"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; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken." (Isaiah 58:13-14)
[There is much debate about the application of the Sabbath to the
present day church. I will not address that issue here, but instead will incorporate the principles of Isaiah 58:13-14 to our worship of Christ.
There are striking similarities (and I believe promises) attached to the
proper worship of our Lord.]
God Almighty is not approached easily, nor does He readily accept anyone
into His presence. The reason for this is because He is holy, an
attribute which means "set apart." Therefore, to come into the presence of God for worship, one must be
holy themselves. Thanks be to God that He prepared us for this by His
word, His power, His Spirit and His blood to do just that.
"Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of
God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters,
nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,nor thieves, nor the
greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the
kingdom of God.And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were
sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and
by the Spirit of our God." (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)
He washed us, He sanctified us and justified us, making us meet to bow
down before Him. All the words in the world cannot adequately express
the greatness of these acts upon sinners such as we are.
As God is holy, His subjects must be holy as well, not only in our
position (which is sufficiently described above) but our behavior also.
Coming into the presence of Christ to worship Him is a holy act. And as
the God who is to be worshiped is set apart, so too the people who
Enter now Isaiah 58:13-14, which admittedly has a wider application than
what I propose here, but certainly includes it. All of the behaviors
and promises spoken of in these two verses apply to the time when the
Church of Christ gathers to honor Him. Let us now see how this is so.
First, let us see the proper behaviors of those who desire to worship
Christ. What does He desire of us? What are His instructions to us? We
find the answer in Isaiah 58:13 as follows:
"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"
One, "we turn back our foot," which may refer to the trampling upon it
by doing that which is unrelated or unnecessary. The wider application
may have referred to unnecessary travel. But I believe that Matthew
Henry sums it up nicely by saying that we must avoid "trampling upon it
as some vain atheistic people do." (Matthew Henry's Commentaries).
Nevertheless, the sense is to spend our energy and effort engaged in the
worship of God, particularly when we are gathered together with His
Two, we are to turn back from "doing your (or our) pleasure." The
pleasure we are to derive from worshiping Christ is to be from Christ
and nowhere else. We are to take delight in Him and Him alone in
worship. There is plenty of time during the week to enjoy the many
things God has graciously given us, but this isn't one of them. Let us
delight in our Savior alone as we gather together. Let Him be our
Three, we are to call it a delight, which is not confined to some
nickname we may place upon it, but is instead to be a true expression of
what is found in our hearts. We call the worship of Christ a delight
because it is to us a delight in truth. If we find that offering up
sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving and hearing the words of our Lord
are not delightful to us, then we need look no further than the
wickedness of our own hearts. Understanding the great salvation we have
in Christ and the gracious nature of it should be impetus enough to find
joy. Let us then find it in God, our savior and redeemer, delighting in
Four, we are to honor our time together. The word "honor" which is used
in this passage, speaks to a something being heavy or weighty,
especially in importance. An analogy might be like a king who has now
entered into our presence. We would treat him with honor because of the
importance of his person and position. So too the worship of Christ. We
are to show honor to the time by giving it the greatest of importance.
It is not meant to be casually attended or participated in, but rather
should be done so with great seriousness and priority.
Five, our actions, attitudes and words should be set apart, or be holy,
just as the God we worship is holy. We set the time apart, we delight in
it and we honor it by reserving our ways, pleasure and words for
Christ. We do not go in the path of our "own ways, or seeking (our) own
pleasure, or talking idly" While we bow down before Him, we keep our
hearts and minds upon Him. Even our words should be confined to Christ,
the reason for our gathering. This is what it means to be holy
practically. We set apart all that we are for Him, the author and
finisher of our faith.
Now these holy attitudes and behaviors should not be burdensome to us,
nor were they or are they meant to be harsh laws laid down to rob us of
our joy. In fact, they are graciously given to us and are the
prescription for acceptable and joyful worship of Christ. This is
evident in the verse that follows.
And it should be said that like every obedience to God, these are
graciously given to us by God Himself. We can no more do these things in
the flesh than we can jump to the moon. We must seek His grace that He
enable us to do that which He has called us to do.
