Strength for the Weary: The Blessedness of the Sabbath – Derek Thomas

Recently I received a new title from Reformation Trust (publishing arm of Ligonier Ministries), which website gives this summary of the book:

In Strength for the Weary, Dr. Derek W.H. Thomas explores the final chapters of Isaiah, laying out the remarkable promises that God makes to His people. In these pages, there is consolation in the struggles of this life and encouragement for the road ahead. The God of Comfort has promised to be with His people always.

I have appreciated and been blessed by Derek Thomas’ writing in the past and tonight I began to read in it, jumping ahead to chapter 6, “A Well-Watered Garden,” an exposition of Isaiah 58, which includes promises concerning God’s sabbath. Concerning these Thomas has some fine thoughts about how we ought to approach the sabbath as NT Christians.

First, he deals with the general question, “What obligation do Christians have to law keeping?” In part he says this:

Are Christians obligated to keep the moral law? A negative answer here will find us on the wrong side of something that Jesus makes very clear [Here he quotes John 14:15, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”]

We are obligated to obey everything God commands. And obedience results in joy. That is what Isaiah is insisting in this chapter. There is an essential delight about walking in the paths that God has established.. Lawbreaking never ultimately satisfies. [And here he quotes from Psalm 19:7-11.], p.95

But, then, second, the author gets specifically at the sabbath question, putting it in proper biblical perspective for us:

The Sabbath is, after all, a creation ordinance. It is part of the created rhythm of the cycle of the first week. Work is followed by a day of rest. In the new covenant, and following perhaps a gospel logic, the order is reversed: rest is followed by work.

To approach this issue of Sabbath keeping from the perspective of ‘What is God forbidding me to do on the Sabbath?’ is essentially wrongheaded. It is a bit like Satan’s suggestion in the original temptation in Eden. If God prohibits eating from one tree, He might as well prohibit from all trees. Hence Satan’s statement to Eve that all trees were out of bounds (Gen.3:1). The very form of the question suggests God doesn’t really want His creatures to experience any real joy at all. The additional restrictions Satan imposed revealed him to be a legalist at heart.

And legalists never experience joy.

Do we ever think of the Sabbath (Lord’s Day) as ‘a delight’?

And it is not the Sabbath itself that is the ultimate delight but the God whom we meet in worship on the Sabbath. He is our chief delight. The Sabbath brings us near to Him and He to us. And there can be no greater joy than that.

It is God’s gift to ensure our liberty from the slavery of the unrelenting demands of work. The gift of the Sabbath is the gift of a day given to worship and rest and the blessings that flow from it. It is the greatest gift imaginable. To doubt it suggests we have never really known the blessings of God-centered worship and the freedom and joy that it brings.

The Sabbath is designed as help for the weary. It provides a taste of gospel rest and a foretaste of eternal rest. [pp.96-97]

Is that what we experienced today? Did we delight in God’s appointed day of rest? And did we enjoy its great blessings then? Good things to think about as we end the sabbath.

Source: Strength for the Weary: Derek Thomas – Hardcover, Book | Ligonier Ministries Store

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