The Spirit of the Sabbath #2
Merchandising On The Sabbath?
What Does Neh. 10 And 13 Teach Us?
There are some parts of the Sabbath observing Churches of God that believe it is quite proper to eat at restaurants, buy milk and bread etc. at the store if needed, maybe stop at roadside flea markets and food stalls if something catches their eye, on the Sabbath. Some ministers fly on commercial airplanes on the Sabbath to "serve God's people."
Nehemiah 10 and 13 is interpreted in certain ways to say such merchandising is okay to do on the Sabbath. The basic argument is that these Scriptural verses are not saying we cannot buy a small portion of something to help us through the physical aspects of the Sabbath, from the merchants of this world.
With due respect I believe these arguments need to be answered, so the truth of the matter and correct understanding of these two vital passages that are preserved for us in the Word of God concerning correct Sabbath observance, is clearly understood. I believe the Eternal is giving us some vital information as to His will on the matter of how His children are to govern themselves towards and in relation to the merchants selling their wares for profit to anyone who will buy from them, on the Sabbath.
ARGUMENT: "...Cursory research of 10:31 would make it appear that we should not buy a meal from 'the people of the land' on the Sabbath."
MY ANSWER: Ah, indeed, I do submit that to the mind of a young child, he would so understand both these passages of Neh.10 and 13.
The young child's mind is uncluttered by fancy theological ideas, customs and practices of certain religious groups that have, by long years of tradition, done things a certain way, without even thinking too deeply as to the correctness of their somewhat automatic practice.
The apostle Paul once talked about "the simplicity that is in Christ Jesus." And in many ways the Bible is simple to read. Oh, you must be willing to read it all, and to find all the verses on any particular subject, but when that is done, the Bible can, in its basic foundational doctrines of salvation, be understood even by the young child.
It was Jesus after all who clearly knew this truth and is recorded as saying: "I thank you Father that you have hid these things from the wise and the prudent, and have revealed them unto babes." Many, if not most, of the religious leaders of His day, did not understand the word of the Lord. It was their traditions, ones of their own making, that clouded their minds from the simplicity of the word.
I submit that these two passages in Nehemiah are easy to read, and that their teaching is also simple and plain. It is only when our traditions and lack of humble repentance to the acknowledging of our errors, gets in the way, that people must try to look for some technical way around continuing in their wrong practices based upon false theology.
It is hard to answer these arguments with a short reply. I must take the time to make a full and in-depth answer. But in so doing, I hope this study will be of great worth, both to those who now observe the Sabbath, and for those who will come after us, to continue the proclaiming of the fourth point of God's holy and righteous and just law.
Some would put emphasis on a certain Hebrew word in chapter 10:31. The word is "sheber." It is found in Strong's under number 7668. And he quotes the Brown-Driver-Briggs lexicon, which says it is "corn, grain, or food-stuff - threshed."
Now I have looked in many translations, hence supposedly many different Hebrew "scholars" to see how they render this word. To be sure some translations, such as the NKJV, do render this Hebrew word as "grain." BUT, on the other hand, a number of translations, and hence other Hebrew scholars, do NOT render this word as narrowly defined by the word "grain."
The Bible from ancient Eastern Manuscripts, translated from the Peshitta, commonly called the Lamsa Bible, renders verse 31 this way: "And if the people of the land should bring WARES or PROVISIONS on the sabbath day to sell, we would not buy it of them...." (emphasis mine throughout unless otherwise stated).
The Hebrew scholar Ferrari Fenton in his translations of the Bible put it this way: "And if the population of the country brought MERCHANDISE or ANY WARES to sell on the Sabbath day, not to buy of them on the Sabbath, or upon a Holy Day...."
The Jewish scholars themselves in their Bible called TANAKH, translate the Hebrew of this verse this way: "The people of the land who bring their WARES and ALL SORTS OF FOOD-STUFF for sale on the Sabbath day - we will not buy from them on the Sabbath or holy day."
The popular and well know Hebrew/English Interlinear by the scholar Jay P. Green Sr. translates this Hebrew word "sheber" as "FOOD" preceded by the Hebrew for "and any" hence, "and ANY FOOD."
The other Hebrew word in these verses is MAQQAHA and is translated by Green as "merchandise."
