Those of us of any Christian faith believe in the Bible, and are generally agreed to keep the commandments contained therein. The purpose of the Sabbath dates back to the creation of the world, when after six days of labor the Lord rested from the work of creation as recorded in Genesis. It’s importance has been underlined by prophets, presidents, and the Lord himself.
In Moses’ day, God revealed the Ten Commandments and He commanded: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days thou shalt do all thy work: but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work… For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.” Exodus 20:8-11.
Down through the centuries Sabbath day worship continued to be practiced, both in the Old Testament and after the coming of our Lord and his Apostles.
In fact Isaiah called keeping the Sabbath “a delight.” “If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.” Isaiah 58:13-14.
We learn from Ezekiel that the Lord gave the Sabbath to His people “to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctify them…hallow my sabbaths; and they shall be a sign between me and you, that ye may know that I am the Lord your God.” Ezekiel 20:12, 20.
The Lord Himself endorsed the Sabbath, and its importance. What did He mean when He said “the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath”? To indirectly quote a living Apostle, He wanted us to understand the Sabbath was His gift to us, giving us a break from the rigors of daily life and an opportunity for spiritual as well as physical renewal. God gave us this special day. He didn’t give it to us for our own amusement or for work but for a rest from our duties, with physical and spiritual relief. Our Lord declared Himself Lord of the Sabbath. It’s His day! He’s repeatedly asked us to keep the Sabbath or to hallow the Sabbath day.
As many of my readers know I’m a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. In our faith there is modern revelation that re-emphasizes the importance of the Sabbath: “That thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day; For verily this is a day appointed unto you to rest from your labors, and to pay thy devotions unto the Most High… And inasmuch as ye do these things with thanksgiving, with cheerful hearts and countenances… the fulness of the earth is yours.” Doctrine & Covenants 59:9-16.
Think about the blessings promised in the preceding verses. We will ‘delight ourselves in the Lord,’ ‘ride upon the high places of the earth,’ be fed ‘the heritage of Jacob,’ we will be sanctified, and the ‘fulness of the earth’ will be ours. Those are some great promises! Every commandment the Lord gives us is to bless us, and to help us become more like Him. The Sabbath has been observed by many people down through the ages, but is it a commandment we are keeping today?
Scripture is pretty clear that while Sunday is a day of rest, it’s not necessarily a day of recreation. Recall the scripture asks us to “turn away from doing thine pleasure” and “not do thine own ways.” It’s also not a day for work according to Exodus, except in cases where this is unavoidable. I’m not advocating shutting down the police or fire departments, or other emergency services. Too often, though, we think of Sunday as a day for partying, shopping or working. I read of a man who was a barber, and as he drew closer to the Lord realized that his profession required him to work on the Sabbath, which is when a large proportion of his business was generated. He prayed about it and changed his profession. THAT is faith, and a willingness to please his Lord by obeying his commandment.
So how are we to make the Sabbath a delight? What does He want us to do? What does He want us to refrain from doing? Certainly worship has always been a component of Sabbath Day observance. One of the most important and significant things our Lord did was to organize a church, both in the Old Testament and the New. The Apostles appear throughout the book of Acts as observing the Sabbath, and what better way can you spend the Sabbath than by attending church and worshiping, especially as a family? Consider making this a priority on the Sabbath. Reading your scriptures on this day is a great use of time also and highly recommended, especially if it’s hard to find time during the week.
How else can we make the Sabbath a delight? Sabbath days are a wonderful opportunity to strengthen family ties. Wholesome family activities are in short supply these days, and time to engage in them is in short supply also. Visiting relatives, renewing ties with them through phone calls, emails or letters is a great way to spend some of your day!
Here’s one many of you will be happy to hear about: sleep! Nothing wrong with napping and getting some physical rest. According to a recent Gallup Poll, 40% of Americans are getting 6 hours or less sleep per night, which is insufficient. Rest and restore yourself.
Serve others, especially those who are not feeling well or those who are lonely or in need. Our Lord famously healed a man on the Sabbath, which angered the Pharisees. Rendering service or assistance to others is emulating our Savior Himself.
Not pursuing our own pleasure on the Sabbath requires self-discipline. We may have to deny ourselves of something we might like. If we choose to delight ourselves in the Lord, however, we won’t permit ourselves to treat it as any other day. Help yourself by arranging your week so you can reserve the Lord’s day for activities that are appropriate for it. A guiding rule is “what sign do I want to give God?” This question may help make your choices about Sabbath day observance crystal clear.