The Lord of the Sabbath

What does this say about Jesus? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Much of the rest of the Old Testament on the Sabbath is really about the people breaking it and not keeping it. It’s not about the nature of the Sabbath. Thus, we’re going to move ahead to the New Testament. The first place to go to is Matthew 12. This pericope shows up in other Gospels, so we’re only going to look here:

At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.”

He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. Or haven’t you read in the Law that the priests on Sabbath duty in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet are innocent? I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

So in this passage, Jesus’s disciples are picking heads of grain and eating them. The text doesn’t say, but knowing how the Pharisees are, I wonder if Jesus told them prior it was acceptable to do this. Why are the Pharisees with Jesus? Most likely keeping an eye on a new teacher and making sure their own status in the community is safe.

And now they’ve got him! His own disciples are violating the Sabbath! Now Jesus Himself isn’t getting the grain, but it doesn’t matter. The disciples are supposed to reflect the teachings of the master and Jesus is not rebuking them at all! The Pharisees have Jesus cornered.

Yet as we know, Jesus always turns the tables on them.

In this case, Jesus first points to the example of King David and let’s not miss the underlying cut He gives these guys? “Haven’t you read?” It’s so simple, but Jesus is really shaming them. “Hey, guys. Haven’t you heard this story? Most of us learned it in Sunday School. You really don’t remember this?” Obviously, these were the guys that were supposed to be masters of the book. Surely they would know this!

So what happens? King David comes in and takes bread that is meant for the priests only. There is no condemnation of David. He had men who were hungry and defending Israel and they needed to be cared for. The needs of the people come before the Law.

What about priests? Priests themselves have to work in the temple on the Sabbath. Thus, they are desecrating the Sabbath, but there is no condemnation for them. They are innocent even though they could be seen as technically breaking the Law.

An indignant Pharisee could have said at this point “You think you can just set the rules for everyone? Who do you think you are?”

That is not in the text, but had He done it, Jesus’s next statement would really show them and stun them. Jesus says God desires mercy, not sacrifice, meaning real actions of faithfulness to God from the heart more than ritualistic behavior. He then says if they had understood, they would not have condemned the innocent, namely His disciples.

This is sandwiched between two statements. The first is that one greater than the temple is here. The second is the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.

Consider the first one. The temple was where the glory of God was supposed to dwell. The glory of the second temple Haggai said would be greater than the glory of the first. This was where the very Shekinah dwelt. This was how the people knew God was with them.

And Jesus says He is greater than that place where the Shekinah glory dwells.

The second is that He is the Lord of the Sabbath. The Sabbath. One of the big ten. The one that got Israel in trouble for not obeying. The one that let the land have rest for seventy years.

And Jesus is Lord of that day.

Now if you were a Jew, you could think “Wait. The Lord of the Sabbath is….”

What does that mean about who Jesus is?

Jesus declares what the Sabbath is and what it is for and how it is to be honored. We’ll see how that happens in salvation history as we go on.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Death For Gathering Sticks?

Isn’t this a stiff penalty? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Many readers can be puzzled by this story in Numbers 15 and internet atheists love to share it:

32 While the Israelites were in the wilderness, a man was found gathering wood on the Sabbath day. 33 Those who found him gathering wood brought him to Moses and Aaron and the whole assembly, 34 and they kept him in custody, because it was not clear what should be done to him. 35 Then the Lord said to Moses, “The man must die. The whole assembly must stone him outside the camp.” 36 So the assembly took him outside the camp and stoned him to death, as the Lord commanded Moses.

Wow. All this guy was doing was gathering wood and he gets put to death?

The context of this is right before this, the text speaks of the sin of the high hand. This is someone who acts defiantly in the face of God. They know that something is wrong and they go and do it anyway. It is an act of treason in such a covenant.

And that is what this man did.

Also, keep in mind that there is just one man who does this. Just one. What does that tell us? It tells us that this man knew he was doing something in isolation as the rest of the community was resting and if by some strange reason he didn’t know why, it would have been easy enough to find out.

