If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy plea sure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honorable;... then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord" (Isa. 58:13, 14).
How many times have you preached on that text? How many times have I given a Bible study on the Sabbath, and referred to it by painting a glowing picture of the true intent of the Sabbath as a day when we put aside earthly things to focus on God--to learn to delight in Him?
And how many times have I struggled with my own failure to realize the true delight God wants me to find in the Sabbath?
Recently I read the book The Rabbi From Burbank, by Isidor Zwirn, an Orthodox Jewish rabbi who through his own study of Isaiah came to believe in Jesus as the Messiah. In it he tells of how he remembers spending the Sabbath as a boy: "I will never forget our Sabbaths." "All of Friday was lived in anticipation of the peace and beauty of our coming Sabbath." "As the evening drew near, a serene stillness settled upon the whole community. The men hurried home . . . greeting each other with the traditional 'Shabbat shalom.' " "With the coming of our biblical Sabbath, it seemed that the very peace of God Himself, His shekinah, fell upon us, and we rejoiced in His presence. I can never forget the happiness and serenity of those Sabbaths we spent as a family. Recently, when my sister, Shirley, and her husband came to visit us, we reminisced for hours about those happy days of our childhood. "*
Earlier I had read In the Beginning, Chaim Potok's story of an Orthodox Jewish boy growing up in New York during the Great Depression. Potok paints in vivid characters the joy that young men preparing for the rabbinate experienced in discussing biblical themes on the Sabbath. The day, fraught with traditions and family togetherness, remains in both authors' memories as the high point of the week.
How many Adventists, looking back on their childhood, remember the Sabbath as a special day of delight? Saturday evening, maybe--but Sabbath?
When I was in college, it was common to hear students say something like, "When I was growing up, I didn't really like the Sabbath, but now that I'm in college I've learned to really appreciate it--I need a day of rest!"
I knew of one student who had figured out how to get into medical school quickly--he would take extra classes, sleep only four hours per night, and make up for the lost rest by sleeping all day Sabbath! My own positive reaction to the Sabbath began in college. But looking back, I realize that it was a self-centered reaction based more on my need for rest than on the delight I could find in worship.
Am I right in saying that for the most part Seventh-day Adventists know how to make the Sabbath a delightful day of rest, or a delightful day to go for a walk, but know little of truly delighting in the Lord and teaching their children to find their delight in God?
I hope I am wrong and that I will hear from many readers who have positive suggestions for bringing Isaiah 58:13, 14 to fruition in their lives and in the lives of children and teenagers. Please let me hear from you if you have time-proven suggestions. I will be delighted to share your ideas for finding delight in the Lord with our readers in a forthcoming article.--Kenneth R. Wade.