XLI. THE LORD'S DAY
`And God blessed the seventh day, and hallowed it: because that in it He rested from all His work which God had created.' -- Gen. 2:3
`On that day, the first day of the week, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.' -- John 20:19
`I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day.' -- Rev. 1:10
Man abides under the law of time. He must have time for what he would do or obtain. In a wonderful way God gives him time for intercourse with Himself. One day in seven God separated for fellowship with Himself.
The great object of God's gift of this day is said to be, that it may serve as a token that God desires to sanctify man. (Ex. 31:13,17; Ezek. 20:12,20) Endeavour, pray, to understand well that word `holy:' it is one of the most important words in the Bible. God is the Holy One: that alone is holy to which God communicates His holiness by revealing Himself thereby. We know that the temple was holy, because God dwelt there. God had taken possession of it. He gave Himself to dwell there. So would God also sanctify man, take possession of him, fill him with Himself, with His own life, His disposition, His holiness. For this end, God took possession of the seventh day, appropriating it to Himself: He sanctified it. And He calls man also to sanctify it, and to acknowledge it as the Lord's day, the day of the Lord's presence and special working. He that does this, that sanctifies this day, shall, as God has promised, be sanctified by Him. (Read with attention Ex. 31:12-17, especially verse 13.)
God blessed the seventh day by sanctifying it. The blessing of God is the power of life, lodged by Him in anything, whereby it has a result full of blessing. Grass, and cattle, and man He blessed with power to multiply. (Gen. 1:22,28; 22:17) And so He lodged in the seventh day a power to bless: the promise that every one that sanctifies this day shall be sanctified and blessed by it. We must accustom ourselves always to think of the Sabbath as a blessed day, that certainly brings blessing. The blessing bound up with it is very great. (Isa. 46:4,7; 48:13,14)
There is still a third word that is used of the institution of the Sabbath: `God rested on the seventh day,' and, as it stands in Exodus, `was refreshed' or gladdened. God would sanctify and bless us, by introducing us into His rest. He would bring us to see that we are not to burden ourselves with our cares and weakness: we are to rest in Him, in His finished work, in His rest, which He takes because all is in order. This rest is not the outward cessation of employments; no: it is the rest of faith, by which we cease from our works as God did from His, because all is finished. Into this rest we enter by faith in the finished work of Jesus, in surrender to be sanctified by God. (Heb. 4:3,10)
Because Jesus finished the second creation in His resurrection, and we, by the power of His resurrection, enter into life and rest, the seventh day is changed to the first day of the week. There is no specific statement on this point: under the New Testament, the Spirit takes the place of the law. The Spirit of the Lord led His disciples to the celebration of this day. It was the day, not only on which the Lord was raised, but also on which, in all likelihood, the Spirit was poured out: not only on which the Lord manifested Himself during the forty days, but on which the Spirit also specially worked (John 20:1,19,26; Acts. 1:8; 20:7: 1 Cor. 26:2; Rev. 1:10)
The chief lessons that we have to learn about this day are the following: --
The principal aim of the Sabbath is to make you holy, as God is holy. God would have you holy: this is glory, this is blessedness: this is His blessing, this His rest. God would have you holy, filled with Himself and His holiness. (Ex. 29:43,45; Ezek. 37:27,28; 1 Pet. 1:15,16)
In order to sanctify you, God must have you with Him, in His presence and fellowship. You are to come away from all your struggling and working to rest with Him: to rest quietly, without exertion or anxiety, in the certitude that the Son has finished everything, that the Father cares for you in everything, that the Spirit will work everything in you. In the holy rest of a soul that is converted to God, that is silent towards God, that remains silent before His presence to hear what God speaks in him, that reckons upon God to achieve all, God can reveal Himself. (Ps. 52:2,6; Hab. 2:20; Zech. 2:13; John 19:30) It is thus that He sanctifies us.
We sanctify the day of rest, first by withdrawal from all external business and distraction; but then especially by employing it as God's day, belonging to the Lord, for what He destined it, fellowship with Himself.
Take heed, on the other hand, that you do not use the day of rest only as a day for the public observance of divine worship. It is especially in private personal intercourse that God can bless and sanctify you. In the church, the understanding is kept active, and you have the ordinances of preaching, united prayer and praise, to keep you occupied. But we do not there always know whether the heart is really dealing with God, is taking delight in Him. This takes place in solitude. O, accustom yourself, then, to be alone with the Lord your God. Not only speak to Him: let Him speak to you: let your heart be the temple in whose holy silence His voice is heard. Rest in God: then will God say of your heart: This is my rest, here will I dwell. (Ps. 122:13,14)
Young Christian, set great store by the holy, the blessed day of rest. Long for it. Thank God for it. Keep it very holy. And, above all, let it be a day of inner fellowship with your God, of a living converse with His love.
Holy God, I thank Thee for the holy day which Thou givest me as a token that Thou wilt sanctify me. Lord God, it is Thou who didst sanctify the day by taking it for Thyself: sanctify me in like manner by taking me for Thyself. Teach me so to enter into Thy rest, so to find my rest in Thy love, that my whole soul shall be silent before Thee, in order that Thou mayest make Thyself and Thy love known in me. And let every Sabbath be to me a foretaste of the eternal rest with Thee. Amen.
1. The Sabbath was the first of all the means of grace, instituted even before the Fall. You cannot see too high a value upon it.
2. Observe how specially the Three-One God has revealed Himself upon the day of rest. The Father rested on this day. The Son rose from the dead upon it. The Spirit sanctified this day by His special workings. You may on this day expect the fellowship and the powerful workings of the Three-One.
3. What is meant by the word `holy'? Of what is the day of rest a token, according to Ex. 31:13? How did God sanctify the day of rest? How does He sanctify us?
4. There are in this country peculiar difficulties in the way of the quiet celebration of the day of rest in a village, where the church is often very full. Yet one can lay aside that which is unnecessary and receive the influx of company. We can fix an hour in which there shall be reading and singing.
5. It is a matter of great importance to bring up children aright, for the sanctification of the Sabbath day, by avoiding worldly society and conversation, by accustoming them to read something that may be useful for them. For the younger children, there should be in every place a Sabbath school. For the older children, it would be well to come together in connection with such a book as this, every one with a Bible, and to review texts.
6. There is no better day than the Lord's day for doing good to body and soul. Let the works of Satan on this day come to an end, and work for the heathen and the ignorant be carried forward.
7. The principal point is this: the day of rest is the day of God's rest, of rest in and with God, and of intercourse with Him. It is God that will sanctify us. He does this by taking possession of us.