Note also that if we say he was gathering wood for cooking, then we have a bigger problem. On the Sabbath, fires were not to be set (Exodus 35:3), no cooking was to be done, (Exodus 16:23), and of course, this was one of the Big Ten Commandments. Everything about this act is wrong.

Even if for some reason he had not had enough food somehow, hospitality was greatly valued in the Middle East. It would have been easy to go to a rich person who had an abundance and get something to eat. Also, in a worst-case scenario, no one is going to starve to death before the sun goes down.

When we get to the New Testament, we see Jesus allowing exceptions on the Sabbath for something like necessarily daily care for animals or for someone who is sick or in a place of injury. Does that cancel this out? Not at all. None of those situations shows what is going on here. It was still defiance and individual defiance would put the whole community at risk.

Also, if this man is willing to do such a thing for something so small, what is to stop him from doing it for something greater? Proverbs says a thief can be understood if he is trying to get food to eat. Again, this is not the same scenario.

Ultimately, what we can learn is that in the Old Testament at least, God does take keeping the Sabbath seriously. To mess up in this area leads to the death penalty. This is something we should keep in mind with out future study of this.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)


Does Exodus 31:16 and the Sabbath

Does this verse teach the Sabbath is a neverending covenant? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In Exodus 31:16, we read this:

The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant.

The ESV seems stronger:

Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a covenant forever.

Same with the NASB:

So the sons of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to celebrate the Sabbath throughout their generations as a permanent covenant.’

And one final example is the NAB:

So shall the Israelites observe the sabbath, keeping it throughout their generations as an everlasting covenant.

By all means, this is not exhaustive. There are some translations that say this is a perpetual covenant.  I have chosen the strongest ones that give an idea of permanence. Is this the case then? Is someone like myself violating the text?

Good question.

Also, does it even apply to us? That’s another question. Are we Israelites? If so, what does that mean?

The word used to describe the covenant is Olam. There are some cases where it obviously doesn’t mean something that lasts eternally. Exodus 21:6 refers to making someone a servant for life of another. This hardly means that when the two meet in the afterdeath, assuming they do, that the one will still be a servant of the other.

Some cannot be forever. Exodus 27:21 gives such an example. That tent of meeting and the temple are no longer there so the lighting cannot be done. If you take it that this was simply a way of saying that this would go on for an indefinite amount of time, which is a proper interpretation of the word, you have no problem.

In the Levitical offerings in 6:22, one share is to be the Lord’s olam share. This does not mean that the share will last forever. It means that as long as the sacrifices are going on, the Lord will get this. In Scripture, we know God never intended animal sacrifices to go on forever, so this is surely something with an end date.

Leviticus 16:34 uses the word to describe the Day of Atonement. Again, this is no longer the way we as Christians pay for our sins. We do not sacrifice one goat and release another in the wild. Are we denying Scripture then?

In Deuteronomy 23, the word is used to describe the descendants of the Moabites and Ammonites who may not enter the kingdom of the Lord and this is said to be up to the tenth generation, thus even a time limit is put on this. Despite this, Ruth is a great hero in Scripture. Not only that, even more so is her descendant, a guy of some importance in the Bible named King David.

In 1 Samuel 2:30, God says He promised Eli members of his family would serve before Him forever. No more after what they have done! Now you could go the route of Open Theism and say God didn’t know. However, you could more plausibly go this is an anthropomorphism and that the covenant is not forever.

The same applies to 1 Sam. 13:13. God had said earlier in Genesis that the scepter would come from Judah. Did He not know?

In 2 Sam. 12:10, in light of the affair with Bathsheba, David is told the sword will never depart from His house. Despite this, Solomon still had a peaceful realm. It was notable for being peaceful even.

In 2 Chron. 7:16, the temple is where God will be forever. This same temple was destroyed in 586 B.C. Did God not know this was coming, or does Olam mean something besides forever?

