Do YOU really ENJOY the Sabbath? Do you THRILL and delight in it? Here are some basic principles to remember in observing God's Holy Day — a compilation of some of the questions asked the Letter Answering Department, written by a member of that department.
THE HOLY Sabbath is GOD'S Day! Almighty God set the Sabbath apart from Creation as a SPECIAL DAY — a holy day — a day of REST from personal labor, work, and arduous toil (Gen. 2:1-3; Ex. 20:8-11). Six days in the week God gave man to do his own labor. But the seventh day He set aside for a special purpose — A GLORIOUS PURPOSE!... the LORD blessed the sabbath day, AND HALLOWED IT" (Ex. 20:11). From the very beginning, God's Sabbath was a day of joy and supreme delight, a special day of blessing and happiness! It was a day when man could forsake his own works, ways, and thoughts. It was a day when God COMMANDED man to REST, be refreshed, rejuvenated — to relax, and REJOICE! God declared thru the Prophet Isaiah, "If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a DELIGHT, the holy of the Eternal, honorable; and shalt HONOUR HIM, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: then shalt thou delight thyself in the Eternal; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Eternal hath spoken it" (Isa. 58:13-14).
The Pharisaical Sabbath
But, do you know HOW to properly enjoy God's Sabbath day? Do you know HOW to observe the Sabbath as God intended it to be kept? All through history, God's people forsook observing the Holy Sabbath — trampled upon it, polluted it, ignored it — and sank into hideous idolatry! For dealing so despitefully with a day He made HOLY, God poured out His FURY AND WRATH upon them! (Ezek. 20:12-13, 16, 20-21, 24). After the days of Ezra and Nehemiah, the Jews finally woke up to the dreadful SIN of Sabbath-breaking. So, following their human nature, they began to go to the opposite extreme! False teachers called Pharisees arose. They began making a ritualistic fetish out of the Sabbath. They added scores of technical, trivial, pointless do's and don'ts to God's original Commandment! And so, to the Jews, the Sabbath became a grievous burden — a day of BONDAGE — a legalistic technicality! These additions to the original law of God began with a Pharisee named Joseph Ben Joezer, also called "Joseph the Permitter." After his time a veritable flood of new commandments issued forth from the Pharisees! It became a SIN to carry as much as one dried fig on the Sabbath! To carry more than one swallow of milk on the Sabbath WAS SIN! Even to carry a sheet of paper was absolutely forbidden! Jesus Christ vehemently denounced these added traditions — these new man-devised commandments of the Pharisees (Mark 7:7-9; Matt. 23:13-33). God never intended for the Sabbath to become a matter of legalistic interpretation and virtual bondage! Keeping this fact in mind, then, what is the PROPER way to observe God's Holy Sabbath day?
The haughty Pharisees forgot one important principle — they forgot that Almighty God created the Sabbath FOR MAN — not man for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27). The Sabbath was made FOR man — not against him! It was created to be a wonderful day of rest, relaxation, spiritual rejuvenation, AND REJOICING! Never did God intend for men to bog down into a listless, dragging, boring observance of His HOLY Day! Since the Sabbath is GOD'S Day, it is the most important day of the week! It is a day to LOOK FORWARD to, to eagerly anticipate! It is a day of joy and rejoicing — a day of worship and prayer — a day of REST from the previous six days of the week! How wonderful it is, after working arduously for the previous days of the week, sweating, straining, becoming mentally and physically exhausted, to WELCOME with open arms the arrival of God's Sabbath! Only those who have been observing God's Sabbath truly realize what a joyous and inspiring BLESSING it is! Contrary to the thoughts and ideas of men, the Sabbath was never meant to be a day of abstinence, affliction of the soul, a negative day of cant's and don'ts, a day of mental slavery and physical boredom! The Sabbath was never intended to become a human strait jacket which hampered, hindered and restricted! It is a day of spiritual FREEDOM! Freedom from the frustrations and anxieties of the week, freedom from one's own labor! Liberty from one's own thoughts and plans! It is a day when MORE TIME can be spent studying God's Word, praying, having fellowship with one's family and with God's people! The Sabbath is a FEAST Day! A day of superabundance of joy, worship, and drawing close to God! It is a day which foreshadows the coming Millennial reign of Jesus Christ over the nations! When we meditate upon the purpose of the Sabbath, we should clearly realize that it is a DAY OF JOY! It is indeed one of the greatest blessings God has given man!
