Delighting in the Sabbath

“If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the Lord honorable, and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words, then you shall delight yourself in the Lord; And I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth, and feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father. The mouth of the Lord has spoken.”  – Isaiah 58:13-14

What is the Church? She is a body of believers who are called by our Lord to love and live well. What do I mean by that? We are called to love our God with all of our hearts, mind, and strength. We are to love our neighbor as ourselves. We are to love one another, etc. We also, like King David, are to love, delight in, diligently study, and seek to live according to God’s law. Consider David’s prayer in Psalm 119:33-35 “Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes, and I shall keep it to the end. Give me understanding, and I shall keep Your law; Indeed, I shall observe it with my whole heart. Make me walk in the path of Your commandments, for I delight in it.” Notice how the teaching and instruction of our Lord, how the receipt of that instruction in understanding precedes and leads to our observing, our keeping, our delighting in His law. For God’s law is truly wonderful as He opens your mind to see and understand it.

Therefore, as we seek to faithfully follow it, we desire to do so with all of it. Today, our focus will be on how corporately, as individuals, as families, the church is called by God to observe and keep the Lord’s Day, the Sabbath (Ex. 20:8-11). Now some may say, “Now, Pastor, don’t meddle.” or “How one keeps the Lord’s Day is a highly debated topic in the church today. Don’t get legalistic on me.” Clearly, I desire to stay far from legalism, my friends. I also desire to encourage and challenge us all to think and live biblically in how we consider, delight in, and keep the Lord’s Day.

The trouble is in how we view and approach the Lord’s Day in our own hearts. The world sees the Lord’s Day just another day. It’s nothing special. Just another day of life and work in paradise. It’s true, to them it isn’t special, but to Christ’s church it is. Why? Because God did all of his work in six days, rested on the seventh day, blessed it and hallowed it (Ex. 20:11). He set it apart and made it holy. God then calls us to keep it holy. How are we to do this? Our focus text in Isaiah 58 helps us.

As you read and think about God’s words there, what do you see?

  1. Turn away your foot from doing your pleasure on His holy day. What does this mean? Some think it meant people weren’t to walk or journey on the Lord’s Day. However, it’s referring to not doing whatever we want to do on the Sabbath. John Calvin is helpful here: “For this is to “turn away the foot from the Sabbath,” when we lay ourselves under the necessity of wandering freely and without restraint in our own sinful desires.”
  2. Call the Sabbath a delight. The Hebrew word for “delight” lit. refers to an exquisite delight. Is it an exquisite delight to you? We must consider it in such a way because this is how God ordained it and sees it. Our keeping the Sabbath in sincere worship is pleasing and acceptable to Him.
  3. Call the holy day of the Lord honorable, and honor Him. What is that to look like? Not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words. Notice the repeated words “your own”. We shouldn’t take liberty to do what we please, without control or restraint of conscience. Matthew Henry is helpful here: “We must choose the things that please Him; and speak His words, speak of divine things as we sit in the house and walk by the way. In all we say and do we must put a difference between this day and other days.”
  4. As we do so, what does God promise? The good fruit of delight in the Lord. “Then you shall delight yourself in the Lord.”

In saying these things, God also teaches about our struggles. Where does the temptation lie?

  1. Doing what we want on His holy day. God calls to worship and rest on His day. We are to refrain from work (with the exception of works of necessity and mercy). We are often tempted to skip church, not rest, engage in our work or cause others to, etc.
  2. Not calling the Sabbath a delight. We can often be tempted to dread the day, rather than delight in it. We don’t prepare for the day. If you think about it, we get ready for and anticipate things that we are excited about. There’s the spiritual battle- We wrestle with motivation, emotion and desire to do what the Lord calls us to, rather than loving it and looking forward to it.
  3. We, therefore, don’t honor God and view His day as honorable. Maybe you’ve never thought about it in this way before. Consider it today. We, therefore, God says, don’t delight ourselves in Him.

Beloved, I encourage you, as you seek to love God’s law and live according to it, don’t view the Lord’s Day Sabbath as different, or as an exception. Make the Lord’s Day a priority for you and your family. Teach your children to love the Lord’s Day and what is to be done on it by your words and example. I also encourage you to prayerfully study and consider all that God teaches us about His day being holy and delightful. May those words penetrate all of our hearts and minds. Then, live in that light. Delight yourself in the Lord. For the Lord’s Day is truly the wonderful climax of our week, as we do what we were created to do, as it is a foretaste of that eternal Sabbath rest to come.