Saturday, December 04, 2004

Sabbath Delighting

Normal service resumed. Holidays are over.

Tim over at has written a great review on Walt Chantry’s book “Call the Sabbath a Delight”. It got me thinking. Why should we keep the Sabbath? Rather than looking at it exegetically and getting tangled up in a debate about Old Covenant/New Covenant, I want to come at it sideways by asking two questions:

What is a Christian?
What is the Sabbath for?

What is a Christian?
Many great theological terms could be invoked here to answer this question – someone who is justified, someone who is forgiven, someone who has been regenerated by the Holy Spirit, someone who has repented and believed that Jesus is the Christ.

All good and right.

But I think there is one element that is missing from much of today’s understanding of Christianity. Sometimes as Christians we live our lives as if being a Christian was a burden, as if obedience was a strain, as if walking with God was a trouble. I think one word is needed to redress the balance: Relationship

We have a relationship with God. And it is a good relationship.

“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” John 1:12.

A Christian is someone who, at an immense cost paid by Christ, has been brought into the most amazing and wondrous and incredible relationship in the world. Surely, therefore, a Christian is someone who should be relishing this relationship, delighting in it, enjoying it seeking to extract all he or she can from it.

What is the Sabbath for?
God gave the Sabbath day to mankind for two purposes – to rest and to relate.

It is a day set aside – holy – not just set aside from things (the endless lists of don’t do this, don’t do that) or set aside for rest, it is also a day set aside to something or someone. It is for us to delight in our relationship with God. God knows that on the other days, while we live in his presence, we do not get much time to delight in him, so in his love he says, “I want you to have a whole day with me”.

Sabbath day is, to use the language of Song of Songs, a day for two lovers who have only been able to speak briefly during the week, to spend an entire day together, enjoying each others company, relishing the relationship, delighting in learning. It is not that God needs it, but we do.

This is why the Sabbath is a delight.

Previous generations may have been very good at Sabbath keeping, but perhaps not so good at Sabbath delighting. Their children, raised only on Sabbath keeping can’t see the point.

What then is the Sabbath for?

Imagine a young man, recently engaged, offered a chance to play football with his mates, or to spend a day with his beloved. He knows that it’s no competition. Every other day, all he can feed his heart on are a few phone calls, emails, or texts. But now he has a chance for a whole day in her presence.

How come that we who are Christians, and have the relationship of which every other relationship is but a pale shadow, choose the football and the TV, and whatever else we fill our Sabbaths with, every time? The Sabbath is a chance to relish our relationship, to enjoy being in his presence, to read about our loving God, to learn about his mighty acts, to speak with him, to praise him.

Have a blessed Sabbath.

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