Sabbath and Recreations: Objections to use of Isaiah 58

Discussion in 'The Lord's Day or Christian Sabbath' started by Afterthought, Jan 22, 2016.

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  1. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Junior

    I've been refreshing my memory on the subject matter. There are a number of ways one can argue that recreations are not a proper activity for the Lord's day. However, Isaiah 58:13-14 is especially pertinent since it seems to speak so directly to the matter and is used as a proof text in our Standards. Some questions as I've been trying to think of objections to using this text for showing recreations are not allowed on the Lord's day.

    1) How do we know that "thine own pleasure" refers to recreations? Some argue that it refers to business (I've read Lane Keister's piece on this), inherently sinful works, worldly employments, or worldly recreations ("worldly" in the sense of "worldliness;" hence, presupposing that some non-spiritual recreations are allowed)? Obviously, "thine own pleasures" seems broad enough to encompass all of these, but how do we know that it is being used in a broad manner rather than being restricted to one of these other things?

    2) How do we know that the "sabbath" mentioned here refers to or applies to the moral sabbath? There were other sabbaths, and most of the chapter is on fasting, so the term "sabbath" may refer to one of the ceremonial sabbaths. So the reference might refer to a ceremonial sabbath, and it might not apply to the weekly moral sabbath (i.e., it requires further argumentation to say it applies to the weekly moral sabbath).

    3) Supposing it refers or applies to the weekly moral sabbath, how is it evident that this was not part of a ceremonial way of keeping the weekly sabbath, and instead is part of the substance of the weekly moral sabbath?
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2016
  2. jwithnell

    jwithnell Moderator Staff Member

    It is a creation ordinance. A day's rest in seven to commune with our Lord is built into the very fabric of creation.
  3. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    John Willison has a meditation "On the Sabbath being a delight" which brings out the positives and thereby negates any argument for "worldly recreations" on the Lord's day. In other words, if we do the dos there is no place for the do-nots. If the Sabbath really is a delight as a day of rest from worldly employments then there will be no place for worldly recreations. The choice of recreations will be spiritual and holy because the spiritual and holy has taken hold of the soul and possessed it with delight.
  4. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Junior

    For those with access to Google Books, p. 303 here or p. 321 here.
  5. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Junior

    In regards to the OP, I want to answer 2) and 3) by saying the delight and blessing mentioned in Isaiah 58 is of such a spiritual nature, that even if the "sabbath" was referring to a part of the ceremonial law, this description here gets to the moral substance and core of the ceremonial law. The ceremonial worship system is a system of carnal ordinances, so anything with a spiritual nature and blessing must belong to the substance of the worship. In particular then, even if "sabbath" here in context refers to a ceremonial sabbath or fast (which apparently, only the day of atonement was a sabbath and a commanded fast?), this verse would also apply to the moral weekly sabbath. Even as, if the "fast" here refers to a ceremonial fast, the verses apply to our moral, providentially-called fasts. Thoughts?
  6. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    John Frame in his "Doctrine of the Christian Life" argues for some recreations on the Lord's Day on the basis of its being commanded to be a day of rest, with worship also being commanded to take place on that day. But he says the command itself speaks about resting, not worship.

    He forgets that from the beginning it was a day of rest for the purposes of worship e.g. God sanctifies the Sabbath Day. The day is a holy rest.

    It's clear from the Law that it was a day of special worship services and holy convocations. If work was to be eschewed for such worship then surely recreations. There's not a hint throughout the Bible that the Sabbath was viewed as a day suitable for recreations.

    The day is a sign and reminder to the Israelites that God is the one who sanctified them. Positional and progressive sanctification are expressed and promoted by neither secular work nor secular play, but by Heavenly service and recreations.

    As a pointer to Heaven where even our work and recreations will be crowned by rest and worship, the Sabbath as the crown of the perfectly numbered week must be characterised by worshipful rest.

    In practicalities, Frame gets entangled too, because as regards recreations he's thinking about things like a game of football/soccer in the back garden or a game of chess or Monopoly, that can be done without employing people, so he would eschew watching soccer on TV or chess on TV, not because of the this worldly orientated aspect of such recreations but because work is involved.

    It seems clear that work is to be set aside because it is a this worldly-oriented occupation and the work/service of worship is to be taken up. Even a kick about in the garden or a game of chess is a this-worldly recreation/occupation and a Heavenly recreation should be sought instead in keeping with the day.

    It would be difficult to communicate to children and others that a kick about in the garden or park is OK, when what the footballers are doing on the telly is sinful.

    I'm not speaking to the question of whether there'll be chess, monopoly, football in Heaven, but if there are, they'll be in a completely different non-secular context of rest and worship, which is shadowed down here by having six days for work, rest, play, worship, and one special day of worshipful rest.

