mind on God is okay to do. We must differentiate between the two.
So it must be something more than being God's Will; it must be something more than keeping our mind on God, because we can still sin if we do His Will on the Sabbath; we can still sin while keeping our mind on God on the Sabbath, if it is being mixed with something else. What is this “something else” that makes our act a sin? This “something else” is an act that God does not consider holy or merciful; an act that is not commanded by Him to be done on the sabbath. The only acts we are to do on "the sabbath day" are what “the LORD thy God hath commanded thee” to do on that specific day (Deuteronomy 5:12), and through the examples of how godly men kept the sabbath.
God created us, and only He knows what is best for us. God made the sabbath day Holy. Who determines what acts are holy and what acts are not holy? Only God. If God says an act is holy, then can we do it on His Sabbath? Yes. If an act is not holy or merciful, according to God's Word, then should we avoid doing that act on the Sabbath? Yes.
Question: If some thing is “holy”, does that mean it is okay to do an act with that holy thing on God's Holy Day?
Answer: No. This is irrelevant, and is similar to the previous question above.
First Example:When somebody “dedicates” his house to the Lord; it is now set apart from other houses. Leviticus 27:14-16 says when a man shall sanctify his house to be holy unto the LORD, then the priest shall put a value on it. And a provision was made so that the house could be sold and the money given to God, or so a man could buy his house back when he had sanctified it to God. And all this word means, "holy," is if a man shall “dedicate” his house to God!
Now, “holy” does not mean “divine,” it doesn't mean “good” because land is neither good nor bad; it might be better land for this or that but it's not good or bad. Most things that are hallowed in the scripture are things like dishes, utensils, tents, houses, land, and people and certain days. The concept of being holy or hallowed or sanctified is not a question of being good, it means it is “dedicated.”
If a man dedicates his land and his house to the Lord, and it is now “holy,” does that mean he can work and build in that house on the Sabbath Day? After all, this is “holy” land now, this house is a “holy” house. Therefore, why not build it on God's Holy Day? The answer is no, and the reason is two-fold. First, we must establish if that thing is holy by an act of God or by an act of man. If by man (such as in the case with a man dedicating his house to the Lord), it is irrelevant as to the Sabbath day, because we're dealing with things that are holy by God. Secondly, if some thing is made holy by God (the holy scripture for example), we must determine if the act committed with that thing is holy or not.
For example, scripture is holy. If somebody takes the holy scripture and stuffs the book in somebody's mouth so it suffocates them, does it make that act of murder holy, just because a holy thing was used during that act? No, because murder is a sin whether it's committed with something holy or not. If someone preaches from the holy scripture, and quotes directly from scripture “there is no god,” and even shows the thirteen passages from scripture that says there is no God (out of context, of course), and he tries to convince others there is no God, is that a holy act? No. Even though he is using a holy thing of God, it does make his actions holy.
Likewise, if somebody builds a holy house on holy land on the holy sabbath, it does not make that labour holy, because, just like murder, building a house is a sin to do on the sabbath, whether it's done with something holy or not. Whether our mind is on God or not. Whether it's God's Will to build that house or not. Whether it's commanded by God or not.
Nowhere does God say that building a house is holy. Therefore, if somebody build's or improves a “holy house” on the sabbath day, they would be sinning just as much as someone building a secular house on the sabbath, because the act of physically building a house is forbidden on the sabbath. Someone may object by saying, “But it is not worldly labour, I am laboring for the Lord. This is His house. It is dedicated to Him! See, even God's Law says this house his holy!” Would this justify him building this house on the sabbath? No. The fact is, it is irrelevant if a “thing” is holy or not; what matters is the act. We must ask ourselves if the act is holy or not. Even if somebody was building God's Holy Temple, they would still be prohibited from building this temple on the Sabbath Day! In Exodus 35:1-3, God specifically prohibited even kindling a fire on the Sabbath to build articles for the tabernacle or sanctuary of the Lord (verses 11-19). Even though the tabernacle is holy, it was forbidden to work on the holy tabernacle on the Sabbath, because God does not want us doing this kind of physical labour on that day.
This is why a maidservant cannot “keep her mind on God” and wash windows on the Sabbath at the same time. This kind of physical work and labour is to be done on a day other than the sabbath, unless it is to exercise a holy duty, or to show mercy (Hosea 6:6).
Second Example:Here's another example of something being holy:
Isaiah 23:17-18, "And it shall come to pass after the end of seventy years, that the LORD will visit Tyre, and she shall turn to her hire, and shall commit fornication with all the kingdoms of the world upon the face of the earth. And her merchandise and her hire shall be holiness to the LORD: it shall not be treasured nor laid up; for her merchandise shall be for them that dwell before the LORD, to eat sufficiently, and for durable clothing."
Now, the merchandise and the hire can hardly be considered to be coming out of a sacred or good thing. So what does this mean? Even though the merchandise and hire came out of fornication, it is dedicated to God, given to God, turned to that use. So, just because something is holy, it does not means that it is good, it's merely something that has been dedicated or given to God.
Since that hire is now “holy,” does that mean we can use that holy money on God's Holy day to buy and sell? No. Why not? Because buying and selling are not holy acts. If one did this on the Sabbath, they would be profaning the sabbath (Nehemiah 10:31; 13:15-22). Remember, it does not matter if a thing is holy or not, the question is, “Is the act of buying and selling holy? Or “Is buying and selling forbidden on God's Sabbath?”
Someone may object by saying, “But it is God's revealed will that we sell a creature that dies by itself to the stranger in Deuteronomy 14:21! The purpose is so the stranger can eat it as food. This is showing mercy to him! Therefore, if we sell this to him, it is both obeying God's command, and showing mercy!”
Deuteronomy 14:21, "Ye shall not eat of any thing that dieth of itself: thou shalt give it unto the stranger that is in thy gates, that he may eat it; or thou mayest sell it unto an alien: for thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God."
Firstly, you don't show mercy by selling something to another, because this places the burden of a price upon someone. “Well, what if we come across an animal that dies by itself on the sabbath day? Are you saying we should not sell it to him on the sabbath?” Well, buying and selling food is specifically forbidden on the Sabbath day (Nehemiah 10:31; 13:15-22). We cannot mix that which is holy, and that which is forbidden, because that act will still be considered a sin by God. “So, what are we to do? If we sell it to him after the sabbath, the animal would have been contaminated with bacteria, and the stranger might get sick and die.” That's true, so obviously we cannot sell it to him tomorrow. “Since we cannot sell it to him on or after the sabbath, is it okay to eat it ourselves?” No, it is forbidden to do so. “Then, we must violate God's command and let this food go to waste?” Not at all. “But if we cannot eat this food ourselves, and we cannot sell it to the stranger, and we cannot let this food go to waste, then what else is there to do?” The answer lies in the same passage. “thou shalt give it unto the stranger.” You see how God gives an answer to every question? And by giving the animal to a stranger, you are showing mercy to him.
Therefore, just because a thing is holy, it has no bearing on whether the act we do with that thing is holy or not.
Question: But what is the difference between working to build God's Temple, or working to heal somebody, on the sabbath?
Answer: The difference is mercy. Are you showing mercy to somebody by working on the temple? No. Are you showing mercy to the temple? No. Can you wait the day before or the day after to work on the Temple? Yes. Would it cause somebody pain to delay building the temple? No. Because there are temporary temples, or tents, or tabernacles, that we can use until the physical temple is built. The same goes for any house. Sure, the house could be in need of repair, but wait until a working day to fix it. If the people cannot stay in the house because it's too dangerous, give them temporary shelter until their house is fixed. But fix it on a day other than the Sabbath.
However, somebody who is in pain is different. Sure, you can wait the next day to heal him, but is that the character of God? What kind of reflection on God would it be if somebody asked you to help his pain, and you said, “Sure! I can heal you. But it'll have to wait until tomorrow. You'll just have to suffer until then. Besides, it's good that you suffer for the Lord's sake. Even the scripture says so. So shut your mouth and stop complaining! Obedience comes through the things we suffer!” How would people react if Jesus said this to those who asked for his help? This would violate both the spirit and letter of God's Law. It is lawful to heal people on the sabbath; Jesus and the apostles healed on the sabbath (Matthew 12:10-13, Mark 3:1-5, and Luke 13:10-17).
In the above passages, we have an instance where the Pharisees and Sadducees added their own rules and regulations to the keeping of the Sabbath and Jesus showed the hypocrisy of their rule. In John 5:5-16, notice again that Jesus told the man to do something that was directly in conflict with the un-biblical rules and regulations that the Pharisees and Sadducees had set up (i.e. picking up a bed after he was healed). The leaders of his day told the man that it was unlawful to carry his bed on the Sabbath—they may have cited Old Testament scriptures forbidding "bearing burdens on the Sabbath." If another man was carrying the same bed on the same Sabbath for personal or profit reasons, he may well have been in violation. But this man took his bed home so as not to leave it as so much "litter" for others. He had no way to know he would be healed that Sabbath, and he may well never have carried a bed on the Sabbath again.
First of all, we should understand what this "bed" is. It is not the same as a "bed" today, which is built out of boards and springs. In Jesus's day, a bed was a light mattress or pallet of the poor which could be easily rolled up and carried under the arm. The Jews reckoned that to carry a bed was among the "burdens" forbidden by the law (See Jeremiah 17:21,22; Nehemiah 13:15-20), but in truth, the burdens borne were in the way of traffic, trade, and ordinary labor (Nehemiah 13:17-20, Isaiah 10:27; 23:1-3; 30:6). Many today assert that the man broke the Sabbath law, but this position is false. Jesus would not have ordered the sabbath to be broken, for he came to fulfill it, not to break the law (Mattew 5:17). At no time did he break the sabbath or countenance its violation, as some people are erroneously led to suppose. In this case a man lying on his bed, away from home, is suddenly healed. Under such circumstances Jewish tradition said that he must either spend the rest of the day watching his bed, or else he must go off and leave it to be stolen. But He who rightfully interpreted the law of his own devising, and who knew that "the sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath" (Mark 2:27), ordered the healed one to carry his bed along home with him.
In Jesus' day, the very institution that God made for man's benefit and well-being was so trodden underfoot that it wasn't a blessing anymore...in fact the Jews that tried to keep it according to the un-biblical Pharisee rules might have even looked upon the Sabbath with dread!! So as every week went by, they probably thought..."Oh no...here comes the Sabbath again where I can't do much of anything....." How sad....a day that should be joyous and full of peace became an endless round of ceremonies and rules and things to watch out for.
