8Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
9Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
10But 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:
11For 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. (Exodus 20:8-11, King James Version)
Obviously, the Sabbath has been on a few people’s minds of late. However, what I’m going to address isn’t about CG7 or UCG and allegations of wanting to change the Sabbath doctrines of those groups.
No, what I am going to talk about is something that has occurred for years. It happens now in various COG organizations around the world. It happened back when WCG was still alive and well.
It is nothing less than the sanctioning of work on the Sabbath.
Shocked? In dismay? Actually, there’s probably a few of you who have already caught on, but please allow me to elucidate, in my own rambling way, anyhow.
One of the charges that COG critics often bring up is, “You don’t keep the Sabbath correctly anyhow. Even if you wanted to, you couldn’t.”
Well, I would disagree that you cannot. Jesus became a human being, and He never sinned. He was tempted in all points as we. If that’s the case, He could have sinned, but He chose not to. If Jesus was truly human, then 40 days and 40 nights of fasting meant He was hungry – very hungry. Frankly, I get cranky when I miss breakfast and then am forced to have a late lunch. Satan tempted Him with turning stones to bread, and He refused. Instead, He fed upon God’s word. If Jesus was truly human, then idea of being crucified must’ve been anguish for Him. Indeed, He even asked if the cup could be passed from Him! Yet, He prayed not for His will but “thy will be done”.
Since Jesus was sinless, He had to have kept the Sabbath commandment perfectly. You can keep the Sabbath! Whether you’re willing to or are diligent enough to, now that’s a different question.
Most don’t accuse us of breaking the Sabbath with such ceremonial items like phylacteries, tassels, and the like. No, a lot of it comes from “working” on the Sabbath. Sometimes, that is a little bizarre, too. I remember one comment that lugging around a briefcase is “work”(?). One comment, I don’t remember where, was even criticizing the “work” involved in a potluck. From the sound of it, I suppose everyone should just fast on the Sabbath rather than do the work involved in making a meal. After all, you wouldn’t want to do any work like lifting that heavy loaf of bread.
There’s the unscholarly charge that you aren’t supposed to leave your home on the Sabbath. If that’s the case, then Paul and Jesus both broke the Sabbath by going into the synagogue in a customary fashion. And, of course, if Jesus broke the Sabbath, then He sinned and cannot be your Messiah!
Putting all that sort of silliness aside, though, does any work occur on the Sabbath? Well, frankly, yes. People setup/take down folding chairs, lug around heavy sound equipment, and of course a couple of people speak, give announcements and lead songs. All of that requires some effort. Obviously, the effort varies, but the point is still that it does take place.
So, is that breaking the Sabbath? Well, yes and no. “Yes” because it is working on the Sabbath, but “No” because it is sanctioned work.
One of the COG critics who at least tries to think things through more than most (or, perhaps even more than any other) not long ago posted an article that really got me thinking about this. It was about sacrifices. We all know that animals were sacrificed on the Sabbath and holy days. It was part of the OT ritual when there was a Tabernacle and later when there was a Temple. Well, his point was that the Sabbath and sacrifices went hand-in-hand. When Christ gave the ultimate sacrifice, animal sacrifices were no longer necessary. Since they go together, the argument went, removing the obligation to give sacrifices also removed the obligation to keep the Sabbath.
Now, I don’t buy this argument, but it was prefaced with the usual argument that the COG doesn’t keep the Sabbath correctly. Instead, work is performed on the Sabbath. However, he tied the Sabbath “rest” in with sacrifices.
Have you ever killed an animal? I was raised on a farm, and believe me when I say we did not slaughter our own beef. It takes a lot of room and work. We sent the cattle to the butcher shop to do that. We did, however, do smaller animals like goats, sheep and chickens. It’s still a lot of work!
Yet, the priests and Levites carried out animal sacrifices every Sabbath and every holy day.
Did the priests and Levites rest on the Sabbath?
This is why Jesus asked the Pharisees:
Yes, the Sabbath is for rest – rest from the usual daily routine that distracts us from God. It is a rest in that we shouldn’t be worried about our jobs, our money or the usual physical cares of this life. It is a rest in that we can divert our minds and hearts towards God. It is a rest in that we don’t have to plow fields, climb roofs, sell products or do the tasks of whatever type of occupation we normally engage in. It is a rest because we can spend time with family, with the church congregation and with Jesus Christ in the presence of God the Father.
It is not a day to be lazy, however. It is a day that we can exert effort to further those aims of what the Sabbath is really all about.
And, really, isn’t that what Jesus railed at the Pharisees for? They made so many nit-pick rules of what you could or couldn’t do on the Sabbath that they lost sight of its intended purpose.