The Feast of Tabernacles 2002 has come and gone, and the next annual Holy Days, the Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread, are almost six months away. However, God has not left us without feast days in the meantime. In fact, God’s Church keeps a feast day every week – the Sabbath. But how are we to observe this weekly festival?
The Statement of Beliefs of the Church of the Eternal God explains:
“We believe that we are to observe certain weekly and annual Holy Days, during which time we are to attend Church services and to refrain from secular labor, including school, college or university attendance, and which time we are to dedicate and devote to worship, spiritual study, prayer, fellowship with Church members, and physical rest.”
To properly celebrate the Sabbath, we need to understand that it is a feast day, which is holy to God. When the sun sets on Friday, we are entering God’s holy time.
Since the Sabbath is a holy convocation (Leviticus 23:3), we should attend Church services as often as possible (compare Hebrews 10:24-25). We have always understood and taught, of course, that it is more difficult, if not impossible, for our scattered brethren to do so. Many of those who cannot physically attend our assemblies, participate in our live Internet Sabbath services, or, if even that is not possible, listen on the Sabbath to our audio sermon tapes.
We need to keep firmly in mind that whatever we do and think on the Sabbath should be in realization of the fact that we are spending time that God has set aside for a holy purpose (Isaiah 58:13-14).
In an interesting article of the Corvallis Gazette-Times, of February 10, 1998, titled, “A Matter of Faith,” the conflict of athletes, who refused to play on the Sabbath, was addressed. A Jewish Rabbi was quoted in the article, saying, “‘It’s part of a greater conflict – how to live a religious life in secular America. Some parents will just forget it and take their kids to the soccer games.'” But if we really want to be obedient to God’s will, we must not do so.
At the same time, the Sabbath is a Feast day (compare Leviticus 23:1-3). We must be careful not to repeat the mistakes of the Pharisees who made a burden out of the Sabbath, by adding to God’s law humanly devised restrictions (Matthew 23:4). The Jewish historian, Moses Hodas, explained, “The rabbis were men of faith, and their object was the service of religion, but their method of securing discipline was, like Plato’s, to provide authority for men’s smallest actions.”
Let’s review some of the laws devised by the Pharisees, as they relate to Sabbath observance. While doing so, let’s ask ourselves whether we have devised in our minds similar laws for others and ourselves?
The Pharisees decreed that a person was guilty of breaking the Sabbath if he carried a sheet of paper, or any food which weighed as much as a dried fig, or if he carried more than one swallow of milk, or enough oil to anoint a small part of the body.
If a fire broke out in a person’s home, he could carry out only the necessary food for the Sabbath. This meant, that if the fire broke out Sabbath evening, the person could take out enough food for three meals; if the fire broke out on the afternoon of the Sabbath, he could only take out enough food for one meal. The rest could not be carried out and had to be left to burn with the building. Further, only necessary clothes could be taken out of a burning house.
One might wonder whether their former Babylonian environment subconsciously influenced the Pharisees, when they devised these Sabbath laws. The Babylonians had set apart the seventh day of the Babylonian week, called “Shabattum,” as “ill omens” or “evil days.” It was forbidden on those days to eat flesh cooked upon coals, to change garments, or to call for a physician. This reminds us how the Pharisees accused Jesus consistently of Sabbath breaking, when He healed sick persons on that day.
One might laugh today about those restrictions, but we must realize that they were no laughing matter at the time of Jesus Christ. He collided with the Pharisees on numerous occasions, when He refused to abide by their man-made Sabbath regulations.
Let’s ask ourselves again: Have we created for others and ourselves similar rules as how to keep and not to keep the Sabbath – although these rules cannot be found in the Bible? We must be very careful not to do so, lest we fall into the same trap of self-imposed religion that the Pharisees had fallen into. God did not accept their worship – and neither will He accept ours, if we follow their lead.