Have You Not Read In The Law That On The Sabbath The Priests Profane The Sabbath, And Are Blameless?

Yesterday, while chatting with a friend of mine, I heard some second hand objections to the universal keeping of the Sabbath, namely that such a society would need people working to keep up the electrical infrastructure of power plants, as well as people necessary to serve as health and as police. I should note, before getting too far, that this is the precise objection made to the universality of Sabbath observance even by those, like Theonomist Gary North, who claim to support the universal application of God’s laws. These objections are generally raised because of a difficulty in properly understanding the Millennial kingdom of God. In the case of Gary North, his failure to understand the Millennium is somewhat predictable, given his postmillennialist view of prophecy, which leads him to conceive of the 1,000 year rule of God’s ways as being a human-run show by people like himself. Combined with a desire to maintain present levels of technology as well as a neo-Confederate viewpoint that is hostile to the principles of debt forgiveness and general egalitarian mindset in such passages as Leviticus 25, this leads him to be hostile to the entire godly Sabbath perspective, which leads him to write a torturous 93-page appendix to his book on the ten commandments contradicting the biblical account to support his political and religious worldview. For others who do not share his mistaken viewpoint, there is still often a failure to understand the biblical model of such Sabbath activities and apply it to the Millennium.

Let us put aside the question of the technology level of the Millennium, given that we do not have any idea of what will change in a world directly ruled by God in terms of the infrastructure of power. Since it is unprofitable to speculate in the absence of firm biblical warrant, let us simply consider the answer to this question unknown, and step aside to that which we can either directly know or which we can infer from the scriptures. This leaves us with related concerns to the health and security needs of the Millennial kingdom, both areas where we do have a firmer biblical foundation to stand on when we examine what will be the case. When it comes to the need to heal others during the Millennium, the best example we have concerning this is the example of Jesus Christ himself. We see this example, and the principle that justifies it, in Matthew 12:1-14: “At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. And His disciples were hungry, and began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, “Look, Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!” But He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the showbread which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless? Yet I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the temple. But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” Now when He had departed from there, He went into their synagogue. And behold, there was a man who had a withered hand. And they asked Him, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—that they might accuse Him. Then He said to them, “What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep? Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” Then He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and it was restored as whole as the other. Then the Pharisees went out and plotted against Him, how they might destroy Him.”

Although I have already dealt with this passage in different contexts before [1], let us look at what this passage says both about health as well as the responsibility of priests. Given the commission of believers as priests and kings in the Kingdom of God (see, for example, 1 Peter 2:9-10 and Exodus 19:5-6), the fact that Jesus Christ states that the priests profane the Sabbath and are blameless is of great relevance. How is this so, given the fact that God views the Sabbath so highly? The simple reason is that the priests profane the Sabbath by working on the Sabbath in their mundane or normal labor, which is forbidden under normal circumstances, but they are blameless because their mundane labor is service to God and to His people, service commanded by God as a part of the offices they hold. The priests (and the Levites) performed tasks that required a lot of labor, including teaching and preaching, sacrifices, cooking, singing, dancing, and performing musical instruments, and security [2]. Since their duties were commanded by God, they were held blameless for doing what was strictly considered work. Those who serve as Levites and priests within either the church or within the Millennial age will serve analogous roles, and will perform the same tasks, and will also be blameless for this work. Even the work that “profanes” the Sabbath by priests and Levites serves the purposes of the Sabbath by pointing their attention and focus towards God and towards His people.

We have at least some additional commentary in the rest of the scriptures as to what some of the future police activities of those who will become part of the God family. As it is written in Isaiah 30:20-21: “And though the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your teachers will not be moved into a corner anymore, but your eyes shall see your teachers. Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left.” The objections that come to the Orwellian “big brother” state are no longer valid when it is the Creator of the Universe and His family that is preventing people from evil even if they depart from God’s ways either to the right or to the left. Given that security was already one of the tasks of the priests and Levites, as was teaching, it is no surprise that it is the teachers of the Millennial kingdom that are given the assignment of giving verbal warning and situational instruction to those who need help and encouragement in staying on the way of God during the time of direct rule by God and His firstfruits over humanity. This is a serious task, and it is one that will never stop, being part of the ordinary duties we will have in helping to keep humanity on the straight and narrow. There is no reason to expect that this task will be conducted on all days other than the Sabbath, for just as our Lord and Savior frequently used the Sabbath for His most daring and provocative miracles, we ought to expect that the Sabbath will similarly be a time for many lessons and much instruction of our own.

These passages, as well as the readings of many other examples of Sabbath healing on the part of Jesus Christ, indicate at least a couple of pitfalls when it comes to properly understanding the future observance of the Sabbath. For one, there is a tendency to consider the Sabbath merely in terms of our own rest, which can lead to the rather Theonomist conception that the Sabbath is to be observed by elites who are served by others who make an easier life possible through their own labors. This view is contrary to the biblical view of servant leadership, practiced by Jesus Christ and (however imperfectly) by the priests and Levites wherein those who led Israel and Judah spiritually also served on the Sabbath as a way of helping to point the people to God, not for personal profit. A secondary misunderstanding is related to the first. If we do not understand the role of resurrected believers with regards to the administration of the world to come, we place all of the burden of tasks on humanity, and then conceive of a society like our own where there are many people whose jobs in infrastructure and as first responders of some fashion appear particularly critical. The failure to understand how these tasks can be and will be conducted by resurrected believers not subject to the limitations of humanity and with the express responsibility to lead and serve those humans who survive into the Millennium. Let us therefore expect that in the world to come, we will continue to serve on the Sabbath as we similarly serve on the Sabbath in the present world.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/06/16/purposes-of-the-sabbath-part-four/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/06/09/matthew-12-1-8-mark-2-23-28-luke-6-1-5-the-lord-of-the-sabbath-and-the-lord-of-sabaoth/

[2] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/10/14/what-does-it-mean-to-be-a-king-and-a-priest-in-the-kingdom-of-god/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/08/05/a-kingdom-of-priests/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/02/13/1-chronicles-9-17-34-the-tabernacle-and-temple-responsibilities-of-the-sons-of-korah/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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