Keeping the Sabbath God’s Way

I hear a lot of talk about taking a Sabbath rest and how important it is to rest one day a week.  While it is true that we must rest, there is a lot more to keeping the Sabbath than what we Gentiles understand. 

Jesus did say in Mark 2:27, ‘man was not made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath for man.’  As Gentiles, we tend to think this means we should be taking a day off work, resting, having fun, doing whatever makes us happy. 

But take a look at what God says in Isaiah 58:13-14:
“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 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.”

So, which is it?  By reading this passage in Isaiah, it sounds like God is calling for us to do even more work on the Sabbath, not less.  

For our example, we must look to Jesus to see what He did on the Sabbath.  Peter tells us in Acts 10:38 Jesus went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil.  In Matthew 12 we see that He did this on the Sabbath!  Then look at verse 1 where Jesus’ disciples plucked grain so they could eat. When He was accused by the religious leaders of the day for defiling the Sabbath, Jesus defended their actions.  That same story is found in Mark 2:23 – 3:5 where Jesus makes the statement the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath.  Notice in the two accounts that Jesus was not just hanging around getting rest, but He was out doing the work of the Lord.

These are just a few of the examples where Jesus was doing exactly what God commended the eunuchs for in Isaiah 56:6.  The eunuchs who chose what pleased God on the Sabbath were promised a better place in God’s house than sons and daughters!  In Isaiah 56:4 He calls the man blessed who keeps from defiling the Sabbath by keeping justice and doing righteousness.  This is what I see Jesus doing on the Sabbath, rather than lollygagging around, doing our own thing, chillin’ and calling it the Sabbath. 

I hear some asking, “When am I supposed to rest? I’m tired!”  

Let me ask you something: have you ever been involved in ministry and though you may have put in a lot of hours, you came away energized rather than wiped out?  THAT is a Sabbath rest.  Now, I’m not talking about merely ‘doing’ ministry, but when you get to a place where you are doing exactly what God has called you to do, it is no longer a chore or work, but a labor of love that energizes you to do even more!  It is the power of God flowing through you to others, to minister to their needs in precisely the way God designed you to function.   

I must note, however, that Jesus spent time alone with God every day.  And He made His disciples get away for a time of rest as well.  We need to remember to follow His lead in that area as well.  

Looking back to Isaiah 58:14 we find a promise for those who do God’s pleasure instead of their own on the Sabbath – you will delight yourself in the Lord and He will bless you. 

My life verse is Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desire of your heart.”  Long ago I realized that it is His desire planted in my heart as I delight in Him – as I get to know Him, as I die to self and live for Him.  THAT is a delight.

So how do we delight in the Lord? How do we keep from defiling the Sabbath?  He tells us in Is 58:13 that we are to do His pleasure, His work, His way, speaking His words.  Then in Is 58:6-7 we see a list of what His pleasure is:

          To loose the bonds
          Undo heavy burdens
          Let the oppressed go free
          Break every yoke
          Take in the poor who are cast out
          Cover the naked

The Sabbath God’s way is the power to change lives!

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