You shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you:
every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth
any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people.
When defending the practice of dining out on the Sabbath, Mr. Ritenbaugh claims the scriptures are silent on this issue. In other words, he thinks you can't know for sure what God's position is with respect to His people going out into spiritual Egypt, where the Sabbath is being desecrated by slaves to sin (Ro. 6:16), and actually paying these slaves to labor on their behalf (Neh. 10:31). He believes God permits this practice because His people now live in a different cultural setting than the one in existence during the days when the scriptures were written. In other words, because we live in a world where Sabbath-breakers are everywhere, we may now buy their goods on holy time. Here is how he expresses this point, followed by our response.
"Regarding this subject, there is no "Thus saith the LORD" verse one can turn to, because frankly, in the cultural setting within the Bible when it was written, no "Thus saith the LORD" was needed. But things have changed since the time that Moses began the writing of the Bible and when the apostles finished the writing of the Bible."
When Mr. Ritenbaugh insists that there is no direct prohibition against dining out on the Sabbath, he is relying on a semantical argument. After all, nowhere in the scriptures does it even mention the term "restaurant," let alone specifically prohibiting God's people from employing their services.
This COG leader is not the first to advance this form of reasoning. Here is how the United Church of God put it in their doctrinal study on Sabbath dining.
"There is nothing in the Sabbath commandment about eating in a restaurant or not eating in a restaurant. This was not an issue that needed addressing in the time of Moses." United Church of God
By taking this approach, groups like the UCG and the Church of the Great God have crafted a way which allows them to be the final arbiters on this issue. In other words, they may now decide for themselves whether God Almighty permits the practice of His people seeking out unbelievers who profane His Sabbath and paying them for the fruit of their sin. After all, according to these church leaders, there is no direct mention of this practice in God's word. It is interesting that the term "Laodicea" means "the people decide."
The error in this thinking is that it is based on a false premise. In truth, God's word speaks with great force concerning this sin. In a very real sense, there is a "Thus saith the Lord" with respect to the Sabbath dining practices of God's people—and it is definitely NOT favorable to those who think He approves of going to restaurants on this day.
A Lesson from History
When God gave the Ten Commandments to the children of Israel, He had already introduced them to His Sabbath. Furthermore, it was not by accident that when doing so, the Eternal presented very specific instructions regarding their Sabbath meals. This was a "Thus saith the Lord" in every sense of the term. In short, God prohibited them from: 1) acquiring their meals on the Sabbath, 2) preparing their meals on the Sabbath, and 3) going outside their place on the Sabbath (see Ex. 16). Furthermore, He declared that this was a test of their obedience (Ex. 16:4).
A few weeks later, when presenting these emancipated slaves with His great moral law, God reinforced His position concerning Sabbath labor. Simply put, it was NOT to be done, under penalty of death (Ex. 31:14)—even unbelievers ("strangers") were to be released from work (Dt. 5:14).
Nehemiah's Bold Stand
At this point, it is interesting to note that when Nehemiah powerfully addressed the profaning of God's Sabbath by the Jews in Jerusalem, he locked non-believers (men of Tyre) out of the city. He did so because they were selling wares and food products on the Sabbath and holy days. Nehemiah also rebuked the nobles of Judah for allowing them access to Jerusalem on the Sabbath in the first place (Neh.13:15-21). Additionally, this great servant of the Almighty made it absolutely clear that God's people were not to patronize labor on this day. He commanded them, in no uncertain terms, to not buy ANYTHING (Neh. 10:31). Furthermore, there was no limitation to this directive.
With this said, let's consider some very specific commands from God Almighty concerning His Sabbath. This is not a complete list, but it does stand as incontrovertible proof to those who honestly seek God's will, that there are many "Thus saith the Lords" concerning this activity.
You shall not acquire food on the Sabbath.
God actually rebuked the Israelites when they attempted to engage in this practice. His exact words were, “How long refuse you to keep my commandments and my laws?” (Ex. 16:26-28) He uttered them after the Israelites went out to gather food (manna) on the Sabbath, in clear violation of His command. Tragically, Mr. Ritenbaugh somehow believes that because our current society is infested with Sabbath-breakers, God's church may now seek out these people and acquire their food from them.
You shall not prepare food on the Sabbath
God specifically instructed the Israelites to do their Sabbath meal preparation on the sixth day (Ex. 16:23). Furthermore, at no time did He suggest that they could commission others to prepare it for them on holy time. He actually indicated that the preparation day was given to “prove” the Israelites and to test their obedience (Ex. 16:4). However, Mr. Ritenbaugh believes that because our current society is no longer limited exclusively to Israelites, God's people may now seek out unbelievers and pay them to prepare their Sabbath meals.
You shall not go outside your place on the Sabbath
God revealed this specific aspect of His command because the Israelites went out to obtain food on the Sabbath (Ex. 16:29). Furthermore, God was furious with this practice and He made that fact abundantly clear.
