The length of my life includes experiencing grocery and department stores’ being closed on Sundays and every Sunday’s being colored red on calendars, along with every other holiday (holy day). It was the residue of the Judeo-Christian ethic upon which much of our former culture was developed.
Since then, those last gasps of Judeo-Christian culture have disappeared from sight. Churches have changed—some have come to look more like religious enterprises than gatherings for worship. Some pastors expend enormous amounts of energy and resources making a weekend service as appealing, entertaining, and engaging as possible to attract as many as possible. Do not think this is a criticism, just an observation. Many gathered to religious enterprises have had their lives blessed and helped.
Years ago, the weekend service times began to be changed to accommodate the schedules of those wanting to use their Sundays for other purposes than attending church.
The "Judeo" (Jewish) sabbath and the "Christian" day of worship were eventually washed out as legalistic relics of organized religion.
Sunday emerged as a family day, some observing church attendance when the opportunity was convenient.
Subtly, another practice began to enter our culture: sports on Sunday.
People have come to schedule entire days around sports, spending money on tickets, team gear, building entire parent/child relationships around sports. Sports developed an entire meditation ritual referred to as "fantasy.”
Consider the following quote from a Huffington Post article:
Indeed, psychologists claim that sport has many of the same effects on spectators as religion does. Daniel Wann, a leading sport psychologist at Murray State University, and his collaborators note, various scholars discuss sport in terms of “natural religion,” “humanistic religion,” and “primitive polytheism” pointing out that “spectators worship other human beings, their achievements, and the groups to which they belong.” And that sports stadiums and arenas resemble “cathedrals where followers gather to worship their heroes and pray for their successes. Meanwhile, fans wear the team colors, and bear its flags, icons, and mascots whilst literally singing its praises …”
The article goes on to mention that the effect of sports is almost drug-like in our culture.
Shaped by the needs of capitalist systems, spectator sports serve vested interests as a type of “cultural anesthesia, an ‘opiate’ that distracts, diverts, and deflects attention from the pressing social problems and issues of the day ... Of course, Karl Marx famously declared that religion is the opium of the people, stifling their capacity for political development. According to one critic, sport “has turned into a passion, a mania, a drug far more potent and widespread than any mere chemical substance. It is the new opium of the people.”
Even if you are no sport fan, the effect sport has had on shaping the practice of worship in our culture is staggering. No doubt sport and entertainment have drugged us like any other religion, leaving our hearts empty of God, void of spiritual vitality.
Following Jesus is no religion and neither is it an obsession with some amusement. Following Jesus involves worship, devotion, allegiance, and concentration of life habits.
While sport is not some huge sin, it can become a preoccupation, as can anything else. I do not quote the above suggesting the institution of sport should be destroyed any more than the institution of farming. We seek only to point out to our hearts that sport and materialism have been the replacement for God in many a heart. Like anything else, it is not the fault of sport nor the fault of goods—it is the heart which must find its worship footing.
“At that time, when you call, the LORD will answer;
when you cry out, He will say,
‘Here I am.’
If you get rid of the yoke among you, the finger-pointing and malicious speaking, and if you offer yourself to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted one, then your light will shine in the darkness, and your night will be like noonday.
The LORD will always lead you, satisfy you in a parched land, and strengthen your bones.
You will be like a watered garden and like a spring whose water never runs dry.
Some of you will rebuild the ancient ruins; you will restore the foundations laid long ago; you will be called the repairer of broken walls, the restorer of streets where people live.
If you keep from desecrating the Sabbath, from doing whatever you want on my holy day; if you call the Sabbath a delight, and the holy day of the LORD honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, seeking your own pleasure, or talking business;
then you will delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride over the heights of the land, and let you enjoy the heritage of your father Jacob.
For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” Isaiah 58:9-14 CSB
In verses 9-10, Isaiah summarizes what he has been saying throughout the chapter: get rid of the lack of forgiveness and trash judgment, and Yahweh will be present and light up your life.
In verse 11, Isaiah promises Yahweh will lead, satisfy, and prosper.
In verse 12, Isaiah promises what has been lost will be raised up and restored by Yahweh's anointed builders.
In verses 13-14, Isaiah then brings the discussion on fasting to a close. He talks about the weekly and sacred "worship fast," the day Israel was called to abstain from working and seeking their own pleasure apart from worshiping Yahweh. Isaiah charges Israel with abusing the Sabbath day and using it for themselves. They were to return to Yahweh, embrace the fourth commandment, and take one day a week and make it revolve around worship.
They were once again to make one day a week special, set apart for Yahweh as holy, and to use that day to honor Him. They were not to use the day to seek what pleased them or for conducting business for profit.
If part of the fast included not only forgiving and loving but also restoring the day of worship, then they were promised three blessings:
1) They would discover a delight in God greater than their delight in pleasure.
2) They would be given a renewed ability to overcome difficulties and obstacles.
3) They would find peace in all of Yahweh's promises.
Today's decision involves answering one question: will you take one day a week and devote it to worship? We live in a culture where people badger church attendance, mock it as legalistic, and treat it as an inconsequential habit.
Isaiah begs to differ in calling people back to what John referenced as the "Lord's Day" (Revelation 1:10). By "Lord's Day," John was likely pointing out how the early Christians had moved the Jewish Sabbath from Saturday to the day the Lord Jesus rose from the dead.
Isaiah called them to once again practice the Sabbath, promising it would result in delight, triumph, and peace.
Sometimes it is good to read the "Fourth Commandment" and consider that God Himself followed it when He created the world. It is a day declared as holy, meaning a day belonging to Yahweh, a day set aside for communion and delight with and in Him.
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy: You are to labor six days and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. You must not do any work—you, your son or daughter, your male or female servant, your livestock, or the resident alien who is within your city gates. For the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and everything in them in six days; then he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and declared it holy. Exodus 20:8-11 CSB
Daily Journal Thoughts
On your "Prayer and Fasting Commitments” page, write down the date.
Next, write your commitment; it might be worded something like this,
“Jesus, help me today to define the habit of Sabbath-keeping according to Your will.”
Then go to your "Daily Journal," and write the date at the top of the page.
Write the following words at the top of the page,
“Jesus, You love me so much that You gave me a Sabbath to spend on You and with You by …"
Of course you will fill in the rest. Part of fasting is determining exactly how one day a week is to be spent on and with Christ, revolving around worship.
What we do with this one day has the power to expose to our hearts the idolatrous world we live in. Confronting this issue will likely confront our minds with anxieties, anger, and then justifications.
I have listened to people personally talk about keeping Sunday as a special day of worship and then listen on as others mock and term it legalistic, arguing from the point of view law-keeping is over and we are free.
I've always thought it odd that people, with anger, have argued for a person’s doing what they want with Sunday, against setting the day aside for worship. I've always wondered, what is so evil about a person and his/her family’s seeking to build a day around worship?
This one day and what we do with it gets to the heart of who we are. To devote a day to the work of worship, calling it rest, is almost more than our impulse-driven world can decode.
During our times of fasting, there is no doubt that God wants us to once again consider this habit of worship. It is a matter of sowing and reaping; as we sow the seed of seventh-day worship, we reap, according to Isaiah, delight, triumph, and peace.