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Eating out on the Sabbath Day!

The Sabbath is a special time for God's people. Sometimes we can get so caught up in our present beliefs and traditions that we forget to keep asking questions or questioning answers. This is just an attempt to present some scriptures and related ideas regarding how we can do more to keep the Sabbath day Holy.

One common tradition that most of us have practiced at one time or another is to eat out on the Sabbath day. It does provide an enjoyable way for us to fellowship after services, however, if we are honest with ourselves, discussions oftentimes tend toward daily life and are not centered around the message of the day or God's way of life.

The more critical issue to consider is the example are we providing to those who do NOT honor the Sabbath day. Below is the basic scriptural argument against eating out on the weekly Sabbath and High Sabbath Days:

Lev 23:36 "Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 34 "Speak to the children of Israel, saying:'The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days to the LORD. 35 On the first day there shall be a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work on it. 36 For seven days you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD. On the eighth day you shall have a holy convocation, and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD. It is a sacred assembly, and you shall do no customary work on it."

"Servile/Customary" comes from OT: 5656 abodah, (from OT:5647); work of any kind, act, bondage, bondservant, effect, labour, ministering (-try), office, service (-ile, -itude), tillage, use, work, wrought.

"Work" comes from OT:4399 mela'kah (mel-aw-kaw'); from the same as OT:4397; properly, deputyship, i.e. ministry; generally, employment (never servile) or work (abstractly or concretely); also property (as the result of labor): KJV - business, cattle, industrious, occupation, (+-pied), officer, thing (made), use, (manner of) work ([-man], -manship).

The context appears to be addressing regular work or labour done the other 6 days of the week... it shouldn't be done. On annual Sabbaths, God apparently allows for some form of food "preparation" so we can eat...

Ex 12:16 "no manner of work shall be done in them, save that which every man must eat, that only may be done of you."

This apparently allows for some sort of eating preparation on the Sabbaths, so we can do some sort of simple preparation of meals to eat these days, most likely due to being away from home. An extension of this command also seems to regard how we feed ourselves at home on the Sabbath...

Ex 16:23 "And he said to them, This is that which the LORD hath said, Tomorrow is the rest of the holy Sabbath to the LORD: bake that which you will bake (to day), and seethe that you will seethe; and that which remains over lay up for you to be kept until the morning."

God commanded them to cook the food before the Sabbath, and then to "lay up" what isn't eaten for the Sabbath.

Ex 35:2 "Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you an holy day, a Sabbath of rest to the LORD: whosoever does work therein shall be put to death. 3 you shall kindle no fire throughout your habitations upon the Sabbath day."

Are these scriptures giving us a clear command NOT to bake or boil food on the Sabbath or was baking and boiling generally allowed on the Sabbath? It appears not. Is God herein simply stating that they can't "kindle," or start a fire, not that they couldn't heat food? Building a fire is more work than just putting soomething "on" the fire or turning on the stove. I could justify turning on the stove and putting on an already prepared pot of stew or meat, potatoes, carrots, etc., but what of the spirit of the law... why did God not want them starting a fire on the Sabbath?

And, what of a wood stove or pellet stove for heating, or a gas heater, in winter? This is surely fire. All I use is wood for heating in the winter. The fire is always going, but wood has to be placed on the already kindled fire. There is a little effort but it sure is "customary" work because 24 hours without doing so would leave the house quite cold, especially in single digit or lower temperatures. Is this wrong?

Another point to consider is the "preparation day." What was the preparation day? What preparation was done and what should we be preparing for that we normally do on any other given day but shouldn't on the Sabbath Day?

Friday is the preparation day for the weekly Sabbath... But how does one prepare, and for what do they prepare? It seems the "preparation" must be for some daily activity that we need to do, but that God doesn't want us to work at on the Sabbath. Preparing wouldn't mean preparing to NOT do our normal work on the Sabbath. Preparing means taking steps to do something on Friday that would make something we would do normally and is lawful to do on every other day, but not on the Sabbath.

Preparation = NT:3904 paraskeue (par-ask-ay'); readiness: preparation.

Scriptures tell us that God's people used this day to prepare for the next day Sabbath. Today, how do we prepare for the Sabbath and what preparations do we make to keep the Sabbath? Are we to be preparing food to eat on the next day so we don't work at it on the Sabbath day... OR eat out?

Ex 20:10 "But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God: in it you shalt not do any work, you, nor your son, nor your daughter, your manservant, nor your maidservant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger that is within your gates:"

Those in our employ are not to work for us on the Sabbath, whether believers or not. That is an easy one, but we must then ask, who do we "employ" throughout the week when we deal with those in the world who don't yet know about God's Sabbath? Of course, we cannot force anyone to observe the Sabbath, but we CAN show them that the Sabbath day is "set aside" for something that is NOT routine, such as daily work. God provided the "preparation day" for us to prepare food for meals, where necessary, for eating on the Sabbath so we don't have to spend much time cooking on the Sabbath day. So, does having someone else do the cooking for us on the Sabbath stay within the spirit of the Sabbath?