It is used to describe Judah and the surrounding nations as an everlasting ruin in Jeremiah 25:9 at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar. Are we to think Jersualem was never to be rebuilt? It was rebuilt in the Old Testament itself and if you go to Israel today, I’m pretty sure Jerusalem is there.

Now does this mean that the Sabbath covenant is not an everlasting covenant?


It does mean that this verse alone is sufficient to establish that. It could be that, or it could be simply a long and indefinite time. We don’t know on the basis of this verse alone. That requires looking elsewhere.

We’ll do that another time.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Does The Fourth Commandment Matter?

Do we need the fourth commandment today? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday, I wrote about the Ten Commandments and said that I don’t think the fourth one applies to all of us seeing as I don’t think it can be known from general revelation. However, does that mean it is absolutely useless? Not at all. Does it have any place for us today? Indeed, it does.

For one thing, the commandment reminds us that one day of the week is to be separate from all the others. Pastors and those who do a large portion of their job on that day can be excused and use another day. We can also say that if all medical personnel and others were to stop one day a week, we would all be in trouble. (I definitely know that not everyone in our nation is Christian, but this is hypothetical)

Also, Jesus makes it clear that at least some work is done on the Sabbath in the New Testament. Animals are led to where it is that they can get a drink of water and their basic needs are taken care of. Naturally, if there is an emergency on the Sabbath day, you are allowed to work then to stop that crisis. Whatever role we give to the Sabbath, as Jesus says, man was not made for the Sabbath. Sabbath was made for man.

In that sense, we could say the Sabbath was not meant to be a duty really. It was meant to be a gift. Consider what God was saying to Israel. “Work hard those six days a week, but on the seventh, make sure you don’t work. I’ll make sure you’re taken care of then.”

That would be a major reprieve, but at the same time, it would be a major test of trust for the people. For us today, that would not be an issue really. We can have food stored in our refrigerators and pantries and clothes stored in our closets and money stored in the banks. The average person back in that day did not have that.

Sometimes we think it is hard to trust God when times are bad. Could it perhaps be the opposite? We don’t know how to trust God today because too often times are good and the mildest thing that throws us out of our comfort zone would be seen as laughable to the people back then?

For me, when Sunday comes, one thing I do is take a break from online debates. The rest of the world can handle it that day if they want to. If someone emails me a question, I don’t answer it until the next day. Of course, there would be valid exceptions. If someone asked me something in person at church, I would likely help, and if Mormons came to my church, as has happened at a church I used to attend, I would likely say something then, but those are the exceptions.

The day is to be holy meaning it is set apart. It is different from the other days of the week. It is also the way God did things. If God doesn’t work on one day, it’s quite arrogant of us to think we have to work all seven days.

The commandment is not meant to be a burden. It’s to be a joy. It’s a shame that when we get to the time of Jesus, it looks like it had been turned into a burden.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Sabbath’s First Mention?

Where does the Sabbath first get mentioned? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

While there is a Sabbath described in Genesis 2, the term itself does not show up there. So where does it first appear? You can look all throughout the book of Genesis and you will be disappointed.

“Okay. Maybe the word Sabbath doesn’t appear, but how about the concept of the seventh day of the week?”

Nope. Outside of the creation week, it doesn’t show up at all. The number seven shows up very frequently. Seventh as in the ordinal does not.

The first appearance shows up in Exodus 16 and in this reference, it is to the Israelites going out and gathering manna in the Exodus wanderings. Food isn’t exactly the most abundant, so God would have this strange breadlike substance come down and it was called Manna, which meant “What is it?” Every day, the Israelites could go out and get some. However, if they tried to save it until morning, it was disgusting and filled with maggots. There was one exception to this.

On the sixth day, they could store it overnight and it would not have maggots or stink in the morning. Moses tells everyone on the sixth day to gather enough for two days. The seventh day is to be a Sabbath. They are not to go out and do the work of gathering food. Of course, there are some who try, and they are disappointed, as is Moses.

