The duty and blessing of Sabbath observance

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“If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.” (Isaiah 58:13-14 AV)

Right worship is essential if we are to please God. The prophet’s duty here is to denounce sin in plain and forthright terms, pointing out the specific truth that God is not interested in mere external religion. He requires genuine displays of godliness, that evidence a heart filled with grace. I will have mercy and not sacrifice, Hosea 6:6, Matt 9:13. Mere external worship is not worthy of the name and is in fact an aggravating element of their sin!

Here is a very alarming truth—literally, v1 the prophet is to blow the gospel trumpet loudly—set before us. It is possible to do as the prophet condemns in 29:13. It is possible to go through all the motions and contend for the minutiae of compliance with Divine regulation, and because the heart is not right, it all be an abominable thing to God.

Part of the right worship of God involves a Scriptural view and observance of the Sabbath day.

I  THERE MUST BE A RECOGNITION OF WHAT THE SABBATH IS.

1. It is the sabbath. The fourth commandment (Ex 20:10) is still in effect—there is a Sabbath day. Sabbath simply means ‘rest’ – Gen 2:2. The word itself has no reference to a particular day of the week. It has not been abolished! Cp Col 2:14-16, Heb 4:9 (rest = ‘keeping of sabbath’). In the NT the sabbath is observed on the first day of the week, marking the completion of Christ’s work of atonement.

2. It is to be regarded as God’s holy day, v13. Twice reference is made to the holy character of the day. Cp Ex 16:23 (1st use of sabbath, although the root appears Gen 2:2). This is the primary duty under the fourth commandment. It is holy in that it is set apart from the other days and to be devoted to the Lord who claims it as His. Cp Rev 1:10. The prophet indicates that this day is one in which to honour Him, v13. It is a day in which the focus is to be holy activity that honours God. It is a day for public and private exercise in worship of God.

3. A delight. Cp 13:22. God would have us view the Sabbath as a rich, luxurious, comfortable thing. This conflicts with the view of the flesh, Amos 8:4-6.

4. It is to be viewed as an honourable day. It is a day in which to honour God and we must recognize the honour and privilege that it is to observe such a day. The day itself however is to be treated honourably—with gravity, solemnity. It is a day that has substance, greatness, ‘weight’ and consequence—a ‘big’ day. God has put a special honour/distinction on the Sabbath.

II  THIS VIEW OF THE SABBATH MEANS CERTAIN PROHIBITIONS ARE IN FORCE.

1. Those who recognize the Sabbath day in these terms act in a restrained manner. Immediately that the Sabbath is viewed as God describes it here there is a compulsion to act differently in it.

2. Limitations placed on physical activity. It is a day of rest from other activities proper to other days. The foot is specifically mentioned here. Cp 56:2, hand. Where we go and what we do is to be restricted in favour of the activities that God requires of us on the Sabbath. The only exceptions to this are described by the Saviour, Mark 2:23-3:5—works of necessity and mercy.

3. The Sabbath is not a day for pleasing ourselves. The common view of the Lord’s day is that it is a day for self.

  • not to be used in pursuing our own paths, v13a
  • not to pursue that which conflicts with the setting apart of the day as sanctified to the Lord, v13b.
  • not for our own pleasure, v13b, f-g. An emphasis is placed on what we seek to find.
  • not a day even for the exclusive use of our own words. We are to speak of different things on the Lord’s day, v13h.

III  THE BLESSING GOD PROMISES TO SABBATH KEEPERS.

1. An experience of delight in God. Proper observance of the Sabbath day leads to a luxurious experience of God. Cp Ps 92:1-6. The redeemed soul may revel in the riches of Divine grace and presence. God does not and cannot bless disobedience.

2. Divine exaltation/promotion, v14. The Lord has promised to advance those who observe His day. It may be a badge of shame in our day and an obstacle to certain careers but God honours those who honour Him. Cp 56:4-5, Jer 17:24-27.

3. A satisfying portion of the covenant blessings of God. The promise here is especially to Israel viewed as restored to her land in the day of the Lord. God’s covenant stands and its promises are sure to all who believe. The Lord nourishes the soul of His saints and they enter their inheritance—for now primarily spiritual—as they keep the Sabbath! This will be a distinguishing mark of God’s people in the last day. Cp Is 56:3-8—set in the day of the Lord. Cp Heb 10:25.

4. The certainty of this portion. God has said it and it will stand.

Do you observe the Sabbath in God’s prescribed way? If not determine to obey God from this day on!

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