Keep the Sabbath, Part Two
Having established that the fourth commandment remains what it has always been—a commandment of the Lord—and as such is relevant to our lives, we can now think profitably about how to keep it. But we must be careful as we get specific about honoring the Sabbath. The Lord Jesus, after all, had some very strong words for the Pharisees regarding the way their moral specificity had become a means not of obedience but of self-righteousness (Mark 2:23 – 3:6).
With trembling and humility, then, let’s consider how are we to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. How do we prevent worldly concerns—those of leisure, recreation, and work—from infringing on our enjoyment and worship of God?
Let’s think first of public worship. What kinds of conversations do you typically have prior to the worship service? Are they concerned at any point with the things of God, or only ever with sports, family, and every other thing? It takes an act of the will to give eternal matters priority in our minds and mouths. If you were to determine that in your preparation for worship you would set aside every priority which looms so large on other days, I guarantee your time at church would be changed.
The same goes for after the service. When the last song has been sung and the service is over, how long does it take for your mind and conversation to return to worldly matters? If we were instead to commit to spending time after the service speaking to one another about the greatness of God, the truth of His word, and the wonder of His dealings with us, and praying with one another about the week ahead and the trials we face, then we would begin to understand better the “one another” passages in the New Testament about encouraging one another (Hebrews 10:25), speaking the truth to one another (Ephesians 4:25), and building one another up (1 Thessalonians 5:11)—for we would be living them out.
Similarly, in our private affairs on the Lord’s Day, spiritual improvement should still take priority. That may mean family worship, reading edifying books, prayer, discussion of what was preached that morning, and more—but whatever it means, we should make it our aim not to let the cares of the other six days push into our spiritual enjoyment of the first day of the week.
If you want to profit from keeping the Sabbath, and if you want to take the fourth commandment seriously, then your conviction must fuel your action, and aspiration must turn into practice. Avoid making rules that only foster self-righteousness, but consider whether anything needs to change. How will you keep the Sabbath holy the next time Sunday comes round?
13“If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath,
from doing your pleasure3 on my holy day,
and call the Sabbath a delight
and the holy day of the Lord honorable;
if you honor it, not going your own ways,
14then you shall take delight in the Lord,
and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth;6
I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
Evil and Oppression
1Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save,
or his ear dull, that it cannot hear;
2but your iniquities have made a separation
between you and your God,
and your sins have hidden his face from you
so that he does not hear.
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