Newsletter 43, September, 1997
Don’t Be a Weasel!
The weasel, almost indistinguishable from the closely-related ferret, is a small, slender-bodied, carnivorous mammal of the genus Mustela, related to minks and skunks. These active animals are bold and bloodthirsty, killing many small birds and mammals such as mice, rats, and other vermin. If allowed to sneak into a henhouse, a weasel or ferret can quickly decimate the flock, hence, the saying, "pop goes the weasel." Both the weasel and ferret are mentioned in the Bible as unclean animals, Leviticus 11:29-30.
My first exposure to this kind of animal occurred on an airplane from Denver to Wyoming. A scientist on board had a black-footed ferret in a cage. The ferret escaped, and ran underneath the passenger seats. We were warned not to attempt to touch the ferret, as his sharp teeth could be dangerous. After much effort, the scientist finally caught the ferret, and returned the varmint to its cage.
The infamous black-footed ferret is classified as an "endangered species," and Wyoming coal miners hold the animal in deathly fear. If any of these pesky animals are discovered on a mine site, the entire mining operation would be immediately shut down by government officials, in order to protect this cute little creature. But, as I was to learn, humans need protection from weasels and ferrets, not the other way around.
The first year that our eldest daughter Barbara returned home from college for the summer, she had a surprise for us — she had obtained a white ferret as a pet. Since she is a biologist, and our daughter, I supposed that I could put up with a rascal in the house for a few months. Our cocker spaniel and two cats, although bigger than "Riley," as she called the ferret, were no match for the speedy and quick-witted varmint. Riley’s sharp teeth and explosive speed terrorized our pets. At one point, Riley sneaked up and sunk his claws on our dog’s back, and bit his ears as he rode the howling pooch like a bucking bronco around the living room. If we could have videotaped this hilarious escapade, we would have won a prize for "America’s funniest video." Later, however, I became irritated at some of this varmint’s other antics. I noticed that I was running low on socks, and finally discovered that the little thief had stolen many of my stockings, and hidden them in out-of-the-way places around the house. Plus, he had nibbled away the tops of several of my white cotton athletic socks. If any shiny object was missing, we learned that Riley was a prime suspect. Except for my daughter’s attachment to Riley, it would have been a pleasure to grab a shotgun and dispatch the rogue.
A pet ferret is an entertainment center by itself. He will scamper up to you, playfully bite or scratch, then arch his back and retreat. Ferrets never take the direct approach. Catching a wayward ferret or weasel is more difficult than holding on to a greased pig. They can wiggle through the smallest openings, and disappear in a flash. Ferrets are so cute that you can hardly become angry at their rascalism.
Compared to a forthright human, a weasel is sneaky, cunning, deceptive, and elusive. And that is why our language is replete with references to the weasel. Have you noticed that some people are like weasels? A furtive, weasel-like individual, is secret, or clandestine, about his or her real intentions. A weasel’s habit of sucking the contents out of an egg while leaving the shell superficially intact, has led to the expression, "weasel words," which means words used in order to evade or retreat from a direct or straightforward statement or position. A "weasel-worded" statement is made with deliberate ambiguity and lack of forthrightness. When an advertising man makes a somewhat elastic statement in order to sell his product, he is using weasel words. If someone attempts to evade blame or get out of a difficult situation, we say they "weasel out" of it.
One of the most admirable qualities of Herbert W. Armstrong’s writings, especially his early writings, was his forthrightness. He did not weasel around the Truth of the Almighty. Instead, he told the plain truth. When he approached a Biblical subject, he would bring the Scriptures directly to bear on the subject, and pointedly demolish false ideas. He cut right to the quick, and was no weasel.
Today, however, some have become weasel-worded, smooth-talking, backslappers. Instead of laying the Truth bare, they hold back the Truth with weasel words. After all, they reason, we should not offend others. However, the mind of Christ does not support such actions. The Word of God is quick and powerful, and cuts like a sword, Hebrews 4:12. We need to speak the Truth in love, Ephesians 4:15, but we need to speak the Truth above all else, even if it offends. At times, some people get angered with my forthright statements. While I do not deliberately try to offend others, and am striving with God’s help to always speak the Truth in love, I seldom become too concerned when others get offended. The opposite of offending someone is flattering them. Few would accuse me of flattery. I believe Proverbs 27:6, "Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful." Some of my most prized possessions are letters attacking me personally. Criticism, even if invalid, is often the most helpful teacher of all.
Recently, a Seventh-day Adventist became incensed at my article, "We are Sabbath-Keepers, Not Seventh-day Adventists." No doubt he was offended at my statements concerning Ellen G. White. He may have never seen forthright statements showing some of her errors, contradictions, and deceptions. While I apologized to him because he was offended, I did not recant my statements in the article, and will not, unless or until they are shown to be factually in error. Because many are thin-skinned, some writers and speakers retreat to weasel words, trying not to offend. In doing so, they take the teeth out of God’s Word.
A classic example of weasel-worded evasiveness is shown in statements made by a number of individuals praising Dr. Samuele Bacchiocchi’s two volumes on God’s Festivals. In a brochure advertising his books on the Holy Days, Bacchiocchi quotes several ministers of the Church of God who say his books are, "A unique and refreshing contribution to the study of the Word of God . . . [impressive] scholarship . . . a thorough investigation of the Biblical Holy Days . . . a wonderful, much needed resource for scholars, ministers, and lay members . . ." etc. Why are these statements weasel-worded? Because the ministers who made these testimonials vehemently disagree with many of the statements Dr. Bacchiocchi makes in his books. If their church members followed the conclusions of Dr. Bacchiocchi, they would be observing the Holy Days in a manner totally at variance with these ministers, who made such positive endorsements of Dr. Bacchiocchi’s books. Weasels are not forthright. Honest disagreement is better than superficial weasel-worded consensus.
