Call the Sabbath a Delight
September 25, 2016
a. Engage: Easily one of the most, if not the most discouraging thing to me as a pastor. Maybe distressing is the wrong word. Maybe a better word is distressing. It is distressing to see the light and cavalier attitude that so many Christians hold regarding their commitment to the weekly gathered worship of the church. There seems to be little of what the prophet calls delight in the Sabbath. This is distressing because without a proper understanding and practice of the biblical Sabbath we lose the opportunity for true blessing from God. I do not speak at a time like Church of England Bishop Ryle did in the late 1800s when he wrote
[The] “subject of the Christian Sabbath, The Lord’s Day… is forced upon our notice whether we like it or not. The minds of Englishmen are agitated by questions arising out of it. “Is the observance of a Sabbath binding on Christians? Have we any right to tell a man that to do his business or seek his pleasure on a Sunday is a sin? Is it desirable to open places of public amusement on the Lord’s Day? All these are questions which are continuously asked.” J. C. Ryle, “The Sabbath” in Knots United (Moscow, ID: Charles Nolan Publishers, 2000, first published in 1874), 341-362
Frankly, I think very few if anyone is asking these questions. Our text today makes wonderful promises to those who are careful keepers of the Sabbath. We should ask some Questions.
i. We will Set Isa. 58:13-14 in within its proper context (Chapter, Book, Bible)
ii. We will define the Sabbath and it change to the Lord’s Day.
iii. And I will offer reasons why I believe that we can count on the fruits promised here as a New Covenant Worshipper. OR another way of saying this is that true Sabbath Keeping is a part of Worshipping God on Spirit and in Truth.
2. Isaiah’s message and the context.
a. The Chapter begins with a Denunciation of Formalism (1-5) Especially in regards to fasting
i. Verse 1 “Declare the transgression of the house of Jacob—God is calling them out and identifying their sin.
ii. In verse 2 it seems like there is something commendable in their actions:
1. They seek God daily
2. They delight to know his ways
3. They delight to draw near to God
iii. But there is something wrong:
1. The first indication there is something wrong is in the “as if”
a. As if they were a nation that did righteousness—that is, followed the law of God. And they had not
b. As if they had not forsaken the judgment, that is, the warning of God—and they had.
2. The second indication there is something wrong is in the question that is posed in verse 3 “Why have we fasted and you see it not?” “Where”, they ask, “is your promised good to us? We have humbled ourselves and you, O God, are taking no notice.
iv. God’s answer to them is pointed and clear: “Instead of fasting in the way, and for the reason that I have directed you—to show grief and sadness for your sins you have used these fasts for your own pleasure. You have not changed your oppressive ways. You are trying to get Me to do something for you. They are using religion in a pagan way, trying to induce God to do what they wanted him to do in response to their self-imposed personal deprivation.
1. I am afraid that too many today come to God in this way—I will give up this or that, I will do this or that so that God will give to me what I want, or take away from me what I do not want.
b. Then in verses 6-9a there is a definition of true fasting: True fasting Is a matter of repentance. It is meant to be a way of showing that I realize that what I have been doing is wrong and that I will change. Repentance always means change.
i. Here that change is a change in the way that they were treating one another and especially their employees.
1. Bonds of wickedness
2. Straps of the yoke
3. Let the oppressed go free
4. Share bread
5. Care for the homeless
6. Clothe the naked.
ii. It is only when your actions have changed that you can rightly call on me. (8-9a)
1. Now we need to be very careful here. We are not to apply this to our coming to God in salvation. We are not saying here. That it is only after we’ve cleaned up our act that we can come to God and get forgiveness. We can never do this. But we can say is that those who wish to come to God for forgiveness must come with a realization that their actions are wrong and an offense
to God. This heart is saying, I cannot change what I am doing on my own, I need you I to change me.
2. The shall his light break into your darkness
c. Following this definition that is a description of the blessings to be bestowed on those who come to their religious duties with a proper attitude and heart. (Read verses 9b-12)
i. Light instead o floor and darkness
ii. Guidance from God instead of a self-guided tour into despair
iii. Satisfaction in the barren arid heart (not a weedy place, but a dry unproductive place) a place where eternal springs flow (Isn’t this like the promise of Jesus in John 7:37-39 and the promise given to the woman in John 4—nave thirst again?)
iv. Strong bones, healthy living,
v. Ruins restored
Isn’t this a sweet description of the blessing that come from God in salvation to those who come humbly and repent!
