Should We Go Out To Eat On The Sabbath?

by Kenneth M. Hoeck (ammended by Brian C. Hoeck)

Many people in the Churches of God, at large, gather together after services on the Sabbath and go out to eat. Others claim that we should not 'buy or sell' on the Sabbath. Why is there a division of God's people in this matter? Is there not one Sabbath command? Are some people being too lax with the command? Are some being too 'pharisaical' in regard to it? What about the scriptures used to justify each viewpoint? Come let us reason together the truth of the scripture.

The Sabbath and the Manna

Let us start with a brief look at the bible's first mention of the Sabbath in regard to preparing food and eating.

Ex 16:4 Then said the LORD unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no. 5 And it shall come to pass, that on the sixth day they shall prepare that which they bring in; and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily.  This instruction to the people of Israel in the wilderness was given by God to see if the people would follow His law or not. He told them to gather and prepare their food each day for five days but on the sixth day to gather a double portion. He told them this because if they gathered and prepared the manna on the Sabbath then they would be breaking God's law.

Ex 16:21 And they gathered it every morning, every man according to his eating: and when the sun waxed hot, it melted. 22 And it came to pass, that on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for one man: and all the rulers of the congregation came and told Moses. 23 And he said unto them, This is that which the LORD hath said, To morrow is the rest of the holy sabbath unto the LORD: bake that which ye will bake to day, and seethe that ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until the morning.

This was the preparation day (the day prior to a sabbath, be it the weekly Seventh Day Sabbath or the annual Sabbaths) which was still utilized in the New Testament.  Notice in Mark 15:42 And now when the even was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath. God has given us instruction on how to prepare for the Sabbath in regard to our eating habits. The Israelites were told to gather their food, to be eaten on the Sabbath, a day ahead of time. They did any heavy preparation, such as baking and boiling (which required the gathering of kindling and wood and the starting of a fire) of this food on this 'preparation day'.

We continue in Exodus 16:24 And they laid it up till the morning, as Moses bade: and it did not stink, neither was there any worm therein. 25 And Moses said, Eat that to day; for to day is a sabbath unto the LORD: to day ye shall not find it in the field. 26 Six days ye shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is the sabbath, in it there shall be none. 27 And it came to pass, that there went out some of the people on the seventh day for to gather, and they found none. 28 And the LORD said unto Moses, How long refuse ye to keep my commandments and my laws? 29 See, for that the LORD hath given you the sabbath, therefore he giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day. 30 So the people rested on the seventh day.

No person went out of their home to gather food on the Sabbath because they were prepared, in advance, by the grace and wisdom of the Lord God. They did not have any opportunity to go buy food prepared by someone else because the entire culture, yea the entire nation of Israel, was required to keep the Sabbath holy so there was nobody selling anything on that day. Yet, the people did eat ... as the Lord supplied them the means. This, preparing the day before of all food to be eaten on the Sabbath, allowed the people a true rest from labour thusly giving them a greater appreciation of the Sabbath command.

Ex 20:8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: 10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: 11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

Read the command in the box above. The Lord intended ALL of Israel to rest on the Sabbath. The spirit of this law was one of love toward God and your neighbor.  Notice that even the animals were given the day off from their labours! This was important because a man would let his oxen plow and walk behind them thinking that he was not working....but he actually was. His mind was on the things of this world instead of God.

You were not only to not work yourself - but you were commanded also to not have anybody working for you! Your manservants and maidservants were also given the day off! The stranger within your gates was blessed with this law as well. You were not to have anybody do that which the law said YOU could not do. This day was to be DIFFERENT than all the rest in regard to work.

Transgression of the Law

Let us look at an example of transgression and punishment for violating the Sabbath commandment. Let us pick this up in Ex 31:12 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 13 Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the LORD that doth sanctify you. 14 Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. 15 Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD: whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. 16 Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. 17 It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.

We see that those Israelites that worked on the Sabbath, or had others work for them, were CUT OFF from God!! That is a terrible thing, brethren, to be removed from the presence of the Eternal. Is it possible that those that transgress the Sabbath ( without ignorance of the law ) will not be in the Kingdom? Your bible says as much, doesn't it?