At this point, it is interesting to note that the only way God’s people today can avail themselves of a restaurant on the Sabbath is to go outside “their place.” They must literally go out into the world where God’s Sabbath is being profaned and seek out the services of unbelievers and their sin. It is even referred to as "going out to eat." Despite this fact, Mr. Ritenbaugh believes God somehow condones this sin in today's world.
You shall not labor on the Sabbath
God first addressed the issue of work on the Sabbath when He made the seventh day. At that time, the Great Creator of Heaven and Earth rested from His labor (Gen. 2:2-3). Later, when giving the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai, God made reference to this rest.
Additionally, God knew that there were only two broad sources of labor – the work you perform and the work that is performed for you. The fourth commandment addresses both types (Ex. 20:9-10). First, you shall not do any work on the Sabbath. That addresses your part. Secondly, no one who comes into your sphere of influence shall be compelled to labor on your behalf. This includes family, servants, strangers, and even livestock. That part addresses all others His people would come in contact with. Everyone else on earth was outside the camp and God already forbade His people from going there on holy time (Ex. 16:29).
When God gave the fourth commandment, His intent was very clear: work profanes the day He consecrated – to engage in such a practice is to desecrate that which is sacred (Ex. 20:8-11). To pay others to do it for you is no different. Mr. Ritenbaugh may try to claim that because he is powerless to prevent unbelievers from laboring on God's Sabbath, he may now purchase the fruit of their sin, but this is NOT true. Nehemiah was well aware that God's people would encounter Sabbath-breakers selling food and other things on holy time. However, that didn't prevent him from forbidding the purchase of their goods (Neh. 10:31).
You shall not direct a servant to labor on the Sabbath
God’s plan for man is that he will ultimately be free from the tyranny of ignorance and sin. The Sabbath pictures that freedom. It is not by accident that when giving the fourth commandment, God reminded His people that they were once slaves in Egypt (Dt. 5:15). It is for this very reason that every Sabbath, God’s people are to be liberators. In other words, they are to declare everyone they come in contact with as FREE. Nowhere in the commandment does it remotely hint that God condones His people going back into “Egypt” to avail themselves of the very sin they were once a part of (Dt. 5:14-15). The Sabbath is about liberty, not slavery.
Mr. Ritenbaugh may argue all he wants that because we live in an open society with unbelievers he may now go back into spiritual Egypt and avail himself of their sin, but he does not have the force of scripture on his side. God's word forbids such things and actually warns of its consequences (Rev. 18:4).
You shall not direct an unbeliever to work on the Sabbath
Contrary to what Mr. Ritenbaugh teaches, God's prohibition against Sabbath labor extends beyond His people. Even the unbeliever is not to be compelled to labor on this day. Although Mr. Ritenbaugh thinks he bears no responsibility for the work they perform, it is he who is placing the order and paying for it.
The point God was making when giving this portion of the fourth commandment was that whether one is a believer or a skeptic, bond or free, rich or poor, young or old, family or stranger, God’s people are not to solicit them to labor on their behalf on His Sabbath. Why? Because we were once slaves in (spiritual) Egypt (Dt. 5:14-15).
Those who are ignorant of God’s law may not understand why the faithful would be so considerate of them. But God’s people do understand. By symbolically releasing the unbeliever from labor on the Sabbath, they are acting out what their King will ultimately do when He returns to earth. At that time, He will declare all the slaves FREE.
You shall not buy or sell on the Sabbath
Throughout history, there has been an inextricable link between money and labor. Furthermore, God is very much aware of this link. For this reason, He inspired both Nehemiah’s words (Neh. 10:31) and his actions (Neh. 13:15-21) when dealing with the issue of buying and selling on the Sabbath.
When this great instrument of the Almighty commanded the Jews to refrain from engaging in commerce on holy time, he was not introducing a new aspect to the fourth commandment. He was reminding God’s people of where this sin can lead – CAPTIVITY (Neh. 13:17-18)! That one word should carry enormous weight with God’s church today. The Great Law Giver was not bluffing when He indicted the nations of Israel and Judah for profaning the Sabbath. History bears out this painful truth.
A Final Thought
For Mr.Ritenbaugh to claim that there is no absolute prohibition in God's word concerning the behavior he advocates is a disgraceful attempt to manipulate language. God's law addresses Sabbath meals in a way that leaves no room for the scriptural trickery employed by this argument.
As a reminder, here is a short list of what the Lord of the Sabbath says about the day He consecrated at the very beginning.
When God gave His Sabbath law to ancient Israel, His prohibition against labor was clear and unwavering. What takes place in restaurants today would have been a capital crime under that law. No one could do such a thing and live. For Mr. Ritenbaugh to claim that because we don't live in a closed society, God's opinion of this practice has changed, is unconscionable. Furthermore, to teach that God's people may now seek out this sin and pay for it, with their Savior's blessing no less, is the height of arrogance. Unfortunately, that is exactly what Mr. Ritenbaugh teaches.
An Apostle's Sheen
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