A friend recently told me that my review of Dr. Bacchiocchi’s Holy Day books (Giving & Sharing Newsletter, April, 1997) might make Dr. Sam mad at me. If it does, then he is not half the man of integrity that I believe he is. There are a gifted few who have never been challenged or criticized in any way. Perhaps they would not be able to tolerate negative feedback. That would be to their detriment, for without positive and negative feedback, a person cannot grow and learn.
Our Savior preferred the open and forthright Peter in contrast to the secret and furtive Judas. Peter criticized Jesus, and was rebuked, Matthew 16:21-23. Peter denied Christ three times, yet later became the most zealous defender of the faith. You never were in doubt where Peter stood. Right or wrong, Peter was no weasel. Judas Iscariot, on the other hand, masked his true intentions. He secretly went to the High Priest to plot the capture of Jesus, and betrayed Him with a kiss. Judas was a sneaking weasel!
There are far too many in the Church of God today who are weasels. False prophets and teachers have weaseled their way secretly into the Church, bringing with them damnable heresies and have gained a wide following, II Peter 2:1-2; Jude 3-4. Others, though well-meaning, believe that in the interest of cooperation, they should mute the Truth so as to get along and minimize differences. Unfortunately, we have never learned how to be open and honest about our differences, and still cooperate on those levels in which we are in accord. We should not minimize our differences; neither should we maximize them. We should be honest, above board, forthright about what we believe, and why. Speak the Truth in love. Don’t be a weasel.
Enemies of the Sabbath
Know your friends, and support them, and know your enemies, and resist them. It behooves us to know more about the enemies of the Sabbath. For hundreds of years, the consistent, cruel, and implacable, enemy of the Sabbath, has been the Roman Catholic Church in general, and the Jesuit order (Society of Jesus) in particular. Unfortunately today, some Sabbath-keepers have turned the Jesuits into a bug-a-boo, similar to what some people in America did in the 1950s, when they too quickly accused others of being communists. Rather than being emotional "conspiracy theory" buffs, who label without proof others as "Jesuits," we should calmly and deliberately study the impact and activities of the Jesuits, and learn how they operate. It is highly likely that every one of us has suffered to some extent from their nefarious activities. Not only have the Jesuits been involved in infiltration, Inquisition, intrigue, and murder since the Middle Ages, they were instrumental in Twentieth Century World War II atrocities. The question arises: have Jesuits suddenly become ecumenical cream puffs, or are they still their old diabolical selves? Time will tell. Here are several sources to help you:
Seventh-day Adventist James Arrabito’s video, History of the Jesuits (2 hours, $24.95 retail, $21 suggested donation, or $5 for a 14-day loan), is useful for a church study group. This revealing video examines past and present Jesuit history, their political and religious involvement in the affairs of nations and churches, and their plans for the future. As we have said before, we need to dwell on the positive. There is hope for even the most nefarious, if they would only repent and believe the good news. Once in a while we need to study the depths of Satan, in order to recognize the heights of the Messiah. It would be a naive pollyanna person who recognizes only the friends of the Sabbath, and not the enemies of the Sabbath.
In light of this, we also recommend two excellent sources produced by Dave Hunt. His book, A Woman Rides the Beast ($10), describes in detail the Catholic Church in the last days. Dave Hunt’s book confirms the fact the Roman Church is the great whore of Revelation 17 and 18. The accompanying video, A Woman Rides the Beast ($24 retail, $20 suggested donation, or $5 for a 14-day loan) is well-done, an excellent video for a study group presentation. These three items are available from The Bible Sabbath Association, 3316 Alberta Drive, Gillette, WY 82718. In the United States, call toll-free 1-888-687-5191, and you may use your credit card.
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Kingdom
Humor is essential to life. The Messiah was a man of humor and joy. He came, not for us to be solemn and sorrowful, but that we may have an abundant, joyful life. "A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones," Proverbs 17:22. Jesus taught with humor. This is especially seen in the gospel of Luke. Humor can be a bridge-building, peace-making, healing, evangelistic, tool. We need to take God seriously, but ourselves less seriously.
The word, "humor," and the word "humility," both have the same root, deriving from the Latin word humus, meaning "of the earth." Cal and Rose Samra, authors of the book, Holy Humor, state, "Humor reminds us of our fragility, our earthiness, our dustiness, or propensity to mess things up even when we have the best of intentions, our powerlessness apart from God. Humor shows each of us how far we have fallen short of the glory of God," page xxi. All too often, Sabbath-keepers have forgotten joyful worship. As a result, some have abandoned the Sabbath for a Sunday celebration service. "These things have I spoken to you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full," John 15:11.
Here are a few examples the Samras have compiled in their book, Holy Humor. The first story reminds me of dour, sad-sack, church services I have endured:
A paramedic was asked on a local TV talk-show program: "What was your most unusual and challenging ‘911’ call?"
"Recently, we got a call from that big white church at 11th and Walnut," the paramedic said. "A frantic usher was very concerned that during the sermon an elderly man passed out in a pew and appeared to be dead. The usher could find no pulse and there was no noticeable breathing."
"What was so unusual and demanding about this particular call?" the interviewer asked.
"Well," the paramedic said, "we carried out four guys before we found the one who was dead."
The next episode reminds me of some of the funny consequences of some of our beliefs:
While on a business trip, a Seventh-day Adventist salesman, who is a strict vegetarian, stopped off in a small town and telephoned his parents, who are not vegetarians. When his father answered the phone, the salesman said he would like to stop by for a visit. The father yelled to the mother: "The prodigal son is returning! Kill the fatted zucchini!"
Abraham Lincoln, one of the few honest lawyers, loved to tell this one:
A minister and a lawyer were riding on a train together. "Sir," the minister asked the lawyer, "do you ever make mistakes while in court?" "Very rarely," the lawyer said, proudly, "but on occasion, I must admit that I do." "And what do you do when you make a mistake?" the minister asked. "If they are large mistakes, I mend them," the lawyer said. "If they are small mistakes, I let them go. Tell me, Reverend, don’t you ever make mistakes while preaching?" "Of course," said the minister. "And I dispose of them in the same way that you do. Not long ago, I meant to tell the congregation that the devil was the father of liars, but I made a mistake and said the father of lawyers. The mistake was so small that I let it go."