Let us take a moment to review the difference between sinning in ignorance and deliberately taking liberty, overstepping due bounds. Numbers 15:22 And if ye have erred, and not observed all these commandments, which the LORD hath spoken unto Moses, 23 Even all that the LORD hath commanded you by the hand of Moses, from the day that the LORD commanded Moses, and henceforward among your generations; 24 Then it shall be, if ought be committed by ignorance without the knowledge of the congregation, that all the congregation shall offer one young bullock for a burnt offering, for a sweet savour unto the LORD, with his meat offering, and his drink offering, according to the manner, and one kid of the goats for a sin offering. 25 And the priest shall make an atonement for all the congregation of the children of Israel, and it shall be forgiven them; for it is ignorance: and they shall bring their offering, a sacrifice made by fire unto the LORD, and their sin offering before the LORD, for their ignorance: 26 And it shall be forgiven all the congregation of the children of Israel, and the stranger that sojourneth among them; seeing all the people were in ignorance. 27 And if any soul sin through ignorance, then he shall bring a she goat of the first year for a sin offering. 28 And the priest shall make an atonement for the soul that sinneth ignorantly, when he sinneth by ignorance before the LORD, to make an atonement for him; and it shall be forgiven him. 29 Ye shall have one law for him that sinneth through ignorance, both for him that is born among the children of Israel, and for the stranger that sojourneth among them. 30 But the soul that doeth ought presumptuously, whether he be born in the land, or a stranger, the same reproacheth the LORD; and that soul shall be cut off from among his people. 31 Because he hath despised the word of the LORD, and hath broken his commandment, that soul shall utterly be cut off; his iniquity shall be upon him. The mercy of our wonderful God is great to those who rely on the atoning sacrifice of His son, Jesus Christ, to reconcile us to God by covering our sin. Even the stranger, the people in the world who sin ignorantly in abundance, may receive this same awesome sacrificial gift for their sins.

In the continued reading of this passage we find a man who KNEW the Sabbath law; yet decided his own course of action. Numbers 15:32 And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man that gathered sticks upon the sabbath day. 33 And they that found him gathering sticks brought him unto Moses and Aaron, and unto all the congregation. 34 And they put him in ward, because it was not declared what should be done to him. 35 And the LORD said unto Moses, The man shall be surely put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp. 36 And all the congregation brought him without the camp, and stoned him with stones, and he died; as the LORD commanded Moses. There is a way that seems right to a man ... but the end thereof are the ways of death.  

On the other hand, if this man's heart was different ... the story could be different. What if the man did have his heart set to obey God and had thought he prepared for his needs on the Sabbath . Then the man saw a small Egyptian boy drowning in the river and jumped in to save him. The lad was starving, cold, and frightened. The man had compassion on the boy, saved him, then; not having supplies readied for this situation, proceeded to gather sticks to start a fire to keep the boy warm and to cook him some soup. Would the Lord God look at this differently?  I think you know that God would indeed see that the love of neighbor was fulfilled in this man's actions and would verily overlook the work to gather the sticks and build the fire. This would be "an neighbor's ox in a ditch" situation. We also refer the reader to the healing of the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath day by Jesus. Mark 3:4 And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace.  We see that mercy outweighs sacrifice both in the Old and the New Testaments.

Deuteronomy 5:12 Keep the sabbath day to sanctify it, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee. 13 Six days thou shalt labour, and do all thy work: 14 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; that thy manservant and thy maidservant may rest as well as thou. 15 And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the LORD thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day.

Nehemiah's Example

Nehemiah knew that by allowing the non-sabbath keeping sellers to come into the city and to sell that the people who were buying would be profaning the Sabbath.  Nehemiah 10:31 And if the people of the land bring ware or any victuals on the sabbath day to sell, that we would not buy it of them on the sabbath, or on the holy day: and that we would leave the seventh year, and the exaction of every debt.

