Most of us enjoy our holidays, whether it be a day off for Labor Day, a national holiday, or simply a vacation day (or week). In some places, of course the entire concept is taken to extremes. Workers in France, for instance, often take the entire month of August off.
Here in Curt’s blog, we return to our study of the original Holy Day. Having looked at Sabbath as a sign of the covenant and as a mandate rather than a suggestion, let’s turn our attention to the enjoyment of the holy day.
The spirit of the Sabbath is joy, refreshment and mercy, arising from remembrance of God’s goodness as Creator and as the Deliverer from bondage. The Sabbath was given as a perpetual sign and covenant, and the holiness of the day is connected not only with the holiness of God, but also with the holiness of the people. They are holy because the God of the Sabbath sanctifies them. As we read in Ezekiel, “Moreover, I gave them my Sabbaths, as a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord who sanctifies them.” (Ezekiel 20:12; see also Exodus 31:12-17).
- Joy was the key-note of Israel’s services. Nehemiah commanded the people, on a day holy to Jehovah, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:9-13).
- The Sabbath is also named as a day of special worship in the sanctuary. We read in Leviticus “You shall keep my Sabbaths and reverence my sanctuary: I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 19:30; 26:2). My thoughts on the all-too-forgotten concept of a sanctuary can be found here.
- The sabbath was proclaimed as a holy convocation. Leviticus teaches, “Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work. It is a Sabbath to the Lord in all your dwelling places.” (Leviticus 23:3). As I’ve written in a previous blog, controversy abounds as to what constitutes work on the sabbath. “Can we enjoy recreational activities? Watch football on TV? Do we have to attend two or more church services on Sunday? Does corporate worship include clapping, drama, music? We will leave those arguments for some other time. The fact is that we are to observe a Sabbath, which includes worship of the Creator who has blessed that day.”
The observance of a Sabbath is not intended to be a burden. Nor is to be seen as merely taking off a day out of the week. It is a sign of recognition that God is God. It’s an indication of our trust in a sovereign God who can take care of things quite nicely even if we take a day off.