Ministers who are always grasping for money are the target of this "out of the mouths of babes" tale:
In Sunday school, a teacher asked a small girl why she thought the clergyman in the Good Samaritan story passed by on the other side. "Because the man lying by the roadside had already been robbed," the little girl replied.
Cartoonist Bill Keane, author of "The Family Circus," quotes the little girl as saying: "God created the world in 6 days, and on the 7th day he was arrested."
You may have listened to Holy Day Offering sermonettes, also known as a "Sermon on the Amount."
Recently, a well-known Sabbatarian Newsletter repeated the false, but popular, idea that marriage is valid only as long as the couple agrees to live together as man and wife. If one "leaves the church," the other, it is held, is free to remarry. This is a tragic, yet hilarious, joke of an interpretation of I Corinthians 7. It reminds me of this tid bit:
Former Education Secretary William Bennett attended a modern wedding where the bride and groom pledged, in their wedding vows, to remain together "as long as love shall last." "I sent paper plates as my wedding gift," Bennett said.
As a boy, I almost learned to read by looking at the Burma-Shave road signs. My father drove slowly, giving me plenty of time to read successive signs like these:
In this vale
Of toil and sin,
Your head grows bald,
But not your chin. — Burma-Shave
My friend Randy Pinkston compiled a list of "Strange Literature Requests," while he worked at Worldwide Church of God headquarters in Pasadena. I still get tickled by these unusual requests for the Church’s literature: Does God Exit? Does God Excite? Seven Laws of Radiant Death, How is the Beast? Immorality of the Soul, Lazy and the Rich Man, Does the Bible Exist? Free Destination, What is Satan’s Faith? The Rear of Children, Why Was I Barned, Four Horses of Acapulco, Is All Human Flesh Good for Food? What Do You Mean the Kingdom of Christmas? Where Will Heaven Be Spent? Finally, someone innocently wrote this request, "Please send me The Seven Last Plagues." I am sure that someday, Giving & Sharing will receive a request for "Strong’s Exhausting Concordance," because it weighs so much!
If we cannot laugh at ourselves, and the faults and foibles of we human beings, then we will miss out on the joyful life the Eternal intends us to have. The Eternal must certainly laugh at my mishaps quite often. When the Savior returns, He will laugh at the heathen who rise up against Him, Psalm 2:4. By treasuring humor, and enjoying life to the full, we experience the abundant life our Savior came to give. It is said that in Nigeria, the name of God is "Father of Laughter." The angels announced the birth of the Messiah as "good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people," Luke 2:10. Philippians 4:4 says, "Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice." John 16:33 encourages us, "Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." Paul adds, "Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost," Romans 15:13.
There is nothing funny about good humor, if you are disobeying the Eternal. On the other hand, in His presence there are joys forevermore. Let us lift up our voices with joy in song, I Chronicles 15:16, and all our actions.
From Sabbath to Sunday
It came as no surprise that some congregations of the Worldwide Church of God are now meeting for Sunday worship services. Beginning with Pentecost Sunday, June 15, 1997, the Dallas congregation began holding Sunday worship. Its pastor explained that the primary reasons are evangelism, to remove the Sunday barrier in order to reach out to the unchurched masses in Dallas, and family attendance, for the convenience of church members who are working, or absent due to children’s ball games, school activities, etc. They firmly believe that weekly, seventh-day Sabbath observance is no longer binding on Christians. In Christ, they believe, we find "rest for our souls," Matthew 11:28-30, at all times. Pastor Jeff Molnar says, "We are free to worship on any and all days, and that no day is superior to another in worshipping God."
This change did not happen overnight; it was a logical progression as the result of a long series of doctrinal changes over the years. Perhaps the most significant were the doctrinal changes the Worldwide Church of God made in 1974. At that time, in attempting to justify its change from a Monday to a Sunday Pentecost, the Worldwide Church of God accepted the doctrine of a first day of the week resurrection. The twin doctrines of a first day of the week resurrection, and Sunday Pentecost, led to the adoption of Sunday within the Catholic Church almost nineteen centuries ago. "Easter" replaced Passover, and the annual Easter and annual Pentecost, with the weekly Sunday, were viewed by early apostates, as one holiday, a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The seeds of Sunday observance in the Worldwide Church of God were sown in 1974, with the change of Pentecost and rejection of the Saturday resurrection.
Not everyone who believes in a Sunday resurrection and/or a Sunday Pentecost is going to change from Sabbath to Sunday worship. However, early Sabbath-keepers did exactly that, and so have many in today’s Worldwide Church of God. History repeats itself.
While the Worldwide Church of God is moving from Sabbath to Sunday, another organization moved from Sunday to Sabbath. A few years ago, the Church of Israel, led by Pastor Dan Gayman of Schell City, Missouri, after serious group study and analysis, decided to abandon Sunday observance and take up the Bible Sabbath. Although many disagree with Gayman’s views on race, he is a dynamic speaker and the lessons he presents on the Sunday-Sabbath issue are well worth considering. During a speech in Sydney, Australia, in 1996, Gayman gave seven qualities a Sunday-keeping church must have in order to move to the Sabbath: (1) There must be no bureaucracy; they must be free to pursue the Truth. (2) They must believe the Bible is the authority for their faith, Psalm 119:116. (3) They need to believe that God speaks an unchanging message. God, for them, is not "In Transition," Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8. (4) They must be a disciplined people who deny themselves and follow God. (5) They must dare to be different, I Peter 2:9. (6) They must be willing to repent. (7) They must be committed to Christianity as a way of life, for above all, Sabbath-keeping is a way of life. These characteristics appear to be necessary in order to move from Sunday to Sabbath; they also seem to be essential in order to maintain the Sabbath.