Nehemiah 13:15 In those days saw I in Judah some treading wine presses on the sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and lading asses; as also wine, grapes, and figs, and all manner of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the sabbath day: and I testified against them in the day wherein they sold victuals. 16 There dwelt men of Tyre also therein, which brought fish, and all manner of ware, and sold on the sabbath unto the children of Judah, and in Jerusalem. 17 Then I contended with the nobles of Judah, and said unto them, What evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the sabbath day? 18 Did not your fathers thus, and did not our God bring all this evil upon us, and upon this city? yet ye bring more wrath upon Israel by profaning the sabbath. 19 And it came to pass, that when the gates of Jerusalem began to be dark before the sabbath, I commanded that the gates should be shut, and charged that they should not be opened till after the sabbath: and some of my servants set I at the gates, that there should no burden be brought in on the sabbath day. 20 So the merchants and sellers of all kind of ware lodged without Jerusalem once or twice. 21 Then I testified against them, and said unto them, Why lodge ye about the wall? if ye do so again, I will lay hands on you. From that time forth came they no more on the sabbath.

The sellers were, maybe even by ignorance, breaking the Sabbath by working and the "righteous sabbath-keeping" buyers loved to have it so.  Were the Judeans being a light to the other nations or a partner in sin? Is this love for one's neighbor? Is this in obedience to the spirit of God's Sabbath law? Nehemiah set things straight in his day because it was in his power to do so.

The Weak Debate (or The Two Extremes)

There are many who would love to dispute this ... all of which willingly , as their custom is, go out to eat every Sabbath. Referring to the Sabbath and eating out, Ronald Dart wrote, "it is not wrong for you to benefit directly or indirectly from the work of others".  Well, Ron, you can read back on your own sentence and realize that there is WORK of others involved which is expressly against the written commandment of God.

The matter is obedience to God and having enough love for your neighbor (or the stranger) to allow them to see your example of rest- and to rest themselves. The modern day Pharisee (such as the Orthodox Jew) claims that it is work to turn on a light. When you turn on a light switch you are not requiring anyone to directly work for you. The Electric Company may or may not have anybody working at that moment and they are not under your control.  No work is necessary to get electricity to your home on Sabbath--for it always hooked up and running via machine. Claiming this as a precedence is a weak and pharisaical example. However, when you go to a restaurant those people are working for you individually. It is entirely up to you whether you employ them or not. Yes, they would be working regardless ... but that would be for other people...something not under your control but whether or not they work for you is entirely under your power. When we dine in a restaurant on the Sabbath are we being 'lights' or 'hypocrites'? These arguments for antinomian (lawless) liberty and for bondage to the letter of the law are, both, not indicative of someone striving to please God.

Ezekiel 22:23 And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 24 Son of man, say unto her, Thou art the land that is not cleansed, nor rained upon in the day of indignation. 25 There is a conspiracy of her prophets in the midst thereof, like a roaring lion ravening the prey; they have devoured souls; they have taken the treasure and precious things; they have made her many widows in the midst thereof. 26 Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they shewed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned among them.

There IS a difference for the people of God between the regular days of the week and the Sabbath. The difference is loving obedience to God shown by keeping His commandment to not work (or have others work for you) and to give this day special regard.

Another example that the lovers of antinomian liberty like to cite is in Matthew 12:1 At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungred, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat. 2 But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day. 3 But he said unto them, Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him; 4 How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests? 5 Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless? 6 But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple. 7 But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless. 8 For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day.

First of all, the law that the Pharisees accused Jesus' disciples of disregarding was the Talmudic extension of the Godly law of not working on the Sabbath. This legalistic sect said that by grabbing grain to eat that the disciples were harvesting, which was work. This extension or hedge around the law was a tradition of man... not the Sabbath Commandment from God. The harmless snatching of some grain, grinding it in your hand, and munching it as you walk along is not work.

Secondly, we ask the following questions to provoke thought, not contention. Concerning Matthew 12 (Yeshua and His disciples in the grain field eating grain):


     How is the self-service of the disciples on the Sabbath anything even remotely like going to a restaurant on the Sabbath?

 We see no connection whatsoever whereby one may use this Scriptural example as a means to justify having others labor for hire on Sabbath to satisfy their desire to eat.

 
     Consider the following scenarios--would these things be pleasing Sabbath activities in our Father's sight or not?

   How do any of the above scenarios really differ at heart from having people serve you (take your orders / cook your food / clean your dishes and table / handle your billing) at a restaurant on the Sabbath day?