With the idea that this is ONLY grain being sold on the Sabbath, the argument would say something like this: "When I was a child growing up in the church, we did not buy 100 lb. bags of wheat on the Sabbath...Nehemiah is not referring to individual prepared meals, but to grain, which could SUGGEST a QUANTITY of grain to make into MANY meals. Grain is normally bought in quantity, not in a small amount for one meal."
Naturally such would want to stick only to the word "grain" as the sole meaning for "sheber." We have seen that even the Jewish scholars, as well as others, like Green, do not give it such a narrow a meaning.
You will notice the words, "which could easily SUGGEST a quantity of grain."
Come, now, I suggest that no suggestion by any words in these verses are suggesting that only large "quantities of grain" are being talked about.
Within the Hebrew word "sheber" is nothing at all to suggest 100 lb. bags of anything. Nothing in the word itself indicates only LARGE amounts of whatever is the only thought of the conversation and explanation as to what was being sold by these people to whoever would buy it.
LET'S USE SOME COMMON LOGIC TOGETHER WITH HISTORICAL FACTS:
The people of the land were SELLING - unconverted people who were not observing the commandments, statutes, and judgments, of God (verse 29). We have TWO categories - MERCHANDISE stuff and FOOD (grain) stuff, sold by these people.
Now, what have unconverted people been selling to others in open MARKETS for centuries? Why, every KNICK-KNACK (large and small merchandise) you can think of within their historical age.
What GRAIN or FOOD products (from grain) have they sold in the market place?
Was it ONLY "raw" grain? And only in LARGE quantities?
Oh yes, SACKS of grain were sold in the markets. But many POOR in Israel would only be buying a HANDFUL or two - a small amount, to make one or two meals for themselves and/or their families. Just as it is TODAY in the open markets and flea markets. Only the RICH would be buying 100 lb. bags of wheat or barley etc.
Now, do not the merchants of the market place turn their grain into various BAKED foods? Of course they do!!
Various BREADS, BUNS, CAKES, SWEETS, PIES etc.
Was it any different thousands of years ago? NO!!
Merchant market sellers always sold food of various types from grain. Do people always buy 20 bread loaves, 10 cakes, and 10 pies? Does everyone buy LARGE quantities every time? NO WAY!! The rich may, but the poor do not! And Israel always had its poor.
Many in Israel on the Sabbath day (those not in tune with God's commandments, verse 29) would only be buying enough grain food stuff for one or two meals, and thought it was quite okay to do so.
Nehemiah, under inspiration from God, told them such buying was NOT okay on the Sabbath.
Many in Israel would be only buying SMALL things of merchandise, such as EAR-RINGS, and thought it was okay to so do on the Sabbath. God, through Nehemiah (and others who had set their mind to serve the law of God) told them such buying on the Sabbath was not okay.
The argument says, "...to grain, which could easily suggest a quantity of grain to make into many meals."
Sorry, but this is not suggested by the context. I submit, a young child reading the context would see no suggestion as what Neff suggests.
The truth of the matter is that all history of market merchants is just as I have stated. LARGE quantities, down to SMALL quantities, for one or two meals, and few or many physical things like earrings, have always been for sale to buyers. Merchants are there to sell and make a profit in any way they can, to the poor as well as the rich.
Certainly, this was full-fledged commerce taking place for ANYONE in Israel who wanted to buy in ANY kind of quantity, large or small. To try to footstep around the historical facts of merchants selling in open markets with any quantity desired by the buyer, is done in my estimation only to uphold buying things on the Sabbath that many in parts of the Church of God have been practicing for many years, without much thought as to its correctness within the law of God for Sabbath observance.
The argument continues: "This verse is not addressing the purchase of an individual portion to be consumed immediately."
The logic of history, and the logic of CONTEXT within historical merchandise market selling, would prove that statement to be false and in error.
Was everyone in Israel who was at this market ONLY buying in HUGE quantities? Was it ONLY the filthy rich as we say, at this Sabbath market? Do the very rich ONLY and ALWAYS buy in LARGE quantities? NO, they do not! Even some of them buy only ONE pair of shoes at a time.
The words "large quantities," "huge amounts," "many bags of grain," and such phrases, DO NOT APPEAR IN THIS VERSE! Indeed, clearly, there was full-fledged commerce taking place, and that commerce selling was for ANYONE in Israel - the rich and famous, and the poor and infamous. For anyone wanting to buy in LARGE or SMALL - for many meals or for one meal. Wanting to buy one pair of earrings, or a dozen pair.
