In an attempt to justify the sin of seeking out unbelievers and paying them for their Sabbath labor, Mr. Pack invokes the story of Jesus' disciples picking grain on the Sabbath. However, when doing so this COG leader shows a total disregard for the truth. Under the heading “A Misunderstood Teaching,” Mr. Pack offers the following "Biblical fact" when making his case.
David C. Pack
In Matthew 12, Christ and His disciples were immediately accused of breaking the Sabbath when they acquired some grain: “At that time Jesus went on the Sabbath day through the corn; and His disciples were hungered, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat” (vs. 1).
Critics of those who dine out on the Sabbath might suggest that Jesus and His disciples should have prepared their food on the day of preparation. After all, the critics might argue, was it not their lack of diligent planning that led to them becoming hungry in the first place? As the following verses show, there is never a lack of detractors to point out where others appear to fall short.
Now read verse 2: “But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto Him, Behold, Your disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the Sabbath day.”
The Pharisees condemned them for merely gleaning on the Sabbath. But gleaning was not (and still is not) wrong, unless the quantity that was harvested was so much that it had to be stored in crates or hampers. Gleaning food on the Sabbath was permissible as long as the person gathered enough food to be eaten on the spot, and therefore did not break the spirit of God’s Law.
…As we conclude the topic of the Pharisees condemning Christ and the disciples for gathering food on the Sabbath, we repeat the fact that their main objection (evidenced by the subsequent replies by Christ) was their “servile work” in the gathering of food. It is significant that these carnal Pharisees were savvy enough not to invoke Exodus 16 to bolster their position. It was obvious to all familiar with God’s laws that the prohibition against gathering manna did not apply to gleaning on the Sabbath to relieve hunger.
Here, Mr. Pack contends that what the disciples did when they picked grain on the Sabbath is the moral equivalent to him making Friday evening dinner reservations at a five star restaurant. But is this true? Consider some obvious differences: First, noticeably absent from this act was any attempt by Jesus or His disciples to buy the grain. Furthermore, at no time did they try to hire others to pick it for them and prepare it. Additionally, no one was commissioned to serve the grain to them or to clean up after the meal. Despite these glaring differences Mr. Pack clings to the idea that what the disciples did and what he wants to do, a perfect match.
In truth, Mr. Pack advances several distortions of the Biblical record concerning the actions Jesus and His disciples took when walking in a grain field this particular Sabbath. To illustrate our point, consider the following.
Contrary to what this Mr. Pack claims, Jesus NEVER picked, nor ate, anything Himself—only His disciples did. Here is how Matthew records this truth.
At that time Jesus went on the Sabbath day through the corn; and His disciples were hungered, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat (Mt. 12:1).
Luke's account of this event is even more explicit.
And it came to pass on the second Sabbath after the first, that he went through the corn fields; and his disciples plucked the ears of corn, and did eat, rubbing them in their hands (Lk. 6:1).
Additionally, the accusation advanced by the Pharisees centered on the disciples' behavior, not the Messiah's. Their exact words were:
Behold, Your disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the Sabbath day (Mt. 12:2).
At this point it is interesting to note that this is not the only time Mr. Pack suggests that Jesus participated in gleaning on the Sabbath along with His disciples. When presenting his explanation of Nehemiah's condemnation of Jerusalem's Sabbath behavior he interjected the following comment.
Dining out at restaurants...is comparable to Christ AND His disciples gleaning corn to be eaten on the Sabbath...
Why this Distortion?
This now brings us to a very important question. Why would a recognized leader of God’s people argue that Jesus participated in gleaning on the Sabbath when the scriptures clearly state that He did no such thing? The answer is simple but very telling. If Dave Pack can somehow convince God's people to accept his assertion that Jesus picked grain along with His disciples, it would prove his claim that acquiring small amounts of food on the Sabbath does not go contrary to God's law. After all, Jesus did it. However, if the Messiah never did such a thing, this leader’s argument loses its most powerful exhibit—the Lord of the Sabbath Himself.
Why Didn’t Jesus Pick the Grain?
In truth, the reason Jesus would not pick grain with his disciples was that that to do so was UNLAWFUL and the Messiah never offended in one point of the law. And although He gave the disciples dispensation in this one instance, He wouldn’t give it to Himself—for obvious reasons.
Mr. Pack claims that because the Pharisees never mentioned Exodus 16, they never considered it in their accusation. However, what he subtly omits is that the Pharisees never mentioned any verses, nor did they identify any specific trespass. Their accusation was simply that Jesus’ disciples did that which was “Not Lawful” (Mt. 12:2).
Mr. Pack asserts that the issue in the minds of the Pharisees was labor. He claims to base this view on Jesus’ response to their accusation. What he omits to acknowledge is that when the Messiah defended His disciples He invoked two examples—one involving Sabbath labor (the Levites) and one involving the acquisition of food (David and the shewbread). In truth, based on Jesus’ response, it is reasonable to conclude that the Pharisee’s accusation included both prohibitions.
Mr. Pack claims that the Pharisees' indictment centered on "servile" work. However, what he fails to acknowledge is that the fourth commandment does not mention "servile work" but rather ALL work—servile or otherwise (Ex. 20:10). In that regard the Sabbath command is identical to the command regarding the Day of Atonement, which also says, "NO WORK" (Lev. 23:28, 30-31). Furthermore, God warned that anyone who performed any labor on that day (with the exception of the Levites) would be "destroyed from among His people" (vs. 30). When it came to the weekly Sabbath, all labor was a capital crime as well (Ex. 31:14-15).
