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The Sabbath and Hospitality


We all know the Sabbath command, or the Fourth Commandment forbids work on the Sabbath, as spelled out in Exodus 20:8-11 which states, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God.  In it you shall do no work:  you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates.  For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day.  Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.”  But I happened to notice in God’s Holy Day chapter of the Bible, a clear distinction is made between not doing any “servile” work on God’s Sabbaths and Holy Days, and on God’s Day of Atonement, not doing “any work” whatsoever.  For example, in  Leviticus 23:34-36 we find the command against doing any “servile work”, the word “servile” being Strongs # 5656, Hebrew abodah or abowdah, work of any kind: act, bondage, + bondservant, effect, labour, ministering, service (-Ile, itude), tillage, use, work…”  By this it would indicate this is the type work done in the field in an agrarian society, note the word “tillage”, “labour” “ministering, service.”  This is obviously referring to your 9-to-5 job, employment type work.  The word for “any” for the Day of Atonement command in Leviticus 23:27-32 is Strongs # 3605, Hebrew kol or kowl, all, any or every:---in all manner, altogether.  So we see the difference between doing “servile work” and “any work” is one refers to “tillage” type work, which when this command was given in that agrarian society, would refer to a farmers work in the field, and today, any type of employment work one does, 9-to-5, Monday through Friday, etc.  So for all Sabbath days and Holy Days except for the Day of Atonement, the doing of “servile work” is forbidden.  On the Day of Atonement a difference is made.  The doing of “any” work is forbidden.  So washing the dishes, making your bed, preparing a meal is not considered “servile work.”  Remember Jesus told the man at the pool in Bethesda to take up his bed and walk right after his healing (read John 5:1-15).  The Pharisees and scribes were all upset at him for carrying his bed on the Sabbath.  But Jesus himself didn’t find a problem with this, because he had commanded him to do it.  Carrying his bed was obviously not “servile work” (this was probably a portable cot).  Jesus never broke the Sabbath, nor would he have commanded others to do so.  Throughout his ministry he backed up God’s Laws as commanded in the Old Testament (cf. Matthew 5:17-48).  We should be very careful to not become like the Pharisees, and doctors of the Law, the scribes, in creating thousands of “don’t do this, you can’t do that” commandment lists and requirements for the Sabbath---turning God’s Sabbath into a Pharisaic yoke of bondage, a burden on the people of God. 


What Was God’s Intent, Emphasis for the Sabbath?


Obviously it’s to draw close to God in prayer and Bible study.  But amazingly enough, with Sabbath services, fellowshipping and pot-lucks, I often find I have more personal time to fellowship with God on, heaven forbid, Sundays, when I’m all alone at times.  Now I’m not proposing Sunday worship by a longshot, so put down your stones.  I’m just making a point.  In my “Has the Sabbath Been Abrogated?” article I recorded most of Jesus’ examples of his Sabbath-keeping.  He used the Sabbath to do things for others.  Now he was a little different, he could walk up to a cripple, a leper, a blind person, a deaf person, and heal them, presto! Zap! and they were healed instantly.  But we should see the intent.  Though we can’t perform that kind of healing, we can help bring healing, spiritual healing, healing from loneliness, and such things.  How can you know what some people’s problems are so you can help them, without first fellowshipping with them?  First let’s read what the LORD said through Isaiah about one of the core intents of the Sabbath.  Isaiah 58:13-14, “If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the LORD honorable, and shall honor him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words, then you shall delight yourself in the LORD; and I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth, and feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father.  The mouth of the LORD has spoken.”


What Was Jesus’ Intent, Emphasis for the Sabbath?