The words "only the rich," or "only the buyers of large quantities bought wares or victuals" are not to be found in this section of Scripture. If this was the problem and if this is what God wanted us to understand, that buying large quantities of anything on the Sabbath is wrong (and then what would be large as to what would be small, hence right or wrong? Where would the line be drawn?), then how simple it would have been for the Eternal to have inspired Nehemiah to have said this was to do with the rich buying large amounts on the Sabbath.
Surely, and I must again repeat, surely a young child can see the simple wording in this verse is telling us that those who set their heart to serve the law of God and His commandments, statutes, and judgments, will not buy anything from merchants who are out to sell you whatever they are selling, on the Sabbath. The merchants of the land still sell their goods (as large or as small, as few or as many) on the Sabbath to anyone who will buy from them. Even if they are ignorant and blinded, these Sabbath merchants are doing their own work, business, pleasure, on the Sabbath. They are doing secular work, hence they are breaking the Sabbath, and they are sinning. Read the first chapters of Leviticus, and you will discover God had a sacrifice to be offered by the people who sinned in ignorance. Sins of ignorance were still sins.
Would we give money to a drug user on the Sabbath so he/she can continue in their sin of drug use? They may also be deceived in their mind, blown out of their mind, not really understanding what they are doing, but they are still sinning in their practice. Some would say, well we would never give money to a drug user on any day of the week to perpetuate their habit, for it is sin any time, but I do buy groceries from the store on other days, as grocery selling is not sin of and by itself.
Well, okay, but let's suppose your car is just terribly dirty inside and out, and you didn't get time to have it cleaned during the six days that God says belong to you. Would you give money to the boy next door to wash and clean your car on the Sabbath?
How about giving money and buying the service of the shoe-shine-boy in the local mall on the Sabbath? May be buying the service of the Dry Cleaner for that shirt or blouse you didn't get cleaned during the week is also fine to do on the Sabbath.
I will be quite up front and I will be quite blunt. I know some will not like it, but I must at times raise my voice like a trumpet, and do as God says, "show my people their sins." These verses in Neh.10 are clear and plain verses for God's people TO NOT BUY FROM MERCHANTS OF THIS WORLD ON THE SABBATH!!
ARGUMENT: "Nowhere does the Bible condemn the exchange of money for any and all purposes on the Sabbath."
MY AMSWER: Well, of course, money is collected and exchanged from one person to another (those collecting it) on the Feast Holy Days, in accordance to the WILL and the law of God as He commanded in the law of Moses that we should not appear before Him empty on those holy days. So, the argument is correct in one sense. But in this study we are trying to understand the mind and will of God, concerning the child of God, wanting to serve the law, commandments, judgments, and statutes (as Nehemiah and others were doing) in regards to BUYING from the merchants of the land who wanted to sell their wares to any willing to buy, and that on the Sabbath.
God, in His word, does not list a whole bunch of do's and don'ts (as the Pharisees had about 600 listed in the time of Christ) for Sabbath observing. He does give a few large commands and principles.
Concerning the buying of merchandise and food stuffs on the Sabbath, it should be pretty clear that from what is written about collecting MANNA in Exodus 16 and from Neh.10 and 13 (and we shall look at Neh.13 shortly), it is NOT THE WILL of God that His children be buying ANY merchandise (large or small) from the merchants who sell it on the Sabbath.
Naturally (using the example of allowing an Israelite to give to foreigners an animal which died of itself) God does not expect outsiders, outside of the household of God (ancient Israel as a nation, and the NT Church of God), to do all that He expects His children to do. They are BLINDED, unconverted, deceived, in darkness, but God's children are not, they have LIGHT, they have the Word of the Lord, and they are expected to walk in that word of light. To be HOLY as He is HOLY. To be IN the world but not PART OF the world. The child of God is to be a LIGHT to THE WORLD, not to CONFORM to the world!
The world sins in many ways, as like merchandising on the Sabbath. The Lord gives specific laws regarding dead animals that die of themselves (being able to give such to the unconverted of the world) and USURY (can collect it from the people outside of Israel and the NT church, but not from those of Israel and the NT church).