You can look as hard as you can for any passage in the whole scripture where God said it was unlawful to heal someone on the Sabbath day, you will not find it. In our day, we should take this to mean that if we see a fellow man, or an animal, in danger or hurt or something, it is perfectly fine to help that man or animal on the Sabbath day. Other similar examples might be doing medical missionary work, or attending a sick friend, etc.
It was a maxim with the Jews, as it should be with all men, that he who neglected to preserve life when it was in his power, was to be reputed a murderer. It was a maxim with the Jews, that not to do good, when we have an opportunity, was to do evil; not to save life was to kill, or to be guilty of murder. If a man has an opportunity of saving a man's life when he is in danger, and does not do it, he is evidently guilty of his death. On this principle our Saviour puts this question to the Jews, whether it was better for him, having the power to heal this man, to do it, or to suffer him to remain in this suffering condition. And he illustrates it by an example, showing that in a matter of much less importance--that respecting their cattle--and Jesus asked them, at Luke 14:5, "...Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day?" Of course they would help that animal, and ought not a man be loosed from his bondage on the sabbath day (Luke 13:14; 14:1-6)? The same remark may apply to all opportunities of doing good. He that has the means of feeding the hungry, and clothing the naked, and instructing the ignorant, and sending the gospel to the destitute, and that does it not, is guilty; for he is practically doing evil; he is suffering evils to exist which he might remove. To refrain from healing in such an instance would have been to abstain from using a power given him for that very purpose. Is it holy in God's eyes to save a man's life by removing his disease, or should we leave him to die? God values man's life, and so should we.
So, to answer the question as to what is the difference between working to build God's Temple, or working to heal somebody, on the sabbath: would we glorify God by healing sickness? Yes. How? Because man is made in His image, and by showing love, even to our enemies, we are showing the love of God. Would we Glorify God by building his physical Holy Temple on the Sabbath? No. Why? Because God does not dwell in temples made with hands (Acts 7:48; 17:24). God does not dwell in things, but in people. By loving people, we love God. We do not show love to God by loving things. And we do not glorify God by doing what He forbids, and he forbids building his temple on his Holy Day. He does not forbid healing, and even commanded we heal people if it is in our power.
An Example of a Holy Act
Question: What has God made Holy?
Answer: By going to scripture, we can see both what God himself says is holy, and we can look at the examples of godly men to understand what God wants to be done on the sabbath. Here is one example of what God has made holy; scripture is holy.
Romans 1:2, "(Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures)"
2 Timothy 3:15, "And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus."
Now, we have already established that just because something is “holy”, it does not mean that the act we do with that thing will be considered holy as well. We must first determine if it was made holy by an act of man (such as a man dedicating his house to the Lord), or by an act of God. Was scripture made holy by an act of man? No. If it was, it would have absolutely no bearing on the sabbath. By an act of God? Yes. Therefore, let us see how to use this holy thing to be in accordance with the sabbath.
Let's see if there are examples of men using the holy scriptures on the Lord's Sabbath.
Jesus: teaching and reading the scriptures are holy acts.
Mark 1:21-22, "And they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the sabbath day he entered into the synagogue, and taught. And they were astonished at his doctrine:"Now, from the above passages, can we assume it is alright to teach on the sabbath? The answer must be qualified. Can we teach measurements, harvesting, secular history, or man's law? Remember, what is being taught, if done on the sabbath, must be holy to the Lord. To answer this question, let us see what Jesus taught.
Mark 6:2, "And when the sabbath day was come, he began to teach in the synagogue:"
Luke 4:16, "And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read."
Luke 4:31, "And came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and taught them on the sabbath days."
Luke 6:6, "And it came to pass also on another sabbath, that he entered into the synagogue and taught:"
Luke 13:10, "And he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath."
Luke 4:16-20, "And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him."
As we can see, Jesus taught from the Holy Scripture themselves. Why? Because God himself made the scriptures holy. The reason Jesus did not read or teach from other books on the Sabbath is because God's Word does not say that teaching such things as measurements, harvesting, secular history, or man's law is holy.
Apostles: teaching and reading the scriptures are holy acts.
Acts 13:13-15,44, "Now when Paul and his company loosed from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia: and John departing from them returned to Jerusalem. But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down. And after the reading of the law and the prophets…And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God."
Acts 16:13-15, "And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither. And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us."
Acts 17:2, "And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures,"
Acts 18:4, "And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath,"
Scripture readings were a part of worship for Jesus, the apostles, and converts. Scripture readings were a part of worship since the time of Moses (Deuteronomy 31:11; Joshua 8:30-35; Nehemiah 8:1-8; 9:1-3). “For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath” (Acts 15;21). Therefore, we can be assured that if we teach others from the holy scriptures, or if the holy scriptures teach us, then that is a holy act we can do on the sabbath day.
But what about Teaching other Topics?
Can it be God's will that people teach other things to others, such as measurements, harvesting, secular history, or man's law? Yes. Can reading these things help us to understand the things of God? Yes. For example:
Measurements can teach us how big Noah's Ark was, and the dimensions of the Ark of the covenant that the ten commandments were placed in, and the size of Solomon's temple. Teaching harvesting will give others an understanding of how to take care of God's land and animals. Secular history shows how True God's Word is when ignored or obeyed. Teaching man's law shows us that even the heathen recognize God's Truth, and gives us additional weapons to use against those who attack us. There are many things which, indirectly, teaches us God's Truth, but scripture directly teaches us God's truth. This is the difference.
Now, is it a sin to teach things such as measurements, harvesting, secular history, or man's law? No. Can it be God's Will that certain men teach these things? Yes. Does that mean it is okay for these men to teach these things on the sabbath just because it is God's Will? No. Can learning these things help us to understand the things of God? Yes. Does that mean it is okay to teach these things on the Sabbath just because it will help us understand God's truth, and help us keep our mind on God? No. Does God's Word say that measurements, harvesting, secular history, or man's law is holy? No, it does not.
What determines if it is okay to teach these things on the Sabbath or not? Only God determines this. Does God call scripture Holy? Yes. Are there examples of godly men teaching the scriptures on the Lord's Sabbath day? Yes. Therefore, we know that it is holy to read and teach from the scriptures. But what about other books and doctrines? Let's take a look at what scripture itself says.
Does God say measurements are Holy? No. Are there examples of holy men teaching and using measurements? Yes. Are there examples of holy men teaching and using measurements on the Lord's Sabbath day? No. Even though godly men have used measurements to build holy things, it does not matter. What matters is that these things were not done on the Sabbath. The other six days, yes, but not the Sabbath. Why? Because God does not say measurements are holy.
Does God say harvesting is Holy? No. Are there examples of holy men teaching and doing harvesting? Yes. Are there examples of holy men teaching and doing harvesting on the Lord's Sabbath day? No. Even though godly men have done harvesting, it does not matter. What matters is that these things were not done on the Sabbath. The other six days, yes, but not the Sabbath. Why? Because God does not say harvesting is holy.
Does God say secular history is Holy? No. Are there examples of holy men teaching secular history on the Lord's Sabbath day? No. Even though men have used secular history to teach holy things (Josephus), it does not matter. What matters is that these things were not done on the Sabbath. The other six days, yes, but not the Sabbath. Why? Because God does not say secular history is holy.
Does God say man's law is Holy? No. Are there examples of holy men teaching and quoting from man's law? Yes. Jesus' sermon on the mount is one, and when Jesus and the apostles rebuked the Pharisees is another. Are there examples of holy men teaching and quoting from man's law on the Lord's Sabbath day? No. Even though godly men have quoted from man's law to justify their acts, it does not matter. What matters is that these things were not done on the Sabbath. The other six days, yes, but not the Sabbath. Why? Because God does not say man's law is holy.
Some might claim that it's okay to teach from it because man's law (words of death) has God's Law mixed in it. Is Caesar's Law now holy? No. For example, if a snuff film (images of death) has, in the background, a copy of the ten commandments, is that snuff film holy, just because it has God's Law mixed in? What if we just take an excerpt from that snuff film, and zoom in on the Ten Commandments, so that we see nothing at all except the Ten Commandments from this snuff film. Would it be okay to fellowship on this and show this to others on the Sabbath? My question is: Why do this? Why not just go to God's Word for the Ten Commandments on the Sabbath? If somebody wants to weed through a snuff film to show God's Truth, well, they should do that on the other six days if any, but certainly not on the Sabbath.
Likewise, why go to excerpts in man's law for God's Truth on the Sabbath? Why not just go to God's Law? After all, God says His Law is holy, not man's law. God says his scripture is holy, not Caesar's scripture. For the most part, man's law is condemned in scripture, and God has punished his people for looking to man's law for truth, instead of looking to His Law for truth.
It is okay to do this during the week, to compare man's law with God's Law, just like it is okay to work during the week, or pick up sticks, or to build a new house, or to plow with an ox, etc., but since God himself never says that Caesar's law is holy, then why refer to this on the Sabbath? Did Jesus or the apostles ever refer to man's law on the Sabbath?
Well, Jesus and the apostles did quote from man's law, but never did they quote man's law on the Lord's sabbath day. There are just under one hundred recorded sabbaths in the New Testament, and never do they say, “it is written in your law…” on the sabbath; they never quoted from man's law on the sabbath, they only quoted from God's Law on the Sabbath. Likewise, nobody in the Old Testament quoted from man's law on the Sabbath either. Why? Is there anything wrong with quoting from man's law? No, just like there's nothing wrong with working or picking up sticks. Can it be edifying to quote from man's law? Yes, just like it can be edifying to harvest the fields. But is it holy to quote from man's law? If it is holy to quote from man's law, then where has God told us it is holy? He doesn't. And likewise, God does not say it is holy to work or pick up sticks on the sabbath day, and this is why it is a sin to do these things on the sabbath, because we are not keeping it holy, sanctified, separated, and dedicated to the Lord if we do this kind of work. Not even if we mix worldly work with godly work.
Yes, going to man's law may help others avoid the things of the world, but that is not the question. The question should be, “Is man's law “Holy” in God's eyes? And if it is, is it commanded by God to teach man's law on His Holy Day?”
To answer the first question, man's law is most definitely not holy. God does not call man's law holy,” which renders the second question moot. But, let us assume that it is God's Will that we go to man's law to be edified. There is nothing wrong with that. So, let us also presume there is a command from God which tells us to teach from man's law (which there is not). Does this make it okay to teach from it, or learn from it, on the sabbath? No. God commanded to do many things throughout scripture, but most of the things he commanded us to do is prohibited to be done on the sabbath, such as harvesting, plowing, building, buying and selling, etc. What we should be asking is the following, “If it is God's Will that we be edified in man's law, is this considered something “Holy” to be done on God's Holy Day?” To answer this we must go to scripture.