Looking back at the Worldwide Church of God, one can see that most of these seven traits were largely abandoned in later years. The bureaucratic hierarchy made all members follow the doctrinal changes of the leadership. The Church organization, rather than the Bible, became the ultimate authority. Most members accepted the concept of doctrinal change, and if you accept one change, you can more readily accept another, and another, etc. They became "rich and increased with goods," unwilling to deny the self and follow God all the way. They did not want to be different; they became ashamed of their differences and muted their message. They did not repent of corruption and scandal that permeated the very top leadership of the Church. Many ministers and members believed that the Church was the focal point of salvation, rather than the Bible being an unchanging way of life. While there were exceptions, there was no Phineas to zealously stop the evil, Numbers 25:6-13.
Certainly no long-time minister associated with the Worldwide Church of God should be surprised at the turn of events. When I worked in the Church Administration Department in Pasadena, California, in the early 1970s, it was common knowledge that Joe Tkach was not interested in the Truth of God, was a climber who wanted to take over power and authority in the Church, and was untrustworthy. My personal observation confirmed the assessment of others. If there was ever a man who should not have been placed in a position of church authority, it was this engineer of doctrinal change. His son Joe, Jr., had even less credibility. Indeed, it would have been a shock if the Tkach’s had faithfully exercised their office. Unfortunately, church members and ministers had been taught to be submissive to church authority, rather than insist on the Bible requirements for Church leaders found in I Timothy 3 and Titus 1. With few exceptions, that same lack of concern for Bible qualifications for elders, continues today in many ex-Worldwide Church organizations. When the leadership is corrupt, the people suffer, Proverbs 14:34, 29:12. We are exhorted "to know them which labor among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake . . . " I Thessalonians 5:12-13. Many knew, but did nothing. Many should have known, but didn’t check out the facts.
Living a godly life is like climbing a hill. You are doing good if you are progressing up the hill towards the top (doctrinal perfection, being at one with the Master). We have not yet reached the summit. It is a struggle to inch up a little farther. But, once you start to tumble, going down happens very quickly, and you can hardly stop. The massive doctrinal changes of the Worldwide Church of God over the years have met their logical conclusion, from Sabbath to Sunday.
The Church Made Me Do It!
One of the most basic, fundamental, principles of the Bible is that we individually are accountable to the Almighty. The Church, the ministry, does NOT save us, and must not judge us. We shall stand by ourselves before the judgment seat of Christ, Romans 14:10. In looking back on their former association, some are blaming their unhappy experiences on "the Church." An Associated Press story on June 14, 1997, lauds the changes of the Worldwide Church of God. John & Shirley Damore, the article states, "did everything Herbert W. Armstrong told them to: They tithed up to 30 percent of their income, followed Old Testament dietary laws," and so on. Now, the Damores feel liberated, even attending Sunday services with their children, though still meeting with their old friends in the Worldwide. These people seem oblivious to their open admission that they slavishly followed a man and an organization. They did what the Church told them to do. This makes me wonder if the Protestant doctrines the Damores currently follow are the result of serious, personal, Bible study, or that once again, the Church made them do it. Human beings, when happy, seem to feel they are doing what is right because of their efforts; if things go sour for them, they are quick to blame someone else for their unhappiness.
Molly Hammer Antion wrote an interesting article on the early days of the Worldwide Church of God in the May 30, 1997, The Journal. The sacrifice and dedication of the Hammer family are inspiring for us all. Molly regrets that her father, Roy Hammer (who donated the land upon which the Ambassador College of Big Sandy, Texas, was built) died "needlessly" at age 64, because "church doctrine at that time did not allow us to go to doctors, and we never knew what my father died of." Her hindsight is not very clear. Herbert W. Armstrong’s important article, "Does God Heal Today?" published in the 1940s and republished in 1952, actually encourages one to seek counsel from natural health practioners, while reminding us that healing is God’s prerogative. Now granted, some ministers became little Hitlers, who browbeat the little sheep into a distortion of Church teaching. But, if you just took the written literature of the Church at face value, you would never come to Molly Antion’s conclusion. I suspect that Mr. Hammer’s personal decisions relating to his health care were made by himself and his family, and not by the Church. To state otherwise would be to denigrate this man of faith.
And again, Mrs. Antion regrets that her sister, Norma Hammer Davis, "was never allowed to remarry, though she was married only a short time and divorced before coming into the church." The Church at that time tried to rule people’s lives by deciding "D&R" cases. That was wrong, and totally unnecessary if anyone had read the official Church teaching in the 1953 booklet of HWA, "Divorce and Remarriage," which authorizes no such thing as a Church court to decide the validity of one’s marriage. I was acquainted with Norma Davis, and cringe at Molly’s implication that Norma did not think for herself. The Norma Davis I knew was personally convicted that she was bound to her first husband, and not eligible to remarry. I do not believe she would blame the Church for her single condition.
If faithful pioneers such as the Hammer family only did what the Church told them to do, then where does that leave the rest of us, who are not such sterling examples of dedication and sacrifice? Individually, we must all stand before the Eternal. We can never resort to the weak excuse, "the Church made me do it." Today’s liberal thinking revises the past to be more palatable to present-day practices and beliefs. More accurate recollections of what the Church was like forty and fifty years ago paint a far different picture, one of individuals who were personally convicted through much prayer, fasting, and personal Bible study (not just studying the Church’s literature). Let us follow the example of pioneers such as Roy Hammer.