These laws are WRITTEN for us - to know the WILL of God on such matters. The light is given, BUT nowhere is it written that the child of God can buy merchandise, grain and food-stuffs, from the merchants who want to sell to us on the Sabbath. In fact, the Eternal has written to us with TWO very clear examples in Nehemiah 10 and 13 that His WILL for His children wanting to serve His law, is that we SHOULD NOT BUY ANY merchandise and/or foods from those of the world who sell such items on the Sabbath.
The instruction and principle of gathering from merchants on the Sabbath is found by the example of God Himself in Exodus 16. The Lord was the merchant, supplying Israel with BREAD (relatively small quantity as it was collected DAILY - enough for a few meals each day only) in the form of MANNA. The Israelites did not have to buy it, true, but they did "go out" for it. The Lord was a merchant in a figure. Supplying something in the line of foodstuff that was enjoyable to have each day. But God was not going to have them go out for this small amount of daily food on the Sabbath. He was not going to merchandise to them on the Sabbath. He would work a miracle. He would PROVIDE for them, but they were not to collect their little bit of food ration on the Sabbath. They had the 6th day to prepare their own food for both the 6th and the 7th day.
Take the example of the women wanting to anoint the body of Jesus after He had been put in the grave. The 15th day Sabbath of the Feast of Unleavened Bread had come, a Thursday. The weekly Sabbath was the day after the work day Friday. It is written that they BOUGHT what they needed AFTER the Sabbath, prepared it, and then rested the Sabbath according to the commandments. Most of us in the Church of God understand all this very well. Think of the situation, think of the emotions of these women, think of this ONCE in a lifetime situation, even maybe an ox in the ditch some could argue. To wait until Sunday morning under this "not a regular" happening, surely, this situation could warrant buying whatever they needed on the Sabbath and preparing it, and going to the tomb before the Sabbath was over, or first thing Friday morning.
Well, first of all, there would probably (but we cannot be dogmatic about it for not all were "religious" in Israel at this time) be no store open in Jerusalem to sell to them. I guess they could have gone off to some none Israelite store somewhere that may have been merchandising on the Feast Sabbath.
They needed to buy some ingredients for this anointing, so we are clearly told, for it is written they went out and bought after the Sabbath. Even under this once in a life time circumstance, something that was surely a good deed, to anoint the body of Jesus, these women did not run off to the unconverted merchants on the Sabbath, to buy their small portion of substance for the task they wanted to do.
The Sabbath is so holy to the Lord, that not even this once in history good deed of anointing the very body of Jesus Christ as He lay in the tomb, was to be an excuse to buy from the merchants of this world. I am sure someone somewhere would have sold them what they needed if it meant making a dollars profit (not even all Israelites in those days were God fearing religious law of the Lord observers).
ARGUMENT: "And if we can take money to the place God chooses for the Feast of Tabernacles, and spend it for food, why didn't God say not to do it on the Holy Days or weekly Sabbath during the F.O.T. if this were wrong (vs.25-26)?"
MY ANSWER: The answer should again be quite logical. There was NO NEED for God to SPELL it out to Israel - that buying food on the Sabbath days during the F.O.T. was wrong. No need to spell it out for a number of simple reasons.
First, all Israel would be observing the F.O.T. (when in the obedient attitude of serving the law of the Lord), so people would be RESTING on the Sabbath, remembering that God did not provide MANNA on the Sabbath for 40 years in the wilderness, as He rested on the Sabbath, just as He had done from the very first Sabbath instituted on the 7th day in Genesis chapter two.
Secondly, as all Israel would be keeping the Feasts, the Holy days within them, no one would have ANY business open, no markets open, no stores open, no food supply warehouses open, all would be closed, no merchants selling anything. Israel under the law and government of God, would have one law for everyone within Israel, and concerning the Sabbaths, everyone would put away their secular jobs (storekeepers, market merchants, carpenters, bakers, and candle stick makers etc.) and REST. People would not be buying or selling anything on the Sabbaths.
Thirdly, as Israel was within its own land, the stranger among them had to comply with the same laws - the laws of Israel, which were the laws of God. There was to be one law for both the home born and the stranger, so it was written. Hence no stranger would merchandise anything on the Sabbaths, not even food.