What’s interesting about this is Moses doesn’t have any need to explain this. At this point in the text, nothing is said about why this is the Sabbath day or even what the Sabbath day is. So what are the options?

It could be that this was already known and part of the background knowledge? It didn’t need to be explained. Granted, odds are that they did not get to enjoy their Sabbaths while they were slaving away under Pharaoh in Egypt. They could have well welcomed a six-day work week.

It could be that this was already known, but the further explanation is known to be coming in the Ten Commandments, so why mention it here? This one also makes sense. Moses knows well what is coming in the story and sees no need to reinvent the wheel.

It could be that this was unknown, but that doesn’t really make much sense as it is said without explanation at all. Again, one could say it isn’t because that is coming in chapter 20. No doubt, the reader who read the account at the time knew the reason, but we don’t know what the Israelites were thinking.

I am much more inclined to go with 1 or 2 and if I had to pick one, I would probably pick the first one. Still, this time is worth mentioning because it is the first time that the Sabbath is mentioned for the people in the Bible. In this case, don’t go out and pick up food and get enough for two days on the day before.

This is the first story, but it won’t be the last, and sadly, some stories for Israel concerning Sabbath will not be that good and will sadly set the precedent for a history of failure on the Sabbath.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Sabbath on the Seventh

How should we see the seventh day? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

A group I am in on Facebook has recently been visited by people who are very keen on the Sabbath and honoring the seventh-day. As I was pondering this, it occurred to me that this is one area that I just haven’t written about that I can recall. Thus, let’s have some fun and go through and see what Scripture has to say about the Sabbath and arguments for and against when Christians should observe it.

At the start, I will say I do not see this as a salvation issue at all. When I worked at the Christian Research Institute, I went through the Seventh-Day Adventist publication Questions on Doctrine. Naturally, I disagreed with a number of points, particularly in relation to Ellen White and her eschatology and to the Sabbath, but I found that they did uphold essentials like the Trinity and the bodily resurrection.

So if you’re a member of an SDA congregation and you want to observe Sabbath on Saturday, go right ahead. I have no real quarrel with you. My only request is that you accept that I am also trying to be faithful to the Scriptures and think that Sunday worship is indeed allowed and I contend was what was made the norm after the resurrection.

So let’s start with Genesis 2. In this passage, we are told that God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it. This isn’t anything new in that there is a whole lot of blessing going on in the creation week. There is a different in that the day is sanctified, which means that it was declared as holy and set apart.

Now I am normally told that the Lord blessed that day so the hidden implication is that this is something permanent, but is that always the case? For this, I am only going to be staying to the writings attributed to Moses. Are there temporary blessings?

One passage I notice is that Ishmael was blessed by God as well. This does not mean the line of Ishmael is celebrated in Scripture. If anything, too often, the line of Ishmael proves to be a problem for Israel.

Blessings can also be temporary. We see this in Genesis 39 in that while Joseph is serving in Potiphar’s house, his house is blessed for that time. This was done not because of Potiphar, but because of Joseph.

In Numbers 6 and 22, Israel is said to be blessed. Does that stand today? Eschatologically, I would say no today. Jew and Gentile are both invited into the covenant. Jews do have a special gift as Paul said in that they are the ones through whom Jesus came and they are the ones who were entrusted with the Scriptures. Before God, there is no special benefit in being a Jew or a Gentile. He has no favoritism.

Deuteronomy 10:8 gives an interesting parallel. In this one, we are told that Levi is blessed and is to stand apart and to serve the Lord in Israel. Is this eternal? No. Hebrews tells us that there has been a change in priesthood when a new covenant came and Jesus is our high priest who was not from the tribe of Levi.

What about the idea of being sanctified? This shows up in Exodus 29-30 and speaks often of the priesthood of Aaron. Again, we have a new priesthood. Thus, this sanctification is not eternal.