Sabbaths of God Again Available
Anyone who has done serious research on the Biblical Holy Days has probably come across the landmark book, The Sabbaths of God, by James L. Porter (Exposition Press, New York: 1966). This 354-page book set the standard for research and commentary on the Biblical Holy Days. Mr. & Mrs. Porter were members of the Worldwide Church of God for over three years, and were disfellowshipped in 1959. During the late 1960s and 1970s, his book was available in most public libraries across America. Since that time, Mr. Porter has ceased publication of his book, and attrition has caused it to disappear from many library shelves. Mr. Porter’s views on the Holy Days have changed, due to his involvement in the charismatic movement. Since 1994, The Sabbaths of God has been in the public domain. A petroleum geologist, Porter’s views on evolution and ancient man before Adam are at variance with my understanding. However, most of his book has valuable insights into the meaning, past, present, and future, of the Holy Days.
Giving & Sharing is pleased to again make The Sabbaths of God available again to the general public, in the form of a computer disk. For a copy, please request Disk 008 from Giving & Sharing. A donation of $2.50 per disk would be appreciated. Also on this disk are articles by Larry Walker, United Church of God pastor, on a wide variety of topics; articles by Gary Fakhoury on the Trinity, Law and Grace, and the Holy Days, and various other articles. Click here for a list of all our disks. All files are in ASCII (text) format, readable by any IBM or Macintosh compatible computer. Windows Notepad is limited to small file sizes, but Windows Wordpad and almost any other word processing program can read all our files.
Sabbath Unrest In Israel
For Jews in Israel, the Sabbath is becoming a day of unrest. There is a great deal of tension between religious Jews, who seek enforcement of the Sabbath, and secular Jews, who wish to shop and pursue their own interests on the Creator’s Holy Day. Religious political parties hold swing votes in the governing coalition. Religious Jews have held violent demonstrations to halt Saturday traffic in Jerusalem. Companies open on Sabbaths are now facing criminal charges. There is no public transportation on the Sabbath, and stores in the centers of towns remain closed. But movie theaters, restaurants, and other places of entertainment on the outskirts of towns remain open. Shopping malls do a booming business on Saturdays. Religious parties are bucking the trend of watering down the Sabbath in Israel.
According to the Wall Street Journal of June 24, 1997, an Israeli law prohibits companies from employing workers on their religious day of rest. On the books since 1951, this law is for the first time beginning to be enforced, at the urging of religious Jews. Indictments are being filed against companies that employ Jews on Saturday. Yet the growing trend towards shopping on Saturday has led some Israelis to lament the demise of the slow pace and peace and quiet of the traditional Sabbath.
Foreign companies investing in Israel are more interested in the bottom line, than respecting the Sabbath. A glass company representative said, "A glass plant that isn’t open seven days a week isn’t financially viable. If the plant can’t operate on Saturday, we’ll take our money back and go home." Since employing Jewish workers on the Sabbath is now a criminal offense (fine of $1,000 per employee and a month in jail), McDonald’s and other companies are contesting the law in Jewish court.
Jews have long been ingenious like a weasel in devising ways around the laws of God. Every Friday afternoon, a Jewish antique store owner "sells" his store for ten shekels (about $3) to a Muslim friend of the family, and keeps his store open on Saturday. After the Sabbath, the Jew "buys" the store back from the Muslim and resumes "ownership" of his business.
Another, less weasel-like, businessman, an Orthodox Jew, bought a 54% interest in a suburban mall. He insists that the mall be closed on the Sabbath, and is facing court action from McDonald’s and other mall retailers. One mall owner says that her Saturday business is triple that of a weekday. "If I am forced to close on Saturday, I won’t be able to stay afloat." The Sabbath is supposed to be a day of peace, yet in Israel today the significance of the Sabbath is getting lost in fighting over its observance. One Jew lamented, "If we don’t even have the Sabbath in common any more, then what will hold us together as a people?"
This arguing about the Sabbath is foolishness, if there is no Creator God. If the Sabbath is merely a human invention, rather than a divine institution, then it does not matter if we work and do business on the Sabbath. However, if the Sabbath is a command of a real, Eternal God, then the Sabbath will keep us, if we keep it. If there is a
God, and if the Bible is His Word, a glass factory can be quite profitable if it is shut down every Sabbath. A store owner can close on the Sabbath and prosper. A devious scheme to "sell" a store to a nonbeliever to keep it open on the Sabbath is a sham and an affront to the Almighty. The fourth commandment says that even the stranger within our gates is to do no work.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that the Bible forbids commerce on the Sabbath, Jeremiah 17:21-27, and forbids us from engaging in work, Exodus 20:10. One would expect that the Israeli state would conduct normal commercial business from Sunday through Friday, and rest on the Sabbath. If the Eternal cannot protect us from our enemies on the Sabbath, then He is not worthy of our worship. The current Sabbath unrest in Israel is indicative of many Jews leaving the faith of their fathers. Those who follow such secular Judaism have no right or privilege to the land of Israel. If one can compromise with the Holy Sabbath, he can compromise with the Holy Land, and give up all the principles of the Holy God. As Sabbath-keepers, we have a message to deliver to the modern Jewish state: Repent! Return to the Sabbath and the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob! Keep the Sabbath holy, and it will keep you!
Commenting on my recent article on Pentecost, B.H. of Arkansas wrote: "there is no denying the fact that in Lev. 25:8, shabbat (Strong’s #7676) doesn’t mean weekly or annual sabbath, but instead means ‘week’ . . . . What is a "sabbath" of years? . . . The RSV translates shabbat as "weeks" in this verse, as do several other translations."
ANSWER: Nobody said shabbat means weekly or annual sabbath in this verse. It means sabbatical sabbath, the seventh year of rest, as explained in Leviticus 25:1-7. We are to count seven sabbatical years, then keep the next year, jubilee. The space of seven sabbatical years is 49 years. Seven sabbatical years is "seven times seven years." Shabbat in this verse means sabbatical sabbath. It does not mean week (any group of seven). A "sabbath of years" is the Hebrew way of saying "sabbatical year." This is like the expression "king of kings," or "ancient of days," for the Messiah and the Father, respectively; and the modern expression, "queen of country music" for Loretta Lynn. In Green’s Interlinear Bible, we see the proper literal translation is, "And shall you count to you seven sabbaths of years, seven years seven times, . . ."