Fourthly, and it would seem some forget, the Israelites had to go to a central place in the land to keep the Feasts. So we have the law to change livestock into money if the distance was far to the central location. But what is also forgotten is that such travel, to a central city far away, took sometimes many days. There were no quick train or plane schedules that brought you there just before the Sabbath of the Feast began.
Fifth, if you were living far away from where God placed His name (first it was in Shiloh, then later, in Jerusalem) and you were going to attend the Feast of Tabernacles you also went to observe Trumpets and Atonement, certainly Atonement as it was only four days before Tabernacles. There were THREE, what is called in old Jewish literature, PILGRIM feasts - the Spring feasts, Pentecost feast, and the Fall feasts (all four of them).
Sixth, good planning ahead was needed for those far away from Shiloh, and later Jerusalem, to ARRIVE BEFORE those Feasts began.
Seventh, the Israelites knowing all the above, and who had to turn his money BACK into food stock and animal sacrifice offerings, for the Feasts, also knew he had to ARRIVE EARLY ENOUGH before any Sabbath of those Feasts, as there would be NO SELLING of any merchandise on the Sabbaths. In Israel, when obeying God, no business was done on the Sabbaths, for anyone, not even the stranger. Any money taken for food at the Feasts would be used for buying that food BEFORE a Sabbath of the Feast came.
This would be logical knowledge by all, from a reading of the laws of God for Sabbath observance as found in the books of Moses.
Hence, with all the above, NO NEED for God to spell it out to them in Deut.14:25-26. The Israelites could add together two plus two, and they also came up with "four" as the answer.
The 4th commandment is pretty clear in Exodus 20. No secular merchandising work for profit was to be done by those serving God's law. And in Exodus 16 God Himself did not merchandise on the Sabbath by having His people collect food from without their homes, on the Sabbath.
Surely, the collecting of food (buying it) either from the "grocery store" or "restaurant" or Flea market, or Road-side Stand, should by now be able to be seen as not only improper for Sabbath observance, but also against the law and will of God.
In this section of Scripture some want to focus on the word "tsayid" translated "victual" in the KJV and "provisions" in the NKJV. Even quoting the Brown-Driver-Briggs lexicon we only come up with "provisions taken on a journey." I submit, nothing specifically earth shattering in such words, as I will explain shortly, for the English words "provisions taken on a journey" can mean one thing to one person and another thing to another person.
You may want to quote Webster as to trying to prove the word "provisions" has to do with a stock of food, which is then in his mind further elaborated on as a large stocking of food for many days journey, like packing the car to go to the Feast of Tabernacles. Well, first, the word "stock" in regards to food can mean in English one thing to one person and another thing to another person. You will do well to look up the words "provisions" and "stock" in not only Webster's by other English Dictionaries also. I have done so. See the whole of what such Dictionaries say on these words.
It all boils down to SEMANTICS - that is the meaning of words! The words "provisions" and "stock" can be used in many different ways and in many different CONTEXTS, not at all to do just with a long (many days) journey. Then, secondly, I have experienced packing the car to attend the Feast of Tabernacles that was far away, even as long as four days journey, and I (as well as others also attending the same Feast site) NEVER packed the car with all kinds of food stuffs, because we could buy our food along the way, from the stores in the villages and towns we passed through.
Palestine and the area in Nehemiah's day was not a DESERT! People travelled along safe and well established roads and routes from one place to the next place. Villages and towns and travelling merchants were all over the lands in those days, especially along the safe and practical routes from one large city to another. Nehemiah chapter 13 is not talking about some wealthy Jerusalem expedition that was collecting huge stocks of food to climb Mount Everest, or cross the Gobi desert, or sail to visit the Indians in North America.
The facts of history are that in those days, as well as before and after those days of Nehemiah, a journey for people, with not even a bicycle, let alone a car, was a few hours, or half a day, or even a whole day. Bethlehem was a town not that far from Jerusalem, you could make it from Jerusalem to Bethlehem in one day. There were other villages and towns near Jerusalem, some a few hours journey, some half a day away.
To think that ONLY the rich, who were stock-piling by buying huge quantities of food on the Sabbath, for some many days journey, is the ONLY thing being talked about here by Nehemiah 13, is to put it kindly, unintelligent, ill-considered, irresponsible, and to put it bluntly, foolhardy and nonsensical. How easy it would have been for Nehemiah (and for God who inspired him to write) to have used the words "rich people" or "wealthy travellers" or "those taking a long journey" but no such words are used in this passage.
