Scripture Reading: Exodus 21:1-22:31 / Mark 2:18-3:30 / Proverbs 5:1-14
There are a lot of crazy and ridiculous laws in the United States. Did you know that it is illegal for a driver to be blindfolded while operating a vehicle in Alabama or chain your alligator to a fire hydrant in Florida? It is illegal to tease a skunk in Minnesota and biting someone in Louisiana with your natural teeth is “simple assault,” while biting someone with your false teeth is “aggravated assault.” It never ceases to amaze me how seemingly intelligent and rational people have some very foolish and irrational ideas. The Jewish leaders and Pharisees were no different.
The Pharisees enforced thousands of meaningless and foolish rules upon the Jews. As far as the Sabbath was concerned, it was a sin for people to travel more than 3,000 feet from their homes on the Sabbath. You could not eat anything larger than an olive. A fire could not be lit or extinguished on the Sabbath – if you didn’t light your lamp before the Sabbath, you would have to sit in the dark until the next day.
They would add these teachings and oral traditions of the rabbis to the Law of Moses. These man-made traditions were equally as authoritative as the Word of God. Pharisaical “rules and regulations” condemned the disciples as they picked and ate grain when they walked through the wheat fields. “The Pharisees said to Jesus, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”(Mark 2:24)
The disciples were not “stealing” grain but were following the common practice of gleaning. Strangers who passed by a field could pick the grain and eat it. Because of their hunger, the disciples were welcomed to pick and eat the grain. They did not harvest the grain; fill up a basket or even their fill pockets so they stayed within the parameters of the Law. It was true that no work was to be done on the Sabbath Day but “work” is a reference to a person's “business, job or livelihood”. The Israelites were forbidden from labor that brought them a profit or wages. The disciples were not working but were simply meeting their physical need of hunger.
Jesus reminded them of David and his men who were hungry and they, “…entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.” (vs.26) The human need of David was satisfied in a most unusual way but ironically in a divine way. The legalistic keeping of the Law was set aside and the symbolic provisional presence of the bread actually became God’s physical provision for David and his men.
Jesus informs the Pharisees that the Sabbath was given to man as a blessing. The day was not to be burdensome but a day for rest from work, to reflect on God and refresh His spirit by worshipping the Lord. For the Pharisees, the Sabbath became a never-ending day of rules and regulations. God’s ways are not to be a burden but a blessing. May we find the divine purpose and blessing of God for our lives everyday…this is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it!