And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings
and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
and to hearken than the fat of rams.
1 Samuel 15: 22
When rationalizing the sin of dining out on the Sabbath, John Ritenbaugh argues that because Jesus healed the sick on this day, he (Mr. Ritenbaugh) may now seek out unbelievers who profane the holy and pay them for their Sabbath labor. As you read his point it is important to understand that there is absolutely no prohibition in the scriptures (Old or New Testament) against healing on the Sabbath. However, there are multiple prohibitions against going out into spiritual Egypt and purchasing their goods, which is what Mr. Ritenbaugh is advocating. That being the case, one must ask himself why he is bringing this up. We think we know. Read on.
"As we will begin to see, from God's point of view, working on the Sabbath is not the stopping of work altogether of oneself, nor of others, but to draw attention as to what the work is, and why one is doing it on that day. It makes all the difference in the world."
The Lord then answered him, and said, You hypocrite, does not each one of you on the sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering?
"You can just guess what this issue was. It was what was permissible to do on the Sabbath. What kind of work does God say is okay to do? The issue here is a man working to serve a dumb animal that does not know its left side from its right side. Thus, we can see, from God's point of view, that a dumb animal has a higher priority on one's Sabbath's responsibilities than doing nothing at all simply because it is only an animal. Man is required to take care of his animals."
"So the question is this: If God, under certain circumstances, shows that meeting animal needs is required, what about human needs on the Sabbath? You see, Jesus is making a comparison that ought to be obvious to any one of us."
When Jesus gave this lesson, He was teaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath. While there He noticed a woman who was "bowed together." One can only imagine the pain and suffering she was going through. We offer this information to provide some context to Jesus actions and words. Notice how Luke describes what took place.
Luke 13: 10-16
And he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And, behold, there was a woman which had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together, and could in no wise lift up herself. And when Jesus saw her, he called her to him, and said unto her, Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity. And he laid his hands on her: and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.
And the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because that Jesus had healed on the sabbath day, and said unto the people, There are six days in which men ought to work: in them therefore come and be healed, and not on the sabbath day.
The Lord then answered him, and said, Thou hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering?
And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day? (Lk.13:10-16)
Blurring the Lines
What Mr. Rithebaugh is attempting to do is to blur the lines between what Jesus did when healing those who suffered from a genuine physical affliction, one that was beyond their control, and his (Mr. Ritenbaugh's) desire to seek out Sabbath-breakers to prepare his meals on holy time, because of his hunger, which it totally within his control.
This is a huge deception and a mockery of the Messiah's compassion. This COG leader wants God's people to believe that going to a restaurant is the moral equivalent of taking care of a helpless animal, or, a helpless woman. In essence he is saying: "If Jesus would show compassion on the afflicted, he would most certainly show compassion on the hungry. And because those who dine out on the Sabbath are satisfying their hunger, Jesus must approve of this practice." But is this true?
Here is a question for Mr. Ritenbaugh. When Jesus healed a man born blind, He instructed him to wash in the pool of Siloam (Jn. 9:7). What would have happened if the man decided to ignore that instruction? Would he have been healed anyway? Here is a hint. Read the story of Naaman (2 Ki. 5). The point here is that refusal to follow God's instructions does not result in His compassion. It results in His correction.
But what does this have to do with dining out on the Sabbath? The answer, PLENTY!
When God led the children of Israel out of Egypt He made provisions for their meals, Why? Because He did not want them to go hungry. However, He also gave them specific instructions regarding those meals and His Sabbath. He declared, in words that are crystal clear, that His people were to gather their Sabbath day food on the sixth day—not the seventh. Additionally, He commanded that they prepare their Sabbath meals on the sixth day as well.
We now come to the question of the day. What would happen if the Israelites decided to gather their food on the Sabbath, instead of the sixth day? Would God show compassion because of their "NEED" for nourishment? Would He provide an alternate food source? NO! We know this because this very thing took place just a short time after the exodus, and the Almighty's reaction was anything but conciliatory. Not only did He allow them to go hungry that day (Ex. 16:27), but He also issued a blistering indictment against them. Notice what He said
How long refuse ye to keep my commandments and my laws? See, for that the Lord hath given you the Sabbath, therefore He giveth you 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. (Ex. 16:28)
Here, God is rebuking the children of Israel for their failure to honor His Sabbath. Specifically, He was condemning their lack of preparation. In essence, God was conveying to His people three critical elements concerning eating on the Sabbath. These elements were as follows.
1) Food was not to be acquired on the Sabbath
2) Food was not to be prepared on the Sabbath
3) His people were not to leave “their place” on the Sabbath.
Today, John Ritenbaugh believes that because God is compassionate He now permits His people to seek out Sabbath-breakers and pay them for their labor. In essence the Sabbath-breaker has become his alternate food source.
