“Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica;
examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.”
I had a great motorcycle ride yesterday. Actually, it was the entire evening. All by myself. The weather was clear skies, mid-80s, and calm. I drove over three hours, meandering over narrow county roads. There is hardly anyone out on these on a Sunday night – just as I like it. Nobody was in a hurry. There were just a few clouds in the sky that made for a stunning sunset. As I drove, I listened to most of R.C. Sproul’s teaching series entitled, “What is Reformed Theology?” The whole evening was just what the doctor ordered: spending time with my God enjoying his creation and learning about the things he has written for us.
As I have written in the past, Melissa and I have been attending a home church for the last several months. We really like it because it offers the flexibility to study what we want to study and allows us all room to have a conversation about the material while we are meeting. In many ways, it’s like a bible study that really clicks. We are ready to dig into Jesus!
This week, we studied Sabbath rest. Let me share the scripture we used as our reference:
Exodus 20:8-11 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
Isaiah 56:1-2 Thus says the Lord: “Keep justice, and do righteousness, for soon my salvation will come, and my righteousness be revealed. Blessed is the man who does this, and the son of man who holds it fast, who keeps the Sabbath, not profaning it, and keeps his hand from doing evil.”
Isaiah 58:13-14 “If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
We had some preparatory questions to go with this. (Actually, we read the chapters 56-58 of Isaiah in their entirety.)
What do you suppose God is trying to accomplish with Sabbath rest? Is this just another rule to follow or is there some benefit (blessing) that God desires to give us through it? What might that be? We typically think of the Pharisees as the ones who messed this all up, but how are we doing with this Commandment? Are we missing out on something really big? What might we do to claim this promise?
Is it possible to vacation yet honor the Sabbath? How might we do this? As we shall learn, Sabbath can be quite complicated, as the Pharisees made it. However, as we see in much of the New Testament, we are free of rules. Jesus teaches us it is rather a matter of the heart. Can I fill my vacation day honoring the Lord with all my heart?
Now, to be fair, the case can be made that we are not bound to take a Sabbath rest through the New Covenant. However, just as we have freedom in the negative sense, “’All things are lawful,’ but not all things are helpful,’” (1 Cor. 10:23a), we would be foolish to ignore blessings. Having said that, I have participated in many discussions on this topic. Most of the time is spent on questions such as, “Can I watch football on Sundays?” or “Can I mow the lawn?” – all in an effort to try find that fine line between blessing and sin. There is no line, just there is no line for adultery or murder. As Jesus was clear, it’s a matter of heart.
This is why I think Isaiah 58:13-14 can be so helpful. Sabbath was one of the primary distinctions of the Israelites (God’s chosen people) from the rest of the world. I imagine things back then were no different than they are today. Sunday looks like any other day of the week. Sure, maybe we aren’t punching a time clock, but we are nonetheless hectic in our activity. The world simply doesn’t rest but rather goes about its business, doing as it pleases.
However, God promises us something big. Notice carefully Isaiah 58:13-14. If we change the way we do things and “call the Sabbath a delight and…honorable…then you shall take delight in the Lord.” Ok, we talked about that last week. https://hislightshines.com/2019/08/01/2019-08-01-for-his-names-sake/ when we concluded with Psalm 37:4 “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
Listen, I had as beneficial of an evening last night as I possibly could have. In fact, it has carried over into today. Monday morning, and I have a great attitude, despite the fact that I will be tackling very difficult issues today. Most people would dread what I have to do today. Still, it doesn’t matter because last night I delighted in the Lord. Yes, I was doing my thing by riding my motorcycle, but my mind was on things of the Lord – spiritual food and the wellspring of life.
“then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth”
That’s exactly what happened. This impacted me, like it did Moses:
Genesis 34:29 When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God.
Folks, God is looking to set us apart from the world. Do you suppose that he is trying to do to us what he did to Moses, to make him shine whenever he spent time with God? I think this is precisely the outcome we want. No, we won’t need to wear a veil as Moses did, but people might know that there definitely is something different about us. People, all people, will know that we have a special relationship with God.
Isn’t that what we want? Truly, it is. Folks, dig into your bible and see if these things are so. I’ll bet that it will change you.
Father, thank you for last night. And today. Amen.
Copyright © 2019 Scott Powers