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UNDERSTANDING: Day of Delight

What the Lord’s Day should be…..

 

 

Call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD…

 (Isaiah 58:13).

The opening verses of Isaiah 58 reveal a problem that faced the people of Israel. Something was wrong in society, and they claimed to be unaware of what it was. They resembled a nation that was righteous and that delighted in following their God – even fasting at times – yet somehow they sensed that God was not blessing them. What was the matter? 

 

Responding to the call of God, Isaiah brought the answer. This was no time for pussyfooting! The people of Israel needed to see their sin (v.1). Their fasting had achieved nothing and brought no pleasure to God because they had been intent on satisfying their own desires (v.3). Not until they obeyed the requirements of their God would they know His blessing and the glory of His presence (v.8). If the action that God called for was taken, their prayers would be answered, their testimony would shine brightly, the Lord would guide them continually, and their soul would resemble a beautiful watered garden (v.9-11). However, they could not expect the blessing of God while the Sabbath remained a day for their own pleasures and pursuits.

 

 

WHICH DAY IS IT?

The people of Israel observed the Sabbath, as instructed by God. However, in the New Testament we find the early Christians meeting regularly on “the first day of the week.” This was the day that Jesus rose from the dead. In early New Testament times Sunday was a normal weekday, so it would seem that meetings of the fledgling Church took place in the evening. (Acts 20:7 bears this out.)  As the centuries passed and the influence of the gospel spread, Sunday became a non-working day in many countries of the western world and became a day that was different from the others. In Britain we have this heritage – a day set apart for the pursuit of the Lord’s interests with times when His people can meet together to worship Him or to engage in service.

 

 

WHOSE DAY IS IT?

This situation surely provides food for thought. The people of Isaiah’s day were making the mistake that is so common among professing Christians now. We are too ready to set our own agenda, seek our own pleasure, and somehow still expect God to bless us. In recent years we have witnessed the secularization of Sunday – and (to add insult to injury) sadly many who profess to love the Lord have gone along with the flow. The distinctiveness of the Lord’s Day in Britain has been lost. Sunday is now almost a repeat of Saturday. It is a day for shopping, catching up on jobs at home, going out for the day, watching football matches, or engaging in sport. Realizing that there is so much competition in the secular world, many churches have abandoned a Sunday evening service – feeling that is an embarrassment to convene a service when so few people might come along. Such an action simply makes it easier to secularize Sunday and legitimize the doing of one’s own thing on the Lord’s Day.

 

Voices of protest will, of course, be raised by some. The plaintive wail, “We are not under the Law any more,” and “the keeping of the Sabbath is not taught in the New Testament,” are old arguments. Actually, they both miss the point. The tragedy is that it suits people to say things like this because it gives them licence to do what they want rather than what God wants. The idea of “a day of rest” goes back to Creation. It is a day to enjoy the things of God rather than being a day for pursuing our own interests. Isaiah 58:13 speaks of it positively in terms of a holy day, a delight, a day to honour Him. Pleasure has to fill the lives of so many on a Sunday for this simple reason: they have very little delight in Him.

 

Something is very wrong indeed if a Sunday dedicated to the Lord becomes a kind of “punishment” to an individual. Surely, if we really understood Calvary we would want to spend one day in the week pursuing His interests and not our own. Perhaps if we honoured the Lord on His Day the Church would have a more credible testimony in this ungodly world.