Friday, December 28, 2012

Can a God-appointed Leader Change the Sabbath?

Well, according to the second book of Chronicles, God allowed Hezekiah to do some relaxing of the regulations, even changing the day on which it was celebrated to fit the circumstances.

So, here's the story in chapter thirty: Passover had not been celebrated in Israel for a long time due to various reasons, including just plain idolatry and turning from God, but also because of the problems between northern and southern Israel. The northerners couldn't come down and join Judah because there was tension between the two states for some of the time. So the high sabbaths (as well as the weekly) just kinda fell away.

The godly King of Judah, Hezekiah, invited all Israel, even the norther Kingdoms who had been devastated by the Assyrians, to celebrate Passover. But, it wasn't really the correct day to celebrate Passover. Their weren't enough priests who were unclean and therefore couldn't do all the rites. So they chose to celebrate it in the second month.

"The plan seemed right both to the king and to the whole assembly." 
There indeed was a contingency plan for those Israelites who were unable to celebrate the Passover laid out in the Torah.

Numbers 9: 6-14 "When any of you or your descendants are unclean because of a dead body or are away on a journey, they may still celebrate the LORD's Passover. They are to celebrate it on the fourteenth day of the second month at twilight. .... But if a man who is ceremonially clean and not on a journey fails to celebrate the Passover, that person must be cut off from his people because he did not present the LORD's offering at the appointed time. That man will bear the consequences of his sin."
Hezekiah knew that not all the priests and people were unclean or traveling. But, he felt the attempt at keeping the Passover more important than the technicalities/legalities of it. So, by his own authority relaxed the Sabbath regulations and celebrated it. Here's more of the story:
A very large crowd of people assembled in Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread [Passover] in the second month. ... They slaughtered the Passover lamb on the fourteenth day of the second month. ... Since many in the crowd had not consecrated themselves, the Levites had to kill the Passover lambs for all those who were not ceremonially clean and could not consecrate [their lambs] to the LORD. Although most of the many people who came from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar and Zebulun had not purified themselves, yet they ate the Passover, contrary to what was written. But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, "May the LORD, who is good, pardon everyone who sets his heart on seeking God--the LORD, the God of his fathers--even if he is not clean according to the rules of the sanctuary." And the LORD heard Hezekiah and healed the people.

Remember the priests offering unholy fire and were publicly consumed? Why is God lax in some cases and so strict in others? (Uzzah reached out to steady the ark and was killed.) Here the king unilaterally disregarded a strict Torah law that punished anyone who intentionally celebrated the Passover on the wrong day by cutting them off from their people! Hezekiah just... changed the Sabbath because of his personal desires.

The whole assembly then agreed to celebrate the festival seven more days; so for another seven days they celebrated joyfully. ... The priests and the Levites stood to bless the people, and God heard them, for their prayer reached heaven, his holy dwelling place.

They decided to continue the festivities another whole week which probably included at least another sabbath! So evidently, when God's appointed authorities decide to observe a Sabbath or Holy day another day or in another way or extend it... The Lord doesn't really look at it as breaking the Sabbath. Sabbath keeping could be changed by the King.


Arik said...

I think you miss the entire premise of what is written in 2 Chronicles, as well as the function of the law.

God did make provision for celebrating Passover in the second month due to uncleanliness and/or a journey afar off (Num 9:11). What is important here is not the "ceremonial" purity or the strict observance of the letter of the law but rather vs 19 "That prepared his heart to seek God...". So when circumstances made it impossible to follow the letter of the law, the spirit of the law was followed.

This is NOT Hezekiah "disregarding a law" or "changing the Sabbath because of his personal desires." It was God Himself who had made the provision back in the time of Moses. Numbers 9:9 "And the Lord spoke unto Moses...."

As usual you mischaracterize the situation to suit your apostasy.

Teresa Beem said...

Arik, did you read the post? I dealt with the text in Numbers? Please read it again and you will note that those NOT unclean wereI required to fulfill it in the first month or they would be thrown out of the community.

I wasn't attempting to give a primary purpose for the story. I was showing that when a God appointed leader's desires are to follow God, that He allows for changes even in the Sabbath.

Arik said...

Yes I read your misleading post, and you suffer from the same faulty understanding of God's law as the Pharisees.