Second, let us see the great promises affixed to the proper and holy
worship of Christ. What rewards of our gracious God are provided when we
honor Him with holy and acceptable worship? If we do the above, what
will be the promised result?
"...then you shall take delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride on
the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob
your father, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken." (Isaiah 58:14)
One, we will take delight in the Lord. The equation is this. Delight in
God and we will find delight in God. Now this will not occur if our
minds are flooded with the things of the world. To accomplish this, we
must be in the practice of delighting in Him during the week. If we fill
ourselves with the world all week long, never resting to drink the
refreshing water of the word, never meditating upon Him and His works,
then we will not find delight on the Lord's Day when we assemble for an
hour or so. Neither will we find delight if when we are gathered, our
minds wander to those things in the world that we love so much. Set
apart the time for Christ in your minds and desires. Delight in God
during the week and you will delight in Him on Sunday. And when you
delight in Him alone on Sunday, the worship of Him will be delightful to
Two, if we set the time apart, if we behave in a holy manner, he will
"make us to ride on the heights of the earth." This speaks to the
providential care and lifting up of God's people by God Himself. The
sense of it is seen in Deuteronomy 32 as follows:
"Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that flutters over its young,
spreading out its wings, catching them, bearing them on its pinions, the
LORD alone guided him, no foreign god was with him. He made him ride on
the high places of the land, and he ate the produce of the field, and
he suckled him with honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty
rock." (Deuteronomy 32:12-13)
Many of us come each Sunday filled with many cares and concerns of this
world, desiring some relief or help from God. Here He is telling us in
no uncertain terms that He will lift us up and put us in a safe and
honorable position. Do we want security? Do we want to know we are
valued? Honor the Lord on the Lord's Day and He will honor you. For what
did He tell Samuel?
"Therefore the LORD, the God of Israel, declares: 'I promised that your
house and the house of your father should go in and out before me
forever,' but now the LORD declares: 'Far be it from me, for those who
honor me I will honor, and those who despise me shall be lightly
esteemed." (1 Samuel 2:30)
Take joy in the Lord, rejoice in Him, be holy in your worship of Him and He will lift you up and honor you.
Three, He will "feed (us) with the heritage of Jacob." What an abundant
and glorious promise this is from our Lord. The many blessings and
benefits of God, which are supernaturally given to us from above, the
wisdom of His word, the blessed fruits of the Spirit, the foretaste of
heaven will be ours when we delight in Him on the Lord's Day in worship.
The vast treasure of God's word will be available to us, the sweet
honeycomb of the heavenly bread will be ours. We will have these things
because we will want these things and give great value to these things.
When we hear the preaching of God's word, we will see it for what it is,
a gracious gift of God for His people. And we will experience what it
is in increased godly wisdom and knowledge, in repentance, in increased
love for God and others, in holy desires and in holy behavior. The value
of these gracious gifts cannot be measured in their worth to us. But
God will feed them to us when our worship of Him is holy as He is holy.
Finally, we have the very promise of God upon these gifts. "For the
mouth of the LORD has spoken." These are His words, His commands, His
promises. They are given by Him to His people, graciously and lovingly.
They are a certainty because the very nature of God in holiness is
dependent upon it. If God were to fail in a single instance of carrying
out what He promised to us, then He would no longer be holy and no
longer be worthy of our praise.
But He is a holy God and He keeps His promises. Let us then worship Him
in a manner consistent with His nature. Let us prepare for it ahead of
time by dwelling upon Him, meditating on Him and His word, praying and
praising Him through the week, that our hearts would be sufficiently
prepared to enter His gates with thanksgiving (Psalm 95) walk in
obedience to His word and be set apart ourselves for worship.
Let us seek His grace that our time together would be honorable to Him,
delightful to Him, offering up sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving,
singing and telling of the excellencies of His nature and works and
rejoicing in Him alone.
We serve an awesome God, who is perfectly set apart from everyone and everything. Let our worship of Him be in like kind.