Nehemiah could have easy written: "In those days I saw in Judah the wealthy buying large amounts of foods on the Sabbath for their many days journey...and I testified against them..." but no such sentences can be found in this passage.
To think that only the rich and famous, were coming to buy large quantities of food for long travel purposes, on the Sabbath in Jerusalem, and no one else was buying for some other reason, no small quantities being sold and bought, is quite illogical and is wrong reasoning from the very context and wording of this passage.
Before I look at the passage itself, I must comment more on the semantics of the words "provisions" and "stock."
The meaning of and how you understand and how you use those two words is according to the CONTEXT you are using them in. Certainly the context could be a many days' expedition and journey into the jungles of Africa or across the North Pole. Yet, you may have planned a day's outing with the teens from the local Youth Centre, a day of hiking in the back woods. You may say to one of the teen leaders a few days before you leave, "Please make sure you gather all the provisions we shall need for our outing or journey, make sure we have enough stock of food for everyone coming with us."
The journey is for only one day, but two or three meals will be needed. The use of the words "provisions" and "stock" in such a context is QUITE NORMAL!! Used in this context of even a day's journey, not one person would argue with you that such English sentences could not be used. It's all in the mind and it's all in the context of using words within a certain context that gets the message across.
Many at this Jerusalem market on the Sabbath, would be the middle class, and the poor, as well as the rich and famous, who would be buying stock and provisions of food and whatever else (a small gift to take to aunt Sally in Bethlehem), for their daily needs and for the journey they may be taking to Bethlehem or some other village near by, or for a journey to northern Palestine, many days away. To them it was provisions and stock they needed (or thought they needed) for their undertaking, be it short or long. The context gets into no specifics, the context is GENERAL - it covers all aspects and all people who would sell and buy anything on the Sabbath.
Let's look carefully at these verses and see the truth of what I have just stated.
Verse 15, notice it was in JUDAH, not just Jerusalem, but in the nation as a whole, that Nehemiah noticed some treading wine presses, gathering the sheaves, and bringing ALL kinds of things into the city of Jerusalem ON THE SABBATH. Here we see not only the commerce of merchandising on the Sabbath, but also secular work of various sorts, like treading the winepresses. Verse 16 we are clearly told that all manner of wares were being sold on the Sabbath unto the children of Judah, and in Jerusalem. So this general selling and buying was going on OUTSIDE of Jerusalem as well as inside that city.
Behind all this commerce is usually the powerful, and the fellows with the big money, to make more big money. In verse 17 these merchants are called "the nobles of Judah" but we have plainly seen that the selling was to the "children of Judah" which would have included anyone from all walks of life, not just the wealthy going on an extended journey of some days duration.
Now, verse 18 pulls no punches. Nehemiah tells them what is what, and reminds them that God was not pleased with such Sabbath keeping, or the lack of it, in the past, and is not pleased with it in the present. He tells them only the anger of the Lord can eventually come on such general practices of Sabbath breaking. And under inspiration Nehemiah said this commerce of selling and buying of all manner of wares on the Sabbath, was "evil" and was "profaning the Sabbath."
Nehemiah was in a position and had the authority, to do something about it. What he did is recorded for us in verse 19.
Notice verse 20. It was ALL KINDS OF WARE (which would have been from the small things to the large things, from the few sold to the many sold, to the poor and to the rich) that was being merchandised.
The Sabbath was being profaned in a GENERAL selling and buying commerce activity, by those who thought it was okay to so do on the Sabbath, and by those who thought it was just fine to buy on the Sabbath. It was all manner of wares, all kinds of wares being sold, to whomever of the children of Judah, and in Jerusalem.
Nehemiah was able, with the power he had to do things that once more would "sanctify the Sabbath day" - verse 22.
What we are clearly reading here is very much like it is in the nations of Israel in this day and age. People of the land, both Israelite and the stranger within, are busy on the Sabbath day, doing their own thing, working at the wine press, doing their secular work, bringing in the goods, opening up their shops and markets to sell, to make a buck from anyone in the land who will buy from them, all manner of wares.
