A Sabbath Study

This week we’d like to review some important aspects of Sabbath keeping. We are all aware as Seventh Day Adventists that we are the people of God today who profess to strictly honor Him on His day. But unfortunately we have steadily retreated towards Egypt in this regard. We have become, in many cases a poor example of proper Sabbath observance. Let us look at some areas we have gone off track and how we can get back on the straight and narrow in regards to Sabbath keeping.

In (Amos 8:5) we read“..When will the New Moon be over that we may sell grain, and the Sabbath be ended that we may market wheat?…”—

What do we find in the above?  We see a few truths worth noting. Aside from the fact that it deals with dishonest tradesmen, we notice a subtle underlying  truth in regards to the Sabbath.  The Lord is upset and will spare no longer. He’s had enough. He tells us, “The end has come upon My people Israel…”(Amos 8:1) Then He describes who He’s addressing, “Hear this, you who swallow up the needy and make the poor of the land fail, saying…”(Amos 8:4).

Then we see the above highlighted verses. They are describing those who are of the worldly mindset and are going through the motions of Sabbath keeping. Notice they are thinking of how soon the Sabbath will be over. So that they can get back to being deceitful and dishonest “sell the bad wheat”. Although they surely aren’t aware that what they do is bad. Their thinking is obviously “we have fulfilled our duty, hurry up let’s be done with it.” They are the going through the motions–Sabbath keepers.

So God’s word through Amos show us that He is watching our motives for Sabbath keeping. Are we enjoying the day, keeping it holy? Or are we going through the motions, secretly looking forward to it ending so that we can go on with our lifestyle? What we can learn here is that Sabbath is a time for the Lord and the Lord only. All other things, including our motives, must be devoted to Him, lest He search us out and find us naked in this regard. “”I will search with lanterns in Jerusalem’s darkest corners to punish those who sit complacent in their sins. They think the LORD will do nothing to them, either good or bad.” (Zeph. 1:12)

What are some of the ways we can check ourselves to see if our motives are wrong?

1) Checking the clock frequently during Sabbath

2) Devoting time to non-Sabbath activities such as internet searching for worldly things (also with handhelds). If we are to use electronic devices on the Sabbath, let it be for God’s glory, not our own desires. Reading the Scriptures, studying a report of God’s prophecies and such are what we can use these devices for on Sabbath.

3) Engaging in worldly conversation throughout the Sabbath (politics, business, social issues, etc.)

4) Doing any “work” even “religious work” that we should not be doing on the Sabbath , that can and should be done on the regular “work days”.

Concerning number 4, brother Houteff explains, ”

 “As a people we have forgotten the true meaning of Sabbath keeping.  We have come to suppose that anything which pertains more or less to religion is permissible on God’s holy day.  It is said, It is the Lord’s work.  But God has never said anywhere in the Scriptures that His people are at liberty to do all manners of work (that pertain to religion) on the Sabbath day. 

Work which can be done on a day other than the Sabbath is not a work for the Sabbath.  “Six days shalt thou labor 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.”

   Note the way the commandment reads: “Any work.”  God does not mean that we can do our work in the six days, and His on the Sabbath.  He says it is a day of rest: Not physical, but spiritual rest.  For instance, it would be wrong for one to sell good religious books on the Sabbath, even if he turned all the proceeds to the church.

  It would be wrong for a surgeon to perform surgical operations on patients on the Sabbath  day if it can be done at another time.  It would be wrong for a nurse to give treatments to patients on the Sabbath day if it was not absolutely necessary.  Read Volume 7, page 106.

It would be wrong for a church council to meet on the Sabbath and discuss church business, or make plans of any kind.  It would be wrong for a Sabbath keeper to load himself with evangelical announcements for a series of meetings, and distribute them from house to house on the Sabbath day.  All this manner of work could be done on a day other than the Sabbath.

   When we do this kind of work on the Sabbath, we do it to save ourselves an hour or so of time for the next day, thus we rob God of His time and add it to our secular pleasure.  If it is wrong for one to go and sell good religious books on the Sabbath, though he turns all the proceeds to the Church, it would be doubly wrong to sell that same book in the house of God on the Sabbath day, regardless of what is done with the income. 

If all of this is true, then it would be wrong to go out with Harvest In gathering papers and receive contributions for missions on the Sabbath.  It is time for God to call our attention to these things.” (Shepherd’s Rod, vol. 1, p.148-149)

Next we find another prevalent concern today–buying and selling on the Sabbath.This is  really a big problem within our church. I remember when I first came into the church, the old timers (members of experience) asked me if I would like to join them for lunch at the local restaurant after Sabbath services. Being new to Sabbath keeping I said “sure, why not.”

