The Sabbath a Delight

Author: Pastor Joseph Khabbaz
April 11, 2019

The Sabbath a Delight

“The oven isn’t working anymore!” exclaimed the wife of my professor at seminary who was sharing a memorable story of cooking and technology. There was an error code on their new oven that was unable to be cleared. Sabbath was approaching and his wife wanted to have a special meal ready after his long work trip away from home. He quickly glanced at his new oven and in a red glow the oven read, “5AB.” He began pressing several buttons including the cancel button; nothing happened. He pulled the oven unit out of the wall and unplugged it from the main power source thinking that when he plugged it back in the error message would be gone but still, nothing happened. So he searched for the owner’s manual for the error code, “5AB” but the owner’s manual could not help him either. Finally, he decided to call the manufacturer of the oven and speak to a customer service representative to see if they could make sense of his dilemma. After a few questions, the representative said to my now frustrated professor, “There are no error codes for your model of oven that read 5AB.” My professor assured the representative on the phone that 5AB is exactly what the oven says. After a few more minutes the representative said, “Oh, that is not an error code that is the oven's Sabbath mode, 5AB stands for SAB which is short for Sabbath.” Imagine that, ovens now have a Sabbath mode. It turns out that the Sabbath mode is a feature designed by the manufacturer for their Jewish customers who seek to keep their food warm on Sabbath for food that had been cooked on Friday. Who would have ever thought that an oven could have a Sabbath mode? Yet, as we prepare for Sabbath each week what mode can we find ourselves in?

In Isaiah 58:13 it says, “If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, From doing your pleasure on My holy day, And call the Sabbath a delight, The holy day of the LORD honorable, And shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, Nor finding your own pleasure, Nor speaking your own words” This verse has startled many and often been misinterpreted and debated. What does it mean when the Bible tells us to refrain from doing our own pleasure on the Sabbath? What does it mean to be in a “Sabbath mode?”

For some, this verse has often meant doing nothing that is pleasurable, gratifying or pleasing on the Sabbath, and for others, Sabbath has served as a kind of punishment, rather than a reward or a delight. As we read the text more closely the verse itself emphasizes “your pleasure” in contrast with calling the Sabbath a “delight.” The focus therefore is not on pleasure so much as the priority of pleasure. By way of illustration, some of you already know that I love playing basketball and reading but I am unable to do both at the same time, “pleasure” needs to be prioritized. As we study the context of the verse from Isaiah 58:1-12, we discover that God invites His people to “...delight to know My ways…” and “...take delight in approaching God.” (Is. 58:2.), but how? God’s Word continues and says, “bring to your house the poor who are cast out; When you see the naked, that you cover him, And not hide yourself from your own flesh?” (Is. 58:7). God reminds us that taking delight in His Sabbath means prioritizing those in our communities who need our help. Making Sabbath a pleasure means delighting in the very things that God delights in, such a practice is not limited to the Sabbath because there is no such thing as a moral holiday for a Christian but it does include the Sabbath.

As I considered this verse, it reminded me of how vital the delighting in the Sabbath is to us at Sligo Church. On Sabbath, I have the privilege of participating in our Refugee Support Ministry and our Homeless Ministry outreach with our youth and young adults. Many of our guests have started attending Sligo because church members invited them to one of the many outreach projects that Sligo Church supports. What I have found is that those who attend Sligo regularly are drawn, not just because we have great music or amazing Sabbath lunches, they come because of the Sabbath being a delight for those who call Sligo their Church home. 

“The man who attempts to keep the commandments of God from a sense of obligation merely - because he is required to do so - will never enter into the joy of obedience. He does not obey.” (Christ's Object Lessons, pg. 97) I pray that our Sabbath keeping will continually be a delight that leads to true Sabbath joy.


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