Four Walls — and MISERY
Some of God's people, ignorant of how to observe the Sabbath, have too self-consciously restricted themselves on that day. One young man used to have a problem every time the Sabbath arrived. He existed in a tiny cubicle in a rooming house, without cooking facilities. The rest of the week he ate his meals in local restaurants — but on the Sabbath he did not know what to do! He secluded himself in his bleak, barren apartment — his uninspiring four walls-every Sabbath, all day long. He tried to rejoice in these surroundings, but he felt hungry, a gnawing restlessness. He was frankly bored! Have YOU at times felt the same way? This young man without realizing it was following the example of the PHARISEES! He was observing the Sabbath, as a modern Pharisee! The Sabbath was not meant to be a day of seclusion, abstinence, depression and loneliness! Not at all! It is a day of JOY! This young man should have used his mind to properly observe the Sabbath, remembering its purpose. There are several things he could have done to make the Sabbath more enjoyable! He could have bought nourishing fruits and easily prepared foods to eat on the Sabbath. He could have continued his practice of eating in a restaurant, since no other facilities were available. He could have spent part of the Sabbath in a nearby park, soaking up the fresh air, sunshine, and scenery. Or he could have packed an interesting picnic lunch, traveled a short distance, and then in a peaceful, calm, and subdued manner enjoyed worshiping God out in His Creation — a spot away from his bleak four walls.
The Family Sabbath
Families, also, should not feel overly restricted on the Sabbath. The Sabbath should not seem a dull day to children. Rather, it should be a day of interest, special Bible study, and subdued play. The family can sleep later on the Sabbath, usually. Rise, shower and clean up. After time for personal prayer and study, a nice appetizing breakfast may be eaten. The head of the house might then lead the entire family in an interesting Bible study, perhaps reading and expounding from The Bible Story for children, written by Basil Wolverton. The children might be encouraged to study some educational, profitable books, or to play quiet, subdued and educational games. It would be all right for young children to play quiet, subdued games on the Sabbath. They do not know how to keep the Sabbath spiritually, but the difference in the day should be impressed upon their young, pliable minds so that they will realize God's day is something very special! But noisy, boisterous, active games should be avoided. Occasionally, a family might go for a Sabbath picnic, also, and relax and enjoy the peaceful, outdoor calm of a nearby park or picnicking area. On such an outing they should be careful to keep the PURPOSE of the Sabbath in mind, and they should use the opportunity to draw close to God — not to seek their own pleasures or think their own thoughts! Keep the Sabbath HOLY! Another way to enjoy the Sabbath, without permitting it to seem like a monotonous routine, is to occasionally spend a little time listening to inspiring music which is in keeping with the spirit of the Sabbath. We should be careful that such music does not interfere with our Bible study. But a little relaxing, enjoyable background music of the right kind can add to the atmosphere of the environment, and help make the Sabbath a delight. Also, it would not be wrong for a family to tune in a news broadcast on the Sabbath! Christ commanded His Church to watch world events — to keep abreast of world happenings. To listen to a news program or commentator on the Sabbath would be all right. Once again, however, let us remember to keep our balance! We should NOT attempt to use this principle for license to go overboard and keep the radio playing constantly, thus detracting from and breaking the Sabbath! A little time may be spent reading the newspaper or a news magazine, also, as well as The PLAIN TRUTH or The GOOD NEWS. Doing this would help break up the feeling of bogging down in Bible study alone. Just as too much honey is not good (Prov. 25:27), so it would not be wise to spend too much uninterrupted time in Bible study, without an occasional break, lest your mind becomes drugged or seemingly tired out. A break could be used to take the family for a short walk. Although these little things can certainly add to the enjoyment of the Sabbath, nevertheless, remember — the BASIC PURPOSE of the Sabbath is to draw close to GOD, on His Holy Day, worship Him, and think His thoughts! DO NOT NEGLECT fervent, believing PRAYER, or diligent, inspiring BIBLE STUDY on the Sabbath! If you do, you are missing the entire spiritual benefit and blessing of the Day! How you spend your time on the Sabbath can be vital TO YOUR SALVATION!!! Avoid both extremes! Don't be a religious Pharisee or a legalistic Sabbath-keeper! But don't bog down into carnal, fleshly pursuits on God's Holy Day! Draw CLOSE to God during the time He made holy!
