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Garry spoke this morning from Isaiah 56:1-8 on the subject of ‘Sabbath’. Isaiah addresses three kinds of people in these verses: the people of the covenant (Israel), those who were considered imperfect in some way or other which prevented them from gaining access to God’s family and foreigners (who were regarded as outsiders), and the revolutionary message he brought was that all would be accepted by God if they kept the Sabbath and did what was right.
The Sabbath was inaugurated by God and can sometimes be regarded as simply Old Testament doctrine and therefore irrelevant nowadays in the days of the new covenant. Whilst some of the laws in the Old Testament (e.g. the ceremonial, sacrificial laws) have been superseded by Jesus’s sacrifice, there is still much in the Old Testament of relevance to us. We are not to become legalistic about the Sabbath, for Jesus made it plain that the Sabbath was made for man and not the other way around (Mark 2:27), but the Sabbath is God’s idea, a day of rest, a day that was to be holy to God. (Ex 16:23)
The primary meaning of Sabbath rest is to leave what is normally done throughout the week and to focus attention on God. God rested from His work of creation on the Sabbath (Gen 2:2), not because He was tired or needed physical rest (as we undoubtedly do) but because His work of creation was finished. For us, the Sabbath is a change of focus as well as a time of rest and recuperation; it enables us to set our faces once again towards God, rather like scales need recalibration at times.
The Sabbath puts other things into perspective and helps us to see the world through God’s eyes. So often, we can have our vision distorted (the daily news briefings on the coronavirus pandemic can easily cause us to lose heart and fear), but as we set our faces towards God and cease from our work, we acknowledge His Lordship and are strengthened by Him. Sabbath enables to us change our focus, to commune with God, to recalibrate our souls and to get God’s perspective on life.