SABBATH

THE SABBATH COMMANDMENT COMMANDS US TO WORK

…NOTE: I hesitate to quote a single author extensively in this blog post but R. C. Sproul, Jr. writes such wise remarks I can’t resist. Consider reading every word carefully and if you want to read his entire article, see: http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/rest-story/

“First, believe it or not, the Sabbath commandment commands us to work. “Six days shalt thou labor” isn’t an interesting prelude designed merely to set the context for the command to come. It is a command in itself. We’re supposed to be busy with the work set before us. We are to be passionately pursuing the kingdom of God. We are to recognize that we live in the not-yet of the kingdom. Not all enemies have yet been made a footstool. We have not yet fully exercised dominion over the creation. The reign of Jesus is not yet universally recognized. The Westminster Shorter Catechism asks, “How does Christ execute the office of a king?” Its answer: “Christ executes the office of a king in subduing us to Himself, in ruling and defending us and in restraining and conquering all His and our enemies.” As we rule with and under Him, this is the work we are called to — seeking His kingdom, making manifest His reign.

“Second, as the Sabbath commandment moves to the day of observance, it does not command that we refrain from work — it’s far more profound: we are to rest. We think we are keeping the commandment if we refuse gallantly to do any of the work that is piling up and causing us to lose sleep at night. Instead, we are sinning. Rest isn’t just ceasing from working; it is also ceasing from worrying. It’s not easy. Indeed, in a manner of speaking, rest, especially ceasing from worry, is hard work. It takes discipline and fortitude to let go of all that has us worried.

“We have not succeeded if our worries are more pious, either. That is, we aren’t failing to keep the Sabbath when we worry about the big meeting at work on Monday, but successfully keeping it when we are worried about our persistent failure to mortify that particular sin that so troubles us. Worry is worry, and it has no place in our Sabbath celebration. The Lord’s Day is a feast day and should be treated as such” (ref#213).

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SABBATH

THE BLESSINGS OF THE SABBATH

“The believer…keeps the law of God, not believing by keeping it we gain acceptance or approval with God, but rather we keep God’s law as a declaration of our grateful response to His love” Alistair Begg (ref#165, Series: Pathway of Freedom, Sermon#: 1692, “Holy Day or Holiday?” Part One, Oct 3, 1993).

“Since the law is spiritual, there is no escaping the fact that the holy Sabbath is a spiritual institution….the Sabbath…was to be devoted exclusively to things that are spiritual” Allen Walker (ref#204)

On Sunday what joy it is to say to myself, “No thinking of weekday obligations, I’m free to pursue the things that make me happy spiritually.”

“Cease striving and know that I am God…” (Ps 46:10 NASB). It is a labor of love to plan and accomplish all weekday obligations so I can have Sunday free.

“There is nothing the Christian desires so much as this delighting of himself in the Lord. There is one sure way to the experience of it—keep holy the Lord’s day. God delights to reveal Himself to those who obey and honor Him” C.E. Hunter (ref#171).

Daily devotions are uplifting but close afterward comes the demands of the day. Sunday, though affords an extended time for prayer, for spiritual study, for visits to family and friends—things that are difficult to do on weekdays. How very freeing it is to stop all thoughts about the week ahead and think of the spiritually “now.”

“Isaiah 58:13-14…’call the Sabbath a delight…Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord.’ The Sabbath was always to be a refreshing time when men were in a special sense to delight themselves in the Lord” C.E. Hunter (ref#171).

“When I remember these things, I pour out my soul in me: for I had gone with the multitude, I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holyday” (Ps 42:4 KJV).

SABBATH

OUR HEAVENLY SABBATH

“Six days are lawfully given to the affairs of this life, to provide for the body, but the things that pertain to God, and the welfare of the soul, are much more important. The things of time pass away, and perish with the using, but the things of God are permanent, and will never pass away. If we worship God in spirit and in truth here, we shall worship him in heaven for ever” George Rose (ref#174).

“…nothing…will…break the Sabbath of eternity: the Triune God shall rejoice in the work of His hands…it is Jesus…who leads us into the heavenly rest….The renovated creation…Sabbath rest will not be until Christ comes to usher us into it, the typical earthly Sabbath must continue until then. The Jews call the future rest the ‘day which is all Sabbath’” JFB Commentary (ref#17, [Heb 4:9]).

“Consider the Lord’s Day an honour and delight. Let your heart be elevated in holy joy, and your lips be employed in the high praises of God. This day more resembles heaven, than any other” Archibald Alexander (ref#175).

“It was always kept be the Jews and after them by the early Christians, as a festival, and not a fast” Archibald Hodge (ref#181). 

SABBATH

MOTIVES

“The reason that so many people feel it [the Sabbath] as a burden is partly that we have so much leisure, we don’t feel the need for the Sabbath rest; but more important…is the fact that not many people really enjoy what God intended us to enjoy on the Sabbath, namely, himself. Many professing Christians enjoy sports and television and secular books and magazines and recreation and hobbies and games far more than they enjoy direct interaction with God in his Word or in worship or in reading Christian books or in meditative strolls. Therefore, inevitably people whose hearts are set more on the pleasures of the world than on the enjoyment of God will feel the Sabbath command as a burden not a blessing” John Piper (ref#169).