How About Utilities?
Many have wondered about using gas and electricity on the Sabbath. Is this a sin? "If we use electricity on the Sabbath, we are forcing someone else to work during that time!" people have asserted. What is the truth? Notice! MAN has organized his industry, his business — his entire society — without the slightest regard to God's Sabbath. In his greed and covetousness for wealth, man has built enormous establishments which operate seven days a week — steel plants, automobile plants, architectural firms. Cities provide electricity and gas seven days a week. Otherwise, vast segments of industry would have to grind to a shuddering halt, thus losing millions of dollars! The fact remains, however, that utilities which function on the Sabbath could be organized in such a way that NO ONE would have to be in attendance during God's holy time! Automatic controls could be established so that no one would be required to work on the Sabbath day! The world, of course, pays no heed. But, then, WE, as Christians, are not responsible for the conduct of the world! What the world does is its own concern. If the world breaks God's Sabbath, the penalty will be exacted! God will hold the world accountable. Since we are NOT responsible for men working on the Sabbath — and since they will be working on God's time anyway, regardless of what we say or do — and since these things could be organized in such a way that no one would be required to work on the Sabbath, it is certainly all right for God's people to make use of gas or electricity during the Sabbath!
What about traveling on the Sabbath? Some have thought it is a SIN. Some have wondered what a "Sabbath day's journey" is (Acts 1:12). True, the Jews of Christ's time had a custom that none should travel more than about three-quarters of a mile, in one direction, on the Sabbath. But, nowhere in the Bible does God stipulate such a law! Therefore we must keep the basic principle of the Sabbath in mind. The Sabbath is a HOLY CONVOCATION! It is a commanded assembly for God's people (Lev. 23:1-3). It is a day of worship and spiritual fellowship, and God commands that we do NOT forsake the assembling of ourselves together (Heb. 10:25). Applying this principle, then, it is permissible to travel on the Sabbath, as long as it does not involve too much work, and as long as the purpose of the travel is to help a person properly keep the Sabbath! For instance, some of God's people must travel many miles in order to meet with other brethren and fellowship together at the local churches God has raised up! If it is all right to travel on the Sabbath, some will wonder if it is all right to purchase gasoline, or pay to park a car, on the Sabbath. There is no "ironclad" answer to this question — the answer must depend upon the circumstances. Usually, a person should purchase enough gasoline ahead of time, so that there would be no necessity to buy it on the Sabbath. But if an emergency arose, then it would be all right for him to purchase the gasoline, in order to attend services and properly keep the Sabbath. Some need more than one tankful to go to and from services, and must purchase gas to attend. In the same way, if a person must pay to park his car on the Sabbath, he should not feel guilty for doing so. The only purpose for paying to park would be to KEEP the Sabbath and fellowship with God's people. It is far more important that we have fellowship on the Sabbath, and attend church services whenever possible — rather than stay at home, alone, without receiving the instruction and correction of God's ministers, simply because we felt it would not be right to travel on the Sabbath, or purchase gasoline if necessary, or pay to park a car! Let's use wisdom — and not become modern-day replicas of the ancient Pharisees!
