It’s unfortunate that every time the question of sabbath observance comes up, all the focus is put on things you can’t do on a Sunday.
- turn on the radio/tv
- buy anything
- take public transport
Focusing on the restrictions and their justification means that you miss out on the more important bit – that the main motivation for avoiding some things is so that you get more time to spend on other things.
- going to church
- going to church again
- catching up on bible reading
- discussing the sermons you heard in church
- celebrating the resurrection of the Saviour
- being thankful for redemption
- thinking about the eternal sabbath ahead of believers in heaven
These are things which do you good, particularly in your soul, but they also tend to demand a certain amount of concentration – enough that you really notice the difference when you’ve tuned out of the things that you’ve been doing for the other six days in the week and can focus more especially on spiritual matters, things relating to God and eternity and the needs of your soul.
It’s not just the break from ordinary work that makes it possible to view the sabbath as ‘a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable,’ but also the pleasure that it’s possible to find in worship – in gathering with other people to hear a gospel sermon, and reflecting on gospel truths during the day, perhaps also in conversation with other Christians or with the help of scriptural devotional books. Six days are long enough to spend immersed in the activities and concerns of everyday life – a seventh is often only too short to spend with your heart running out to the Saviour and drinking in the truths of the gospel.
Admittedly that’s a best-case scenario, and I confess I waste far more sabbath days than I can honestly say I’ve spent continuously delighting in the things of God and eternity, but that’s the principle behind clearing the decks for a sabbath and avoiding as much as possible that distracts your poor soul from what will do it good. It’s also why Psalm 92, a psalm specifically titled a psalm or song for the sabbath day, is not so much a lament for things that you’re forbidden to do that day, as an outflowing of praise and gratitude to a God of perpetual lovingkindness and faithfulness, for the great things he has done for his people.