Repentance-Fueled Passion

Sabbath Study, Part 16

While overseeing the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem, Nehemiah leads the nation of Israel in collective repentance and renewal. Israel, broken over its sin, covenanted once again to honor the Lord. One aspect of the peoples’ repentance involved a recommitment to honor the Sabbath.

If the peoples of the land brought wares or any grain to sell on the Sabbath day, we would not buy it from them on the Sabbath, or on a holy day; and we would forego the seventh year’s produce and the exacting of every debt. (Nehemiah 10:31)

While other people groups had no qualms about selling goods on the Sabbath day, the Israelites abstained from such activity. The lack of conviction on the part of heathen nations didn’t seem to deter Israel in this regard.

Does this mean that we cannot participate in any commercial activity on the Sabbath (eating at restaurants, buying merchandise, etc.)? There are different schools of thought on that, and I’m not quite sure where I fall. Do I think it would be better if businesses remained closed on Sundays so that we could all enjoy more rest? Yes. Will my eating/purchasing habits alone change the course of Knoxville’s Sunday business practices? Not likely. So would abstaining from eating out or buying things on Sunday do any good?

Of course, I know I’m not called to do the right thing (if abstaining is the right thing) only if I think it will change the world; I’m to do the right thing because it is the right thing to do before God. If no one but God is watching, there’s still plenty of an audience. I’m not responsible for what the world does with Scripture, but I am responsible for what I do with Scripture. What God requires of a servant is not success (as the world might view it—i.e., making a huge impact on scores of people), but faithfulness (1 Cor. 4:2).

Is the fact that I’m having a hard time committing to a particular course of action a sign that I have a hard heart? Possibly. I guess the first step is to ask myself if I would at least be willing to entertain the thought of abstaining from “marketplace activity” on the Sabbath. If I lack this willingness, something may very well be wrong. (I don’t think it’s ever a good sign when one answers “No” to the question, “If God asked you to give up your rights to ________, would you be willing to do it?”)

So, I have yet to come to a solid conviction on this particular Sabbath issue. However, I didn’t want to keep from posting this particular passage. Whatever the case, I hope it at least provides food for thought. Nehemiah 10:31 is a part of the Bible, and all parts of Scripture are beneficial for us to meditate on (Ps. 19:7-14; 2 Tim. 3:16, 17).


