Isaiah 58:l3 & 14
“If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure 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, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth” (Isaiah 58:13-14a)
God gives his beloved children many wonderful gifts, few more wonderful than the one honored in Isaiah 58. And in the same passage we find an incredible gift we are invited to give him. God gives us the gift of rest and we give the gift of time to him, a magnificent gift exchange. It is a marvel that he would give us an audience with himself, let alone that he would desire our companionship. He tells us to set aside from ordinary, mundane use one-seventh of our time and thus honor him by honoring his special day. Just as we give a portion of our possessions to him on a regular basis as a token of the fact that all we have belongs to him, so we give him a portion of our time on a regular basis as a token of the fact that all our time is his.
Since he owns all our money and we recognize that in theory, we do not conclude that therefore we do not need to set aside anything at all to prove that ownership. We do not ask how little we can give to one we love, but how much. I don’t try to figure how I can reduce time spent with my wife without losing her affection or our marriage. So it is with our loving father. And since the visible, mundane responsibilities and pleasures of life tend to crowd out the invisible, he has set aside a portion as “holy.” A holy pot, for example, was set aside from ordinary use for ceremonial use in the temple. A holy person was set aside for special service. So the holy day was set aside from ordinary use to provide a time for rest and “joy in the Lord” (v l4), worship of him and companionship with him.
Such a wonderful gift- time set aside to rest and restore a troubled mind and tired body and time to renew and deepen our relationship with our beloved. But neither his gift to us nor our gift to him will ever be realized without certain conditions.
The gift of rest is packaged in a law and only in that package is it deliverable. If it were merely a helpful hint, a suggestion we would accept it and honor it so long as other pressures did not demand that same block of time. And it is precisely those other pressures, those demands upon me, that make the gift of rest so essential and so welcome. Only a law frees me to carefully safeguard that time. Otherwise, I would be pressured into using it to fulfill the many other obligations that pile up. But is it a law?
Bear in mind when the Rest Day began. What it was in the nature of God that caused him to stop his creative activity and rest, to turn inward, so to speak? Perhaps there was something in the relationships among the Father, the Son and the blessed Spirit that called for such. It began with God’s own action at the end of his initial creative activity. Therefore, God blessed the Rest Day, set it apart, honored it, hallowed it.
God holds out a gift to us, and we turn away. God waits eagerly for our gift of a special time for him, and we squander it all on ourselves. Isn’t it sad? Why do Christian people trash God’s beautiful gift? Selfish- the theme of this passage. But it isn’t even smart selfishness. In the end the one avoiding the Rest Day impoverishes himself above all.
But what of the one who accepts God’s gift of a special time set aside meticulously for rest and refreshment of body and spirit and who carefully gives to God the gift of a special, regular time for fellowship with him? Oh, joy! God himself will cause you to ride high and to feast bountifully.