Mr. Pack contends that "the prohibition against gathering manna did not apply to gleaning on the Sabbath to relieve hunger." He even claims that this "fact" was obvious to all who were familiar with God's law. What he fails to acknowledge is that Jesus implied just the opposite. If what the disciples did was lawful, why would the Messiah cite the examples of David and the Levites in their defense? Jesus readily acknowledged that both David and the Levites did that which went contrary to God's law (Mt. 12:3-5). If this wasn't also true of the disciples, why did Christ invoke these particular examples? Why didn't He simply argue that no law had been violated?
Something to Think About
At this point, it is important to understand that although the Pharisees were treacherous, they weren't stupid. These men were acutely aware of the provision in the Torah permitting gleaning by a stranger or the poor on another man's property (see: Lev.19:9, Deut. 23:25, 24:19). However, they also knew that this provision did not extent to gleaning on the Sabbath, regardless of how little was gathered—and Jesus understood this as well. Mr. Pack’s assertion that everyone understood that some gleaning was permissible, is categorically FALSE. No one knew any such thing, because it wasn't true. There isn't a syllable in God's word that says otherwise.
Furthermore, contrary to what this man and others imply, Jesus never challenged the Pharisees' understanding of the law, but rather their understanding of MERCY. The truth that seems to be so elusive to so many today is that the Messiah considered His disciples "guiltless," not because of what they did, but because of why they did it. These men were genuinely famished, just like David—and like David, what was done to remedy it was unquestionably a once-in-a-lifetime act, not something that could be planned out and done periodically, as Dave Pack and others do today.
How Hungry were the Disciples?
The actual story of David and the Shewbread provides some keen insight into what was taking place when Jesus defended His disciples against the accusation leveled by the Pharisees. It most assuredly makes a powerful statement regarding dining out on the Sabbath. Consider the following.
When David ate the shewbread he didn’t simply take it and start eating. He first approached the priest and asked for permission to do so—and he had a very good reason for asking. The scriptures tell us that at that time David was being pursued by King Saul who wanted to kill him. His flight required him and his men to hide out in order to avoid capture and certain execution. In all likelihood, their escape was so swift they didn’t have time to take provisions with them. Some commentaries suggest that they may have gone 3 days without food when David finally sought out the priest for help. Jamison, Fausset and Brown’s commentary describes David’s plight as “an emergency.” They would go on to write:
“David and his attendants seem to have been lurking in some of the adjoining caves, to elude pursuit, and to have been, consequently, reduced to great extremities of hunger.”
In short, they were famished. This was not a simple case of the “munchies.” Nor were they looking for a nice place to fellowship. Their need was REAL and their situation was desperate.
However, even then David sought permission from the priest before taking the shewbread. And although his need was truly GREAT, Ahimelech, the priest, still inquired of God as to whether he could give David the food. The scriptures tell us that God showed mercy to David and consented. JFB put it this way.
“A dispensation to use the hallowed bread was specially granted by God Himself.”
This now bring us to an important question. Why would Jesus invoke the example of David at this time if it didn’t parallel, to some degree, what was taking place with the disciples? After all, if the need of the disciples wasn't comparable to that of David and his men, the analogy wouldn't work. In other words, if what the disciples did was simply a part of a normal Sabbath day then their reason for plucking the grain would have been driven by convenience while David's reason was driven by desperation. It is interesting that the word used to describe the disciples hunger (Mt. 12:1) was the same used to describe the hunger experienced by David (v. 3). It was also the same word used to describe the Messiah's condition when he fasted for forty days and forty nights in the wilderness (Mt. 4:2).
Based on Jesus' invocation of this story, it is reasonable to conclude that what the disciples were experiencing was truly unique. This was not a typical Sabbath in which these men were simply acquiring a normal meal. These men were genuinely hungry, perhaps even famished. You don’t know why, but like David, they must have had a very good reason for having not eaten. As a result they inquired of the Messiah to see if they could gather a small amount of grain to eat. Jesus consented.
The Lesson of David and the Disciples
The story suggests that Jesus was making two points by using David’s example when defending His men. The first was that the Pharisees were quick to judge the disciples without knowing all the facts. By invoking the story of David, Jesus put the situation in perspective. In other words, there is more here than meets the eye.
The second point Jesus was making is truly extraordinary. He was telling the Pharisees that the same God who gave David permission to eat the shewbread gave the disciples permission to eat the grain.
Jesus was that God.
This is why He said, “For the Son of man is Lord even of the Sabbath day”
The bottom line is this. God's judgment of David as well as His judgment of the apostles was based on a unique circumstance at a unique time.
For Dave Pack to hold this example as proof that God’s people may now make plans to pay Sabbath-breakers to prepare their meals on holy time and also be held guiltless is disgraceful. In a very real sense such a belief turns the grace of God into license. In other words, it rejects the true meaning of the words "I desire mercy and not sacrifice," and represents them to mean "If the disciples can acquire their Sabbath food once, because of a genuine need, then I can do it on occasion because of the pleasure I derive from it.” In a sermon defending dining out on holy time, a long standing pastor of another major COG actually referred to this practice as a “TREAT.”
Do you think that is why David ate the shewbread?
Or, why the disciples picked grain?
A Final Thought
The assertion that it has always been permissible with the Lord of the Sabbath for God's people to acquire and prepare their Sabbath meals on holy time is TOTALLY FALSE. Jesus never said any such thing, nor did He imply it—in either word or deed. Furthermore, the attempt by some to misrepresent what actually took place in Matthew 12 is nothing less than scriptural trickery. It is a cynical attempt to manipulate God’s word as well as His people.
P.S. To those who hold the view that it was permissible with God for his people to glean on the Sabbath to relieve hunger, ask yourself why He absolutely prohibited gathering manna on the Sabbath to relieve hunger. Was He simply interested in protecting manna? Or, is the entire notion of this argument False. We think the answer should be obvious.
For additional information on this particular point see: "No More Manna"
"A Day of Preparation"
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