Call the Sabbath a Delight

It's easy to go one of two ways on a Sunday. Either down the road of making lots of rules and restrictions so that you can't wait for Monday, or else forgetting that there's anything special about Sunday at all and treating it just like any other day. A second Saturday, if you will.

Yet, the Bible doesn't go down either of these roads. We're not told to keep Sunday special by keeping lots of rules. Nor are we told to forget about the fourth commandment. Rather, we're told to 'call the Sabbath a delight' (Isa. 58:13).

If it's to be a delight, it's not supposed to be a burden. That means it's not a day of painful restriction. It shouldn't be a day we can't wait to see the back of, but a day we eagerly anticipate and on which we rejoice.

The Sabbath isn't about a work that we perform to please God, but rather it's about receiving a day of rest as a gift from God. It's not about an inconvenience of what can or can't be done, but the privilege of being able to put aside the work and cares of the week.

So how do we call the Sabbath a delight? By spending the day in God's presence and God's service. It's the day when we gather together as God's people under His Word and around His Table, the day when we feed on Christ together through Word and Sacrament. So we rejoice together as we worship together.

And it's the day when we anticipate our future, eternal rest. But just like that eternal rest, the rest of our day of rest isn't the rest of doing nothing, but the rest of worship, resting on what Christ has done.

And as we rest from the work and cares of the week, we have a day where we have time we don't have during the week: more time for prayer, more time for God's Word, more time to serve God. All too often we complain that we don't have time when it comes to serving God, yet God Himself has set apart a day for us to use for His worship and service.

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 honourable,
And shall honour 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.

(Isa. 58:13-14)
Isaiah tells us three things to avoid on the Lord's Day, and three results of delighting in the Lord's Day.

Turn Away Your Foot

1. 'Not doing your own ways'

On the Lord's Day we rest from our day-to-day activities. Rather than the regular work of the other six days, God gives us this day to focus on His work; for this is the day when Christ rose from the dead, having vanquished sin, death and hell by His Cross. On this one day out of seven God frees us to turn our attention away from business, study and the the responsibilities of day-to-day living and fix our attention more fully on Him.

2. 'Nor finding your own pleasure'

Leisure and recreation are gifts from God, but they aren't the reason He's given us our day of rest. Sunday isn't a second Saturday. Instead, on the Lord's Day our Lord frees us from the pursuit of lesser pleasures so that we can pursue the greater pleasure to be found in communion with Him.

3. 'Nor speaking your own words'

Not having to work means not having to spend all our time talking about our work. But that doesn't mean that the Sabbath is an opportunity to focus all our conversation on ourselves. It's not supposed to be a self-centred day, but a God-centred day.

Call the Sabbath a Delight

1. 'Then you shall delight yourself in the Lord'

Our 'chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.' As we're freed from work on the Lord's Day to spend time in fellowship with God, so we increasingly grow in our enjoyment of fellowship with Him.

2. 'And I will cause you to ride on the hills of the earth'

This promise looks a bit strange to us, but it's an expression that's used several times in the Old Testament to talk about victory over enemies. Our great enemy is sin. Yet, enjoying extended time in fellowship with God on His Day means knowing more and more of His power enabling us to die more and more to sin and grow more and more in holiness. As we spend more time with Christ on His Day we become more like Him. 

3. 'And feed you with the heritage'

To be fed with the heritage means enjoying the benefits of the inheritance. Christ Himself is our inheritance (Eph. 1:11), so when we feed on the heritage, we're feeding on the Bread of Life. The Lord's Day is already the day when we specially feed on Christ as we meet together for Word and Sacrament. Yet God doesn't want our feeding to be limited only to the duration of the sermons or the partaking of the bread and wine (primary and vital though they are). So we have our day of rest, our day free from the normal distractions of the week, a day when there should be much less to distract our attention from God, so that we can rest in Him and be fed.

God has given us time in our busy schedules and hectic lifestyles to come apart to spend time with Him and seek His face. So, on His day we set aside our ways, our pleasure and our words, and enjoy His promise as we delight in the Lord, grow in victory over sin, and feed on the Bread of Life.