In your post you said "Hezekiah just... changed the Sabbath because of his personal desires." This is a false statement. Hezekiah in no way changed the Sabbath for his personal desires, he changed the date of celebrating Passover because circumstances dictated the need. The same circumstances that God Himself aloud for in the time of Moses. This is what you are not getting. Your focus is too much on the letter of the law. Same problem the Pharisees had.

In the time of Moses provision was made for those who honestly were unable to keep Passover on the appointed time because of uncleanliness and being too far away. Numbers 9:13 shows that a man who is clean and not in a journey and who can celebrate Passover on the correct day shall do so according to the law or be cut off. This is not an arbitrary decision of God's part. We must have respect for God's law, both letter and Spirit of it. But if honest circumstances arise that keep us from being able to follow the law to the letter, the spirit of the law (love) must always take precedence.

You are not telling the whole story behind the account of Hezekiah seeing the necessity to celebrate Passover in the second month.

2 Chronicles 30:5- Passover had not been celebrated for a long time. God was moving on the people to return to Him, that they '"yield themselves unto the Lord, and serve the Lord" (vs8) and "find compassion, and graciousness and mercy" (vs 9). This is the heart of the matter-God was not looking to destroy His people because the letter of the law was not strictly followed. He looks for giving mercy and forgiveness for those that seek it. Even when in the congregation some were not clean, Hezekiah prayed for those that would "prepare his heart to seek God" (vs 19). And so Passover was celebrated for another week to give those a chance to do just that-prepare his heart, seek the Lord, find compassion and mercy.

Matthew 23:23-Who unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, AND HAVE OMITTED THE WEIGHTIER MATTERS OF THE LAW, JUDGMENT, MERCY, AND FAITH.

I can only think that you are using this as a reason to give an excuse for your church changing the 4th commandment. It is a very poor reason. There is no honest reason for the change, there is no precedence anywhere that shows the need of your 3rd commandment replacing God's 4th commandment. The change happened as a result of certain people misunderstanding God and His law.

Teresa Beem said...

I am reading the text as given. Hezekiah wished to celebrate the Passover Sabbath. For reasons beyond his control there were a lot of Hebrews that couldn't celebrate it on the day required. Not all were on a journey and not all were unclean. So Hezekiah, of his own authority decided ALL--even the clean ones in Jerusalem--celebrated the Passover on the day that was a secondary date... not the day God appointed.

And because of the sincere hearts of God's authorities... He honored the Sabbath on a different day than He originally set up.

I would say that has some really great support for a Sunday Sabbath--even though Catholics do not believe Sunday is the Sabbath... That is an SDA misunderstanding of Sunday. Catholics see it as the eighth day/1st day rather than the 7th day of the commandments. They always have.

However, having said that the Lord's Day or Sunday has some connection to the Passover which is a High Sabbath rather than a weekly one.

So in that sense the Lord's Day CAN be seen as a Sabbath, but NOT a replacement of the Jewish Sabbath. The Lord's Day is a FULFILLMENT of the Jewish Sabbath.

Arik said...

"And because of the sincere hearts of God's authorities... He honored the Sabbath on a different day than He originally set up."

This is another false statement. Nowhere does Scripture say that Sabbath was celebrated on a different day. You are confusing Passover with the Sabbath.

The "Lord's Day" is not Sunday according to Scripture, nor has it ever been. And there is no such thing as Sunday Sabbath.

Hezekiah did not change God's law, he saw the need to follow God's plan "B" one time and then went back to God's plan "A". This is hardly what took place in the first few centuries after the death of the Apostles, when the "church" followed its own plan "B" and stuck with it. The time of Hezehiah is different from the time of Moses, but the principle is the same.

The Council of Trent teaches that the Sabbath commandment was changed because of the false idea of natural law. As though nature instead of God dictates morality. The 4th commandment is moral law, it is designed to protect the divine/human relationship. Your idea of Sunday being a fulfillment of the Sabbath did not develop until much later in time.

As far as SDA's having a misunderstanding of Sunday being your Sabbath, I think you ought to read Dies Domini again and see that Sunday in Catholic thinking has all the characteristics (except one) that the true Sabbath has. It is holy, a day to rest and abstain from work, and embedded into law. The exception is that it is not God appointed like the 7th Day Sabbath is. A difference that is more than enough for me.