Does God say studying man's law is holy? No. Is there an example in scripture of any man of God ever quoting from man's law on the sabbath? No. What does that tell us? This means, even though we can do this six days a week, we should not do this on God's Holy Sabbath Day of Rest from the world.
Remember, to be “holy” is to be separate from the world and to be dedicated to God. Is man's law of the world? Yes. It regulates those things and people that are of the world. It does not regulate the bondservants of Christ. Scripture is the Law that we use. Scripture is called holy, man's law is never called holy.
And lastly, the laws of God are the words of God, not our own words. However, the laws of man are the words of the world, this is man's own words to regulate those of the world. Isaiah 58:13 specifically prohibits “speaking thine own words" on the Lord's Sabbath Day. Man's law contains man's own words. Therefore, we should not teach man's words on God's Sabbath, but God's Words on His Sabbath. In addition, speaking our own words would also include speaking about ourselves, our day at work, our personal history, and our personal experiences with others, etc. God does not want us talking about ourselves or others on this day, he wants us to fellowship about Him and His Law on His day.
Therefore, if God's commands could be a sin to perform on the sabbath, how much more that which he has not commanded. If using holy things could be a sin on the sabbath, how much more using things that are not holy.
Something can be God's Will, and be edifying, and be productive, yet still be a sin if done on His Holy Day. If God does not say a certain act is holy, then we are to refrain from doing that act one day a week, unless it is to show mercy to another.
Examples of when Acts are, or are not, a Sin
Washing dishes. Obviously, washing dishes could be done on either the day before or after the Sabbath. But what if we are out of cups and want a cup of coffee? Is it okay to wash one cup? I could say “Yes. There is nothing wrong with washing one cup.” Then you'll ask how about two cups? How about all of the cups? How about if I spend the whole day washing cups? Where does it end? But these are the wrong questions to ask. This is like asking, “How much can I do just to get by on the Sabbath?” instead of asking, “What can I do that will be Holy on God's dedicated, sanctified, hollowed, and holy day?”
Ask yourself, "Could I have washed the dishes yesterday?" If the answer is yes, why didn't you wash them so you'll have a cup today? If you wash one cup today, would you get in the habit of every week washing your cups on the sabbath because you made one exception?
Would it be so hard to not drink a cup of coffee on that day, since washing cups are a questionable act? You can drink coffee tomorrow, and all next week, and even next sabbath day, when you use the preparation day to make sure there will be clean cups for the sabbath. Are you asking yourself, “What can I get away with?” or are you asking, “How can I make this day Holy to the Lord?”
However, if there were unforeseen events that happened, and you were not able to wash the dishes before the sabbath, and you have a brother come over to fellowship with you on God's Word, and he asks for a drink (cup of water, whatever), and he was thirsty, then there is nothing wrong with washing a cup out so he can drink, this is showing mercy to him, and cleaning the cup will help prevent him from getting sick from germs. But do you see the difference?
Fixing a flat tire. If some woman pulled into your driveway, and asked you to fix her flat tire, should you do it? Well, if she was doing shopping and other secular things, then she will have to wait until after the sabbath. If she was not sinning on the sabbath, she would not be in this predicament in the first place. And by fixing that flat tire, you will be giving your approval of her sin, and partaking of her sin, and doing an act which could wait until after the sabbath.
However, if a woman pulls into your driveway and asks you to fix her flat tire, and you find out that her husband is in the car dying, and in need of immediate medical attention which only a doctor can provide, and she is on her way to see a doctor, and there is no other way to get to the doctor in time, then it is okay to fix her tire. You will not be sinning, because she was not sinning. You are showing mercy, and helping someone in need. Do you see the difference? Here is the same act. One is considered a sin, the other is not. When you can discern the reasons why, then you can apply that to all situations on the sabbath.
Helping Somebody. If a neighbor knocks on your door on the sabbath day, and asks you to help him move his family and things out of his house, would you do it? If you told him no, and he says, “But, God commands you to help those in need,” what would you say? The proper thing to do is to ask him if his move could wait until tomorrow. If he says no, that he will be evicted tomorrow, ask him if he could have moved on a day other than today. If he says, “Well, I had all last week to move, but I was partying all week and I wanted to wait until today.” Then explain to him that he could have done it on a day other than God's Holy Day, and since he disregards the Sabbath Day, and places his own will above God's, explain to him that you are forbidden to do such things on His Sabbath day, because you would be placing a heathen's will above God's will. If your neighbor asks, “But, what about God's command to help people?” Reply, “There is a difference between helping people, and helping people sin.”
However, if you are in Africa, and there are billions of army ants that are headed towards your neighbor's house, and they are eating everything in its path, and your neighbor asks you to help save his family and things and move them out of their path and out of his house, would you do it? Would God approve of this act? Yes. Why? Because you are showing mercy to your neighbor. God tells us that we are responsible for our neighbor's belongings (Deuteronomy 22:1-4). Unlike the above scenario, we had no knowledge of the ants yesterday, so we could not do this yesterday. And if we wait until tomorrow, our neighbor may lose everything he has. If we do not help somebody when it is in our power, we are as guilty as if we did that act ourselves.
Resting. If somebody rests all day, and sleeps in bed for most (or all) of the sabbath, would that be okay to do? After all, we are commanded to rest on the sabbath. Well, we must ask the purpose for his rest. If it's because he works as many hours as he can during the week so he can make money, and makes up for his lack of sleep on the Sabbath, then obviously it would be a sin. Why? Because he is dedicating that day to himself, not to God. He is using the sabbath as an excuse to sin, so he could rest up and make mammon during the week. Sleeping is not a holy act, and has nothing to do with dedicating the day to the Lord. When one sleeps then one is not remembering nor thinking about the Lord.
However, if somebody was sick that day, and needed rest to get well, then it would be okay to sleep on the sabbath. Why? Because this is showing mercy to someone in need of healing. Physically resting ones body is one of the best ways to allow the body to heal itself. Same act, but one is a sin and one is not a sin to do on the sabbath.
Mailing a letter. We are commanded to fellowship with others on the sabbath. If, on the sabbath, you write a letter and put a stamp on it and go to the mailbox to mail it, will the receiver receive your fellowship on the same sabbath day? No. It will take a few days to reach him. Therefore, you are not having a “dialogue” about God's Word on the sabbath day, you are not fellowshipping on the sabbath. Ask yourself if you could mail that letter the day before the sabbath. If so, then do it then. If you mail it on the Sabbath, and it remains in the mailbox until Monday, it will not get there any faster than if mailed on the secular day Sunday. So why not mail it on Sunday? This is time that could be used to dedicate to God, rather than making unnecessary movement from one place to another.
But more importantly than this is the question, “Is mailing a letter holy in God's eyes?” The answer is no. Writing about God's Word in that letter might be holy, yes. Having him read it may be holy, yes. If you were to write something on the sabbath, and the reader reads it on the same sabbath day, that may be holy, yes. But we're not talking about that. We're talking about the act of mailing a letter.
Now, one may argue, “but God commands us to “preach” the word of God with others on the sabbath.” Yes, that is true, but it is not “preaching”; it is not a dialogue, when we send a monologue. The listener will not hear what we say on the sabbath anyway.
It would be different if we write a letter about God's Word, and go next door ourselves and give that letter to our neighbor on the sabbath. The difference is the following. We are communicating God's Word, with two people, on the same day. We are not forcing somebody else to work on the sabbath. We are not buying or selling on the sabbath. We are not partaking of another's sin. We are keeping the command of God to fellowship on his day.
Since they won't read it until a few days after the sabbath, we are not breaking God's Command to fellowship on the sabbath if we mail that letter on the day previous or on the day after. The reader of that letter won't read what you have to say on the sabbath, so why send it on the sabbath?
However, talking on the phone, sending an E-mail, or talking to our neighbor about God's Word is different. There's no unnecessary traveling, because we would be communicating God's Word with another on that same day. We are not forcing somebody else to work on the sabbath. We are not paying somebody for a service to be done on the sabbath. And we are not partaking of another's sin.
Your Questions and Objections Answered
- Why was the man put to death for picking up sticks on the sabbath (Numbers 15:32)? Isn't it possible that he did not know he was committing a sin?
Answer: It is interesting to note that Numbers 15:22-29 are instruction for sin committed in ignorance. There is no death penalty here, but rather atonement, so to say the man was gathering sticks in ignorance does not harmonize. For if he had ignorantly done what he did there would have been forgiveness and attonement, not a penalty: for we know God is no respecter of persons when it comes to judgment (Deuteronomy 10:16-20; Isaiah 56:3; Acts 10:34-35).
Then in verses Numbers 15:30-31, we see the instruction for dealing with sins done presumptuously. If one looks closely at the punishment/judgments of God upon whosoever despises His Word and breaks His commandment, we see these being cut off. This is why the man gathering sticks on the Sabbath was put to death, because what he did, he did full well knowing it would be against God and His commandments. There was no doubt in this man's mind he was doing evil in the sight of God. And there was no doubt in the people's mind that he was sinning, because they brought him before the magistrates.
Right after the man was put to death for gathering sticks, God commanded His people to make fringes to they would remember to be holy:
Numbers 15:39-40, "And it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the LORD, and do them; and that ye seek not after your own heart and your own eyes, after which ye use to go a whoring: That ye may remember, and do all my commandments, and be holy unto your God."
The man who was picking up sticks was not doing an act that God considered holy, that's why he was put to death.
Remember, picking up sticks is not a sin. Scripture never says anything good or bad about picking up sticks. But does God say it is "holy" to do that? No. This is why God considered it is a sin to pick up sticks on the sabbath (Numbers 15:32-36). God commanded this act to be so serious that he sentenced that man to death. This is something that could have been done the day before. Looking at Numbers 15:30-32, the Jamieson Fausset and Brown Commentary says the picking up of sticks is...
"...an instance of a presumptuous sin. The mere gathering of sticks was not a sinful act and might be necessary for fuel to warm him or to make ready his food. But its being done on the Sabbath altered the entire character of the action. The law of the Sabbath being a plain and positive commandment, this transgression of it was a known and willful sin, and it was marked by several aggravations. For the deed was done with unblushing boldness in broad daylight, in open defiance of the divine authority--in flagrant inconsistency with His religious connection with Israel, as the covenant-people of God; and it was an application to improper purposes of time, which God had consecrated to Himself and the solemn duties of religion. The offender was brought before the rulers, who, on hearing the painful report, were at a loss to determine what ought to be done. That they should have felt any embarrassment in such a case may seem surprising, in the face of the sabbath law (Ex 31:14). Their difficulty probably arose from this being the first public offense of the kind which had occurred; and the appeal might be made to remove all ground of complaint--to produce a more striking effect, so that the fate of this criminal might be a beacon to warn all Israelites in the future."
