The Promise of Delight
Turn, call, and honor
By Afia Donkor
That’s what I felt when, on one particularly difficult day in law school, I received a care package from my home church, stuffed with notes and goodies. That’s what flooded my whole being when I walked the mountain trails of Switzerland for the first time.
When you think of the word “delight,” what comes to mind? Joy? Great pleasure? Absolutely! But do you ever think of adventure, risk, or exploration?
If not, you should. Delight often happens through the process of discovery. Indeed, you could consider delight as discovery that “lights you up.” As we try new things, explore new places, and get to know people, beauty is revealed and we experience delight.
For many Christians, one experience of delight is sought above all others—knowing God. It is not enough to know a great deal about Him, or to participate actively in the Christian life. We want God to be real, intimate, and precious. We want to delight in the Lord. Happily, the Bible promises that what we seek, we will find:
“If because of the sabbath, you turn your foot from doing your own pleasure on My holy day, and call the sabbath a delight, the holy day of the Lord honorable, and honor it, desisting from your own ways, from seeking your own pleasure, and speaking your own word, then you will take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; and I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken” (Isa. 58:13, 14).*
I know what you’re thinking. The Sabbath? Seriously? Yes, seriously! The text contains a definite promise, capped by the authoritative endorsement, “for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” If we really want to know Him, we simply have to follow God’s prescription contained in the text—one step at a time.
The text begins with an identifying phrase, “if because of the sabbath.” In other words, there is only one Sabbath that provides the means to experiencing joy.
And what is the Sabbath? It is the seventh day, the crowning event of God’s perfect Creation, a day so special to God that He made it holy (Gen. 2:2, 3). It’s a day He asks us to remember and keep, both as a memorial of the perfect world He created (Ex. 20:8, 11) and as a symbol of the perfection He is able to re-create in the hearts of His children (Ex. 31:13).
Imagine that my care package arrives at my doorstep, but instead of opening it, I ignore it completely, or open another box instead. The box that arrived is the one that is “blessed” with encouraging messages and yummy goodies, so it contains the potential for delight. That potential will remain untapped until I open the box.
Similarly, the Sabbath is the day God has blessed, set aside, and called holy. It is tempting to think, Does one particular day really matter? But the better question is: “Do we trust God?” He tells us it does matter, and promises that this day holds His blessing. Will we believe Him and unwrap the gift He has given? Those who do will not be disappointed, “for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
Turn, Call, Honor
Imagine the following scenario: I decide to visit Switzerland to experience its beautiful scenery. I find it on the map, fly there, and check into a hotel. My experience of delight in the mountains and scenery is complete, right?
Well, not quite. Another aspect of delight is very important. I have to “do” to delight, but sometimes I need guidance. Want to experience the grandeur of the mountains? I need accurate instructions to guide me. Then I have to put on my boots and go.
The Sabbath is no different. God teaches, and we get to listen then do. God’s lesson is simple: in order to experience the delight of His Sabbath, we must turn, call, and honor.
Turn: The Sabbath is the day Christians get to do an about-face. “Turn your foot,” God says. Change direction for this special day. Why? Throughout the week our feet are often firmly turned toward personal pursuits. Work, family, and other duties take up our time and demand our attention. On the Sabbath, God asks us to put those things behind us and turn our thoughts, words, and actions to Him.
Sabbath is a day of forgetting our problems and seeking to understand God, our ultimate solution.
Who is He? What is He like? On this day more than others, we can search the mysteries of God and emerge with a deeper understanding of His character and a thirst to know more. Like the scientist, who after years of dedicated research rejoices at a new discovery, we too will rejoice if we take time to discover God on His holy day.
Call: There is power in words. What we say influences what we think and how we act. And how we think and act is often reflected in what we say. God asks us to call the Sabbath a delight. The statement is not conditional. We are not asked to call it a delight when we “feel” it is delightful. The Sabbath, independent of our subjective experience, is a delight because God, the Giver of perfect gifts (James 1:17) made it and gave it to us. Those who by faith call the Sabbath a delight will begin to see the value in the day.
Reinforcing our words will be our actions. As we turn from our own interests and seize this day as an opportunity to meet with God, our experience with Him will deepen, and the Sabbath moments will become precious. Then, from our hearts, by personal experience, we will call the Sabbath a delight—because it is.
Honor: Respect, distinction, and courteous regard are expressions of honor. Those who identify with, show regard for, and express delight in the day God has called holy, do it great honor. And the end of honor is the beginning of delight. The Sabbath is a day of discovery. Those who dare to embrace it and honor it will seize on something invaluable—they will begin to know God, and to know Him is to love Him and to take delight in Him.
*Scripture quotations have been taken from the New American Standard Bible, copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
Afia Donkor is a lawyer in Ontario, Canada.