A few weeks ago we considered the subject of the Sabbath and how it is to be a day of delight (Isa. 58:13-14). We saw that there are several reasons for observing the Sabbath, but the heart of the matter is that it is to be a special day, the best day of the week, whereby we delight, not in worldly pleasures, but in our Creator and Redeemer. This theme of delighting in God should control the entire Sunday for Christians (Exodus 20:8-11). Patrick has recently been helping us think through what Biblical worship is and looks like. And one of the first things Patrick taught us was that the Sabbath (Sunday) is a Day to be set aside in its entirety. The Bible gives a pattern for worshiping both morning and evening (Lev. 6:20; 1 Chr. 16:40; 23:30; 2 Chr. 2:4; Ezra 3:3; Lk. 2:37); yet, the Lord also commands us to spend the whole day in worship and not just the morning and evening. Have you ever noticed that the Fourth Commandment is the only one that deals directly with our time? We are a culture that doesn’t like to be told what to do with “our” time. However, God is the ruler and He graciously gives us an entire day which we can, with great delight, spend with the Lover of our soul! Something is wrong with our hearts when we only want to spend part of the day worshiping the Father who spared not His only Son for such wretches, the Son who gave His life a ransom for lost sinners, and the Holy Spirit who applies salvation’s merit to those for whom Christ lived and died. We have a Biblical pattern for worshiping morning and evening by which we corporately enjoy God’s means of grace; yet, what do we do during the time in between the worship services on Sunday? Our Westminster Confession of Faith gives the direction that after due preparation for the Lord’s Day we are to be “taken up, the whole time, in the public and private exercises of His worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy.” The case has been made for the “public” exercises of worship, but what about these “private exercises of His worship” and so called “duties”?
The Sabbath: A Day of Delight (Part II)
1. Works of necessity. Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath, corrected the man-made laws added to the Fourth Commandment by the Pharisees (Mt.12:1-8). They had forgotten the principles of the Sabbath and the original intent of its Lord. So Jesus used three arguments (1 Sam. 21:1-6; Numbers. 28:9-10; Hosea 6:6) to explain that what we do on the Sabbath should promote the purposes of the Day, which according to Joseph Pipa are: “to strengthen ourselves, advance [Christ’s] Kingdom, and anticipate our heavenly rest with Him.” Jesus doesn’t give us a list to keep; rather, He teaches us that those things that are necessary for promoting the purposes of the Sabbath are good. So whatever you do on Sunday must have this question asked: “Does this promote the purposes of the day?”
2. Works of mercy. Jesus again catches the Pharisees in their own trap by turning their question back on them. Jesus refutes the logic and man-made Sabbath laws of the Pharisees in a three-fold challenge (Mk. 3:4; Mt. 12:11; Lk. 13:15-16) to teach us that it is proper to do good on Sunday. Those things that are necessary to protect and promote physical and spiritual well-being are not inappropriate for the Lord’s Day. Physicians, nurses, policemen, firemen, soldiers, et. al. are not violating the Sabbath when they are called to protect or promote life on Sunday. However, we must not lump our laziness into the category of “the ox in the ditch”.
3. Private exercises of His worship. Let me, at this point, outline some suggestions from Joseph Pipa. Use the time meaningfully. Plan the day. Review the sermon around the lunch table, take time to sing and pray or read the Bible, catch up on a theological book or magazine, sleep (but not the whole afternoon — some physical rest and activity are good for promoting the purposes of the day.), and spend time alone with the Lord. Use the time for hospitality. Have guests into your home for fellowship (Heb. 13:2; Rom. 12:13; 1 Pt. 4:9) once a month. Use the time for ministry. Sundays are great days for mercy ministry and evangelism, for elders to visit families, and for discipleship. Pipa concludes: “First, remember the rest of the Lord’s day is not a rest of inactivity. It is a spiritual rest of meditation, study, fellowship, service and worship as well as a cessation from daily labours. Such a rest will give vigour to body and soul.”
May the Lord make us to be a people who delight in His Day so that we may delight in Him.
Soli Deo Gloria!