- But scripture does not record any death penalty when Israel profaned the Sabbath day.
Answer: Yes, it is true that when all Israel sinned, people were not being put to death as God commanded. This is because the death penalty was to be imposed by the judges of Israel (Deuteronomy 19:17-21), such as in the case with the man who picked up sticks. But in the days when all of Israel were sinning, there would be no people to carry out the death penalty because everybody would be sinning on the sabbath, including the judges and priests! And if the judges were sinning, they weren't doing as instructed by God. Therefore, God would send them into captivity, and sometimes he would send heathen nations to kill many Jews. But either way, they were sinning against God, and this is the important thing to remember.
- Jesus and the apostles were doing secular work by harvesting corn on the sabbath (Matthew 12-1-4, Mark 2:23-26, Luke 6:1-4), therefore it'a okay for us to do secular work on the sabbath day.
Answer: Those who hold this view are really taking the same ground as did the caviling Jews and the Pharisees. In this, they contradict the testimony of Christ Himself, who declared, "I have kept My Father's commandments, and abide in His love" (John 15:10). Neither the Saviour, nor His followers, broke the law of the Sabbath. Christ was a living representative of the law. No violation of its holy precepts was found in His life. Looking upon a nation of witnesses who were seeking occasion to condemn Him, He could say unchallenged, "Which of you convicteth Me of sin?" (John 8:46). Scripture records that Jesus was obedient until his death (Philippians 2:8), both to the letter and to the spirit of God's Law.
Did Jesus do something he was not supposed to do on the sabbath? If so, that means he did not do His Father's Will, but Jesus said he always did His Father's Will. Both cannot be correct. In Truth, Jesus and the apostles kept both the spirit and the letter of God's Law when they plucked corn on the sabbath. Let us examine this in more detail.
First, let us establish if Jesus was doing the secular work of harvesting corn on the sabbath. God's 4th commandment forbids secular work. This includes harvesting. But just in case there is any doubt that harvesting is specifically forbidden on the sabbath, let's go to:
Exodus 34:21, "Six days thou shalt work, but on the seventh day thou shalt rest: in earing time and in harvest thou shalt rest."
And what was the penalty for harvesting on the sabbath? The penalty was death (Exodus 31:14-15; 35:2). Why was the penalty death? Because God considers harvesting a secular work. It was punishable by death for it is a sin against God. Was Jesus harvesting on the sabbath? If so, that means he was sinning. But Jesus said he was sinless. Therefore, Jesus could not possible have been harvesting corn.
What is God's Law as it relates to what Jesus and the apostles did? Let's examine the laws which led Jesus to do what he did.
Leviticus 19:2, "Speak unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say unto them, Ye shall be holy: for I the LORD your God am holy."
Then God continues to explain what he considers holy in the following verses:
Leviticus 19:9-10, "And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field, neither shalt thou gather the gleanings of thy harvest. And thou shalt not glean thy vineyard, neither shalt thou gather every grape of thy vineyard; thou shalt leave them for the poor and stranger: I am the LORD your God."
Leviticus 23:22, "And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not make clean riddance of the corners of thy field when thou reapest, neither shalt thou gather any gleaning of thy harvest: thou shalt leave them unto the poor, and to the stranger: I am the LORD your God."
Deuteronomy 24:19-22, "When thou cuttest down thine harvest in thy field, and hast forgot a sheaf in the field, thou shalt not go again to fetch it: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow: that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hands. When thou beatest thine olive tree, thou shalt not go over the boughs again: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow. When thou gatherest the grapes of thy vineyard, thou shalt not glean it afterward: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow. And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt: therefore I command thee to do this thing."
As you can see, God specifically commands those who harvest to leave food for others in their fields. Why? One, because it's holy. Two, because this is showing mercy to others. And for people who are hungry to pick corn from a field is an act that God considers merciful.
God made specific allowance for picking handfuls of corn from another man's field:
Deuteronomy 23:24-25, "When thou comest into thy neighbour's vineyard, then thou mayest eat grapes thy fill at thine own pleasure; but thou shalt not put any in thy vessel. When thou comest into the standing corn of thy neighbour, then thou mayest pluck the ears with thine hand; but thou shalt not move a sickle unto thy neighbour's standing corn."
This was a command from God, and a provision for Christ and his disciples, and Jesus and his apostles were obeying this command from God. Jesus and the disciples plucked corn on the Sabbath day because they were hungry (Matthew 12:1), not because they were harvesting the field. There were two conditions to plucking corn; they could not use a sickle to take down the corn, and they could not use a container to store the corn in. If they did, it would be considered harvesting. They were allowed to take only what they could eat.
The act of leaving corn for others is called holy by God. The act of plucking corn when hungry is called merciful by God. Can something be holy and merciful, but at the same time be a secular work? God Forbid. If there is no difference between the two, how can we follow these commands:
Ezekiel 22:26, "Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they shewed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned among them."
Ezekiel 44:23, "And they shall teach my people the difference between the holy and profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean."
The bolded word “profane” (Hebrew word #2455, chol) in the two verses above does not mean “defile,” it means “common” or “ordinary.” We are to keep the sabbath holy; we are not to do our own ways or our own pleasure on the sabbath. We are not to do ordinary or common work, unless that work in either holy or merciful.
How can we follow these commands if there is no difference between what is holy and what is profane? Secular work on the sabbath is profane. What God calls holy and merciful is not profane.
To claim Jesus and the apostles “could have” plucked corn on the preparation day is irrelevant. Why? That's like saying Jesus should have healed people on a day other than the sabbath. That is taking the same stand as the Pharisees when they told Jesus he should not heal and pluck corn on the sabbath. What the Pharisees did not understand was that it is only necessary to do an act on a day other than the sabbath when that act is not holy or merciful.
The corn Jesus and the disciples plucked were already prepared! They simply walked over, took the corn off the stalk, peeled it, and ate it. No different than taking prepared food out of the refrigerator, cooking it, and eating it.
Do you believe Jesus "could have" plucked corn on a day other than the sabbath? Do you believe Jesus "should have" plucked corn on a day other than the sabbath? To say that Jesus "could have" plucked corn on a day other than the sabbath is irrelevant, as long as what he was doing was holy or merciful. God only commands acts which are not holy or merciful to be done on a day other than the sabbath, not all acts. If we start saying, "Well, Jesus could have healed these people on a day other than the sabbath," then we can justify our acts by saying, "Therefore, it must be okay for me to do things on the sabbath that could have been done on another day, no matter what my acts are."
- We can't help but do secular work on sabbath.
Answer: If people can't help but do secular work on the sabbath, and God commanded us to avoid secular work on the sabbath, then that would mean that God commanded us to do something which is impossible to do. Do you believe God would command His children to do that which is impossible, then kill His children for not being able to do the impossible? Our Father is not arbitrary and capricious. If your image of him is so, then you are gravely in error.
- Walking to a refrigerator to get lasagna is a secular work.
Answer: This is like saying, "Walking to a field to get corn is a secular work." But, this is judging the action without the intent. An act does not make a man guilty unless his intention be guilty. Likewise, an act is not a secular work unless his intention be secular. The question is, "Are you walking to do an act that God considers holy or merciful? Or, are you walking to do something secular?" If Jesus was walking to the field to harvest corn, that would be a sin. If Jesus was walking to the field to eat food that was already prepared, that is merciful. Likewise, if someone was walking to the refrigerator to prepare lasagna from scratch, that would be a sin. If someone was walking to the refrigerator to eat lasagna that was already prepared, that is merciful. We should prepare as much of the food as possible on a day before the sabbath.
Walking to a field to pluck and eat corn is a merciful act. Walking to a field to harvest corn is a sin. Walking to the refrigerator to cook and eat food is a merciful act. Walking to the refrigerator to prepare food from scratch is a sin.
- Isn't starting a fire a secular work?
Answer: Let us examine this verse:
Exodus 35:2-3, "Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you an holy day, a sabbath of rest to the LORD: whosoever doeth work therein shall be put to death. Ye shall kindle no fire throughout your habitations upon the sabbath day."
This text has caused a deal of confusion and resulted in people not lighting fires for heating or cooking on the Sabbath. The word for "kindle" is also frequently translated "burn" elsewhere. Many say this verse forbids the burning of any fires on the Sabbath. One historian spoke of one Jewish group who forbade all fires on the Sabbath, but the entire group died during one cold winter. Somehow, we do not believe that this is what the Creator wanted us to do.
The meaning of Exodus 35:3 seems clearer when it is read in the context of the entire chapter. God is assigning the Israelites a massive building project—building the tabernacle of meeting. Verse 1 is the beginning of a major new section of Exodus; Moses gathers the people together to hear, then in verses 2 and 3 he tells them not to work on the Sabbath—they should not even start the fire that they would need to let burn for a few hours in order to do metal work. The rest of chapter 35, plus the next three chapters, are the Lord's command to build the tabernacle. While Exodus 35:3 does not say "do not start a work fire," the entire context of the section is about work. The fires are working fires and they relate to the construction of any work or edifice, even the tabernacle of God. No construction or working artifice, or construction or molding by fire, may take place on the Sabbath Day.
The word "habitations" is found in the verse because that is where the people worked—they did not have factories or offices. If there is a general principle we can derive from this, it is that we are not to use the Sabbath to prepare for work. We are not to clutter our Sabbath with other responsibilities that will distract us from the purpose of the day.
Exodus 35:3 was for restraint of the building of the tabernacle, and is designed to prevent all public or private working on the sabbath day; having no fire to heat their tools or melt their metal, or do any thing for which that was necessary. It can hardly be thought that this is to be taken in the strictest sense, as an entire prohibition of kindling a fire and the use of it on that day, which is so absolutely useful, and needful in various cases, and where acts of mercy and necessity require it; as in cold seasons of the year, for the warming and comforting of people who otherwise would be unfit for religious exercises, and on the account of infants and aged persons, who could not subsist without it; and in cases of sickness, and various disorders which necessarily require it; for light so they can see at night; and even for the preparation of food, which must be had on that day as on others, the sabbath being not a fast, but rather a festival. And yet this law is interpreted by people in the most rigorous sense: they put kindling a fire among the principal works forbidden on that day.
Some people claim that they should start a fire on the preparation day, and keep it burning throughout the sabbath so they would not have to start it on the sabbath. If they started the fire the day before, so they would not have to actually start the fire but just keep it going, that means someone would have to stay up all night long and keep throwing sticks in it to keep it going. Or, people would take shifts. They would not get “rest.” Secondly, the desert gets hot in the day time, and cool at night. If the fires must be kept burning in the day time, it would make it even hotter, and the people would be living in a hell on earth, as far as temperature is concerned. This is not merciful. This would cause needless suffering. And this goes against one of the purposes for God giving us the sabbath.
