Keep My Sabbaths

Trying to keep Sabbath in a non-Torah culture can be challenging, especially if family and friends are not aligned. Are we violating Sabbath if we put gas in the car? go to a grocery store or a pharmacy? eat out at a restaurant? go to a movie or a concert? What if a friend needs help on Sabbath? or we need to travel for a business trip or vacation, or attend a wedding or a funeral? In the complexity of living in a broken world, if we aren’t thoughtful and careful in our application of Sabbath, it can become a stressful burden rather a blessing of rest. (He 4:4-5)

There are three questions to consider: [1] Do our individual activities violate Sabbath? [2] Are we requiring / encouraging others to work? and [3] Are we setting a bad example or causing others to stumble?

Firstly, we note God never clearly defines work in the context of keeping Sabbath; this is not an oversight on God’s part – it is inestimable brilliance. He’s inviting us to participate with Him in how we observe Sabbath, to use the guidelines He has provided to sort out what it means in any given circumstance. In other words, this isn’t about thoughtless, rote obedience to a set of rules; we must understand the heart and spirit of Sabbath in order to properly obey it. (Mk 2:27)

The primary Sabbath principle is to remember it (Ex 20:8a), remind ourselves why God blessed and sanctified it (Ge 2:3), setting it apart from the other days. (Ex 20:8b)

We set Sabbath apart (keep it holy) primarily by doing all our work (Ps 104:23), how we typically generate income or value and provide and care for ourselves (2Th 3:10), on the other six days (9): we are forbidden to work on Sabbath and to require others to work. (10) As God rested on the seventh day (Ex 20:11), so should we. (Le 19:3)

So, we’re evidently within Sabbath guidelines if we abstain from the types of activities we typically engage in the other six days, especially income-generating activities, so long as we’re not neglecting our duties to ourselves or others, continuing to live responsibly and charitably in the world. (1Co 16:4) The more of this routine activity we can do before Sabbath, to prepare for it without creating an inappropriate inefficiency or burden, the better. This can be a learning process, where we get better at keeping Sabbath the more we observe it.

So, if a friend has an emergency on Sabbath and requires our help (De 22:1-2), we shouldn’t think of this as a violation. (Mt 12:11-12) But when friends or family routinely plan chores on Sabbath and count on our help, wisdom advises them of our Sabbath observance and kindly asks them to respect it.

And if we need to go to a store to pick up something we overlooked, or want to relax at a restaurant or go out to a performance on Shabbat, does this promote our rest and recovery from our weekly labors? Is it something we can easily put off until after Sabbath? Would it increase our stress or decrease it? We should pray through each situation with the spirit of Sabbath in mind.

As to how the world views our Sabbath activity, God deals with each of us according to our hearts. (Pr 24:12) Unless we are in Israel itself, most people in our culture work voluntarily on Sabbath, ignorant and/or heedless of God’s commands; benefiting from this isn’t necessarily inconsistent with Torah since we aren’t requiring others to work, or even encouraging it.

It isn’t our responsibility to require others to obey Torah, or to rebuke, admonish correct or instruct those who aren’t seeking after God and wanting to obey Him. God evidently enforces Torah violations differently depending on one’s understanding and permits His own to benefit from the voluntary Torah violations of others so long as we ourselves are being obedient. (De 14:21a)

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Eat No Fat

God tells us to not eat the fat from an animal which may be offered as a sacrifice, such as an ox, a sheep or a goat (Le 7:23-24); violating this rule imposes the death penalty. (25) Since all God’s Law is spiritual and good (1Ti 1:8) we should be obeying this principle.

As a bit of context, while God says the fat belongs to Himself (Le 3:16-17), He also describes the location of the fat as that which covers the animal’s flesh and internal organs. (14-15) God doesn’t require us to shred sacrifices to remove every trace of fat.

As with the blood, which we’re also forbidden to eat (De 15:23), it isn’t generally reasonable or practical to try to remove absolutely all the fat from any cut of meat. No matter how well we slaughter an animal and drain out the blood, some blood cells will always remain within the flesh. The idea seems to be that we are to avoid eating animal fat as a focus, we trim it out where it’s reasonably practical to do so.

When God blesses His people with the fat of lambs (De  32:13-14), it’s clear that all fat isn’t forbidden; baby lambs simply don’t have much fat; what little is present is evidently intended for us to enjoy.

So, we should trim the fat off the outside of a cut of meat and then enjoy the flavor-enriching marbling within as we like; not in rigid, legalistic fastidiousness, becoming judgmental, fretful or worried about getting out every trace of fat, yet not casually eating easily isolatable chunks of it either.

As in applying most any aspect of Torah, especially in non-Torah observant contexts, reason, love and moderation ought to rule the day. (Php 4:5)

We might ask why God forbids eating fat. Is it bad for us in a nutritional sense? Do animals tend to store more toxins in fat than in other parts of the body?

Since God hasn’t told us clearly, perhaps we don’t need to know. Perhaps this is a foolish question; having the answer may not help us in our walk with God. (Ti 3:9) Evidently, we don’t need to know why God tells us what He does, we simply need to focus on clearly hearing and fully understanding what He says so we can obey Him in wisdom, love and joy. (Ps 119:3-4)

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I Was Thirsty

God is omniscient; He knows everything about everything; His understanding is infinite. (Ps 147:5) He knows about all of reality, what has been, what is and what will be (Is 46:10), and He also fully understands every possible variation of reality, even things that will never actually happen. (Mt 11:21) Yet does this mean God actually experiences everything? Can God know something perfectly without personally experiencing it?

Since God cannot be tempted with evil (Ja 1:13), it must be that we experience reality differently than God experiences it; God knows with perfectly infinite understanding and awareness exactly how we feel and experience these sinful tendencies without Himself experiencing them. In other words, God knows what it’s like to sin without ever having sinned. (He 4:15)

So, yes, God doesn’t need to personally experience anything in order to fully comprehend all of its detail. Yet this doesn’t mean God is aloof from human experience, that He doesn’t engage intimately with His creation. Evidently, this is especially true of innocent suffering; He so identifies with His elect that He suffers in and with us. (Mt 25:35-36) While He allows pain and suffering in His children, it is not without personal sacrifice: God is willing to enter into our suffering Himself, and actually does so, being one with us. (Co 1:24)

While nothing exists apart from God (Co 1:17), and while all being and activity is of God and by God (1Co 8:6), it is incorrect to say God is any created thing, or that any created thing is God, or even part of God’s divine essence or being. (Panentheism) It is also evidently incorrect to say God is in (in the sense of inhabiting or indwelling) anything physical other than His earthly temple (Ha 2:20) and the bodies of the saints. (1Co 6:19)

While God is ultimately sovereign, controlling all things (Da :35), He is entirely distinct from the entire physical universe and independent of it. He forbids identifying Himself with any particular aspect of His material creation (Ex 20:4) other than His bride: the church. (Ep 5:30)

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