Last year my wife wrote an outstanding article on the Sabbath for Proclamation! magazine. As you might expect we received responses from readers, including some that were articulate in their reasons for disagreeing with the article. I wanted to review some of the common, articulate objections to the article along with our responses for the benefit or all readers. This post (part 4 of 4) concludes our responses to the common objections we received. You may read part 1 in this article, part 2 in this article, and part 3 in this article.
“Regarding the miracle of the manna: Actual physical rest was so important every Sabbath Day that God enforced it (even before He spoke it on Sinai) by the death penalty. Why would He do this unless it is very important for man and beast to keep it?”
Ex 16: 22 On the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers each. And when all the leaders of the congregation came and told Moses, 23 he said to them, “This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Tomorrow is a day of solemn rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord; bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil, and all that is left over lay aside to be kept till the morning.’” 24 So they laid it aside till the morning, as Moses commanded them, and it did not stink, and there were no worms in it. 25 Moses said, “Eat it today, for today is a Sabbath to the Lord; today you will not find it in the field. 26 Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, which is a Sabbath, there will be none.” 27 On the seventh day some of the people went out to gather, but they found none. 28 And the Lord said to Moses, “How long will you refuse to keep my commandments and my laws?29 See! The Lord has given you the Sabbath; therefore on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Remain each of you in his place; let no one go out of his place on the seventh day.” 30 So the people rested on the seventh day.
It is correct that the death penalty was associated with breaking the Sabbath, but as we see in the account from Genesis 16, that penalty was not being applied yet. It is likely the case that this penalty for breaking the Sabbath had not been given yet, but clearly leaving their dwelling and gathering food was prohibited. As we see in Exodus 16:27, some people went out to gather food, breaking the Sabbath command, but were not put to death at this time. Therefore, it is incorrect to state that the Sabbath was enforced with the death penalty prior to Sinai.
This also leads us back to the Disciples gathering grain to eat as they walked. According to God’s Law, as mentioned in this objection, the disciples should have been stoned to death for what they were doing. There was no provision in the law that said doing a little bit of food gathering was okay so long as it was a small snack and not a meal. Nor did Jesus excuse their behavior by explaining that they really weren’t gathering food on the Sabbath. If the correct rebuttal to the Pharisee’s accusation was that the disciples’ actions did not break the Sabbath laws, Jesus could have explained this. But, instead of explaining that the disciples weren’t breaking the Sabbath law, Jesus said it was okay for them to disobey the Law just as it was okay for David and his men to disobey the Law. If the Sabbath is so important that breaking it has the death penalty attached to it, how could Jesus overlook this importance and this penalty? The account of Exodus 16 makes the actions of the Jesus and His Disciples in Matthew 12 (and Mark 2 and Luke 6) stand out even more. The comparison that Jesus makes between the Sabbath and a “ceremonial” law suggests that the Sabbath had a similar role, a temporary instruction that provided a shadow of Christ’s coming work. A shadow that was fulfilled in Christ’s incarnation.
“The Proclamation! article implies that the Jewish leaders were accurate in saying that Jesus was ‘both breaking the Sabbath and making Himself equal with God’. That is not true! Jesus was and is equal with God the Father, but He never broke the Sabbath! He said, ‘I have kept my Father’s commandments’ (John 15:10).”
John 5:8 Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” 9 And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked. Now that day was the Sabbath. 10 So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” 11 But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.’” 12 They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” 13 Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. 14 Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” 15 The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. 16 And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. 17 But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” 18 This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
Scripture plainly states that the Jewish leaders were upset with Jesus for breaking the Sabbath, not that they were upset with Him because they thought He was breaking the Sabbath. Concluding that Scripture doesn’t always mean quite what it says begins a dangerous and slippery slope that ends with ourselves, rather than Scripture, as the final authority.
Jesus didn’t claim that He wasn’t working on the Sabbath. Instead, He compared His work with the fact that the Father was working. It is not a sin, it does not break any commandment, for God to work on the Sabbath. But what about Jesus instructing the man to carry his bed? This also broke the Sabbath Law (and not just the added Rabbinical Laws as Adventism claims).
Jer 17:21 Thus says the Lord, “Take heed for yourselves, and do not carry any load on the sabbath day or bring anything in through the gates of Jerusalem. 22 You shall not bring a load out of your houses on the sabbath day nor do any work, but keep the sabbath day holy, as I commanded your forefathers. … 27 But if you do not listen to Me to keep the sabbath day holy by not carrying a load and coming in through the gates of Jerusalem on the sabbath day, then I will kindle a fire in its gates and it will devour the palaces of Jerusalem and not be quenched.”
The only explanation that makes sense to me is understanding that this law was a shadow pointing to Christ. Since the Light had arrived, the purpose of the shadow was completed. Jesus’ rest was available during His ministry and intensified when the New Covenant was fully ushered in. Jesus was establishing the teachings of this Covenant before His death, including His commandments.
Jesus defended His non-observance of the Sabbath by pointing out that this shadow didn’t apply to Him. He is Lord of the Sabbath, and He (like His Father) is working all the time. That explains His actions on the Sabbath, but having the man carry the load on the Sabbath seems to require that the shadow was fading away in light of the arrival and teaching of the Lord.
“It is true that Israel as whole never entered God’s rest, either symbolically or physically, but some did. David is only one example of many. We cannot say that God’s physical or spiritual Sabbath failed because the majority of people failed to accept it. You say that the Old Testament ‘physical Sabbath rest did not provide spiritual rest’. This is false! Spiritual rest was part of the blessing God placed upon the Sabbath in the beginning. It was part of the holiness of the Sabbath. The seventh day is intrinsically different from the other six days.”
Heb 4: 3 For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said, “As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest,’” although his works were finished from the foundation of the world. 4 For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” 5 And again in this passage he said, “They shall not enter my rest.” 6 Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, 7 again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” 8 For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on.9 So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God,
Scripture doesn’t say one way other the other whether David entered God’s True Rest, and it certainly doesn’t state that he is only one example of many. Likewise the objection contained no reference demonstrating the spiritual rest was part of the Sabbath command or blessing in the Old Testament. This is one of the things I have repeatedly found when examining SDA defenses of their own doctrines, they are full of speculations and declarative statements that lack Scriptural support.
It isn’t the Proclamation! article claiming that the seventh day Sabbath did not provide spiritual rest to the Jewish people, it is the Bible that makes this claim. Heb 4:8 tells us plainly that having the seventh day Sabbath did not result in true rest. “For if Joshua had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another day after that.”
I pray that each of you who has taken the time to read these articles will also take the time to examine the verses quoted and cited and choose to believe His Word, exactly as it is written.
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://blog.lifeassuranceministries.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Rick_1_5x2.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Rick Barker is a native of Southwestern Ohio and facilitates a weekly FAF Bible study for former and transitioning SDAs in the Dayton, OH area. Information on this FAF meeting can be found at www.gracediscovery.org. Rick graduated from Andrews University in 1987 and received a Masters degree from the University of Dayton. He served on the staff of the Thomas Bilney Institute for Biblical Research and is an active member of his local Lutheran church. Rick was a volunteer on the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry website for 6 years and remains a participant on the discussion boards. Rick and his wife Sheryl formally left the SDA chuch in 2004. Prior to this they had been active in the Miamisburg and Wilmington Ohio churches.[/author_info] [/author]