- Scripture can be construed to say that we should not eat lasagna on the sabbath because it was bought from merchants who sin against God.
Answer: Is it wrong to use merchandise from merchants on the sabbath? No. Things, in and of themselves, are not unclean. Therefore, it has no bearing on what we do with that thing on the sabbath. What matters is what we do with that thing, our act and our intention. But, since we are commanded to only do those things that are considered holy or merciful on the sabbath, is there a place in scripture where it says that merchandise from merchants and fornicators shall be holy to the lord? Yes. On the condition that they are used by them that dwell before the Lord, and are used for an act of mercy, such as it being used to eat and cloth oneself.
Isaiah 23:17-18, "…the LORD will visit Tyre, and she shall turn to her hire, and shall commit fornication with all the kingdoms of the world upon the face of the earth. And her merchandise and her hire shall be holiness to the LORD: it shall not be treasured nor laid up; for her merchandise shall be for them that dwell before the LORD, to eat sufficiently, and for durable clothing."
Food stores are comparable to the merchants of the earth who commit fornication against the Lord. They profane the sabbath and other things. Yet, God says that their merchandise is holy if used according to his provisions. Therefore, eating lasagna bought from merchants is holy in God's eyes, if used by His children when hungry.
Are there examples of godly people working with merchants? Yes. God's description of a godly woman includes her working with merchants and Canaanites (Proverbs 31:14,18,24 - In verse 24, is the Greek word for “merchant” is actually “Canaanite”). God permits and commands us to sell to the stranger (Leviticus 25:47, Deuteronomy 14:21). Israel worked with merchants six day a week, but did not buy or sell on the sabbath (Nehemiah 13:15-21). We do not partake of their sin when we buy and sell from merchants on a day other than the sabbath. In Luke 14:1, Jesus "went into the house of one of the chief Pharisees to eat bread on the sabbath day." This is an examples of Jesus eating food from sinners on the sabbath day. This is considered holy and merciful by God to eat food on the sabbath, no matter where that food comes from.
- Can you show where, in scripture, people made a fire and cooked food on the sabbath?
Answer: Yes. Before we get into these passages, we must establish a scriptural truth. When God says something is a sin, he never commands people to do that which he considers a sin. In other words, God does not command people to go out and sin. For example, if during the yearly feasts and festivals, God commanded that every man sleep with his neighbor's wife once a year, we know that this would be an abomination. Even if God commanded it to be done once every seven years. It does not matter. What matters is that God does not command people to do an act that he considers a sin. Or, if in addition to his other yearly feasts, he had a weekly feast of work, where everyone had to work for the entire seven days, that would conflict with the Sabbath law. Or, if during one of the already established feasts, he commanded to do something on all seven days that would be a sin to do on the sabbath (like plowing fields, buying and selling, etc.), then there would be a conflict during the sabbath.
Now, starting with the presumption that cooking food is a sin to do on the sabbath, if scripture shows that God approved, and even commanded, of cooking food on the sabbath, then it could not possible be a sin to cook on the sabbath, for that would be equal to God commanding a man to go into his neighbor's wife…both would require the death penalty for the people involved.
God's Law demands that fires are lit on the Sabbath:
Exodus 12:1-11,14, "And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you. Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house: And if the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbour next unto his house take it according to the number of the souls; every man according to his eating shall make your count for the lamb. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats: And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening. And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it. And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it. Eat not of it raw, nor sodden at all with water, but roast with fire; his head with his legs, and with the purtenance thereof. And ye shall let nothing of it remain until the morning; and that which remaineth of it until the morning ye shall burn with fire. And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the LORD'S passover. And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the LORD throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever."
This feast would fall on the seventh day sabbath at least once every seven years. In the same chapter, God says that he does not consider the eating of food to be a secular work:
Exodus 12:16, "… and in the seventh day there shall be an holy convocation to you; no manner of work shall be done in them, save that which every man must eat, that only may be done of you."
Elsewhere, God lays restrictions as to the keeping of the passover. The text in Deuteronomy 16:5-7 shows that the Passover ordinance was reversed after the first Passover, where it was originally inside the homes in Egypt, to where it had to be outside the homes.
Deuteronomy 16:5,7, "Thou mayest not sacrifice the passover within any of thy gates, which the LORD thy God giveth thee: And thou shalt roast and eat it in the place which the LORD thy God shall choose "
God limits where not to sacrifice the passover lamb, but he does not limit when. Nowhere does God say, “Thou mayest not sacrifice the passover when it falls on the seventh day sabbath.” There were other feasts that ran into the seventh day sabbath, such as:
Deuteronomy 16:13,15, "Thou shalt observe the feast of tabernacles seven days…Seven days shalt thou keep a solemn feast unto the LORD."
This feast was not a sin to do on the seventh day sabbath, because it was a feast to the Lord, and not a feast for selfish, personal reasons. God wants us to enjoy eating, and it is no sin to eat and cook on the sabbath. Further evidence that to burn meat by a fire is not defined as servile work is found at:
Leviticus 23:8, "But ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD seven days: in the seventh day is an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein."
God commanded that an offering be made by fire on the sabbath, but also says no servile work is to be done. Therefore, the burning of meat is not considered servile work, because our bodies were designed to eat food, and it is merciful to eat on the sabbath.
Numbers 28:8-10, "…a sacrifice made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD. And on the sabbath day two lambs of the first year without spot, and two tenth deals of flour for a meat offering, mingled with oil, and the drink offering thereof: This is the burnt offering of every sabbath, beside the continual burnt offering, and his drink offering."
Scripture is full of examples of fires being kindled every sabbath to make sacrifices (Leviticus 24:5-9, 1 Chronicles 9:32; 23:31, 2 Chronicles 2:4; 8:13; 31:3, Ezekiel 45:16-25). Thus, the lighting of fires on the Sabbath was not only permitted it was mandatory. There is no contradiction in the Laws of God.
The requirements are thus that all food preparation is to take place on the preparation day, but roasting of meat portions may take place on the Sabbath and is required to be performed by Law. This also does not affect the lighting of fires for heating, which is necessary for survival in many parts of the earth. Where such is required, the preparation day is to be used for the gathering of wood, as the gathering of wood for fuel and cooking is also expressly forbidden.
The man was stoned for gathering of the sticks on the Sabbath and not for cooking or attempting to cook on the Sabbath. Thus the preparation work must be done beforehand and the actual roasting may be done in sacrifice and offerings and for the Sabbath festivities, but the general preparations must be done on the preparation day or before.
It's important to understand the kind of work that God prohibits doing on the sabbath. If the work is not holy or merciful, it is prohibited to be done on the sabbath. But something that God has commanded to be done on the sabbath, a work that is holy or merciful, does not fall into the category of the “work” that is prohibited by God.
- If it's okay to cook on the Sabbath, how do you explain Exodus 16:23?
Exodus 16:23, "And he said unto them, This is that which the LORD hath said, To morrow is the rest of the holy sabbath unto the LORD: bake that which ye will bake to day, and seethe that ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until the morning."
This is in reference to the manna that God gave the Israelites in the wilderness. The scripture tells us God gave the Israelites manna as a test to determine if they would walk in His Law (Exodus 16:4). It is obvious that this passage was imposed upon them only applied to those Jews on that particular day at that particular time, and not to anyone else at any other time.
Why? Because these same people were forbidden to go out of their place (Exodus 16:29) and forbidden to get food on the sabbath day (Exodus 16:22). If this were binding upon everyone, then Jesus and the apostles broke God's Sabbath day by going out of their place and picking corn on the sabbath day. Also notice that the people in Exodus broke God's command and gathered food on the sabbath (Exodus 16:27-29), but the death penalty was not given to those who went out to gather manna on the sabbath day! Why? Because this was a test given to them, not a command given to anyone else.
In Exodus 16:23, take note that they were not instructed to boil all, and set aside half for the Sabbath. It says to boil what you would boil, and keep the rest for the Sabbath. Clearly there was no prohibition to boiling manna on the Sabbath.
- Doesn't scripture command us to not go out of our place on the sabbath (Exodus 16:29)?
Exodus 16:29, "See, for that the LORD hath given you the sabbath, therefore he giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day."
Remember, Exodus 16:4 says this was only a test to those living at that time; it was not a law, nor was it for all people to observe on the sabbath. Proof of this is found throughout scripture. In Ezekiel 46:1-3, the prince and the people were commanded to worship at the temple on the Sabbath. Even Jesus and the apostles went to synagogues every sabbath day. Would anyone dare say they sinned by going out of their place on the sabbath? Of course not. We must read Exodus 16 in context, and the context is that of a test given to those people at that time, and not a law to be observed by anyone else after that test was over.
In addition, the Hebrew word maqowm is a very general word for "place"—it does not specifically mean "house," but can even refer to a man's country (Genesis 29:26). If a man today is a member of a widely scattered congregation, surely, attending his congregation is not going out of "his place."
- Shouldn't we forbid all electricity on sabbath? Shouldn't we avoid turning the knob on a stove?
Answer: Turning on a burner on the stove or turning on the crock pot is not work. Turning on electricity does not detract from rest. It keeps food clean and allows us to eat and keep our blood sugar normal (both being merciful acts).
If one forbids electricity as fire, then it would be necessary to unplug all electrical appliances. All the food should be taken out of the refrigerators and they should be turned off. No cleaning up with hot water....cold showers included, and turn off the heater/air conditioning. The compressors could be said to kick in and kindle electricity after the Sabbath starts. All clocks, timers and even phones would have to be unplugged.....the phone ringing or an answering machine would cause a current to be energized. Now, what do we do about wool carpet in the winter time? If you walk and create static electricity and upon touching someone or something create a spark, have you kindled a fire? These things can be taken to the absurd....and often are. As a point of sanitation: leaving food cooking - starting on Friday and going through Saturday -is not healthy. Bugs/microbes can grow in it, and many of the nutrients break down. Leaving food out at room temperature is not a good idea either.
- Should machines rest as well?
Answer: In Genesis 2:2-3, scripture shows us that the Creator rested from His work on this day. A common Orthodox Jewish interpretation of this verse places great emphasis on "not creating on the Sabbath"—they will not write at all, light a candle or turn on an electric light. This emphasis on non-creating over non-work is further exemplified by some Jews who believe they must walk a long distance to synagogue rather than drive (because it creates a "fire" in the engine) or walk up 20 flights of stairs rather than push a button on an elevator (which creates a spark or a "fire" in completing an electrical circuit). God ceased from creating because creating was His work. All of the scriptures that tell us how to keep the Sabbath tell us to cease from our work. If we are faced with two different ways to do a necessary thing on the Sabbath, we should choose the one that is the least work for the people involved—being less concerned about whether or not a machine is creating a fire.
