Another "if"/"then" is before us. This time it is the "if"/"then" of the blessings of walking in obedience to the fourth commandment - "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy." LORD's Day observance has blessings and benefits attached to it - wonderful blessings and benefits - and I fear that one of the reasons modern Christendom is so weak, wounded and wobbly goes back to her disdain and disinterest in a faithful practicing of this gift of God to His people.
While many of the 10 commandments are scoffed at by the world, this one seems to be scoffed at by the church. Repeatedly I find my brothers and sisters in Christ referring to the conscienable observance of this day as legalism. That breaks my heart. Friends - is being seriously mindful of not murdering or not committing adultery legalism? Is it legalistic to honor your father and mother? How about having no gods before Him or taking His name in vain? Are those legalistic practices? How many commandments are there - 9 or 10? I fear we have done a cut and paste job on the tablets from Sinai and have chosen either to toss number 4 out all together or have so rewritten its meaning that we have no concern of breaking this one. Whatever the case, the fourth commandment seems either to be a source of contention among believers or a topic of absolute disinterest and assumed irrelevancy.
I'm no fan of legalism. Anyone who knows me well will vouch for that. No doubt, particular members of the body of Christ have held forth Sabbath observance in a very legalistic fashion. Just read "Little House on the Prairie" and see the misery that Sunday brought to the Ingels home! So often we focus all of our attention on the "thou shalt nots" of the Word and never stop to meditate on the "thou shalls." That's why I love Isaiah 58. It is a glorious and grand symphony of Sabbath blessing. It makes me want to dance and sing. It makes me want to drink deep of this gift of God to His people. It is rich and full and overflowing with promise. It is an awesome "if"/"then".
First, the "if":
"If because of the Sabbath, you turn your foot from doing your own pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the LORD honorable, and shall honor it, desisting from your own ways, from seeking your own pleasure, and speaking your own word..."
Here's an honest question for you - what are you thinking as you read these "ifs"? Do they rub you the wrong way? Do they make you mad? Do you bristle up? If you do, may I ask you why? Is it not that at the bottom of it all you'd rather have your own pleasures than yield them to the things that God says we should delight in. Notice that we are to turn from our own pleasures to the DELIGHT of the Sabbath. Delight is not a bad word. It's not a sour/dour word. Hello, we're talking DELIGHT! :)
Who knows best what we need most - God or us? Where is the place we must turn for truth on the goodness of a thing - our hearts or God's word? Trust Him in this dear one. On this day, turn from seeking your own pleasures, from doing your own thing, from speaking your own word. Turn from these things to His things - here is a day to delight, whole-heartedly with your God, your Creator, your Savior, your Father, your Friend. What could compare? What thing, pleasure, desire, subject, could be better?
There's the "if". Here's the "then".
"Then you will take delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; and I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father..."
1) Delight in the Lord. A serious observance of this day will develop in us a greater delight in our God. What better thing is there to delight in? This is our chief end - "to glorify and enjoy Him forever". And clearly from these verses this day is inextricably linked to the achievement of that end. Through the purposed practice of denying ourselves and taking up His cross on this day He will make Himself more manifest to us and will increase our love, joy, communion, and delight in Him. Christian, is not He ultimately the one thing you want and seek? Then seek Him in this day. Seek Him in the corporate worship of this day. Seek Him in all your activities on this day. Use this day as a vacation from the world. Use this day as a foretaste of heaven. Use this day to make your friends and family envious of the privileges that are ours in Christ. Use this day to taste and see that the LORD is good. The promise is that you will delight in the LORD. The question is, are you delighting?
2) I will make you ride on the heights of the earth. A second promise is that the honoring of this day, which brings about the honoring of God, will result in the honoring of the observer. Do you at times lament the fact that the church seems to have so little an impact upon society. Friends, we are not riding on the heights of the earth and I firmly believe one of the reasons is that we have ignored the "ifs" that lead to this particular "then". Seek Him and not yourselves on this day. Here is a day to fill your tank to overflowing that you will have the necessary fuel to soar successfully in the world. Do you desire to see His kingdom come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven? Will you trust Him with this day? Will you let this day be a catalyst for this promise? "If" you will turn from seeking your own pleasure and call the Sabbath a delight "then" He will make you to ride on the heights of the earth.
3) I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father. Here is the promise of the covenant laid out for us. In keeping the Sabbath, in calling it a delight, in practicing the self-control of the Spirit, there is blessing not only for us but for our children. God will feed us with a godly seed as we seek His face on this day. As we are seeking Him, we will be teaching our children to seek Him. As we are delighting in Him, we will be teaching our children to delight in Him. How many of the church's children have walked away from the fold? I honestly wonder how much of that is because we have either called this day a drudgery in our words and actions or have called it unimportant. Christian, the LORD's day has promises attached to it for your offspring. If you love your children, then love this day!
These are not just words, they are divine commands. Isaiah 58 ends with this declaration: "For the mouth of the LORD has spoken." He has not been silent on this issue. He has spoken and He has spoken to us with a self-sacrificing "if" that will lead to a grand and glorious "then".
In closing, let me say that I was once among those who considered the LORD's day observance to be legalistic. Sure, I went to church and enjoyed my time there greatly. I had a LORD's "hour" practice, but the rest of the day was still part of MY weekend. Several years after Phillip and I married we were challenged on this issue by Dr. Joseph Pipa, both by his personal admonition to us and through the written words of his book "The LORD's Day." I'm thankful that we were and I highly recommend that book to you. His first chapter is an exposition of these very verses and they are filled with joy and blessing. Dr. P's reproof to us has had a life-changing effect on us. Hear me, we do NOT keep the Sabbath perfectly. Let us not think for a moment that we will ever be able to keep any of the commandments perfectly. We are sinners in constant need of the Savior's grace and mercy. We don't keep it perfectly, but we are seeking to keep it with His help. And the more we seek the more we find!
"We must call it a delight, not a task and a burden. We must not only count it a delight, but call it so. We must call it so to God, in thanksgiving for it. We must call it so to others, to invite them to come and share in the pleasure of it; and we must call it so to ourselves, that we may not entertain the least thought of wishing the Sabbath gone that we may sell corn." (Matthew Henry)