If the RSV is correct, "And you shall count seven weeks of years . . . " then I could count beginning on any year I choose, and count 7 x 7= 49 years, coming to my own "jubilee." And, you could start on a different year and thus keep a different "jubilee." However, this is not Biblically correct. The sabbatical years were not different years chosen by each individual, but specific years, to be the same for all of Israel. Would to God that I knew exactly when the sabbatical year is today! The only Biblically correct usage of shabbat is in reference to the weekly Sabbath, or annual Sabbath, or sabbatical year. Leviticus 25:8 is another strong proof that shabbat or shabbaton do not mean just any period of seven (a week). The Hebrew word for "week" (period of seven days or years) is a different word, Strong’s #7620, shavuoth or shebuah, which word never means Sabbath. The RSV scholars who translated Lev. 25:8 as "count seven weeks," put a footnote saying "or, sabbaths." The NIV has it "count off seven sabbaths of years" with no footnote.
Now, one could say that a "sabbath of years" is a "week of years," but only in the sense that the "week" (period of seven) ended on the sabbatical year. Merely stating "a week of years," gives the implication that any period of seven years would do, when this is not the case. By properly translating Lev. 25:8 as "sabbath of years," one must understand that the specific sabbatical year is meant. Otherwise, it is a free for all. God is not the author of confusion.
This demonstrates that the Sivan 6 Pentecost idea is fallacious. In Leviticus 23:15-16, we are told to count fifty days, during which there occur seven sabbaths. Those who hold to a Sivan 6 Pentecost insist that "sabbath" can mean imperfect "week" (any period of seven days), and they count seven non-perfect weeks (weeks that do not always end on the Sabbath) in their incorrect method of counting. I could expand my recent article on Pentecost to the following: "Englishman’s Hebrew and Chaldee Concordance shows all usages of these words [shabbat, shabbaton], and not once do they ever mean a day other than the weekly, annual, or sabbatical, Sabbath, or a ‘week’ that does not end on a Sabbath."
E.A. of Iowa wrote, "You compliment the NIV translation of Leviticus 23, where it states we are [to] count ‘up to’ the day after the seventh Sabbath. ‘Up to’ is not the same as ‘up through,’ yet that is how you read it."
ANSWER: "Up to" can indeed mean "up through." I asked a co-worker to count from one up to three. She replied, "one, two, three." She did not stop with "two." Prepositions are the most vague and imprecise part of speech. The Hebrew preposition, ‘ad [Strong’s #5704], used in Leviticus 23:16 ("even unto," or "to" as Green renders it) can mean beginning, during, or end of, a period in question. However, the instruction, "number [count] fifty days" is not at all nebulous or imprecise. It means 50 days, not 49.
Most Sunday Pentecost folks support the term, "inclusive counting," which is not a Biblical phrase. They include Wavesheaf Sunday as "day one" of the Pentecost count, as I do, but they exclude the last day, the morrow after the seventh Sabbath. True "inclusive counting" includes the first and last days of the count. The Sunday vs. Monday Pentecost controversy is not about which day to begin the count, but how many days to count, 49 or 50. The Bible says to count 50 days. That gets my vote of confidence. Even though we may not all come to the same conclusion, I am pleased to engage in respectful discussion of the issues. May the Eternal lead us all to the Biblically correct position, and not be concerned about being politically correct.
Samuel Smiles, Author of "Self-Help"
When Samuel Smiles (1812-1904) was a schoolboy in Scotland, he was fonder of frolic than of learning. He was not a prize-winner, and so was not one of his teacher’s favorites. One day his master, vexed by his dullness, cried out, "Smiles, you will never be fit for anything but sweeping the streets of your native borough!" From that day the boy’s mates called him by the name of the street sweeper in the little town. But he was not discouraged.
"If I have done anything worthy of being remembered," he wrote, more than sixty years later, when his name was known over the whole world, "it has not been through any superiority of gifts, but only through a moderate portion of them, accompanied, it is true, with energy and the habit of industry and application. As in the case of every one else, I had for the most part to teach myself. . . . Then I enjoyed good health, and health is more excellent than prizes. Exercise, the joy of interest and of activity, the play of the faculties, is the true life of a boy, as of a man. I had also the benefit of living in the country, with its many pleasures and wonders."
When he was fourteen, he was apprenticed to a physician. In the intervals of his work, he sought to continue his education by reading. Books were expensive then, but several libraries were open to him.
The death of his father near the end of his medical course, and consequent financial reverses, made him hesitate as to the wisdom of finishing his studies. In speaking of this, he made mention for the first time of his indebtedness to his mother. "You must go back to Edinburgh," she said, "and do as your father desired. God will provide." She had the most perfect faith in Providence, and believed that if she did her duty, she would be supported to the end. She had wonderful pluck and abundant common sense. Her character seemed to develop with the calls made upon her. Difficulties only brought out the essence of her nature. "I could not fail to be influenced by so good a mother."
But he was not to find his life-work as a doctor. For some years he practiced medicine. Then he became editor of a political paper. Later, he was a railroad manager. Experience in writing gained in the newspaper office prepared him for literary work, by which he is best known.
These being the chief events and influences of his boyhood, the story of his most famous book, "Self-Help," is just what might be expected. It is a story full of inspiration.
In 1845, at the request of a committee of working men, he made an address to the society which they represented, on "The Education of the Working Classes." This excited such favorable comment that he determined to enlarge the lecture into a book, "Self-Help." But it was not to be published for many years. In 1854 the manuscript was submitted anonymously to a London publisher, and was politely declined. Undaunted, he laid it aside and began an account of the life of George Stephenson, with whom he had been associated in railway work. This biography was a great success.