 
   Are "Sabbath Keepers" who violate the Sabbath the only ones guilty of breaking the Sabbath? Or are all people accountable for this fourth of the ten commandments?
 
   Do recall that the Children of Israel were tutored by YHVH in the proper disciplines of Sabbath observance during the 40 years in the wilderness. They were taught a distinction between the Sabbath and the other days of the week by a simple system: single portions of manna provided on days 1 through 5, double portions of manna on day 6, and no manna on day 7 (Sabbath).
 
   YHVH did not want His children to go out on the Sabbath to get food. In fact, He straightly instructed them not to (Exodus 16:25-29). Those who did not obey this injunction were scorned: "How long will you refuse to keep My Commandments?" He had provided a double portion on day 6 and had given instruction to both gather it, as well as PREPARE it, that day (Exodus 16:5,23).

Thirdly, the example Jesus gave of David and the shewbread was an "ox in a ditch" situation. Would the situation still be allowed if David came then every day to eat the shewbread of the Lord? Or if he came and ate it every Sabbath? The actual, singular incident required mercy and the priest readily offered such to David and his crew. If one prepares for the holy Sabbath day there are very few 'oxen in ditches' to retrieve. Going out to eat on the Sabbath hardly amounts to such an "ox".

The Feasts

The strongest argument we have seen presented is still impotent. Read Deuteronomy 14:23 And thou shalt eat before the LORD thy God, in the place which he shall choose to place his name there, the tithe of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the firstlings of thy herds and of thy flocks; that thou mayest learn to fear the LORD thy God always. 24 And if the way be too long for thee, so that thou art not able to carry it; or if the place be too far from thee, which the LORD thy God shall choose to set his name there, when the LORD thy God hath blessed thee: 25 Then shalt thou turn it into money, and bind up the money in thine hand, and shalt go unto the place which the LORD thy God shall choose: 26 And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the LORD thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household,

Now some of the holydays allow you to prepare food but command against any servile work (any work other than food preparation). Exodus 12:16 And in the first day there shall be an holy convocation, and in the seventh day there shall be an holy convocation to you; no manner of work shall be done in them, save that which every man must eat, that only may be done of you. This does allow you to prepare food on these high Sabbaths so a realistic question would be " if you can prepare food then why not someone at a restaurant preparing you food". A realistic answer would be INTENT. What is your intent of heart when preparing food for the high days?  Your intent is to love and obey God while filling your physical needs. What is the intent of the employed cook?  and bus boy? and the server? and the cashier? and the manager? They are, maybe with the exception of the cook, doing SERVILE WORK for pay. Servile work is commanded against even on the high days.

Even the liberty of these Holydays in which food preparation is necessary does not carry over to the regular weekly Sabbath in which God commands NO WORK be done.

Ex 20:8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: 10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: 11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

Conclusion

At the restaurant cooks, servers, busboys, and cashiers go about their normal business, most of them ignorant of the sabbath command to do no work. True, these workers will be there whether you go there or not  ... but when they cook food for you, or bus your dirty dishes, or collect your payment ....Are they not, indeed, working for you? And how are you being a light to them? ... Do you witness and say " Hey, God says 'don't work on the Sabbath', now, get me another cup of coffee and a roll ,and when you come back I will tell you more of God's word."

This truth of this part of Sabbath-keeping may not sit well with some people. Some may even call us 'legalists' or even 'pharisees' . We do not intend to establish or promote the 'letter-of-the-law' keeping as being more important than the spirit of the law. We do, indeed, stand for the spirit of the law in keeping of the Sabbath. - Love God and love your neighbor - by sanctifying the 7th day as a day of rest for all.

Please have an ear to hear your God
Don't let this be said of God's people today-  Jeremiah 17:23 But they obeyed not, neither inclined their ear, but made their neck stiff, that they might not hear, nor receive instruction.

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©1999 Truth On The Web Ministries: All the articles originated by Kenneth Hoeck or Brian Hoeck may be freely distributed or mirrored as long as presented in their entirety, attributed to Truth on The Web at http://come.to/truthontheweb , and that proper author credit is given.