I well remember at the age of nineteen, coming into the truth of which day was the 7th day of the week. Which day was the true Sabbath of the Lord, the day to put aside our secular work, and the day to rest upon and to keep holy, to come apart from the rebellious and deceived world who were practicing walking all over the Sabbath with their own work and merchandising commerce. I sat there very angry with Satan, upset at the religious leaders of our land who knew better but would not teach and preach the truth. I was just sick at heart to see our land just buzzing along with what Nehemiah was encountering in his day - the profaning of the Sabbath.
Now, Nehemiah had the power and authority to do something about it, most of us do not. But, let's suppose we did, let's suppose we had a group of people who wanted to serve the law of God and the Sabbath command. Let's suppose we had authority, because it belonged to us, over a town of such Christians. Would those Christians be selling to each other on the Sabbath? Would they be treading their winepresses, or doing their other regular secular work on the Sabbath? NO THEY WOULD NOT! Would those Christians and the Christian mayor (keeping the Sabbath, having it as part of their town bylaws) allow business and commerce, shops and markets etc. to continue as usual in their work on the Sabbath, as they do on the other six days? If, you were the mayor called Nehemiah, you would not allow it. The Christian town serving the law of God would not allow it. You and your dedicated God fearing Sabbath keeping townsfolk would do exactly the same as Nehemiah and his God fearing people did. They had authority and power to make sure their town of Jerusalem and all in it "sanctified the Sabbath day." So would you also if in the same situation.
Most of us are not in the seat of authority that Nehemiah was, hence all we can do is let the world go on, but we can step away, come apart, be not of it, set an example of keeping the Sabbath and not endorsing the rebellious and deceived world as it continues to profane the Sabbath by its actions of regular work, business and commerce.
Yes, we know that many are deceived and do not know any better by their working and merchandising on the Sabbath, yet the fact is they are still sinning, even if most do it in ignorance. Should we participate in their sins by now and again, even in small amounts, doing commerce with them, or having them sell their merchandise to us on the Sabbath? How do you tell the person who waited on you for two hours over a meal in some "make a profit eating establishment" on the Sabbath, a week later that he sinned by working on the Sabbath, and now needs to repent and observe the Sabbath, even to the point of giving up his job if needs be?
While we do not hate sinners, we must come to hate SIN! The world doing its own thing on the Sabbath, and so profaning the Sabbath, is sinning. We are to HATE SIN! We are to COME OUT OF SIN! The NT tells us we are NOT TO SIN! We are then to hate what the world does and practices on the Sabbath that is clearly contrary to the law of God. And doing our secular work-a-world jobs, opening our businesses for profit, selling all manner of our wares, on the Sabbath, having even our ox and donkey work on the Sabbath (would we loan our mule out on the Sabbath to an unconverted farmer who wanted to take his grain to the market?), is a sin according to the law of God. We as Christians are to set the example of coming out of and not participating in sin. The Bible makes it clear we are not to participate in the sins of others. That is one reason why the true Christian does not participate in the national war machine of his nation.
Over the last nearly 40 years I have fellowshipped on a somewhat regular basis (sometimes more often than at other times) with the Seventh Day Adventist people, the Church of God, Seventh Day, as well as the various branches of what I consider "my church" - the Worldwide Church of God and its now various offshoots. I do not consider the WCG today to be my church, but certainly some of its offshoots are.
My observation is this (remembering it is near 40 years in length): those Churches of God that have taught and allowed their members to merchandise on the Sabbath by buying from the merchants even small wares such as food stuff and meals from commercial profit making enterprises, have, in the long run, lost membership, split and re-split, become ripe for more false doctrine, corruptions, false and corrupt men, vain deceit, and even a dying out of the light of their candle stick, to a "once upon a time also ran" organization.
Ancient Israel went into captivity and demise for TWO basic reasons - IDOLATRY and SABBATH BREAKING.
Sometimes we do things because we have never thought about it in any other way, and because of simple ignorance.
But God has always had those who are not ignorant, who have themselves been corrected to see the error of their ways and their theology. I personally did not grow up being taught or believing what you have been reading in this and the previous study on this question of Sabbath observance. I have had to humble myself, and FEAR the Word of the Lord. God says that to such He will look (Isa.66:1-2). We must also hunger and thirst after righteousness; we must LOVE the truth. We must let the simplicity that is in Christ, in the Word, cut us like a sharp two-edged sword, even to the dividing of the joints and the marrow.