Here is how one commentator wraps up these verses (and this is right where we have been for the past month speaking of the right way to worship God)
“Worship is not entertainment designed to please the worshippers. It is directed to God and must be acceptable to Him (58:3). This requires that it be correct in form and spirit. Care must be taken that what is done in worship consists of what God has endorse as legitimate/Otherwise it is an affront to him. However, while formalists appreciate that, they rest content ‘with the appearance of godliness (2 Tim. 3:5), and fail to see that acceptable worship is ‘with reverence and awe (Heb. 12:28). It must be done in ‘spirit and in truth. ‘(John 4:23)…” John Mackay, Isaiah Vol. 2, (Evangelical Press, 2009) 456.
d. Lastly we come to the two verses that form our text this morning with some specific instructions and promises for keeping the Sabbath. Fasting is only one of the prescribed religious duties. For the Jews living under the Old Covenant, the weekly Sabbath was he primary duty for showing their individual covenant faithfulness. Here, like fasting, Sabbath keeping could and had become an outward and formal performance. What we have here are two “ifs” and a “then” I This God saying to these people. If you want my blessings promised in the covenant you need to remember the your part of the agreement.
i. If you turn back from doing your own things On my day and stop making my day a day for your worldly pleasures
ii. If you instead call this day a delight instead of a duty of drudgery
iii. Then you shall know these blessings from me
1. Joy (know delight)
2. Victory (ride on the heights)
3. Abundance (feed you with the heritage)
iv. This is a promise (for the mouth of the Lord has spoken)
Now, here is our task: I want to show that these promised blessings of joy, victory and spiritual feasting (abundance) are stil to be had in relation for our proper use of the Lord’s Day. So the next two steps on our journey this morning are to define the Sabbath and to show why we can be confident that The Sabbath blessings are today blessings of the Lord’s Day in the New Covenant.
3. So then, first: What specifically do we mean by the Sabbath? Or what is the Sabbath in the Bible?
a. God’s Rest at the end of Creation established the principle of Sabbath Rest. Gen. 2:1-3 Notice what we have here;
i. God finished his work—he came to the place of completion.
ii. He rested, or ceased the work of creation. In other words the work that had defined the first six days was done, he did of course continue to do the work of providence and upholding his creation.
iii. He blessed this day. He set it aside as holy. It was meant to be a day different from the preceding six.
We sometimes carelessly define the word ‘blessed’ as ‘happy’; but how do you make a day happy? The meaning of the word ‘blessed’ can be determined from its opposite, which is ‘cursed’. To be cursed by God is out of his favour, outside his friendship and subject to his judgment. To be blessed, on the other hand is to be in a special relationship with him, and to be the object of unique favour. In this sense, God, who invented time, placed the seventh day in a unique position relative to himself.” Iain Campbell On the First Day of the Week, God, the Christian and the Sabbath, (Leominster, England: One Day Publications, 2001)
b. The Moral Law was codified within the Ten Commandments given to the People of Israel at Mount Sinai. Are we to think that until Mount Sinai it was lawful to murder, lie, steal, commit adultery and worship idols? Certainly not.
c. The Sabbath transferred to the first day of the week after the resurrection of the Lord Jesus..
d. The Sabbath also a shadow of the final rest that the people of God have as their hope (Heb. 4).
4. Why we can be confident that the benefits of Sabbath Keeping can be expected by believers today? There are some who will tell us that the Sabbath no longer hold an obligation of the New Covenant Worshipper
a. The Sabbath Principle is a “Creation Ordinance.” We err when we think of the Sabbath as only or specifically as a matter of the Old Covenant Law. What we see in the first chapters of Genesis is that before any laws were ever given “God ordained certain patterns for
his world that were to remain absolutely fundamental to [human] needs. They are
iii. Sabbath (We see that the Sabbath is connected creation in Genesis 20).
b. Of course we know that the Sabbath is part of the Moral Law
i. What is the moral law? This is the eternal and unalterable prescription of how human beings everywhere are meant to live out their lives in relation to God and with one another. There are two other categories of law in the Old Covenant
1. There is the ceremonial law of sacrifice and worship
2. There is also what we might call the social or political law.
ii. Note the way that the moral law is different than the other two
1. Only the Ten Commandments were written on Stone
2. Only the Ten Commandments were used as the basis if the Old Covenant
3. Only the Ten Commandments were kept in the ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies
4. Only the Ten Commandments we’re given with smoke and fire (Dt. 4:9-14!)
iii. In addition the Ten Commandments are universal in scope. There is nothing in them that suggests that they were only for Israel or only for a time.