Thus encouraged, he took from the drawer, where it bad lain for four years, the rejected manuscript of "Self-Help," rewrote it, and offered it to his publishers. It was not his intention, even then, to use his name as author, so little did he think of himself. But, listening to the advice of friends, he permitted his name to appear. Very soon he was famous, for thirty-five thousand copies were sold during the first two years. In less than forty years two hundred and fifty-eight thousand copies have been disposed of in England alone. American publishers reprinted the book almost at once, and it soon became a favorite in school libraries in many States. It was translated into Dutch, German, Swedish, French, Portuguese, Czech, Croatian, Russian, Italian, Spanish, Turkish, Danish, Polish, Chinese, Siamese, Arabic, and several dialects of India.
But the author did not look on the fame and fortune brought to him by his book as his chief reward. It had been his desire to be helpful to the plodding, discouraged men and boys. As he expressed it himself: "It seemed to me that the most important results in daily life are to be obtained, not through the exercise of extraordinary powers, but through the energetic use of simple means, and ordinary qualities, with which all have been more or less endowed."
As his greatest reward he looked upon the grateful testimony of men of many countries who had been inspired by the book to greater effort, and so spurred on to success. An emigrant in New England wrote that he thanked God for the volume, which had been the cause of an entire alteration in his life. A working man wrote: "Since perusing the book I have experienced an entire revolution in my habits. Instead of regarding life as a weary course, which has to be gotten over as a task, I now view it in the light of a trust, of which I must make the most." A country schoolboy received a copy as a prize, and his life was transformed by the reading. By perseverance he secured an education, and became a surgeon. After a few years he lost his life in an attempt to help others.
Such testimonies as these made Mr. Smiles happy, and are a fitting memorial to him. He died in 1904, at the age of ninety-two.
How much more satisfying to look back on a life of such usefulness than to say, as Jules Verne, author of many books, was compelled to say, "I amount to nothing . . . in literature."
The preceding was written by John T. Faris; D. D., in a forward to "Self-Help," published by Frederick A. Stokes Company, New York. Self-Help, by Samuel Smiles, is available in any good public library. It as a lesson for us today in the use of spiritual gifts. Smiles shows us that simple gifts from the Eternal, can be used through ordinary means and consistent effort to produce fruit for the Almighty.
This short episode about the life of Samuel Smiles is one of 72 inspiring, character-building, stories on a variety of subjects, contained in the 319-page book, Stories Worth Re-Reading, originally published in 1913. To obtain this Sabbath family book, with encouraging and uplifting stories for young and old, send $7.95 to: The Bible Sabbath Association, 3316 Alberta Drive, Gillette, WY 82718.
The Voice of Satan
The summer of 1967 was a pivotal period in my life. Several traumatic experiences that summer led to my conversion. One of the episodes involved my summer job with the railroad. I was earning money to pay for my college education, by installing railroad signal equipment along the Portland, Oregon, to Tacoma, Washington, main line railroad. Along with other construction workers, we slept in a couple of bunk rail cars along a siding. One late night, the men in the adjoining rail car picked up a woman at a bar, and brought her back to their bunk car. After getting her thoroughly drunk, they took turns having sexual relations with her. The rest of us were asleep in the adjoining car, unaware of what was going on next door. One of the promiscuous men came over to our rail car. In a voice which I will not forget, he whispered, "She is ready, come on!" One of the men in our car scooted out the door, to engage in this "fun." When the herald came to my bunk, I sprang to the floor from the top bunk where I had been sleeping, grabbed a wrench, and commanded him to leave at once. At the time, I had only a vague idea what was going on next door. However, his enticing words had made my blood curdle. It was the most evil, diabolical, tone, that I had ever heard. He silently stared at me for a while, and then left our bunk car. Physically, there was no match, as he was much stronger than I was. Yet somehow, he recognized that sudden strength had come to me, and he was powerless to resist.
I had heard the voice of Satan, and I was tremendously affected by knowledge of the evilness of sin. Later that summer, I was involved in a fatal accident with a speeding passenger train, and was driven to my knees since I felt I was partly responsible for the death of my fellow worker. I realized that I was not living up to the Bible knowledge that I had learned through Herbert Armstrong and The Plain Truth magazine. These and other incidents led to my conversion. Unless I repented, I knew that I would be held captive by Satanic lusts, and that I was a dead man.
There have been times since then, that I have again heard the manifestation of the voice of Satan, in speech, writings, and actions totally contrary to the Spirit of the Almighty. Let us look at some of the characteristics of the voice of Satan, so we can recognize it and so avoid falling for his lustful temptations.
First, the voice of Satan appeals to our lusts. In the Garden of Eden, Satan appealed to the lusts of Eve. "And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat," Genesis 3:6. Sex, power over others, money and prestige: these are some of the ways Satan tries to tempt us through lust. Satan appealed to the extreme hunger of Christ after He had fasted 40 days and nights, Matthew 4:1-4. I see this in the Church happening all the time, as too many yield to the voice of Satan by giving in, to lust for power over others, and make their living supposedly "serving" others. The Apostle Paul served the brethren freely, and supported himself making tents; should we not follow his sterling example?
Second, the voice of Satan attempts to get us to doubt God, to believe that He does not mean what He says. The Eternal made very clear to Adam and Eve the dire consequences of eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Genesis 2:16-17. Death would be the result. The serpent, however, contradicted the Word of God, "Ye shall NOT surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good, and evil," Genesis 3:4-5. There are many times that I hear the voice of Satan, in the writings and sermons of those who mishandle the Word of the Eternal. They take plain, easy-to-understand, statements of the Bible, and twist or weasel out of them.
