“If you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s holy day honorable … then you will find your joy in the Lord.” Isaiah 58 (NIV)
So let’s get this right when we think about fasts and feasts – the Lord doesn’t want the too-holy-by-half fast, but rather the full-on-celebratory-party feast. Is this the picture many in the culture have of God and his followers? Is this how we in the church see it?
Too often as Christians we don’t do celebrating well. I love how the writer Dallas Willard lauds this often overlooked discipline in his book The Spirit of the Disciplines, saying that although we will face many troubles in our lives, “Holy delight and joy is the great antidote to despair and is a wellspring of genuine gratitude” (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988, p. 179). As we learn to celebrate – mindfully putting aside any disappointments and troubles – the Lord turns our mourning into dancing. We begin to be able to thank God for his many blessings.
Why not read through Isaiah 58 again, this time with the lens of the Lord as the giver of abundance and not as a miserly holder of scarcity. How do you then view the too-pious fast of his people, and how do you think God felt in response? How does this reading influence your views about keeping the Sabbath? Can you now see it as a means of finding “your joy in the Lord,” or riding “on the heights,” or feasting on your inheritance?
Those who fast and feast with pure hearts find their satisfaction in the Lord, and as we see, he makes them into a well-watered garden. As you picture such a garden, ask God through his Holy Spirit to show you your heart as a garden, and where you and Jesus may need to pull a few weeds together, or where you can delight in some shade as you take in the sight and sound of the gurgling water feature.
Prayer: Father God, we don’t always stop to give thanks or spend time in wonder. Help us this summer to slow down and enjoy your goodness and gifts. Amen.