Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Sabbath - A Psalmist and a Prophet speak

The Sabbath. Is it for believers today? For sure it was for the people of God assembled at Sinai, yet they often neglected it. Here are a couple of Old Testament documents meant to encourage Sabbath-keeping.

According to the uninspired but probably trustworthy inscription above Psalm 92, we have a song written especially for the Sabbath. Here are significant portions:

Psalm 92. (1) It is a good thing to give thanks to the Lord, and to sing praises to your name, O Most High. By this section we understand that Sabbath is to be a day of praise. (4-5) For You, Lord, have made me glad through Your work; I will triumph in the works of Your hands. O Lord, how great are your works! Here is the heart of Sabbath: rejoicing in the creation, recognizing the Creator, resting in His work, the only work that matters.

Isaiah the prophet lived before Nehemiah, prophesying during the times when Israel was undergoing her judgment for idolatry (before and after 721 B.C.). Notice how little the externals matter when the heart is corrupt, and that the Sabbath can be cut out of Jewish tradition, too. Anyone keeping a holy day as a religious exercise as opposed to an expression of a holy commitment to God is not part of the covenant:

Isaiah 1:13-18 [portions]. "Bring no more futile sacrifices. Incense is an abomination to Me. The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies. I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting. Your New Moons and your appointed feast days my soul hates... your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil. Learn to do good. Seek justice, reprove the oppressor; defend the fatherless. Plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together. Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow."

First the heart, says Isaiah, then the outward signs. Later Nehemiah will turn the people of God to these observances, after their hearts are properly tuned. Even Isaiah, looking into Israel's future, sees a restored Sabbath...

Isaiah 56:1-2. "Keep justice and do righteousness, for My salvation is about to come and my righteousness to be revealed. Blessed is the man who does this and the son of man who lays hold on it; who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, and keeps his hand from doing any evil..."

...and, dare I share it? The following promise is also from the prophet, shattering any notion that somehow Gentile ways are going to dominate the Kingdom of God. No, even though Gentiles will be present, it is the ways of the God of Israel that will be our daily fare in that glorious day:

Isaiah 56:6-8 . "Also the sons of the foreigner who join themselves to the Lord, to serve Him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be His servants, everyone who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, and holds fast My covenant, even them I will bring to My holy mountain and make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on My altar. For My House shall be called a house of prayer for all nations. The Lord God who gathers the outcasts of Israel says, Yet I will gather to him besides those who are gathered to him."

The Gentiles are coming. They will be added to the Jews. And together these people will experience burnt offerings, a House of God, and a Sabbath. Isaiah previews nothing less here than the Millennial Kingdom, a favorite theme of apostles, prophets, and Jesus Himself. So, Sabbath is in the past and the future of the people of God. Is it to be in our present?

In Isaiah 58 is a description of a fast that truly pleases God. Here is how it ends:

Isaiah 58:13-14. "If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, 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 shall you 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!"

a. Note here the Sabbath is called the holy "day of the Lord". This is the only Biblical time period called the "Lord's Day." Every apostle knew these passages. When they spoke of the Lord's Day, they spoke of the Sabbath. This is how they thought.

b. Here are yet more insights that Israel is given to help her understand just how profitable this weekly time can be. The idea is that the people of God are to give that Day to re-creation of the Spirit of God, not RECreation in the form of food and play. They are to cease from taking care of earthly business, their own concerns, altogether, and seek the business of Heaven.

Isaiah's final Sabbath word is in his final chapter, once more envisioning what the Millennial Day will look like:

Isaiah 66:23. "And it shall come to pass that from one...Sabbath to another all flesh shall come to worship before Me, says the Lord."

In my mind there is no question that Sabbath worship was enjoined on the people of God from creation to Christ, and will be the fare of both Jew and Gentile for the duration of the 1000 year reign of Christ on earth. That's 5,000 years of Biblical Sabbath-keeping! What about these last 2,000? Did it all change? I encourage readers to seek God on this matter. is a website I put together a few months back to get the word out to believers that they need to pray for North Korea. Just about every day I'm writing a blog featuring some news, a book, or a story of North Korea. There's a live news feed on the site, lists of resources, picture essays, and ways to respond to the overwhelming need in North Korea. Let's love Chosun together!

And who am I? A man found of God over 50 years ago, called to the ministry, serving the Lord as needed in my world. Married, member of a local church in the Chicago area, with full time work in public education. Who are you? Would love to fellowship with believers who respond on my site.

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