iv. So how do we remove one of the laws? If we choose to ignore the 4th commandment, how can we logically say that we must retain the other nine—or that we are not free to amend and remove any of them? Which ones would you choose to remove?
v. Note how Ezekiel put breaking the Sabbath on par, “side-by-side with the most heinous transgressions of the law”. (Ryle)
1. Ezk. 20:13, 16, 24
2. Ezk. 22:8, 26
c. As a part of the eternal law of God it is that which is written on the heart in the New Covenant. Jeremiah 31:31; Hebrews 8:8ff.
d. The very quick change from the seventh day to the first day of the week in the apostolic era
i. Referred to the Sabbath Day 11x in the NT—never did he say anything against it, only against the legalism and additions of the Pharisees.
ii. Declared that the Sabbath was made for man.
“For whom does God set this day apart? For himself? Surely not! What need does God have to rest or to sanctify part of a perfect creation? No; his purpose is to establish a chronological pattern, to call attention of man whom he has already created, to the fact that in his world there are special places and special times for drawing close to God and for honouring (sic) him” Iain Campbell
iii. Said, “Pray that your flight is not on the Sabbath Day.”
f. It seems from this that there is very good reason to suggest that there is still a Day set apart by God to be blessed and remembered.
5. How we can remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.
“Observance of the Lord’s Day is to avoid two the dangers of self-satisfaction, in treating it as a day for out own pleasure, and of formalism, in being content with outward religious practice neglecting the need for inner consecration and devotion. To the extent such faults are avoided, then the Lord’s Day becomes a source of ‘delight in God’. which anticipates the heavenly Sabbath rest that awaits the people of God.” (John Mackay)
a. A day of Reverence. The very minimum would be to make gathered public worship a priority for your self and your family. I would suggest that you today make a commitment that is a one time thing—We will be in church with God’s people every week—as we can. This means I will make Worship the priority over family, company, sports, travel, fund-raisers, showers, weddings, and birthday parties. Whoever in the family can attend will attend. It will mean that time is taken for proper preparation. Sunday is a big work day for me—so I get up an hour earlier than other days to make certain that I am ready. A day of reverence also means that we will be very useful careful for the activities that we put into the day.
iv. Devotional reading
v. Bible Study
vi. Discussion of the sermon and lessons
vii. How about making Sunday School a priority?
b. A Day of rest. Cease from regular labor. House work, schoolwork, money-making work, lawn work.
In other Words ceasing from the ordinary tasks of the week in order to meet with God. Let us not be like Adam and Eve on the day of he fall when God had to look for them! Let us be found ready to have our sweetest and most intentional fellowship with him.
c. A day of Refreshment and Re-creation. Thanking God for the week past and asking his enablement for the week coming. Take time to review the week and its failures and victorious and seek to apply what is learned on the Lord’s Day to the coming week.
d. A day of release from our tendency toward self-sufficiency. Here is a wonderful paragraph form Sinclair Ferguson:
“In Christ crucified and risen, we find eternal rest and are restored to communion with God. The lost treasures of [fellowship with God in the Garden] are restored. We rest in Christ from our labor to of self-sufficiency, and we have access to the Father. As we meet with Him, He shows us Himself, His ways, His world, His purposes His glory… [and] the reality of the intimate communion of the [original Garden] Sabbath is again experienced in our worship of the risen Savior on the first day of the week as true Lord’s Day.
But we have not yet reached that goal. We still struggle to rest from our labor so; we must still ‘strive to enter that rest (Heb. 4:11) Consequently the weekly nature of the Sabbath continues as a reminder that we are not yet home with the Father. An since this reset is ours only through union with Christ in His death and resurrection, our struggles to refuse the old life and enjoy the new continue.” (Sabbath Rest, Tabletalk)
6. Thinking of the Benefits promised
“Perhaps more than ever before, in this mad, rushing world of ours, we need to find a place of rest and of quiet. One of the blood-bought treasures of Calvary is a weekly holy-day, in which we may—and ought to—turn aside from other things to live before the face of God. How much we need to delight in God’s provision, and rejoice in the good things of God’s grace!” Iain Campbell On the First Day of the Week, God, the Christian and the Sabbath, (Leominster, England: One Day Publications, 2001), 13
In the same way that the Old Covenant Believers looked forward to Christ in the ceremonial law and in him a resting from the striving of works and self-sufficiency so too we today as New Covenant believers look forward to the end of our work on earth.