“Whoa! Are you going to go and just skip over Exodus 31:13? It says the Sabbaths are a sign for you throughout your generations and they are sanctified.”

Yes. I hear you. That is something we need to discuss and it will be done at a later point.

Thus far, I don’t see anything that indicates that all sanctification is a process that is unchanged. I’m quite sure it is changeable seeing as many items that were sanctified back then are no longer around in that state. For all I know, some of the molecules in those items could have even made their way to the laptop I’m using right now. Who knows?

We shall continue next time.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

No. The Bible Doesn’t Spell It Out

Does the Bible have to state everything explicitly? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday, I spent some time engaged with a Sabbatarian in *cough* debate, if you can call it that. It’s really amazing when you catch these guys in an error proven in what they say and then say in their next post they’re not going to admit anything wrong and go on and act like it didn’t happen and then they go and do just that. Anyway, the main line that kept being used was “Tell me where the Bible says that the Sabbath was changed from Saturday to Sunday.”

One of my favorite responses I like to give to these people is to say “Oh! That’s right next to where the Scriptures tell us to gather books together and call them the New Testament.” That’s not in there either. Also on this point, a lot of these people don’t care what the church fathers said, you know, the ones that oversaw the text and helped us figure out what was and wasn’t canon?

The real problem is that a lot of people do have this idea that the Bible has to spell everything out, when it doesn’t. If you don’t have a specific chapter and verse, well then we just can’t go with it. There are a number of statements Scripture doesn’t speak on and we have to make decisions on them without that. We can look to other sources, like philosophy and the Fathers, but there is no one chapter and verse.

There are a lot of doctrines Protestants reject, whether rightly or wrongly, that are in this category. Nothing in the text tells you to pray to Mary explicitly or that she was a perpetual virgin. The RCC takes a strong stance on birth control, which I understand, and while they could be right, there is no chapter and verse on this.

There are some people who think the only argument that could exist for the Trinity is that verse in 1 John not found in the oldest manuscripts and remove that, and there’s no Trinity. (Atheist Frank Zindler actually argued this.) Sure, it would be easier if we had such a verse, but we don’t. Many doctrines are systematic in the sense that you take all the verses and references from all of Scripture and put them together. There is no one verse of Scripture you should go to to get your doctrine of salvation or of the end times, for instance.

So what about Sabbath issues? The question I kept asking was “Why should this show up?” Let’s suppose that the case is correct, which I think it is, that the Sabbath was moved to Sunday because of the resurrection of Jesus. Which verse needs to say that? None. If there is no indication that this was a debate going on in the Christian community, nothing needs to be said about it.

One reason is because of a high-context society. In this society, background knowledge is assumed. Here in America, if you go back and read the Federalist Papers, they’ll talk about events in Greek and Roman history casually. They never explain them. Why? They assumed that any educated person would know about that and would understand. Today, many of us reading them would need to look them up.

Today, imagine watching a news report and the report tells about a bomb that went off in Tehran. The reporter might say “the capital of Iran” to explain that. That’s because we live in a low-context society. Background knowledge is not assumed.

The problem when we come to Scripture is we treat a high-context book as if it was a low-context book. It doesn’t explicitly state some things because A. It expects you to figure them out or B. They just don’t really matter.

So where does Scripture make the claim about the Sabbath? Nowhere. Go through the rest of the New Testament though and you will see the first day of the week emphasized quite a lot. The writers expected you to figure it out.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Olivet Discourse Matthew 24:20

Why does it matter when the end comes? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We’re looking at the Olivet Discourse and seeing what timeframe it best fits into. This time, we’re going to be looking at verse 20. I have been contending that this whole passage fits best into a first-century format. The next verse after this will have some people thinking back to a futurist mindset, but we will get to that next time. For now, let’s look at verse 20.

“Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath.”

Note that this is talking about a flight. It’s an escape. It doesn’t make sense to say “Pray that the rapture doesn’t take place in a winter or a Sabbath.” Why would that be? Would winter be by because if Jesus zaps you off and your clothes are Left Behind, per the movie, then you will be freezing in the weather?