God made men and animals and then told us that they need to rest on the Sabbath. Men made the machines and know that most of them do not need to rest on the Sabbath. Machines need to stop only when they need maintenance (a man to work on them). This should not be done on the Sabbath! There is no reason not to let machines serve us on the Sabbath as long as they do not require people to work, too.
- What about washing our clothes in a washer and dryer?
First of all, is this act holy to God? Does it glorify God? Secondly, is this a merciful act? Thirdly, is this not an act that maidservants and manservants do; clean house and things? And if they are commanded to rest from this kind of work, are not we also? It is not only the sevants themselves that are prohibited from working, it is the kind of work they do that is prohibited from being done on the sabbath, no matter who does the work. That is the spirit of the "no work" command. Fourthly, is this act something that could be done on a day before or after the sabbath? Fifthly, does letting these machines work require us to work as well? Do we have to load our clothes in the washing machine, pour in the detergent, clorox, fabric softner, take the clothes out of the washer and put them in the dryer, put a non-static tissue in it, then take the clothes out and fold them and hang them? If so, then why would we consider doing this kind of work on the sabbath, when it is clearly forbidden?
Wearing clothes is an act of necessity, because it protects the body from the elements, and it would be improper to wear no clothes around others. However, even though wearing clothes is an act of mercy and necessity, washing clothes is not. Washing clothes is a servile work, which should be done on a working day. Unless, of course, something unexpected happened, and your clothes got filthy on the sabbath, and you did not have anything else to wear, and the only way to wear clothes is by washing them first, then it would be okay to wash just what you need to wear on the sabbath. Now, washing these clothes becomes an act of mercy.
When we have all week to wash clothes, and feel we can wash clothes on the sabbath just like any other day, then we are putting no difference between the holy and the profane, we are treating the sabbath just like a working day, and we are not keeping the sabbath holy to God.
- What about having others do stuff on the sabbath so we don't have to?
Answer: Another principle of the Sabbath we can plainly see is in Exodus 20:8-11. We ourselves are to keep the Sabbath, and we cannot get others to do work for us, because that would be causing them to break the Sabbath. We cannot ask our young son or daughter to do work, even if they are not old enough to be accountable. We cannot ask a male or female servant to do work for us, either - and in this day and age, that means we cannot go out to eat, go shopping, hire in housekeepers or gardeners, or employ anyone in any way on Sabbath, whether they share our faith or not, because even "strangers" are commanded to observe the Sabbath day. In other words, if you patronize any business during the Sabbath, you are encouraging the owners of that business to force their employees to work, thus breaking the Sabbath. If everyone followed this rule, no one would be working on Sabbath - everyone would be home with their families. Is this a radical notion? Probably - but that's clearly the way God wants it. The Sabbath is for everyone, and we are commanded not to encourage anyone to break it.
- Is it okay to eat at a restaurant on the Sabbath?
Answer: Suppose a large group of brethren go to a nice restaurant on the Sabbath for a leisurely meal. The manager sees that his waiters are quite busy when the reservation is made, so he calls up Jack, an "on call" waiter, to work two hours during the busy time. Jack is a Bible student and is learning about keeping the Sabbath. However, he realizes that he will not be called much in the future if he refuses to work when he is called. Jack is assigned to serve our Sabbath-keeping group, and during the course of serving them, he hears them talk about Sabbath keeping and their regular use of restaurants on the Sabbath. Jack asks them if it is all right for him to continue to regularly work on the Sabbath, since it is apparently all right for them to eat there on the Sabbath.
This is a dilemma! How can our group of Sabbath keepers tell Jack that it is not sin for them to eat there regularly, but it is sin for him to work there regularly? How can they tell Jack that they were not making their servant work on the Sabbath since, they paid him the tip directly, and since he would have not been called to work at all if the Sabbath-keepers would have stayed home? A question for the readers: "What explanation would you give Jack in this case?"
- I see nothing wrong with buying food on the sabbath. If my family is hungry, I'm going to buy food for them to eat, whether it's at a restaurant or food store. This is an act of mercy.
Answer: Let us presume that buying food is an act of mercy. If it is an act of mercy, why does God forbid buying food on the sabbath (Nehemiah 10:31; 13:15-22)? Why is this an abomination to God, a sin against God, and why does it defile the sabbath, if it's an act of mercy? Our Father is a merciful God, and he allows us to do acts of mercy. It would be against His character to forbid doing an act of mercy, especially on His Sabbath Day.
Therefore, we have two choices. Either we must believe buying food is an act of mercy and God forbids people from doing acts of mercy. Or, we must believe that buying food is not an act of mercy, and God forbids buying food on the sabbath for our own good. The latter is the correct choice.
When our family is hungry, there is not only one choice to feed them (i.e., buy food on the sabbath). There are many alternatives we can do which would both satify the hunger and keep God's commands at the same time. For example, we can buy food before the sabbath. This would allow us to eat on the sabbath without breaking God's command. Or, if we visit our family, we can bring food to them and cook it there. Or we can go to a relative's house and cook with food they alreay have. There are so many options available. But if we choose to do the one thing that is an abomination to God (buy food on the sabbath) instead of doing these other acts, it shows a heart not after God. It shows that one is forsaking God for the sake of convenience. Because one wishes to live ones life without having God interfere in his decision making.
A family can prepare, in advance, to eat on the sabbath. There is no need for them to buy food on the sabbath, because they have all week to prepare for it. There is no excuse for a family, every week, to buy food on the sabbath just because they are hungry. This is using the "family" as an excuse to sin against the Lord. This is using the "family" as a cloak of maliciousness. We cannot break the letter of the law habitually, and believe we are keeping the spirit of the law at the same time, when it is in our power to keep the letter of the law.
In addition, when one buys food on the Lord's Sabbath Day, not only are they sinning, but they are partaking of the sin of the seller, because the seller is working on the sabbath, which is condemned by God, and we would be approvong of their sin and giving support to their sin by buying from them.
- What about other services we receive on the Sabbath?
Answer: Does God want us to pay a business for the use of their hall on the Sabbath? Is it acceptable for us to use electricity and other utilities on the Sabbath (since utility employees work that day) to serve us? Further, is it acceptable to live in a rented house or apartment where we are paying someone for every day that we live there—some of which days are Sabbaths? And finally, is it acceptable to mail a letter on Friday or buy fresh food on Sunday knowing that someone will probably work on the Sabbath to help serve our needs?
Do not panic! The commandment teaches that we are not to require our servants to work for us on the Sabbath. If we have an agreement to pay someone to provide a service for us, and that agreement does not specifically require people to work for us on the Sabbath, then we are not disobeying the commandment. Since we do not control how they provide the service, we are not responsible for them. For example, we would be perfectly happy if the Post Office handled our Friday-mailed letter on Sunday rather than the Sabbath; we would be happy if stores stocked their shelves on Friday, rather than Saturday so we can shop on Sunday. We would hope that our landlord does not do any work on the Sabbath, but if he decides to paint our building on Saturday, we have no control. We hope that our utility providers would automate their systems so that they need no people to work on the Sabbath—but we have no control over this. Our nations are not operating on the Laws of God.
If we rent a hall for Sabbath services, we should offer to do any necessary Sabbath work ourselves: provide water for the people, set up, clean up, etc. Doing such necessary work on the Sabbath seems to be similar to the work that the priests and others did to perform their offerings. There is no scriptural example of "hiring out" such work. We should do as much as possible ahead of time, but the rest we can do on the Sabbath. And whenever possible, take care of paying for the hall on some day other than the Sabbath.
- Is it a sin to use a computer on the sabbath?
Answer: A computer is a tool, just like a pen, paper, a bible, and a knife is a tool. God has no laws regulating what kind of tools to use to exercise his law. For example, the priests, on the Sabbath, were to slaughter animals, but he did not specify what kind of knife to use. Why? Because it is irrelevant to God. As long as the priests do God's Will and slaughter the animal, it does not matter with what tool they do that with. God did not command what kind of writing tool to use when writing scripture. He did not command what material to use when writing scripture.
Likewise, when people fellowship on God's Word, it does not matter if the tool that is used is a pen, pencil, paper, a computer, or one's mouth. As long as we are doing an act that is holy on that day (such as reading and teaching scripture), the tool is irrelevant. Why? Because "things" are not sins; only acts can be considered a sin. Physical objects are never a sin, but physical objects can be used to commit a sin.
If a priest uses a knife to sacrifice a lamb on the Sabbath, that is holy in God's eyes. If that same priest, uses that same knife, to slaughter a woman in her sleep in the tent next to him, that would be a sin. Was it the knife that made it a sin? Or was it what the priest did with the knife that made it a sin? If a man uses a computer to teach others about God's Word, that is holy in God's eyes. If that same computer is used to sell merchandise on the sabbath day, that would be a sin. Obviously, the tool is irrelevant. It is what the people do with a tool that makes it a sin or not. If somebody uses a tool to do what God specifically commands to do on the Sabbath (computer, pen, pencil) then it is okay to use that object.
- Would we be partaking of somebody else's sin if we use a computer to go on the internet, or send E-mail to another on the Sabbath? What if somebody is on standby to fix the computer in case the internet or computer equipment should break down?
If a priest is using a knife to sacrifice the animal, but Caesar is paying somebody to look at him while he's using that knife to see if the knife breaks, and if the knife breaks, this servant is to fix that knife for him, does this mean the priest should not use that knife, because, well, if it does break, this servant is going to work, and we will be partaking of his sins? No!!!
(If yes, this would be applied to every tool that the priest would use, and therefore, the priest would have to break God's command by not sacrificing an animal. Or, what if a veterinarian was watching to see if an animal has a heart attack. After all, we can't sacrifice animals to God if they're already dead. If there's a veterinarian working on the sabbath, and is ready to help that animal on the sabbath in case of a heart attack, does that mean the priest should not use an animal on that day, just because, in the event of the animal having a heart attack that would cause the veterinary to work on that day? Of course not! It is irrelevant).
Why? Because if the knife breaks, the priest will find an alternative to use. The priests should not forsake God's Law and not use a knife just because of something that Caesar might do. Or even the fact that Caesar is paying somebody to watch that knife, even if the knife never breaks, it should have no bearing on what the priest does. The priest is not partaking of his sins. However, if the priest's knife does break, and Caesar fixes it, and the priest uses that fixed knife, then the priest would be partaking of his sin, because he would be giving his approval of what he did. But if Caesar fixes that tool on the sabbath, and the priest refuses to use that knife, but finds another way to sacrifice that animal, the priest has not partaken of his sin. Because he showed his disapproval of him fixing the knife on the sabbath.