Other Sabbath questions — or problems — have arisen about attending such functions as commencement exercises, weddings, or funerals, on the Sabbath. If a Christian is faced with such a situation, what should he do? Let's take a closer look at the problem. If a student is graduating from high school, and the graduation ceremony falls upon the Sabbath, it may be all right for him to attend! This would be a rare situation, but it has occurred! If the student keeps the right attitude, keeps close to God — if his activities are not too involved, and all he must do is be there and briefly walk forward to receive his diploma — then it may be all right for him to go ahead and attend. There would be no work involved, He would not have to get involved in any worldly discussions, and he could leave as soon as possible after the ceremony is over. If a close relative is being married on the Sabbath, and you receive an invitation, it may be all right to attend. If the distance is too far, of course, you should not. Or, if you would have to miss Sabbath services, you should not go to the wedding. In such a case, you should diplomatically explain that circumstances have made your attendance impossible — but, nevertheless, you wish the greatest happiness for the bride and groom, and you are sorry that you could not attend. If you are able to attend, however, and if it might hurt the feelings of your relatives or offend someone if you did not go, it would be all right. We are to be shining lights to our relatives, and let them know we love them. We should strive not to offend anybody unnecessarily! The very same principle would apply to attending the funeral of a close relative on the Sabbath. Your attendance would not necessarily break the Sabbath. Of course, once again — you should keep your mind on the things of God as much as possible, you should not engage in worldly conversation or idle chatter. When your presence is no longer necessary, you should quietly leave. If you should become involved in this kind of problem — attending some secular function on the Sabbath — you should by all means discuss the matter with God's minister in your area. He will help you arrive at a sound decision as to whether you should attend!
Physical Duties on the Sabbath
Many questions have also arisen in regard to the little daily chores around the home. Many women have wondered if it is all right to do dishes, make beds, or cook meals on the Sabbath. Usually, dishes can be left to be washed later. Some of our women simply rinse, neatly stack and cover soiled dishes and utensils, waiting until after the Sabbath to give them a final washing. Others use paper plates, and thus avoid the problem. Still, it is not necessarily wrong to ever wash dishes on the Sabbath. A great deal of time should not be spent at such a task, however. Such work should be kept to a minimum, and done only if it is necessary — if you do not have enough dishes to last throughout the day, or if you have a problem with ants or other pests! Likewise, there is no express Bible command against making beds on the Sabbath. Unmade beds could give a person a feeling of disorder, confusion, untidiness. God does not want us to use the Sabbath as an excuse to be sloppy! However, it would not be wrong to leave beds to be made up later — just pulling the covers up neatly would be enough. What about heavy cooking on the Sabbath? God commanded the Israelites to do their heavy cooking, baking, boiling, roasting — that which requires a lot of labor — on the preparation day, prior to the Sabbath (Ex. 16:23). That does not mean, however, that sumptuous meals cannot be eaten upon the Sabbath! Not at all! The Sabbath is a FEAST day! Therefore, families should plan ahead for the Sabbath. Pies, pastries, and desserts may be prepared ahead of time, kept in the refrigerator, and then brought out to be eaten on the Sabbath. Elaborate salads may also be prepared ahead of time, and saved until the Sabbath. Likewise, a roast or other meat dish may be prepared on Friday, and saved for a special Sabbath treat! With a little forethought and preparation, the Sabbath can be a true feast — and not a day of niggardly abstinence! A little cooking, of course, can be done on the Sabbath. It would be all right to prepare breakfast, for instance, although work should be kept to a minimum. A hearty breakfast can help give a day a zestful start! After discussing Sabbath dinners, some may wonder about fasting upon the Sabbath. Since the Sabbath is a feast day, it is not good to regularly or unnecessarily fast during the Sabbath. Once in a while, because of some special, pressing problem, such fasting may be all right — but not as a constant, or general practice. For instance, some laboring men feel utterly unable to fast during the week because of the energy they must expend in their work. Fasting during the week, while working, would sap their strength, and they could not put in a fair day's work! For them, the weekend presents the best time to fast. However, such fasting should NOT become a regular routine — so that you look forward to the Sabbath...with dread!