The fact of the matter is that God has already provided for the Sabbath food needs of His people today. And contrary to John Ritenbaugh, His remedy is not for them to seek out unbelievers and purchase the fruit of their sin.
Mr. Ritenbaugh continued:
And he answered them, saying, 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?
"To extricate an ox from a cistern or a pit would cause a considerable amount of work when you think about how big those animals are, and that they would fall into a cistern. You might wonder how in the world they would fall into a cistern. Well here is how: It is not that they are not sure-footed at all. They are far more sure-footed than you and I!"
"But a cistern would be dug in order to collect water in it, and then in order to make it safer for humans the cistern would be covered over with tree branches and limbs and things like that, which if a person stepped on it, it would probably hold him, and there would be no problem, and the person would jump to his safety. But if a dumb animal, which might weigh seven or eight hundred pounds, stepped on it, the animal would go crashing right through because it could not discern that it was not solid ground."
"Jesus is showing then that if that occurred, the life of the animal and probably the prosperity of the family is deemed more important than breaking the Sabbath through the hard labor of rescuing the animal from its agony and its fears."
"Now the Pharisaic Jew's Sabbath-breaking regulations had become so unbalanced that they also held it permissible, indeed merciful, to assist a donkey or a cow having difficulty giving birth to a colt on the Sabbath, but to give aid to a human was unlawful in many occasions."
We at Blow the Trumpet are mystified that anyone would proffer this argument with a straight face. What Mr. Ritenbaugh is teaching is the antithesis of what Jesus taught. That's right! The complete opposite.
When Jesus gave this very important principle regarding the Sabbath, He was dining at the home of a prominent Pharisee. Also there was a man suffering from “dropsy,” an abnormal and painful accumulation of fluid in the tissue of the body. Some believe this man was placed in front of Jesus in an attempt to see if He would heal on the Sabbath.
Jesus seized upon this moment to teach a valuable lesson about compassion. He began by asking these religious leaders if it was wrong to heal on the Sabbath. When they did not answer Him, Jesus healed the man. Perhaps anticipating a reaction from these “pious” leaders, Jesus posed another question:
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? (Lk. 14:5)
Jesus’ question silenced these men because it not only appealed to their understanding of the scriptures, but also to rabbinical law which provided for such acts of mercy. By invoking the law, Jesus was cutting through all the potential arguments these men may have been crafting. However, His words and actions were saying much more. The point He was making was that sometimes life does not go according to plan. There can be unexpected twists and turns. In short: an ox can fall into a pit.
The action Jesus took illustrated that when there is danger to life or property, God understands and even expects His children to take measures to correct the problem, even if it occurs on His Sabbath. In other words, save the ox.
This principle can be applied to situations that occur in our modern life as well. For example: there may be a time when the car breaks down or an injury occurs. These are not planned events. No one made a reservation to have an accident. No one gathered some friends after services and planned out an emergency. It would be ridiculous to do so. However, there are times when a genuine unforeseen crisis does happen. The fact is that our lives can be interrupted by events that are simply beyond our control.
However, there is a principle here that must be respected. The ox in a ditch is the exception, not the rule. What Mr. Ritenbaugh is suggesting is that the exception may now be the rule. In other words, God's people may now actually plan for the exception. They may decide that it would be a nice change from their Sabbath routine to dine out in three weeks. Therefore, according to Mr. Ritenbaugh, they may make reservations at a nice restaurant and look forward to their ox falling into a pit.
A Genuine Emergency
There are also times when purchasing something on the Sabbath might be appropriate based on the principle of an ox in a ditch. For example: suppose you are taking a Sabbath walk and notice an elderly gentleman has collapsed on the sidewalk. When you approach to offer assistance, he informs you that he is diabetic and asks if you could buy him a specific kind of candy bar. Across the street is a convenience store and in your pocket is a five dollar bill. This is an ox in a ditch. This act is not about engaging in business on the Sabbath. It is about healing on the Sabbath. This being the case, there may be times when it might be necessary to buy food on this day. But this should only take place in a genuine emergency where the alternative may be catastrophic.
Additionally, it is important to understand what an ox in a ditch is not. Poor planning is not an ox in a ditch. A messy home that is not ready for company is not an ox in a ditch. Running into old friends that you haven’t seen in years is not an ox in a ditch. An ox in a ditch is something to regret, not something to anticipate – or even celebrate.
Furthermore, when Jesus gave the lesson of an ox in a ditch, it was in the context of healing, not dining. The principle is there to be sure, but it is not to be manipulated. To do so would be a HUGE mistake. Those who use Jesus’ teaching to justify going to restaurants on the Sabbath should ask themselves, “is it really an emergency?” Or is it possible that you are just exploiting for your own benefit the compassion and mercy of the very Savior who made provisions for dealing with a real tragedy that may arise on God’s holy Sabbath?
Pardon the Interruption
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