Erika said…
Definitely good food for thought, Cap! I have been eager to hear how others interpret Sabbath rest for today, so this was a fun post to read even if you are not settled on the issue yourself. I'm in the same place as you.
Steven said…
Yes!! Excellent Post. I agree Erika, this is good food for thought!! I have been considering how to comment to this post for several days. Kyle also seems to be a little hesitant with what to do about this commandment. Having been a Sabbath observer for 28yrs on and off (mostly on) you would think I’d have it down by now. I do not think there is a perfect method one needs to follow regarding the Sabbath Day. I’m sure if there is a perfect standard to be met in Sabbath observance I assuredly fall short of that mark. I have gone from being over zealous at first with Sabbath observance, which is probably common place with a novice, then progressed to a more liberal approach which eventually led to no observance at all for a couple of years. Thank God my last choice didn’t last long (the Holy Spirit certainly convicts us of sin)!
I believe most Christians tend to shy away from any notion of keeping the Sabbath for one of two reasons, either they were taught it was “done away” or they see how the Jewish people observe it and see it as a very restrictive day of don’t do this and can’t do that’s. The Jewish Rabbi and Priests are the ones that came up with all the restrictions. They have 39 principles they adhere to concerning Sabbath observance. They determined these from the work they were performing in building the Tabernacle. For instance they cannot write or erase two letters on the Sabbath, they cannot tie or untie a knot, they cannot make or remove two stitches, they cannot hammer, which evolved into not even picking one up. You can plainly see that they added all these things. The 39 principles then evolved into such an impossible burden that I don’t see how they could even think of resting or consider the things God wanted them to focus on. You can understand what Jesus was dealing with in the 4 Gospels when he constantly was correcting the Pharisees on “their” manner of Sabbath keeping.
God gave us very limited instructions an how we are to observe the Sabbath. He first told us to “remember the Sabbath day” and to “keep it holy”. We cannot make it holy, it was set apart by God, it was blessed and hallowed by Him. So in order for us to keep it holy we must make sure God/Christ is the central focus of the Sabbath Day. Obviously we are to cease from our customary/servile work, which I believe means our occupations and means of earning a living. Our God is also a merciful God and gave us a provision which is called the “ox in a ditch” consideration. Surely doctors, nurses, firemen, etc. may have emergencies to deal with. If you were out and about on the Sabbath and came across a car stuck in a ditch with a women and her children stuck in it, would you say it was ok to help them out or would you say, sorry can’t help you it’s the Sabbath? Of course not. Jesus plainly taught we should do good on the Sabbath. He healed, He fed, He walked through grain fields, He certainly did not spend the day worrying about what he should not be doing, but rather giving us an example that we should follow. He sure did heal the sick, and comfort the brokenhearted did he not? Maybe on the Sabbath we should try practicing pure religion, which is James 1:27. I fall short of the mark in doing this I must confess.
Steven said…
God said we are to have a “Holy convocation” an assembling of ourselves to draw close to our God. Christ is the Word of God and we should have the Word expounded upon during the assembly. On the Sabbath God wants to come into all our dwelling places and dine and feast with us. The Sabbath is also a Feast day it is a day we should rejoice in, it should be our favorite day of the week. Mark 2:27 God said he made the Sabbath for man not man for the Sabbath. IS 58:13 Gives us some pretty clear instruction. We should not do our “own pleasure” or “our own ways nor speaking our own words”. My own pleasure would be playing golf, or a good tailgate party at a football game or other sporting event. Some of our wives might enjoy a shopping spree at the mall or maybe they would also like that tailgate party. I personally think some activities would be very hard to partake of and also have God as the central focus of the day. Speaking “our own words” I believe means not focusing our thoughts on our everyday topics of conversation. We should be focused on God’s Word and purpose rather than our own desires. I may be a little more liberal than most Sabbath observers, I do not have a problem with a hike, or a picnic in a park or any other outdoor activity that can be enjoyed with family and friends and still keep your focus on God and Christ. Some of my favorite Sabbaths were in a park in Miami where we sung hymns, had a sermon by our pastor and enjoyed a meal afterwards, played with the children and fellowshipped all day. I’ve also had some really good conversations out in the forest sitting on a rock talking with Jesus. I also have no problem with eating at a restaurant on the Sabbath. This is very common amongst the groups my wife and I fellowship with. Many Sabbath keepers do not agree with this activity however. I won’t go into the pros and cons concerning this but I do think that God is more concerned with our behavior and whether we are being a light to the world or are we profaning his name while we are out in the world. IS
58:13 also says we should “call the Sabbath a delight”. Most Sabbaths in my past consisted of a nice meal after sundown on Friday evening, a good nights rest, the church service at the appointed time, singing, sermons, and fellowship before and after services. Most of us had certain duties we were involved in like Sabbath classes for kids, greeters, ushers, music, etc. etc. Afterwards you got together with brethren at a restaurant or at someone’s house for a meal and more fellowship which usually lasted way past the end of the Sabbath. Sometimes there were sporting activities either for the teens or the adults after the
Sabbath. Basketball, volleyball, and softball games were much enjoyed after sundown on Saturday.
The Sabbath commandment certainly is different than the at least 8 of the 10. The 5th commandment tells our children to honor your father and your mother…. I think maybe God intended the 4th commandment to be a test to see how we would honor Him, OUR Father and honor OUR Mother which is the Church/Ecclesia/ the Assembly. The Sabbath was never meant to be a burden. Jesus said to put his yoke on us and his yoke is not heavy. We should enter His rest, His Sabbath, knowing that He is Lord of the Sabbath, He made the Sabbath and set it apart for us as a blessing. God says he does not change. I think his Sabbath Rest is the same as He intended it to be from the beginning. We should enter into it as he commands and rejoice in it!!
Cap Stewart said…
Good thoughts, Steven. Thanks!

Although you beat me to the punch in mentioning several verses that I have yet to deal with. :-)