Since Yahweh, the Great I AM of Exodus 3:13-15 was none other than Jesus Christ (cf. John 8:58), we’d expect the answer to the be same.  And it essentially is.  And it even goes into the question of meals on the Sabbath, hosting meals and such.  It all goes down to intent.  Let’s get right into a Scriptural passage, and then we’ll discuss it.  Luke 14:1, 12-14, “Now it happened, as he went into the house of one of the rulers of the Pharisees to eat bread on the Sabbath, that they watched him closely.”  OK, verses 2-6 show it’s a set-up, they have a poor unfortunate guy there who probably has elephantiasis, and Jesus does his thing, and instantly heals this man.  The man himself was probably extremely grateful that Pharisee chose him as bait, to bait Jesus, because he walks out a healed man.  In verses 7-11 Jesus spells out some rules of etiquette for when you’re invited over say for a wedding feast.  But he was invited for a Sabbath dinner, so now he gets right to the point, and what Jesus says ties right in with what we just read in Isaiah, doing the Lord’s things and not our own things on the Sabbath.  Jesus used the Sabbath to edify others, and so should we.  Let’s see what he said to this ruler of the Pharisees.  Verses 12-14, “Then he also said to him who invited him, ‘When you give a dinner or a supper [verse 1, context, “on the Sabbath”], do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid.  But when you give a feast [again, context, a Sabbath feast], invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind.  And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection.”  Now, the poor, maimed, lame and blind could also be the spiritually poor, maimed, lame and blind, or they could be physically so.  We know physical ailments have their spiritual counterparts.  It’s not too far a stretch to say Jesus is talking about both.  Now let’s discuss this a little bit.  You spend six days out of seven in the world.  In today’s poor economy it’s not uncommon for most of us to be working six days out of every seven, if we can find work, just to make ends meet.  Most of us are not fortunate enough to be working with brethren.  When the early apostolic Church formed after the Pentecost of Acts 2, fellowshipping, especially on God’s Sabbaths and Holy Days, occurred with great regularity and over meals.  Some of my fondest memories as a newbie in God’s Church were memories of shared meals with brethren after Sabbath services.  I was a young bachelor (with an appetite and the ability to not gain an ounce of weight), and boy could some of those ladies cook up a storm.  Mr. Fred Kellers (my first pastor), I learned much later, had assigned a number of spiritually mature families to invite small groups over to their homes after Sabbath services (on a rotating basis), and to especially include any new people or visitors and strangers who had shown up in services.  Due to this quiet ministry he had set up, we were one of the most hospitable Churches of God going.  And many of my myriad number of spiritual questions new people have were gently and effectively answered at these “love feasts”, taking quite a load off the pastor’s shoulders, I might add.  I don’t see this happening too much within the Churches of God right now.  Has the Church gone too Pharisaic against the cooking or presenting of meals on the Sabbath to allow this?  Inviting God’s people, strangers and visitors, new people who show up at services is not “doing your own thing,” it is “doing God’s thing,” God’s work through godly hospitality.  Currently I attend a tiny house-church which has grown to four families and some singles (six kids in our Sabbath Bible class), we’ve bonded like brothers and sisters, and over time a powerful love-dynamic has formed between us members.  We have services, and fellowship over a pot-luck meal afterwards, hanging around and fellowshipping well past sundown most of the time.  Larger congregations, often lacking that intimacy, can appear to be cold and sterile, and this is merely because the dynamic is different, it’s nobody’s fault at all.  I know one larger congregation that has a pot-luck meal once a month after services, and this goes a long way toward creating a bond of fellowship amongst members, and showing love toward those who need it.  But it can be taken a step further, by voluntarily being part of a group of people who are given to hospitality.  This “group” can be organized by the pastor or not, it doesn’t matter.  If you see a need, fulfill it, it’s that simple.  Your first priority on your invite-list is the single folk, visitors and strangers that show up in Sabbath services.  They should never be allowed to leave after services without an invitation somewhere.  Do you want your congregation to grow or shrink?  Some of that is in your pastor’s hands, some of it is in God’s hands, but a lot of it has been left in your hands.  God will bless a friendly church with more new people, because he knows their needs will be taken care of, both physically and spiritually.  There is a powerful spiritual dynamic here folks, so let’s take advantage of it.  


Companion Scripture to Luke 14:1, 14-15


James 2:1-9 is a companion Scripture to the one we read in Luke 14, warning us not to show partiality in whom we invite over or toward those who walk in the front door of the church.  Christ gave the positive part of a Sabbath command in Luke 14.  Now James warns us about a negative aspect to watch out for in giving of our “love feasts”, and he throws out a strong caution.  James 2:1-9, “My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality.  For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, ‘You sit here in a good place,’ and say to the poor man, ‘You stand there,’ or ‘Sit here at my footstool,’ have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?  Listen, my beloved brethren:  Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which he has promised to those who love him?  But you have dishonored the poor man.  Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts?  Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called?  If you really fulfill the royal law according to Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.”  I know of one denomination that purposely has a “casual dress-code” so that should some of their out-reaches bring in some “street people” and homeless, they will not feel “out of place.”  For whom did Jesus come to save, whom did he minister to?---“the poor, the maimed, the lame and the blind”, and let’s not forget the lepers, the total outcasts of Jewish society, those are the ones he came to save, those are the ones he told us to “invite” to our love feasts.   Remember, Jesus’ whole emphasis was to serve and save the lost, the stranger, the widow, the infirm.  His direct evangelism was aimed at them, the outcasts of the Jewish society he lived in.  Shouldn’t that be our focus too?  You can see this point brought out in Matthew 9:9-13 and also Matthew 11:25-30 and Mark 2:13-17.  Matthew 25:31-40 sums up what Jesus is looking for in the believer, a certain lifestyle.  This lifestyle should shine out as a beacon to the lost on God’s Sabbath.  Matthew 25:31-40, “When the son of Man comes in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory.  All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.  And he will set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.  Then the King will say to those on his right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:  for I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you took me in; I was naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you visited me; I was in prison and you came to me.’  Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?  When did we see you a stranger and take you in, or naked and clothe you? Or when did we see you sick, or in prison, and come to you?  And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’”  


Hebrews 13:2 gives us an interesting statement, “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers:  for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”  Something to seriously think about when someone new walks in the church door unannounced, maybe not dressed as you think they ought to be.  It maybe a test. 


Related links:


For those of you who haven’t read it, you might find this article interesting, showing God’s 7th day Sabbath has neither been abrogated nor transferred to Sunday.  Jesus’ personal examples on how he used the Sabbath to reach out to the poor, maimed, lame and the blind are categorically listed in part two of that study.  See:


The early churches of God fulfilled Matthew 25:31-40 in a very unique way around 155AD and then again in 255AD.  See:


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