If Caesar hires somebody on the sabbath to watch these computers and fix them if they break on the sabbath, does that mean we should not use these computers? If Caesar hires somebody to watch us read the bible to fix it in case a page rips, does that mean we should not use the bible on that day? No, both cases, it is irrelevant. If something happens to the computer and we can't use it, then we'll fix it on the next day and use a different tool on the sabbath. If the bible rips into a hundred shreds, we'll use another bible. And if Caesar comes along and actually fixes that computer on the sabbath, and fixes that bible, would we be partaking of their sin? No. It is their choice to fix that on the sabbath. We did not ask them to fix it. But, if we used the computer or bible that they just fixed on the same sabbath day, then yes, we would be giving our approval of their sin. But if we ignore that tool they fixed, we are relying on God to provide an alternative, and not upon their sin, in order for us to dedicate the Sabbath to the Lord.
Likewise, by using a computer, just having somebody stand around in case something happens has nothing to do with me exercising that tool to do God's Word. Especially if they're 3,000 miles away. If something happened and I can't use the computer, then I find an alternative tool, and will wait another day to use that computer tool. But if Caesar sends somebody out to fix that tool on the Sabbath, and I refuse to use that tool until after the sabbath, I have not partaken of his sins. If I did use that fixed tool on the sabbath, then I would have approved of him working on the sabbath, and will partake of his sins.
- What about a Sabbath days journey (Acts 1:12)?
Answer: There is no place in scripture that specifically commands adherence to a maximum distance of movement on the Sabbath. It is clear that our Savior moved to and from synagogues, and moved through fields on the Sabbath (Mark 1:21; 2:23; 6:2, Luke 4:16; 6:1,6). Exactly how far he moved we do not know. Obviously, the Sabbath is not meant for us to do our own movement, just as it is not meant for us to do our own work. It should also be obvious that the old half-mile "Sabbath day's journey" can be made in a few minutes with modern bicycles, and can be made in complete comfort in less than a minute with a car.
- “It's okay to do incidental things on the sabbath, as long as it doesn't take a lot of time to do it; such as watering a field.”
Answer: First, let us define incidental.
Incidental: Happening as a result of or in connection with something more important; casual." Webster's New World Dictionary, Third College Edition, 1988, page 682.
An example would be walking. Walking is an incidental act. When Jesus and the apostles walked to eat corn, or walked to the synogogue, or walked to preach the Word, this was something incidental that was connected to something holy or merciful. On the other hand, if someone was incidentally walking to a field in order to harvest corn, then this incidental act of walking would be sinful, because their intention would be sinful, because this walk would be in connection with an act that is a sin against our Father in Heaven. That is the important distinction we must grasp. If the incidental act is in connection with an act God approves of, then that incidental act is also approved of God. But if the incidental act is in connection with an act God says is sinful, then that incidental act is also sinful, because the intentions are sinful also. Such as the incidental act of picking up sticks.
If something is a sin, it does not matter how long one commits this sin. A sin is a sin to God no matter how long it takes. Time is irrelevant, except when it comes to a choice of doing two things, both of which are holy or merciful. We should do the one that takes less time. For example:
Turning on a knob to the stove to cook food just takes a second to do. This is an incidental act. God approves of eating and cooking on the sabbath, so this would be okay to do. However, turning on a knob to a stove in order to fix a malfunctioning burner would be a sin. because this is something that is commanded to be done on a day other than the sabbath. In the meantime, use one of the other three burners to cook food.
Notice the difference? It's the same incidental act; turning on a burner for the stove. Does the fact that it is an "incidental act" make it okay? No. We must go to the intent. Is the purpose of this incidental act to do what God allows us to do, or is the purpose of this incidental act to do what God forbids to be done? This is what we must look at.
But how about other acts that take only a split second to do? Such as turning on a knob to water a field? It takes the same amount of time to turn on a stove. Would watering a field on the sabbath day be okay, if it takes only a minute to turn the knob? Do we justify doing anything we want to on the sabbath by considering the amount of time it takes to do it? Well, first of all, the amount of time it takes to do something on the sabbath is irrelevant, if the act is itself in connection with something forbidden to do. What matters is if that act is holy or merciful, or if the incidental act is in connection with something holy or merciful. This is the question that must be asked.
Therefore, how long it takes to turn a knob is irrelevant. We must ask the purpose for turning the knob. Is it to do what God wants us to do on the sabbath? Or is it to do what we want to do on the sabbath? What we must ask ourselves is the following: "Is watering a field on the sabbath a holy or merciful act that God approves of? Or is this an act that God commands to be done during the other six days?"
Well, watering a field, no matter how long it takes, is part of taking care of the land, which God commands to be done on the other six days of the week. Scripture tells us, by both commands and examples, to show mercy to people and animals. Nowhere is taking care of the land called holy or merciful in scripture. We do not show mercy to plants, flowers, trees, and vegetables, we can only show mercy to people and animals. Therefore, watering a field of corn, or plants, or fruit and vegetables, is something that must be done on a day other than the sabbath, even if it takes just one minute to turn on a water hose. God wants the land to rest every seven days; just like he commands the land to rest every seven years, and every seven times seven years (the Jubilee – the 49th and 50th years).
Yes, it is possible to neglect plants, fruit and vegetables, which would be wrong to do, but it is not an act of mercy to take care of them as it is with people. This is easily proven by the fact that God commands us to let the land rest every 7 years and every Jubilee year. If taking care of the land is a merciful act, then God would be forbidding a merciful act from being done! Therefore, if resting from watering the land for a whole year (and for an entire two years during the Jubilee) is not frowned upon by God, neither is resting from watering the land for one day. God requires the land to rest just as much as he requires people and animals to rest every Sabbath day.
However, if there is an immediate need to water a field, such as in a situation where a brush fire is approaching a corn-field, then it would be okay to turn the knob on and water the field, because you are not only protecting man's food supply from being immediately destroyed (which is showing mercy to others), you are preventing a fire from spreading to other places (which is also merciful). If one was to ignore the fire, and not put it out when one has the chance, and it spreads, then one is just as guilty as if he started it himself.
Therefore, the question as to how long something takes is totally irrelevant when it comes to doing something that we are not to do on the sabbath. But, when it comes to a choice of doing one of two acts on the sabbath, where both are considered merciful (for example, a choice between turning a knob on a stove to cook food, or a choice to start a fire from scratch on the sabbath), we should choose the one that would take the least time so we can dedicate more time to the Lord. (However, if we choose to start a fire from scratch instead of simply turning on a knob, it would not be sin if we choose the former, by starting a fire from scratch).
- It's okay to talk about the things of the world, and to talk about things we are not supposed to do, on the sabbath, if it's done incidentally.
Answer: It's one thing to speak incidentally; it's another to make it the subject at hand. For example, in discussing what scripture says about killing, someone might incidentally bring up swords. One might ask if it's okay to do so and so with swords, then go to scripture to discover God's Will in this area. That is okay to do, because speaking of killing with swords is “a result of or in connection with something more important,” the search for what scripture says about killing. This is an example of speaking casually about swords, to understand what scripture says in a certain area.
It's a totally different thing to say, “Did I tell you what happened yesterday? I bought this new sword, and…” then proceed to talk about yourself, your swords, your past history with swords, your experiences with swords, etc. The issue of swords is no longer incidentally spoken, but the issue of swords is now the main subject at hand. Do you see the difference?
It's not an incidental thing to be with an assembly on the Sabbath, and have the need to talk just for the sake of talking, and mention something like, “Did you hear about that murder the other night with a gunman? Some guy did this and that…” or “There were more chemtrails today. I saw a whole bunch while driving home…” or “Let me tell you what happened while working at my job, and tell you how much of a pain my supervisor is,” etc. These are no longer incidental remarks, but these are now the main topic at hand. There is a big difference.
For example, if someone wants to share with others about how they have converted people, and they give an account of how this happened while working at their job yesterday, that talk glorifies God. In this case, speaking about what happened at work is incidental to revealing how God was glorified. But when one speaks about how one was mistreated at work, or how boring ones job is, just to get it off their chest, then this is not spoken as “a result of or in connection with” glorifying God, but is spoken for the sake of conversation alone, or because one has a need to share what's on ones mind just for that sake. This is the difference.
Is it okay to talk about worldly things on the Sabbath? Is it okay to be thinking about or talking about things we are not to physically do on the Sabbath? Let's discuss adultery. God says we should not commit adultery, the spiritual meaning behind the physical act is to not commit adultery mentally or spiritually. We are to keep our thoughts clear of this act as well, not only our body.
If we are to physically rest from work on the Sabbath, what is the spiritual message of that? Like all other sins, if we are to rest from work physically, is not the spiritual message that we are to rest from work mentally and spiritually as well? And if we “speak” about work, we must “think” about work. And if we are thinking and speaking about work, then we are not resting from work, like God commands us to do. And if we are not resting from work, are we not breaking the Lord's commandment to rest from work on the Sabbath day, mentally and spiritually?
To go back to the adultery scenario, let's take a man and his neighbor's wife. This couple knows it's a sin to commit adultery. But would they be keeping the spirit of this commandment if the man started telling this woman what he would like to do to her sexually? And then the woman started telling this man what she would like to do to him sexually? They are not physically committing adultery, but their mind is committing adultery, and by speaking about this sin in that way, they are sinning in their hearts. (However, the writer of this article was not sinning by incidentally using this adultery example, because it is said as “a result of or in connection with” the scriptural topic at hand, which is the Sabbath).
Likewise, if it is a sin to do something on the Sabbath, such as buying and selling, and the spiritual meaning behind this command is so we may mentally and spiritually rest from even thinking about buying and selling, then would it not be wrong to “talk” about buying and selling? If an executive thinks about his work on the Sabbath, if he talks to others about what he did at work, or about what he is planning on doing at work when Monday comes, is that not breaking the spirit of God's commandment to cease from work?
Now, someone may say, “But God commands us to be good workmen. He commands us to work six days a week. Therefore, it must be okay to talk about something that is related to God in some way.” The problem with this way of thinking is that everything is related to God in some way. This does not mean it is okay to speak about anything and everything just because it is related to God in some way. God commands us to rest from certain things on the Sabbath. What we are to rest from physically, we are also to rest from mentally and spiritually as well. Which means we are to avoid speaking those things as well, for we would not be resting mentally and spiritually if we are talking about that which is forbidden to be done on the Sabbath day.