For example, one writer cited Exodus 12:22, where the Eternal instructed Israel the night of the Passover that "none of you shall go out at the door of his house until the morning [boker, light]." In a vain attempt to justify a fifteenth Passover, he says that perhaps God changed His mind, and the Israelites could have left their houses that night. There is no Biblical record that God changed His mind, but the seeds of doubt were sown, in order to get us to believe that God did not mean what He said. Likewise, this same author cites I Corinthians 7:39, "The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord." He asks, "Does this verse say that death is the only way to end a marriage? No. If a marriage contract has been ended by a ‘certificate of divorce’ or by the departure of an unconverted person, the man and woman are no longer husband and wife. But as long as they remain husband and wife, they are bound until one of the dies." Such reasoning makes this verse utterly meaningless, just as surely as Satan said "Ye shall not surely die." According to this twisted reasoning, God did not mean that marriage is for life, and there is NO marriage bound for life. Such reasoning leads to doubting the word of God, to not believe what He plainly says. By the way, marriage is NOT a contract that can be broken at will, but instead, marriage is a covenant (Malachi 2:14), far more binding than a contract out of which one can "weasel."
Third, the voice of Satan tries to make the Word of God complex and difficult, rather than plain and simple. In effect, Satan said to Eve, "God did not tell you everything; you cannot take what He said at face value; it is more complex than it seems; He hid knowledge from you!" If something is not simple to understand, chances are, it is not true. I work with coal sales contracts every day on my job. I am sometimes amazed how lawyers can weasel out of plain contract language, to get around simple statements by making them more complex and confusing than they actually are. An ordinary person, taking Scripture at face value, should have little difficulty understanding, and applying, the Bible in their daily lives, Proverbs 8:8-9. It’s when we allow the voice of Satan to influence us, that we are fooled into believing God’s Word is complex, vague, and difficult to understand.
Fourth, the voice of Satan impugns motives, and enjoys to see others suffer. This is seen in how Satan spoke to the Eternal about Job, Job chapters 1-2. Satan maintained that Job obeyed God because God blessed him. Satan wanted to afflict Job. If any in the Church today has not seen these tendencies, unfortunately exercised by some "ministers," he is not very observant! The Spirit of the Almighty is gentleness, goodness, longsuffering, always thinking the best of others and wanting the best for them. This is one of the tallest orders upon us as believers.
Fifth, the voice of Satan quotes Scripture correctly, but misapplies it. Satan quoted Psalm 91:11-12 when he tempted the Savior in Matthew 4:5-7. It is true that the Eternal will protect us, but we must not put ourselves in jeopardy and then demand He protect us from harm. This principle is violated repeatedly, as too many continue to receive literature from teachers who repeatedly axe-grind their false doctrines. We need to mainly spend our study time in the Bible, not spending too much time perusing the words of men about the Bible. Immerse yourself in the Word of God rather than the articles of men, and you have the best defense against the twisted voice of Satan.
Sixth, the voice of Satan seeks to trick us into worshipping Satan, rather than worshipping God, Matthew 4:8-10. He is very aggressive in promoting his agenda, I Peter 5:8. Worshipping the self is worshipping Satan, because Satan is the most self-serving individual in the universe. On the other hand, serving the brethren is serving the Almighty. In the Church, we should hate the "big cheese" attitude employed by many to gain the ascendancy and preeminence over the flock, III John 9-10.
Finally, the voice of Satan leads one to believe, but not obey, the Almighty, James 2:19-20. The problems in the Church today are not caused by lack of knowledge of what is right and what is wrong. The problem is lack of obedience to what we already know is right. We know from the Bible that hierarchy is repugnant to the Almighty. We know that organizational boundaries are meaningless, and that we should work together. We know that ministers are to be servants, rather than self-serving overlords over the flock. We know that marriage is for life, no if’s, and’s or but’s. We know many other things that we do not do as a group, because we continue, to our detriment, to listen to the voice of Satan rather than obey the simple leading of the Spirit.
Rather than Luther’s "epistle of straw," the Epistle of James is actually an "epistle of iron." Read the fourth chapter of James, and you will see a colorful description of the Church today, spiritual (and sometimes physical) adulterers and adulteresses who fight among themselves and serve their own lusts. Let us resist the voice of Satan. Let us submit ourselves to the Eternal; love, rather than judge, the brethren. "Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin," James 4:17.
Biblical Holy Days
The revised, expanded, edition of our book, Biblical Holy Days, is available in print, on computer disk, and on the Worldwide Web (the Internet). Loose leaf copies are available for a donation of $22 (Giving & Sharing PO Box 100, Neck City MO 64849), or two computer disks with ASCII (Text) files for $5. You may download Biblical Holy Days from the Worldwide Web for FREE at http://www.biblestudy.org/gands.
You will be surprised how much material we have compiled on the vital subject of the Biblical Holy Days, and, we have only scratched the surface. A thorough understanding of the Biblical Holy Days leads to many avenues of vital Bible truth. And, as you continue to practice the Holy Days, your understanding will increase. At the end of most sections, we have provided interesting tests to aid your learning. If you don’t read any other item from Giving & Sharing, I urge you to study carefuly Biblical Holy Days, and the hundreds of scriptures it cites. Holy Days for a holy people bring them into contact with the Holy Eternal. On the contrary, pagan holidays lead the Almighty’s people into gross darkness and error. Let’s keep Bible Holy Days!
Here is a brief listing of the sections of Biblical Holy Days.
Sabbath, 92 pages; Miscellaneous General Information on Holy Days, 70 pages;
Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread, 100 pages; Pentecost, 70 pages
Fall Holy Days: Trumpets, Atonement, Tabernacles, 68 pages;
Sacred Calendar, New Moons, 52 pages; Pagan Holidays, 25 pages
An order blank for Giving & Sharing, plus a description of our materials, is available on the Worldwide Web at Alan Ruth’s "Bible Study" site: http://www.biblestudy.org/gands. By the time you receive this Newsletter, we hope to have many of our articles available for viewing and/or downloading at our Web site. It is our goal to have ALL Giving & Sharing literature available free on the Internet.
Translators are assisting us to convert some of our material into Spanish, and we hope to report on their progress in our next issue. If you would like to help us translate our literature into different languages, or narrate on audio tape, please call 888-687-5191.
It Does Make a Difference Which Version You Use
Similarities and Differences Between Sabbatarian Groups