The Sabbath a Test of Obedience
Isaiah 56:2
Blessed is the man that does this, and the son of man that lays hold on it; that keeps the sabbath from polluting it…

It is singular to find Isaiah now making so much of the sabbath when, in the earlier part of his prophecy, he had, in the name of God, spoken of it so scornfully (see Isaiah 1:13, "The new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with"). Matthew Arnold refers to this contrast, and says, "That related to a time when the kingdom of Judah yet stood, when the service of the temple was in full course, the whole exterior part of the Jews' religion splendid and prominent. At such a time a prophet might naturally undervalue the whole of this exterior part in comparison with the inward part. But during the exile in Babylon all the services and sacrifices of the temple had ceased, and the one testimony of faithfulness to their religion which the Jews among an idolatrous people could give, was the observance of their sabbath; their sabbath was the one outward thing which brought their religion to their mind. Hence its observance acquired quite a special value." Inquire what signs of their allegiance to Jehovah, and their obedience to his commands, pious Jews in Babylon could give to those around them. None could be so important or so effective as to show themselves a nation of sabbath-keepers, because Jehovah, their God, had commanded sabbath-keeping.

I. SABBATH-KEEPING A FORMAL ACT. As such it is of comparatively small importance. It bears good relation, indeed, to the physical health and the social order of a community, providing seasons of rest and change, and reminding of the claims of soul as well as body. But if sabbath-keeping be the mere formal act, with no deeper meaning in it, then it may be judged as a matter of expediency, and valued as a wise and excellent Mosaic arrangement, mere or less wisely imitated by other rulers.

II. SABBATH-KEEPING A MORAL STATE. Souls must keep sabbath, or it is not really kept. Souls must keep sabbath

(1) as an act of obedience to God;

(2) as an expression of love for worship;

(3) as a sign of loyalty and affection for God.

There is never any difficulty about the proper ordering of the day when the soul is full of the sabbath-spirit.

III. SABBATH-KEEPING THE FORMAL ACT WHICH EXHIBITS THE MORAL STATE. Man cannot test the soul-conditions of his fellow-man save by observing the expressions of that condition in his conduct. God can read soul-states, but, for purposes of revelation and teaching, he treats us as we treat each other, and asks for signs in the life of what may be in the soul. Therefore he still looks for careful and faithful sabbath-keeping. - R.T.

Parallel Verses
KJV: Blessed is the man that doeth this, and the son of man that layeth hold on it; that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and keepeth his hand from doing any evil.

WEB: Blessed is the man who does this, and the son of man who holds it fast; who keeps the Sabbath from profaning it, and keeps his hand from doing any evil."

The Blessedness of Right-Doing
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