Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Taking the Sabbath Seriously: Isaiah 58:13 & 14

1 Corinthians 3:11 "For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ."

v13 & 14 "If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord's holy day honourable, and if you honour it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the Lord, and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob." The mouth of the Lord has spoken.

Brian often shares from Isaiah 58 and stops after verse 12, but he has come to realise that verses 13 and 14 are very important in the whole vision. You see in Mark 2: 22-27 that Jesus deals with the Pharisees’ very legalistic attitude towards the Sabbath, and perhaps most of us in the New Testament Church have taken Jesus’ statement a bit too far: Then He said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath."

God Himself has set the whole principle of a regular rest day when He rested after He had finished Creation in six days. Jesus doesn’t want us to get religious and legalistic about anything, but this principle of rest is very important.

When we passionately embark on an exciting quest like carrying out God’s plan for the poor, we can get so focussed and absorbed that we get too busy to stop and communicate with the Lord regularly, and eventually we will not be able ‘to see the wood for the trees’, and can go off track. Without rest we can get very tired and jaded and lose the inspirational and productive edge. We can soon lose our joy and extreme fatigue can also cause irritability and the Evil One can get in and begin to divide and rule.

In Isaiah 55: 8 and 9, the Lord tells us that His ways and thoughts are different and higher than ours. Twice in Isaiah 58: 13 He tells us that we are not to do as we please and go our own way. Constantly working without resting once per week is actually contravening God’s will as we keep going the way that pleases us. Apart from the damage to our health, this disobedience can become a habit and can even develop into a stronghold.

Verse 14 states that if we have obeyed verse 13 by not doing our own thing on the Sabbath (set day of rest), we will find our joy in the Lord. This is very powerful because Nehemiah 8:10 says, “the Joy of the Lord is our strength.” And how much do we need strength for the task.

Brian believes that the next statement is also very important: “ I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land.” This means that the Lord’s favour will be with us and he will put us in a position where people will see us and recognise the truth and effectiveness of what we are doing, and we will be like a city on a hill. v14 "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. v15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. v16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:14-16

This falls into line with Isaiah 58: 8 and 10, where the Lord has told us that He wants our light to shine. We are reflecting the light of Christ and the darkness begins to recede, but something else important happens. This higher vantage point helps us to see the bigger picture as the Lord sees it. Vision is what the Lord sees and if we are fresh, rested and obedient, waiting on the Lord through prayer and meditation, away from the turmoil of the task, we will begin to see what He sees, as we seek Him with all of our hearts. This is how the Lord will guide us always through the difficulties and obstacles of a ‘sun-scorched’ land.

Then penultimately the Lord says He will cause us “ to feast on the inheritance of our father Jacob.” This resembles the fruition of the quest to deliver our people out of hunger, nakedness and homelessness, and the yoke of oppression will have been removed. O, that we may all take time to rest and be still and seek the Lord! This is confirmed in the parallel pattern for restoration and rebuilding of our land in Isaiah 30:15, "In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.”

Finally the Lord ends this magnificent chapter with the words, “The mouth of the Lord has spoken”. It is thrilling to be reminded that the Lord through the mouth of the prophet has spoken these words to us. We want to give thanks and praise to our God for so graciously and faithfully guiding us into a wonderful future for our continent, in which we hope to be a discipleship model for our own nations and for those in other continents, and by so doing, we will be preparing ourselves for Jesus as His Bride, ready for His coming.

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