As I progressed in the walk, I found out that buying and selling was strictly forbid. Nehemiah’s admonish is the word of God that the Lord guided me to.

“In those days I saw people in Judah treading wine presses on the Sabbath and bringing in grain and loading it on donkeys, together with wine, grapes, figs and all other kinds of loads. And they were bringing all this into Jerusalem on the Sabbath. Therefore I warned them against selling food on that day.  People from Tyre who lived in Jerusalem were bringing in fish and all kinds of merchandise and selling them in Jerusalem on the Sabbath to the people of Judah.

I rebuked the nobles of Judah and said to them, “What is this wicked thing you are doing—desecrating the Sabbath day?  Didn’t your ancestors do the same things, so that our God brought all this calamity on us and on this city? Now you are stirring up more wrath against Israel by desecrating the Sabbath.”

When evening shadows fell on the gates of Jerusalem before the Sabbath, I ordered the doors to be shut and not opened until the Sabbath was over. I stationed some of my own men at the gates so that no load could be brought in on the Sabbath day.  Once or twice the merchants and sellers of all kinds of goods spent the night outside Jerusalem.

But I warned them and said, “Why do you spend the night by the wall? If you do this again, I will arrest you.” From that time on they no longer came on the Sabbath. Then I commanded the Levites to purify themselves and go and guard the gates in order to keep the Sabbath day holy.”(Nehemiah 13:15-22)

Wow! Now if we don’t get the point from the above verses we shall never understand much of anything pertaining to the Sabbath ways of the Lord! Again, it is clearly shown by God’s inspired Scriptures that buying and selling is a no-no on the Sabbath. And yes that would include things like buying gas to get to church! There is a reason they call Friday–preparation day. We foresee and prepare for Sabbath in advance.

Then we have the solemn case of the man who wanted to pick up sticks on the Sabbath. Sounds harmless and innocent right? Let’s see how this is the example of how serious our Lord takes the Sabbath and it’s observance.

(Number 15:32-37) -” While the Israelites were in the wilderness, a man was found gathering wood on the Sabbath day.  Those who found him gathering wood brought him to Moses and Aaron and the whole assembly, and they kept him in custody, because it was not clear what should be done to him.  Then the Lord said to Moses, “The man must die. The whole assembly must stone him outside the camp.”  So the assembly took him outside the camp and stoned him to death, as the Lord commanded Moses.”

Solemn is an understatement. This shows us that the Sabbath is not to be carelessly observed. In other words, if the Lord did this to this man, can we expect Him to clear us of things much worse? “For I am the Lord, I do not change..” (Malachi 3:6). If we are tempted to stop at the market, or by gas, or watch worldly TV on Sabbath, can we expect the Lord to say “Looks like  I made a mistake in ordering the stoning of that man because I forgive you for this.”? Of course not.

Yes, the Lord will forgive us if we mess up once in a while but once we know the light on His truth we are expected to obey Him in this regard. But if we do, we repent and turn from it. In explaining how the Lord deals with sin, including Sabbath sins, Ellen White explains–

“In all His dealings with His creatures God has maintained the principles of righteousness by revealing sin in its true character—by demonstrating that its sure result is misery and death. The unconditional pardon of sin never has been, and never will be. Such pardon would show the abandonment of the principles of righteousness, which are the very foundation of the government of God. It would fill the unfallen universe with consternation. God has faithfully pointed out the results of sin, and if these warnings were not true, how could we be sure that His promises would be fulfilled?” (God’s Amazing Grace, p. 73).

So we should learn from the above that should we carelessly observe His Sabbath, and then compound it by not asking for forgiveness and also  not turning away from it, we are in effect asking the Lord to give us an “unconditional pardon”! Woe unto us this thought!

I have often pointed out this simple and straight testimony. When God created us , He gave us 7 days in each week. Is it unreasonable to give back just one of those days strictly devoted to Him?  Unfortunately the vast mankind of the earth thinks it is! They want to claim it all.

God’s history with His people has many times centered around this one area –poor Sabbath keeping. We can read clear admonishments in this regard in Jeremiah and Ezekiel.

“Thus says the LORD: “Take heed to yourselves, and bear no burden on the Sabbath day, nor bring it in by the gates of Jerusalem; nor carry a burden out of your houses on the Sabbath day, nor do any work, but hallow the Sabbath day, as I commanded your fathers.”  (Jer. 17:21-22)

“You have despised My holy things and profaned My Sabbaths.” (Ezek.22:8)

In closing let us look at the beautiful Sabbath promise of our Lord.

“If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the LORD’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,then you will find your joy in the LORD, and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.” The mouth of the LORD has spoken.(Isaiah 58:13-14)

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