For example, someone can start a conversation about the world, and talk for 5 hours about the things of the world. And to justify himself, at the end of the five hours, he can say, “This really shows the Truth in scripture when God says the world is enmity against Him.” Does this 5 second statement of Truth make up for five hours of talking about the world? Let us ask this question. Which statement is incidental? The five hour conversation, or the 5 second statement? The 5 second statement is the incidental statement. The 5 second statement was made as “a result of or in connection with” this worldly talk. Not the other way around. Therefore, this worldly talk was not “incidental,” it was the main topic at hand, which should be avoided on the Sabbath day. We are to rest from worldly things on His Sabbath Day.
- We are to be holy every day. What we do on the sabbath should be done every day.
Answer: Yes to the first statement, no to the second.
Yes, we are to be holy every day, but we are not commanded to keep ourselves holy on the sabbath day, we are commanded to keep the day holy. We are not commanded to keep the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth days holy, we are only commanded to keep the seventh day holy. In other words, one day is to be set apart from the other six days.
As for the second statement, if we were to do every day, what is to be done on the sabbath day alone, this would be an abomination to God. It would contradict and defile God's fourth commandment, which tells us to work on the other days. For if we were to keep every day holy as a sabbath, no work would ever get done! We would not be able to plant seeds, or harvest the field, or clean around the house. Manservants and maidservants would not be able to do their jobs. Cattle would not be able to plow the fields anymore. Nobody would be able to build houses anymore. We would not be able to buy needful things from the store, and others would not be able to sell things for their sustenance. This is why God's Infinite Wisdom only limited this to one day a week, not seven. The sabbath is meant to be a day of rest, it is not meant to be an example of how to live every day of the week.
Therefore, we should not justify ourselves doing "so and so" on the sabbath by trying to convince ourselves that we should be holy every day. And since it's not possible to be holy every day, it's therefore okay to do things that are not holy on the Lord's Sabbath day.
To sin is one thing; but to sin, and then justify that sin, is even worse.
- Is it okay to wash ourselves on the sabbath?
Answer: When three men walked up to Abraham, he fed them with food and water, and allowed them to wash themselves, because both acts are considered merciful (Genesis 18:4 -5). A woman washed the feet of Jesus (Luke 7:38) and he praised her for that (Luke 7:44). Jesus washed the feet of his disciples (John 13:5) and said they ought to do the same (John 13:14-15). Jesus commanded we wash our face when we fast (Matthew 6:17). Our brother Paul was praising widows who washed people's feet (1 Timothy 5:10). Why? Because God wants our countenance to be good; God wants us to be clean. This is an act of mercy. Our body was created to eat food, to wear clothing, and health laws in scripture are merciful when done on the sabbath.
- But what about Matthew 15:20, "...to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man."
Answer: It is merciful to eat, but if one does not eat it is not defiling. Fasting is approved of God. Likewise washing is merciful, but to not wash does not defile a man. The Pharisees were not saying anything about washing ourselves to stay clean, because God tells us to wash and keep ourselves clean. The Pharisees were talking about the tradition of man (Matthew 15:2), and not a provision of God. For them, it was a ceremonial tradition to wash before eating, and Jesus was chastising them for forcing others to follow the tradition of the elders.
We know that washing is an act of mercy. But if we have to choose between two things on the sabbath; One, to spend 10 minutes washing in the sink or; Two, to spend a half hour taking a shower and washing in the sink, which should we choose to do? Generally, we should wash in the sink. This allows us to dedicate more time to the Lord, and at the same time, gets us clean. We can take a shower on an ordinary day (however, it would not be a sin to take a shower on the sabbath instead of using only the sink).
- We should not argue, or dispute, from scripture, on the sabbath day.
Answer: This argument is raised by those who do not want to talk about scripture passages that conflict with their current personal beliefs. They claim it ruins the "spirit" or "feel" of the sabbath. Sometimes, these same people believe it's okay to talk about secular things on the sabbath, and to read from secular books and secular writings about secular history and secular doctrines from secular people on the sabbath. They say we should not fellowship about the holy sabbath, on the holy sabbath day, using the holy scriptures, if it'll cause them to feel uncomfortable. Yes, talking about God's Will for us can be uncomfortable, but this is how we learn and grow in His Truth. Is this attitude putting a difference between the holy and the profane? Does God call secular writings and teaching holy? Does God consider fellowshipping from the Holy Scriptures about the Sabbath profane?
Talking about secular things may make us “feel good,” maybe talking about non-controversial things in scripture will make us enjoy the sabbath better, but this is not how we judge what we should, or should not do, on the sabbath. "Does it make me feel good? Is it relaxing for me? Will it make me feel uncomfortable?" These are the wrong questions to ask.! For these are all pleasures of the flesh. And what does God say about doing our own pleasure on the sabbath day?
Isaiah 58:13-14, "If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; "
God says we delight ourselves in the Lord when we avoid doing our own pleasure, doing our own ways, and speaking our own words, on the sabbath. So the question is, "What criteria do we use to judge what we should or should not do on the sabbath?" The answer is, “Is this act holy or merciful to God?” That is the only question we need to ask. Is it holy or merciful?
Is it wrong to dispute from the scriptures on the sabbath day? If so, then the apostle Paul is guilty of doing that which he should not have done. Because Paul "reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath" (Acts 18:4,19). In Acts 17:17, Paul "disputed he in the synagogue", and in Acts 19:8 where he was "disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God.” It is our duty to do this on the Sabbath, not only by the command of God, but by the examples of Jesus and the apostles. When people accused Jesus of breaking the sabbath, Jesus did not say, “this is not the time to discuss this, because it's the sabbath.” Even though the Pharisees accusations were false, Jesus went to the scriptures themselves to show if what he was doing was God's Will or not. The Pharisees and Jesus would "dispute" (preach) back and fourth on the sabbath a lot, but as long as the goal was to discover God's Truth as revealed in scripture, this was a holy act.
Some may object by saying Paul was disputing with only Pharisees, and not with fellow believers in Christ. But in Acts 19:8-9, Paul was disputing with the disciples of Christ as well, and he ended by separating the disciples, because some disciples hardened their hearts, and others were receptive to God's Truth.
Can it be wrong to do on the sabbath that which God commanded to be done on the sabbath? Can it be wrong to do on the sabbath that which godly men have done on the sabbath? 1 Timothy 5:20,22 commands us to rebuke our brothers who sin before others, and that if we don't we are partaking of their sin, because we are giving our approval of their sin while we see them doing this act. Are we forbidden to do this on the sabbath? Of course not! In addition, if a man has seen someone sin, and he does not bear witness to this man's sin and say something about it, then the man who is silent shall bear the sinner's iniquity (Leviticus 5:1).
If there is only one day during the week in which we must help our fellow brothers to walk in God's Truth and point out things in which we feel is not in line with God's Will, it is on the Lord's Holy Sabbath Day, according to both the commands in scripture and the examples in scripture. This is how we learn and grow to be conformed to His image. That is why the sabbath should be a time to go to God's Word to learn about things we are not proficient in, to strengthen our faith, to feed us what we lack in our life, to correct us if we are doing something that does not glorify God.
Is there a topic in scripture that you are not proficient enough in to defend? Then, let us study that topic on the sabbath! For we must "be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you" (1 Peter 3:15).
Psalm 92 (A Psalm for the sabbath day)
These are the major points that we learn: We should give thanks and praise our Creator (verse 1). We should appreciate the knowledge that has been given to us, realizing that others do not understand (v 6). (This must be done with a humble spirit; we should not look down on others just because they do not understand—Zephaniah 3:11.). We can sing and play music through instruments (v. 1-4), or we can play pre-recorded music if nobody is around to play music.
When trials and evils are surrounding us, we should use this day to remember that good will triumph over evil, the righteous over the wicked, etc. (v 7-11). Those who are mature in the Word should “bear fruit” or teach others the greatness of the One True God, how we can trust Him. The Sabbath is a day for teaching and learning (v. 12-15).
Something can be God's will, and still be a sin to do on the sabbath. Something can be commanded by God, and still be a sin to do on the sabbath. Some thing can be holy, and still be a sin to use that thing on the sabbath. Something can not be a sin normally, and still be a sin to do on the sabbath. One thing that you can be sure would never be a sin to do on the sabbath, is if the act itself is holy or merciful; because it is approved by God to be done on the sabbath.
So, what criteria should we use to determine what to do, and what not to do, on the Lord's Sabbath? In short, it can be narrowed down to only two criteria; If the act is holy or merciful, you may do it on the sabbath, but if it is not, it would be a sin. Ask yourself the following questions (just replace "this act" in the following questions with the act you would like to do):
- Is this act a sin? (No – next question. Yes – do not do this act on the sabbath)
- Is this act specifically forbidden to be done on the sabbath? (No – next question. Yes – do not do this act on the sabbath)
- Is it God's Will that you do this act? (Yes – next question. No – go to #7)
- Is this act considered holy? (Yes – next question. No – go to #7)
- Is it holy by an act of God? (Yes – next question. No – go to #7)
- Are there examples of this act being performed by godly men on the sabbath? (Yes – it's okay to do this on sabbath. No – go to #7)
- Could this act have been done before the sabbath? (No – next question. Yes – go to #9)
- Could this act be done after the sabbath, without causing pain or possible injury? (No – next question. Yes – do not do this act on the sabbath)
- Is this act merciful? (Yes – next question. No – do not do this act on the sabbath)
- Did a sinful act on somebody's part cause this present dilemma? (Yes – next question. No – it's okay to do this on the sabbath)
- Would you be partaking of somebody's sin if you did this act? (No – it's okay to do this on the sabbath. Yes – do not do this act on the sabbath)
While most people's questions are about things that should not be done on the Sabbath, this article would not be complete if it did not include the positive things that are commanded (and that many people do) on the Sabbath. An assembly or "holy convocation" was commanded (Leviticus 23:3). This practice of assembly continued in the New Testament (Hebrews 10:25). Our Savior used the Sabbath to read scripture and to teach others (Luke 4:16,31). Paul continued the practices with both Jews and Gentiles (Acts 13:14,27,42,44; 15:21; 16:13; 17:2; 18:4). It's good to heal and do good to both people and animals on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:10-13, Mark 3:1-5, and Luke 13:10-17, John 5:8-13). In addition to this teaching, Psalm 92 shows that the Sabbath is a time to sing praises to our Creator.
In short, we are commanded to study God's Word, share God's word, help people who are in need, have mercy on others, and any other act that God considers holy or merciful. We should use this time to study parts of God's Word that we are not familiar with, that we lack in our life, or do further study on topics we are already familiar with.
Rather than focusing on things that we cannot do on the Sabbath, we should look forward to it as a time with our Creator, His family, and our physical family (if we have one).
Return to The Sabbath Day
|Home||Greetings||Who We Are||Helpful Info||Rest Room||Search||Contact Us|