Neh 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:"

This suggests we are not to purchase food on the Sabbath days.

Neh 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 to the children of Judah, and in Jerusalem. 17 Then I contended with the nobles of Judah, and said to them, What evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the Sabbath day?"

Would Nehemiah condemn buying food and other items on the Sabbath, but then go to eat at a gentile restaurant on the Sabbath and exchange money and allow someone to serve him food prepared by them?

Are we to take for granted that people will sin... work on the Sabbath so we can eat out that day because we did not prepare food Friday? By eating out on the Sabbath, aren't we "hiring" someone to work for us? We pay for the food, AND tip the servers, don't we? Is it right before God to go to eat where someone is breaking the Sabbath by working to serve us? How can we be an example to others about keeping the Sabbath Holy and not working, by our eating out and being served by them on the very same day we refrain from doing what they are doing?

Imagine, if you will, whether on the weekly Sabbath days, or the annual Sabbaths, that all God's people avoided restaurants on the Sabbath. Imagine, specifically, on the Holy Days within the Feast of Tabernacles... where every member did NOT eat out at the restaurants in the area but made provisions on Friday, and ate with each other, in their accomodations, or in the park... would this not make an impression on those in that area and in those restaurants? They know who we are in many cases. On the holy days, if we do NOT require them to work because WE do not work, would they not get the real impact of what that means?

How often have we had catered meals where the facility spent much time on the sabbath day preparing food we eat after sundown after the Sabbath? We wouldn't think of hiring someone to do a regular job for us on the Sabbath, as well as pay them for this on the Sabbath, yet what difference is there when we go to a restaurant? Should we let others work for us (profaning the Sabbath day) while we allegedly keep the Sabbath Day "Holy?" by NOT working?

If we were successful in spreading the Gospel to the whole world today, they wouldn't be there working on the Sabbath because the places would be closed, and we wouldn't be eating there. We would have to do what God originally intended for us regarding eating on the Sabbaths.

Would Jesus Christ eat out at an open restaurant on the Sabbath after His return? There will likely be such things... people and nations that do not come up to the Feast as yet... who don't believe or aren't convinced. Would that be ok to eat in these places on the Sabbath? Would this proclaim God's truth and Sabbath to those resisting God's ways?

Yes, it takes some more effort to do things this way, and to not take the easy way out to eat food prepared for us by others who break the Sabbath. It has become custom in many groups to eat out after services, and I did so for many years until I was challenged on this point. I couldn't give an answer or justify continuing to do so and now realize how the preparation day sets the pace for the Sabbath.

Consider: After Christ's return, and after the second resurrection, people will be taught all about God's Holy times... weekly and annual Sabbaths. They will realize that working on the Sabbath was sin, a violation of the 4th commandment. Imagine what they will think when they remember back to all those in God's true church who they served on the Sabbath days... brethren who took advantage of their labor and sin. What will they think of us? Won't they say something like... "You were in God's true church, and understood and obeyed His command to keep the Sabbath's holy, but you still went out to eat and made me work on this day? You only made it seem even MORE 'ok' to be working, not an example of never making me work on the Sabbayh days." How would you answer these questions and be able to justify them?

Yes, they are working there anyway, but if we led by example, and made is clear to them that we do not want them working for us on the Sabbath day, this will be remembered. A side note on a similar vein... when we Feast at any given site, our rooms are usually daily serviced. Can we avoid this? What about placing the "do not disturb" sign on the door the evening of the Sabbath and leave it there for the Sabbath? They will not be working for us on that day, and agin, will notice that God's people are not requiring them to work where we have the control over it. With a little more "preparation day" planning for what we might need at the Feast that families use up Friday, and need for Sabbath, (room towels, food, etc.), it can be done... and what an example it would be.

Some may consider this "legalistic" or even Pharisaical, but I find it hard to now biblically condone eating out on the Sabbaths, yet I'm open to being corrected on this. It does present a bit more preparation for the Sabbaths, but if that is what God expects of us, it can be done and perhaps the Sabbath... keeping it Holy, will become more obvious to us. I also wonder what are we missing if we are in need of correction on this subject? What blessing are we not receiving?

Ultimately, God's spirit leads our conscience to where He wants us, so people must do what they feel led to do and how to best please and honor God and be an example to those around us!

Updated 2012

I came across this discussion on Eating out on the Sabbath... arguments for eating out by UCG, and against it by Dennis Fischer of Blow the Trumpet, at A Sabbath Test. This is a series of pages discussing two sides of this issue. This link is to the directory of all the arguments, but the links at the bottom of each argument page take you to the next argument.

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