There is more to observing the Sabbath than merely abiding by the biblical injunction to do so. If well observed, it brings some of the greatest blessings man born unto trouble and living under a vocational curse can know.
This obviously means that proper celebration of the Sabbath must bring a blessing. One of the reasons this blessing is seldom experienced is because Sabbath observance is often insisted upon without a well defined backdrop or a propelling force apart from the bare command. Whenever Sabbath observance is promoted without its biblical stimulants it is bound to be observed legalistically.
For each Sabbath to yield its intended blessing, every one of its reflection must affectionately embrace the threefold rationale for its sanctioning. These are imitation of the divine pattern, meditation on the magnificence of the redemption of which it is a celebration and anticipation of the great hope of which it is a type. Let me elaborate.
Sabbath rest is a privilege, first, because it gives us the much needed rest from our vocational labours (Gen. 2:2; Ex. 20:11). Rest is needed even where no sinful nature demands it. Its necessity can only be desperately intensified for people in a state of sin. Let us not forget: our toil is still under a divine curse. So we toil with sweat and pain, and the means of production remain inhospitable and hostile to this day (cf. (Gen. 3:17-19). Labouring in an environment suffused with sin, evil men wipe all the hope of deriving sustained satisfaction from our labour. We desperately need a day of rest, how much the better in a holy environment.
Sabbath rest is a privilege, second, because it escorts us back to the place where our victory from sin was stamped (cf. Duet. 5:15). It takes us back to Christ’s triumph over sin and Satan for our sake. It echoes the fact that now we can rest from the vain labours of self-righteousness, or pursuit of redemption by observing works of the law. We rest justified in him, our blessed redeemer. What a privilege is the saint’s to celebrate the great resurrection by which ours, from our mortal bodies of sin, shall be structured.
Sabbath rest is a privilege, third, because it tunes our minds to the grand anticipation, our eternal rest (Heb. 4:9). If anything can wholesomely set aflame longings for heaven, it is more than welcome. The Christian Sabbath, if properly observed, is programmed to do this.
I must be quick to clarify that all that creates the basis for Sabbath observance and constitutes the meat feasted upon on this holy day is not the preserve of this day. Each day will have its measure of rest, delighting in the redemption sealed by our Lord’s resurrection, and spurs of desire for glory. However, the Lord, in the infinity of his wisdom, knew that devotion to a full day of real rest, quality reflections and profound direct cooperate worship has no substitute. Hence he instated a day out of seven. How gracious our God is that he can remember to give us respite from the overwhelming cares of this gruesome life.
All this means that a Sabbath that is anything but fruitful is meaningless. But how can we tell that we are having a fruitful Sabbath. This is an important question because it is so easy to glide through each Lord’s Day with the mistaken assumption that all is well and God is pleased. Is there a yardstick by which we can measure success or failure? No doubt there is. At least three can be stated.

1. Renewal of physical life
Six days of at least eight hours of hard work slaps a huge tax on the body. Stress, exhaustion, fatigue and health breakdown are all likely outcomes over a period of time. To God, who does not tire (Is. 40:28), rest is cessation of one activity for another. To us wearying beings it is both cessation and disengagement from all work (Ex. 20:9, 10). This is a rare opportunity to grab that good nap. At the end of each Sabbath the body should feel rested. The mind should feel re-elasticised and the muscles energised in readiness for the tasks, challenges and trials of the week following.

2. Renewal of social bonds
The Sabbath is not observed in a vacuum or solitude. It thrives in a highly social context, that is the church. In saying “on the first day of the week, when we were gathered together” (Acts 20:7), Luke reminds us of the necessity of Sabbatical fellowship. Part of Sabbath observance therefore will require engaging in meaningful emotion-and-soul renewing dialogue. A happy heart and a deepened fondness for a growing number of redeemed sinners indexes a blissful Sabbath. As you can see, Sabbatical language has no kind words for Christians who habitually zoom out of church without socialising with heavenly minds.
The family too experiences a greater sense of togetherness. Having each ceased from their respective labours (Ex. 20:10), couples devote more time to shine the brass of their marriage, children get more of the attention that is due to them from parents. Family cracks allowed to widen by the ruthless demands from Caesar are mended. The Sabbath is balm to families.

3. Renewal of spiritual life
The Sabbath day is not only a day of rest, it is a hallowed day; a day made holy and blessed by God (Ex. 20:11b). This means that it is distinguished from all others for special divine favour.
This favour comes through appropriate spiritual voyages. It is a Sabbath “to the Lord” (Ex. 20:10). Whatever gain accruing to us, this is not about ourselves. It is about God. We are giving him the worship and honour due to him, through song, prayer, his finances (cf. 1Cor. 16:1, 2) and listening to his Word read and preached (cf. Acts 20:7). Then there is private meditation taking place by each Christian in the quietness of the home before and after public worship (cf. Rev. 1:10). It is through these exercises that our benefit comes.
Flowing from all these religious exercises, our souls should undergo traceable renewal. A sense of conscience-satisfaction that God has not been robbed of any of his worship dues, but rather he has been fully given from the heart, bodes well for good Sabbath observance.
More specific indicators of healthy Sabbath observance, in the context of public and private worship, are: First, being spoken to by God; having a deep sense that your sin is being addressed, your duties are being pointed out clearly, and feeling encouraged in well doing. A good Sabbath is always a handsome deposit into the heart’s bank of spiritual knowledge. Sabbath worship in which God does not speak is a graveside vacation.
Second, you will sense that you are drawing near to God, and that he is drawing near to you. There will be this inexplicable gracious nearness of the Almighty or intimacy with him. Your desire is “more of him.” The cry is “nearer, still nearer, while life shall last, till all its struggles and trials are past; then through eternity, ever I’ll be nearer, my saviour, still nearer to thee.”
What is immediately born out of this is an unquenchable desire to be like God and to serve him more. Within there grows a longing, perhaps a resolve to up the quality of service rendered to him. Each quality Sabbath exposes the alarming magnitude of the cracks in the pillars on which this world stands, while brightening the vision of heaven’s beauty.
The Sabbath is not a burden, far from it! It is not a prohibition. It is a delightful emancipation. It is a wonderful blessing perfectly suited to enchant body and soul. In a word, a truly well observed Sabbath is crowned by “delighting in the Lord” and enjoying his multifaceted favour (Is. 58:14). “The Sabbath was made for man.” It was designed for his real profit.

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“I believe that Sunday should be spent in recreation. You are dreadfully shocked, and well you may be. But what do I mean by ‘recreation’? It means creating us new. Oh, that everybody who talks about spending Sunday in recreation would come to be recreated, regenerated, renewed, refreshed, revived, and made to rejoice in God” (MTP, volume 27, page 474).

“One man travelling on the road saw a poor man in distress, and having but seven shillings, the generous person gave the poor man six. But when the wretch had scrambled to his feet, he followed his benefactor to knock him down and steal the seventh shilling from him. How many do this! The Sabbath is their day for sport, for amusement, for anything but the service of God. They rob God of his day, though it be but one in seven. This is base unthankfulness” (MTP, volume 38, page 245-246).