Here is a problem many have faced! What should you do if unconverted friends or relatives come to visit upon the Sabbath? Should you slam the door in their face and turn them away? Of course not! Such conduct would be very offensive, and discourage any further visits! Whenever possible, you should let those people who you think may want to visit you on the Sabbath know ahead of time that you prefer they visit on other days. If you are polite and friendly, they should not be offended. However, if guests do turn up on the Sabbath — perhaps out-of-town visitors — you should WELCOME them to your home! You should let your light shine in friendliness and cordiality. Remember, Christ would be a perfect host under such circumstances! While the visitors are with you, you should strive to guide the conversation in constructive channels-perhaps talk about world news, the latest events in national and international affairs Since it is the Sabbath day, your visitors will probably notice your Bible and notes in plain view. Do not be ashamed! Be willing to admit you've been studying the Bible, if they bring up the subject. If they are interested in what you are studying, be friendly in answering their questions! Such visitors should not keep you from attending Sabbath services. If they are with you when it is time to leave for services, just explain briefly and tactfully — and leave for church on time. If this offends them, then they are offended at Christ in you. But don't you offend Christ for fear of offending your relatives or visitors!
In the Country
Special questions sometimes arise regarding keeping the Sabbath in the country. Farmers, for instance, wonder about caring for livestock on the Sabbath. What is the principle involved? Jesus Christ declared that it does NOT break the Sabbath to do good, relieve suffering, or care for animals (Luke 13:15-16). However, if farm chores or the care of animals prevents you from keeping the Sabbath holy, then you should use wisdom to alter your practice, so you can have more rest and free time on the Sabbath! By working late on Friday, before sunset, and by working Saturday night, right after sunset, a farmer may be able to lessen the amount of work which would fall upon the Sabbath. Even so, if the care of chickens or other stock is a real burden on the Sabbath, requiring hours, then it may be necessary to dispose of some of the stock — or change one's occupation entirely! We are NOT to be slaves of our occupations! If you have a special problem in this regard, be sure to discuss it with God's minister in your area or write us here at Headquarters for counsel. What about selling eggs on the Sabbath? This problem has also arisen. To avoid this problem, you could post a sign, advertising the fact that you do not sell eggs on Saturday. If neighbors come by on the Sabbath, asking for eggs, you should courteously tell them you cannot do business on that day. Do not transact business on the Sabbath! What about lending tools? If your neighbors realize you observe the Sabbath, they will probably avoid borrowing tools on the Sabbath. If a neighbor should drop by, however, you should politely inform him that you cannot lend any tools at that time, but if he would drop by the next day, you would be happy to help him. Or, you might tell him that although you can not lend him the tool right then, you will bring it to him, later (when the Sabbath is over!). Friendliness and courtesy will go a long way in avoiding hostility or resentment! What if a neighbor needs some small household item, such as salt, sugar, or bread? It would certainly be good to help him out, giving him what he needs — with a cheerful smile, as an added benefit!
Enjoy God's Sabbath!
As you can readily see, MULTITUDES of tiny questions could arise about keeping the Sabbath. However, most of those questions can be easily answered if we KEEP IN MIND the basic PURPOSE of the Sabbath day! Remember! And NEVER FORGET! The Sabbath is GOD'S Day — the day He made HOLY! It is not only a day of physical REST and relaxation from the toil of the week, but it is also a SPIRITUAL BLESSING — time we can and should spend drawing CLOSE to God, spending extra time in prayer, Bible study, meditation, and spiritual fellowship! It is a day of WORSHIP! Use God's Sabbath! Use wisdom in observing it! Be BALANCED in your approach to the Sabbath! Be neither hypocritical, self-righteous, Pharisaical; nor haphazard, sloppy, unmindful! If you will USE the Sabbath properly, and keep a humble, submissive attitude toward God — if you will DELIGHT in God's Holy Day — He will exalt YOU to "ride upon the high places of the earth!" (Isa. 58:14). God created the Sabbath — FOR YOU!! It is a SIGN between you and Him! It marks you as being His own! Rejoice in the BLESSING of God's Sabbath! And LIVE a truly full, ABUNDANT LIFE!