T he letter that appears below was written by Mr. Don Haney, a dedicated servant of God's people and one of the great advocates of His law in the church today. Mr Haney is the director of the Church of God in Peace and Truth located in Gold Hill, Oregon. Blow the Trumpet selected this letter because of its extraordinary clarity in addressing one of the great issues confronting God's church today. Quite frankly, Mr Haney's courage and straight forward approach when responding to the challenge posed to him is refreshing.
Mr. Armstrong ate out on the sabbath and every minister I knew in worldwide ...everybody at the feast sights ate out on the sabbath and the holy days..some three times..the passage you quote in the old Testament is concerning old covenant Israel and was to prevent the seller from setting up shop to sell outside the gates..this kind of sabbath worship has led to the pharisees 540 do and don'ts concerning the sabbath and other commandments...the woman at the well story (Samaritan) if you recall ..christ had sent the disciples in town to buy food..was this not on the sabbath... procuring food is not buying and selling..your comparing boss's working on sabbath does in no since give us right to do that as we would be working.. .procuring food is not working.
Your questions/comments are obviously directed toward that portion of my open letter “A WAKE UP CALL TO A HOUSE IN MOURNING,” that dealt with the loose Sabbath observance by many in God’s Church. I am happy to address your comments and challenges to the contents of my open letter. Your email has been kept in it’s original state to maintain your intent but we have withheld your name and email address from your email above, out of respect for you.
You spoke of the example of Mr. Armstrong and “every minister” you knew in WWCG as support for purchasing food on the Sabbath. With all due respect for the many good things that Mr. Armstrong did and taught by the grace of God, what Mr. Armstrong or other ministers have done or taught is not our concern or focus. We do not blindly teach what Mr. Armstrong did or taught, as if his doing or teaching it made it right. Our concern lies in what God tell us to do, and we teach from His Word, as we are not man pleasers or followers of men (Gal.1:10 & Acts 5:29). Peter was righteous. Should we also teach and follow his errors? Remember until confronted by Paul, Peter turned his back on the gentiles to please the Jews (Gal.2:11-12). Did his being Peter make that practice OK? Should we also “number Israel,” or condone or practice the other sins of David, because he was over-all a righteous king in God’s service? That would be idolatry, as it would place importance of the man over God and His Word.
I remember as a student at Ambassador College coming to services each Sabbath and barely being able to hear parts of the sermon in God’s Auditorium, because of the noise of the work being carried out by the workmen on the new A.C. campus student center – which was adjacent to the auditorium. As we entered the Auditorium for church services each week we would need to avoid the construction workers, and their power cords, tools, backhoes, and other equipment. The sound of the jack hammers and other loud construction equipment made an interesting background noise to the sermon – especially since we all knew they were working for the church on church property, Sabbath after Sabbath! Why did Mr. Armstrong make such a contract and permit that? Why did so many of the WWCG ministers you spoke of not say anything about it? Why did some even defend it? Was that a right example to set as Sabbath observance?
While we all have learned much from Mr. Armstrong, was his example of observing the Sabbath his strongest point? Are we to follow his example over the scriptural examples and God’s clear instructions? Since Mr. Armstrong and the “church” hired work out to be done on the Sabbath within their gates, did that make it right? Was HWA supposed to be like the Pope, whose words we were to obey over Gods? That is not what Mr. Armstrong wanted, nor is any minister to be a measure of God’s standards.
This subject is of sufficient importance to address in some detail, as it is a sign and test of God’s true people (Ex.16 & Ex.31:13). Later we hope to produce a more complete booklet on this subject. Since Jesus said that those who teach that even one jot or tittle of His law is done away with would be called least in the Kingdom of God, we should all want to avoid watering down any of His laws – including the beautiful Sabbath test command (Matt.5:18-19).
What do God’s Words say about hiring work out on the Sabbath or allowing a “stranger” to do work “within your gates” on the Sabbath?
“Six days you shall labor and do all your work. 14) But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD thy God: In it you shall not do any work, you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox or ass or cattle, nor the stranger that is within your gates; that your servants may rest as well as you.” (emphasis mine)
I have heard the argument that one's “manservant” is his employee, but private contractors are independent, and so are exempt from God’s instructions in the fourth commandment concerning “servants.” Sounds like an attempt to find a “loophole” to justify work on the Sabbath to me, as contractors are also paid for their services and must do it according to the instructions and standards of the one hiring them by contract. It is not at all uncommon for contractors to have the hours of the day, or days of the week restricted by the one they are performing work for – so as to avoid disrupting business or other activities. But even setting that aside, the phrase “nor the stranger that is within your gates” certainly covers those who are not even in our employ in any manner. They are “strangers” (gentiles) who were NOT our servants, but whom were also not allowed to perform work on the Sabbath “within your gates.”
Mr. Armstrong had a love for God and was in many points, extraordinary for a man. The point is NOT to judge Mr. Armstrong, WWCG ministers or anyone else. The point is that we all fall short and sin. So using my example or the example of Mr. Armstrong or other men as a standard will inevitably fall short of God’s Word which is Truth (John 17:17). This has certainly proven true concerning how God’s Word tells us to keep His Sabbaths Holy. That is why we strive to use only God’s Word as the authority and standard of conduct – not what men have done or said.
You are not alone in using the example of the Pharisees to justify a looser interpretation of God’s Sabbath laws. It wasn’t that the Pharisees didn’t keep God’s law, it was that they ADDED TO IT. We are not discussing adding to God’s Word, but if it should be “interpreted” to fit our customs and traditional teaching of men, or simply taken at face value and obeyed (Mk.7:7). The way that the Pharisees (or other men) have gone from one extreme to the other is not an accurate measure of God’s will for us. Only His Word is truth (Jn.17:17 & Rom.3:4).
We can call it “procuring food” (as you called it) instead of “buying” or “trading” or any other phrase that takes the sting out of the fact that buying food on the Sabbath, is trading with the food merchants and is in violation with God’s clear instructions (except in the case of an emergency or certain travel exceptions) (Neh.10:31 & Neh.13:15-18). Simply playing with semantics will not make us innocent, but may serve only to deceptively sooth our conscience.
I appreciate that you did make one mention of scripture, by mentioning Christ and the woman at the well, in your argument for trading with the food merchants on the Sabbath. However as to your question asking if Jesus sent His disciples to buy food on the Sabbath (John 4:8), while He spoke to the woman at the well, the answer is NO He did not. It was not a Sabbath. I’m sure if you read the chapter you will clearly see there is no reference to that being a Sabbath. It was a regular workday. You have been misinformed.
How you keep the Sabbath is between you and God. I am merely a teacher, not a judge or policeman. I must answer to Christ for what I teach (Matt.5:19 & Acts 20:25-32). Each of us will answer to God for how we keep His Sabbaths as well as what we teach others about them. We will not answer to any man, whether he be a minister or lay member. May God guide and bless you as you strive to faithfully study His Word and obey Him (2 Tim.3:15-17).
Honoring God's Sabbath