These verses in Nehemiah do indeed deal with a problem that was extant in his time. And often what was yesterday, is also the problem of today. These verses in Nehemiah, contrary to what Mr. Neff wants you to believe, DO DEAL WITH MODERN TIMES even to the eating of a single meal in an "open for profit" restaurant on the Sabbath. These verses have NO specific bearing on ONLY the rich and wealthy buying large quantities of merchandise and foodstuff on the Sabbath.
They have EVERYTHING TO DO WITH THE GENERAL PRACTICE OF MERCHANTS SELLING WHATEVER TO WHOM EVER, LARGE OR SMALL AMOUNTS, AND TO PEOPLE WHO SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER, BUYING FROM THEM, ALL BEING DONE AS A WAY AND PRACTICE OF LIFE, ON THE SABBATH DAY.
"AND THE TIMES OF THIS IGNORANCE GOD WINKED AT; BUT NOW COMMANDS ALL MEN EVERY WHERE TO REPENT" (Acts 17:30).
HE THAT HAS AN EAR TO HEAR WITH LET HIM HEAR!!
... Written in March 1999. Permission is granted to copy, publish, e-mail, and distribute all studies by the author. Mr. Hunt trusts nothing will be changed without his consent.
I would like to address the subject of ministers saying they need to fly in commercial air planes on the Sabbath to serve God's people.
I find this a very weak argument for allowing merchandising on the Sabbath. One very important reason is that those ministers who are FULL TIME in the ministry should be able to arrange their travelling to serve others so they are well in time for the coming of the Sabbath in the country/state and town they hope be for serving others.
For those who are not full time and would make the excuse that flying on commercial planes is then fine to do on the Sabbath to serve people, I would answer that they should not so do, find a full time minister who can go ahead of time and do the serving, or just serve in other ways those people, with such things are Video tapes, Cassette tapes, or live Phone Hook-ups.
No minister is THAT IMPORTANT as to think they can merchandise with the merchants of this world who are happy to sell to you and make money from you who will buy from them on the Sabbath.
God's people are to be served, yes, of course, but God's people are also to be taught to stand on their own two feet at times. And that may include standing WITHOUT a minister to lead them at times on the Sabbath in their assembling together.
Another question has been brought to my attention, and that is concerning the apostle Paul and his missionary journeys, especially the last one recorded in the book of Acts, his journey to Rome. I refer you to the maps at the back of most Bibles, where the journeys of Paul are usually presented for us. You will notice the gauge of distance given.
The book of Acts gives us NO IDEA in any specific way as to WHAT DAYS of the week Paul did all this travelling, except for a few times when it is stated he travelled on the first day of the week. You will notice that for his travels OTHER than the one going to Rome, the SEA travel for him was really not that far.
Most sailing ships he would travel on would have probably done 5 miles per hour AT LEAST. And ships going more than one day's sailing, without pulling into a port for the night, do continue sailing all through the night, 24 hours. I submit that Paul's ship sailing on his journeys would have all been done quite easily, WELL WITHIN a Sunday to a Friday.
Paul's ship sailing to Rome is certainly another matter. The last chapters of Acts show it was done over many months. The reader can study what is written in those last chapters of Acts with the map given in most Bibles. BUT HERE IS THE MAIN POINT.
Paul was a PRISONER, under GUARD!! He had appealed to Rome because of the Jew's accusations against him. This you can also read in those last chapters of Acts. Paul was not a FREE man at this time. He was under guard, and was to be taken BY THE AUTHORITIES to Rome. He could not plan this trip to Rome on his on steam or sail so to speak. HE REALLY HAD NO CHOICE...HE WAS A CAPTIVE!!
If the police come for you to arrest you for your religious teachings and practices, you have, as a Christian, TWO choices. Either you FLEE, GET THE HECK OUT, DISAPPEAR...or you submit to being their CAPTIVE. If you have submitted to being their prisoner, then you really do not have any say as to WHEN you travel or by what means you travel. If they put you on a commercial plane or ship and you travel on the Sabbath, you have NO CHOICE: it is beyond YOUR CONTROL, and under such a situation God UNDERSTANDS. He knows you are not merchandising on the Sabbath as part of your free will and choice. THERE IS A VAST DIFFERENCE!