A Delight and Joy

Sabbath Study, Part 19

[Just so there is no confusion: we have not examined, and will not examine, every Old and New Testament passage on the Sabbath. This study, while extensive, is not designed to be exhaustive.]

In Isaiah 58, we find a Sabbath passage that helps correct our natural thinking. We are prone to consider the Sabbath command a burden, but we are encouraged to see it for what it really is: a blessing.

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 [glorify] 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)

If you turn away…from doing your pleasure.
There is a kind provision in this prohibition. In our modern western culture, we allow ourselves to enjoy just about any pursuit or activity on the Sabbath in the name of Christian liberty. (It is legalistic—an unnecessary burden—to restrict our activities on Sunday, so the argument might go.) This passage instructs us not to do that, not because God is trying to keep us from enjoying ourselves, but because He wants us to find and experience true delight.

Because of indwelling sin, we are prone to avoid what we are commanded to pursue. We’ve all experienced this principle at work in our minds when we settle down for a time of extended prayer or Bible study: suddenly we are acutely aware of all the projects we need to work on, all the chores we need to complete, all the unresolved issues we need to deal with…and with everything vying for our attention, we wonder if now really is the best time to commune with God.

So it is with the Sabbath rest. God commands us to abstain from going our own way because He knows indwelling sin will kick in and desire to do anything but take advantage of the Sabbath. It isn’t legalistic or burdensome to avoid “what we want” on the Sabbath, for indwelling sin is quick to blur the line between what we think is good for us and what really is good for us.

My holy day.
“This is the very way in which the Sabbath is mostly broken; it is made a day of carnal pleasure instead of spiritual ‘delight’” (JFB).

Call the Sabbath a delight.
“Man's ‘own words’ would ‘call’ it a ‘weariness’; it is the spiritual nature given from above which ‘calls it a delight’ (Am 8:5 Mal 1:13)” (JFB). Our required response to the Sabbath is possible only because of God’s heart-changing grace, for we are naturally prone to call the Sabbath a duty and not a delight.

Nor speaking your own words.
“In all we say and do we must put a difference between this day and other days” (Matthew Henry). Shannon and I have been trying to avoid conversations about “normal” weekly matters (i.e., business or school projects that need working on). It is helping us to enjoy a more consistent state of rest throughout the Sabbath day. By the grace of God, the troubles of Monday can (generally) wait patiently enough until Monday.

Then you shall delight yourself in the LORD.
Delight in the Sabbath is directly linked to a delight in the Lord. That doesn’t mean that all who delight in the Lord delight in the Sabbath (just as it is true that not all of God's elect believe in election), but God promises that when His children find delight in the Sabbath rest, they will also find delight in the giver of that rest.

Commentaries Cited from
Hall, Kay.
Online Bible. Beersheba Springs: Ken Hamel, 2000. CD-ROM.

Commentaries Used
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary
An Exposition of the Old and New Testament, by Matthew Henry