A Prayer of Joy
“a feeling of great pleasure or happiness”
13 “If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath
and from doing as you please on my holy day,
if you call the Sabbath a delight
and the Lord’s holy day honorable,
and if you honor it by not going your own way
and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,
14 then you will find your joy in the Lord,
and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land
and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.”
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
Today’s section of Isaiah 58 speaks of Sabbath. The word Sabbath means “to cease” and it is a fitting way to end this 21-day journey we have had together.
About a thousand years before Isaiah was born, God ordained the Sabbath, a holy day at the end of each week for God’s people to enjoy rest from their work, their labors, and to honor the Lord, to enter into his rest. In today’s passage we see that this was being ignored; the Israelites did not recognize the value of keeping the Sabbath, and so they were missing out on many blessings.
Sabbath is not a command addressed to the followers of Jesus in the same way it was to the Jewish people, but there is still a great deal we can learn from it. Jesus invited his followers, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28 NIV). In Hebrews 4:10, we read, “For anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his” (NIV). Because of all Jesus accomplished for us, the Old Testament commandments are behind us; something greater has come. Nevertheless, taking the time to slow down and rest in God’s presence is a wonderful thing.
In an increasingly busy world, it can be challenging, stressful even, to think about adhering to a day of Sabbath. Consider looking at it through a different lens. The focus isn’t to keep a rule or commandment; the focus is to set aside time away from your work to relax and cherish time with God, time alone, and time with others. When we delight in God, he delights in us, filling us with joy. This refills us so that we have something of value to unleash in the world: a full and compassionate heart. Sabbath reminds us that God doesn’t need us. We need him. It is a gift, not a burden, to us. It is a time to rest, restore, and refuel.
As people who unleash compassion in a broken world in Jesus’ name, it is important to practice the joy-replenishing habit of Sabbath so that we don’t have to become a focus of compassion ourselves in a needless way. As we round the final bend of this journey together, let’s take joy and rest.
What steps could you take to simplify your life, slow down, and make room to regularly rest in God? Ask him to help you prioritize the setting aside of time to confide in him, to rest in him and in the joy of his presence. (Don’t be surprised if it becomes your favorite time of the day or week!)
Setting aside time for Sabbath doesn’t necessarily mean sitting alone in a chair all day. What sorts of activities would be good Sabbath activities for you personally? For your family? Would you like to invite others to join you? Pray for ideas.
The Apostle Paul taught, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6,7 NLT). Thank God for what he has shown you and accomplished in you over these 21 Days of Prayer.