“God hath made it our duty, by His institution, to set apart this day for a special seeking of His grace and blessing….God is ready on this day especially to bestow His blessing on them that keep it aright….a time wherein God especially loves to be sought and loves to be found” Jonathan Edwards (ref#186).

“God blessed the seventh day…as an expression of His own joyful remembrance of that day and of the rest and refreshment that He had on it….But how much more reason has Christ to bless the day of His resurrection, to delight to honor it, and to confer His grace and blessed gifts on His people on this day. It was a day whereon Christ rested and was refreshed in a literal sense. It was a day of deliverance from the chains of death, the day of His finishing that great and difficult work of redemption, which had been upon His heart from all eternity; the day of His [vindication] by the Father; the day of the beginning of His exaltation, and of the fulfillment of the promises of the Father; the day when He had eternal life, which He had purchased, put into His hands. On this day, Christ doth indeed delight to distribute gifts, blessings, joy, and happiness, and will delight to do the same to the end of the world” Jonathan Edwards (ref#186).

SABBATH

SATURDAY NIGHT WORSHIP

“For those of you who are free in your conscience to extend your holy exercises…into Saturday night, let’s dream together of new ways to sanctify Sunday morning. Could it be that the Lord is leading you to new dimensions of prayer, or new hours of personal Bible study, or new deeds of mercy for the poor, or Sunday morning visitation to a shut-in, or perhaps a home evangelistic Bible study for neighbors who would not come to church but might come to your home” John Piper (ref#169).

SABBATH

SATURDAY PREP

NOTE: The below quotes seem out of touch with our modern world. Yet, the words of warning GOD Himself speaks concerning the Sabbath, causes me to pause. Since 9/11 falls on a Sunday this year, Eugene H. Peterson’s contemporary language of the Bible quote is something to be taken very seriously. It appears at the end of this days blog.

“Never leave work for Sunday that can be done on Saturday. The day does not belong to us, and should not be encroached upon with secular things which, by foresight and method, can be done on another day” George Rose (ref#174). “Let every thing then be so arranged in your household, beforehand, that there may be no interruption to religious duties, and to attendance on the means of grace” Archibald Alexander (ref#175).

“Strictly speaking, Saturday evening is not part of the Lord’s Day, but there are good reasons to use it for preparation….We are about to have special dealings with God on Sunday. Reverence requires special preparation for this…God does not love our rushing into His presence without the right attitude….It is not enough to show reverence with our bodies; we must gain a reverent frame of mind” John Owen (ref#176).

“Dwell on God’s majesty, holiness, and greatness. Remember Him as the Author of our sabbatical rest. Remember His work that brings about our celebration of His ordinances, especially redemption through our Lord Jesus Christ. Ponder the importance, the reasons, and the purposes of the Lord’s Day to follow. Reflect on its holy privileges, advantages, and duties” John Owen (ref#176).

“Prayer is the main way we express dependence upon God in Christ. Prayer is necessary for bringing our hearts to a sense of our own spiritual poverty and our desperate need of God’s grace. A season of prayer prior to the Lord’s Day is an indispensable means for the greatest blessing” John Owen (ref#176).

“Workdays can desensitize us to the things of God….We ought to rid our minds of secular, earthly business as much as we can each Saturday evening….Faithfulness on Saturday promotes blessing on Sunday” John Owen (ref#176).

“These are intended as helpful directions, not strict rules….If we are truly unable to do these things on a particular Saturday evening, we should not think we have sinned, but only that we have lost a good opportunity” John Owen (ref#176).

“‘This is God’s Message. Be careful, if you care about your lives, not to desecrate the Sabbath by turning it into just another workday…Don’t use the Sabbath to do business as usual. Keep the Sabbath day holy…” (Jer 17:21-23 MSG)

“‘But if you won’t listen to me, won’t keep the Sabbath holy, won’t quit using the Sabbath for doing your own work, busily going in and out of the city gates on your self-important business, then I’ll burn the gates down. In fact, I’ll burn the whole city down, palaces and all, with a fire nobody will be able to put out!’” (Jer 17:27 MSG)

SABBATH

PRIVATE LORD’S DAY ACTIVITIES

“The time for performance of individual and family religious duties is before or after church….Private Lord’s Day observance includes prayer, Bible reading, meditation, and follow-up teaching after church” John Owen (ref#176).

“The Sabbath must be a day of spiritual improvement—improvement which comes in…families having time around the Lord Jesus, His Word, and His purposes” Alistair Begg (ref#165, Series: Pathway to Freedom, Sermon#: 1693, “Holy Day or Holiday?” Part Two, October 31, 1993).