Yet if we look at this in the first-century and think it describes an escape to the mountains, once again, it’s a great fit. Winter travel is harder period. Not only is the cold painful, but it is also harder to find food to eat as animals can be hibernating and plants are rare. You didn’t exactly have suitcases and thermoses and other ways you could carry food long term and keep it from spoiling.

What about the Sabbath? What difference does it make if you are traveling to the mountains if it’s the Sabbath? Note that this is talking about one time in particular when you are to run. In Jerusalem, and this is specific for Jerusalem, the gates would be closed on a Sabbath day as in Nehemiah. Business was not to be done on those days. While that could still be going on today, it would be much easier to escape Jerusalem today than it would be back then.

In the first century, if you needed to escape, you would not be able to get through the gates. It would be that much more difficult to get out and survive. One would have to work around and find other means and if time is of the essence such that you can’t even get into your house and Roman soldiers could be coming around at any moment as well as Jewish agitators who might attack you, then you’re in trouble.

Now as I said, these recent verses do easily fit, but next time, we’re going to have a very extreme statement from Jesus that convinces many readers we are talking about a futuristic scenario. I will be showing from the case of Scripture why I do not think Jesus’s words are to be understood that way.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Need For Rest

How important is it to just take a break? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Last Sunday, my pastor gave a wonderful sermon on the need for rest in our generation where we have devices that can keep us in touch with all of the world. This is definitely so for those of us in ministry because we can be tempted to say “This is the work of God. How dare we stop in our work?” Many of us who do not see ourselves under the Jewish Law might look at the Sabbath command and think that that was something for them back then and we don’t really need it today. While I’m not advocating that we should all rest on Saturday, I am advocating that we all take a day to rest and frankly, while most will do so on Sunday, for a pastor, it will obviously have to be another day of the week.

Since I’m not a pastor leading a church I do take a break on Sundays. I don’t do debates on Facebook and I don’t do debates on blogs. That is a day for me to get away. If someone comes to me with a question, I will ask them if they can get back to me on Monday. This is time that I need to wind down. Honestly, debates and questions can wear you out after a time. My day of rest is the day that I do not have to be owing to anyone. I will often spend it with a book or listening to the latest episode of Unbelievable? Usually when I do that, I will be going through a game at the same time.

What that activity of rest tells us is that we are not in charge of the world. We are not the saviors of the world. You see, I realize that there are several several people who are doing apologetics just like I am. This is the work of God and God was doing it before I came on the scene and He’ll be doing it after I leave this scene. God is not dependent on me in anyway. Rest is a humble reminder of that. It’s a reminder that to get to serve in the Kingdom is a gift of grace in itself. Yet God is not a kind of taskmaster that expects us to work 24/7. He knows that we need to rest.

Along those lines, I want to remind you that if you’re in ministry, it’s important to not have your ministry be what you’re married to. If you are a married person, there are many people that can do the work of ministry that you do, but there is only one person who is married to your spouse. If you’re a man, no one else can be the husband of your wife. If you’re a woman, no one else can be the wife of your husband. With regard to children, if you’re a woman, no one else can be the mother to your children. If you’re a man, no one else can be the father to your children. These are responsibilities you’re directly assigned in Ephesians. If you succeed at everything else but are not the spouse or parent you need to be, then overall you have failed in ministry.

Therefore, if you are a spouse, make sure that your spouse comes before your ministry. If you are a parent, make sure your children also come before your ministry. Ministry is not an excuse to not do the things you’ve been commanded to do. In fact, it should be a greater call for you to do them. How will people take your ministry seriously if they know that you are not responsibly caring for your own family?

So Sunday is my day to take a break. I advise you to pick one and stick with it. The world can wait and your other duties will be there the next day. You need to take time for you lest you burn out. God didn’t make you to run forever. Rest.

In Christ,
Nick Peters