Fire When Ready – RCG Waters Down the Sabbath!

We’ve all seen our share of imaginative proof-texting: part of a verse quoted, a passage taken out of context, a meaning dependent on a particular translation… So, it would be no surprise to see a verse pushed forward into a different context. As HWA used to claim, the Bible is a puzzle. The problem is that too many pieces fit together the wrong way, and someone threw away the box with the completed picture on it.

In the anonymous RCG article, How to Make the Sabbath a Delight, there are a few points that may be challenged, but I’d like to look at just one. Specifically, its interpretation of Ex. 35:3, “Do not light a fire in any of your dwellings (NIV)”. This verse follows a command not to work on the Sabbath; following this verse is a request for an offering of materials to build the Tabernacle. After that, everyone goes off to search their stuff for things to donate.

Referring to the zeal shown by Israel in offering materials, the writer of the article tells us it becomes clear that the verse quoted refers to “industrial fires”. So on the Sabbath, in your house, you can light a candle, light up the barbecue, but don’t fire up your backyard Bessemer convertor. (That may have been a big problem for Sabbath-keepers in China in the 1950s during the Great Leap Forward Backward.)

Since the verse doesn’t mention cooking, the article states that cooking on the Sabbath is okay (but the preparation work should have been done on Friday). In my WCG days, I remember old-timers saying how there used to be sermons on food preparation so that no cooking would necessary on the Sabbath.

If only it was so obvious for observant Jews. The first recorded stoning for Sabbath violation (Num. 15) was for gathering wood (Moffatt “wood for fuel”) and Jewish commentators presume it was intended for kindling a fire. For the traditional two candles lit before the Sabbath, I recall reading that they must be lit at least 18 minutes before sunset. There are discussions in the Talmud on such issues as raking fires that were still burning after sunset, and warming up food that was cooked before the Sabbath. Modern Orthodox Jews have disagreed over such matters as turning on an electric light: is flipping the switch “work” and is lighting the bulb the same as kindling a fire? And can one reheat food in a microwave oven? I guess they didn’t work it out that the verse referred to industrial fires.

It would have been simpler if the article just said not to light a match or lighter – a Biblical reason not to smoke on the Sabbath! As much as I have come to dislike the expression “watering down”, I would say that is what the writer is doing to the Sabbath! Maybe that is why the article is anonymous… As HWA would say, “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”