Spiritual improvement comes from religious reading. (It’s possible to read through the Bible in a year by reading approximately 18 Chapters each Sunday.) Improvement also comes from secret prayer and holy meditation. (ref#165, Series: Pathway to Freedom, Sermon#: 1693, “Holy Day or Holiday?” Part Two, October 31, 1993).

“Church history informs us that after their private devotions, the members of the family in primitive times met for united prayer, the reading of the Scriptures, the recital of doctrinal and practical sentiments and mutual edification generally. This indeed, to some extent, was done every day. Each day was also closed by similar devotions. But, the Lord’s Day abounded in them” William S. Plumer, (ref#183).

Another LORD’s Day suggestion would be praising God for His mercies. But, this and the ones above are only suggestions. Though our desire would be to have a list of steps to follow, there are many temptations present in simply checking off a list.

Trouble happens when we simply follow lists—no manner how good the list is. We can fall into the category of sacrificing instead of obeying—just acting and not feeling.

God’s Word binds us only to Him and to His Word. We are free in matters of faith and worship from every man-made list. CHRIST has purchased the right to be our only Master. (ref#165, Series: The Sabbath, Sermon#: 2097, “The Delight of the Sabbath” July 18, 1999).

So, we must ask Him directly. We should ask Him every Sabbath what our agenda should be for the day.

SABBATH

CORPORATE ACTIVITIES

“…there should be a stated day on which they should assemble to hear the Law, and perform religious rites, or which, at least, they should specially employ in meditating on his works, and be thereby trained to piety” John Calvin (ref#187).

“Worship with reverence, seriousness, order, diligence, and attention. These inner traits of true worship are very important…” John Owen (ref#176).

“We cannot be devotional unless our minds are fixed upon the object of our worship; we cannot attend to God when gazing about the congregation” George Rose (ref#174). “Beware of indulging yourself in any practice which may have the effect of leading others to disregard the rest and sanctity of the Sabbath” Archibald Alexander (ref#175).

“…public duties that are necessary to the right sanctifying of the Lord’s Day are these:

  1. Affectionate prayer…
  2. Our reverent and attentive hearing of the Word of God, either read or preached…
  3. Singing of the Psalms…
  4. …administration of the [ordinances], especially that of the Lord’s Supper” Ezekiel Hopkins (ref#182).

“When as we make God’s command our ground, we make God’s glory our [goal]) Thomas Case (ref#185).

SABBATH

FINDING GOD’S PRESENCE

“It is man’s sinful nature which makes the Sabbath and its proper observance so hateful to him. The Sabbath calls upon us to discipline our lives” C. E. Hunter (ref#171).

GOD sometimes helps us get into His presence but we have to look for Him. Bishop J. C. Ryle suggests, “Arrange your time on Sunday so that you may have leisure for quiet, sober meditation on eternal things. Avoid the company that would lead you to talk only of this world” (ref#167).

It helps immensely to remind ourselves of how truly in desperate need of GOD’s help we are. All during each day we can pray without ceasing, knowing He is there to help us fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants, but Sunday affords opportunity to evaluate our last week’s activities.

There are weekly activities that cause barriers between our FATHER and us. It is our first Sabbath duty to crash through these obstacles.

“…there are certain things that will stand between us and the fellowship that in turn leads to joy. First of all, there is sin—unrighteousness….If we recognize and confess sin, then there is the blood that cleanses, and God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins (1 John 1:7,9). The second hindrance that John talks about in 1 John 2:3 is lack of love for the brethren….You lose contact with the brethren, and you lose contact with God…The third hindrance is a love of the world,…You cannot mix light and darkness. The last thing that interrupts fellowship with God, he tells us at the end of 1 John 2, is false teaching about the person of Jesus Christ. Obviously if the only way to God is through Christ, if I am in any way wrong about my teaching or doctrine concerning Him, then automatically I sever the communion, and again I lose my joy” Marytn Lloyd-Jones, (ref#189, Sept 18th).

SABBATH

A SONG FOR THE SABBATH DAY

“The proper work of the Sabbath is praising God” Matthew Henry (ref#18, [Ps 92:1-6]). GOD has blessed the Sabbath and we keep it holy by blessing Him (ref#18, [Ex 31:1-11]).

Our GOD shows forth His lovingkindness and faithfulness. “Being convinced of his glorious attributes and perfections, we must show them forth, as those that are greatly affected with them ourselves…” Matthew Henry (ref#18, [Ps 92:1-6]).

“We cannot comprehend the greatness of God’s works, and therefore must reverently and awfully wonder at them, and even stand amazed at the magnificence of them….From a joyful remembrance of what God has done for us we may raise a joyful prospect of what he will do, and triumph in the assurance of it…” Matthew Henry (ref#18, [Ps 92:1-6]).

 

“It is good to give thanks to the Lord,

to sing praises to the Most High.

It is good to proclaim your unfailing love in the morning,

your faithfulness in the evening,

 

You thrill me, Lord,

with all you have done for me!

I sing for joy

because of what you have done” (Ps 92:1,2,4 NLT).