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    Last edited: Jan 22, 2016
  7. au5t1n

    au5t1n Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Even if the reference in the verse were to ordinary work, recreation would still be prohibited under the category of work. This is the way the wording of the Fourth Commandment itself prohibits recreations. The idea was not understood for the first time in the time of Isaiah. Recreations are subservient to labors; they serve to reinvigorate mind and body that they might be refreshed for a return to vigorous labor. Thus if labor is prohibited on the Sabbath, inferior and subservient recreations must be as well. If our society did not make recreation an end in itself rather than a service to labor, we would have an easier time understanding the Puritan position.

    Some may wish to cavil that the rest of the Sabbath itself serves a partial purpose of giving a relief from work to reinvigorate mind and body for labor, and thus recreation would be a natural part of that. But this is to make it a worldly rest rather than a holy rest.
  8. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Junior

    How might one respond to a person who believes recreation can be an end in itself?

    True. The recreations that are allowed on the Sabbath are "spiritual recreations." I wonder though whether the allowance for a nap or a walk (if indeed one is so worn out by the other 6 days/or maybe is ill/etc. that such become necessary in order to properly sanctify the remainder of the Sabbath) would allow one to argue for worldly recreations. Perhaps the simple matter is: that these are more "natural" recreations required by the body rather than "recreations" that are invented to bring carnal (as opposed to "spiritual;" not intending a negative connotation) pleasure.
  9. au5t1n

    au5t1n Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    From my limited reading, Puritans who addressed the matter at length usually acknowledged that such things might be lawful for some individuals that for health or other reasons may need them. They also cautioned that they were prone to abuse by those who do not really need them. I agree with you that they are natural refreshments for the body rather than necessarily recreations in their own right, if used to that end.
  10. au5t1n

    au5t1n Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    This would essentially make it part of man's chief end to please himself.
  11. bookslover

    bookslover Puritan Board Doctor

    I hope there is chess in heaven because then I'll be smart enough to understand it!
  12. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    I would think you would be too smart for it. :)
  13. Vox Oculi

    Vox Oculi Puritan Board Freshman

    If a person would like to be extra holy on the Lord's day, why, I think they should go further, and be extra holy on all the days of the week, because God is the Lord of all 7 days, not just one!

    If recreation is not acceptable on the Lord's day, it should not be acceptable on any other day, because if recreation cannot be used to honor or glorify God, then any allowance for us to engage in it would be a condescension on the part of God to tolerate the passions of our sinful flesh, as people who cannot stop sinning until we are glorified. Why then would we insist on engaging in something on Monday through Saturday, which we know the Lord disapproves of and which does not glorify Him?

    My non-satirical stance is that 'recreation' absolutely may be proper, if it honors the Lord, even on 'the Lord's day,' (as if the other days were not His). I understand the Lord's day to be a day set aside to be in fellowship with other Christians and study the Word together, at a minimum, and not as a day where we are to "act different", i.e. 'more holy' than on other days. So if something is permissible on other days, then it ought to be permissible on Sunday. If it is not permissible on Sunday, it ought not be done on any other days.

  14. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    Your own Confession disagrees with you. Perhaps you should read what it says concerning the Sabbath day.
  15. Vox Oculi

    Vox Oculi Puritan Board Freshman

    Also, Jesus is our Sabbath Rest, and if anyone determines to make rules and instruct others to follow them, then I would caution them strongly against "teaching as doctrine the commandments of men." If we are not legalists, then why such an effort to determine obscure rules? The purpose in all things should be to do it with a heart of thanksgiving and praise to the Lord. When the reason for avoiding recreation is that it was forbidden to OT Jews, and not that "it takes my mind off of the Lord and I would rather meditate on His precepts continually," then I fear that the spirit of the inquiry is dangerously legalistic rather than love-oriented.

    If someone does experience a greater tendency to think on heavenly things when they follow certain strictures, that is great for them according to Romans 14 and Colossians 2. But let them tell others about how incorporating structure that mimics Mosaic symbolism into your life sets you free to cherish God more and be more devoted and less distracted in your worship. Don't tell others that 'this is better, because the Jews (world champions in missing the point) did this back when they followed the Law which God describes as enslavement...

    Please think on this as you choose your preferences. Because to observe the sabbath is a preference. That is explicit from the text of Scripture.
  16. Vox Oculi

    Vox Oculi Puritan Board Freshman

    1689 LBC
    22-6 "God is to be worshipped everywhere in spirit and in truth, whether in private families daily, in secret by each individual, or solemnly in the public assemblies."
    22-8 "The Sabbath is kept holy to the Lord by those who, after the necessary preparation of their hearts and prior arranging of their common affairs, observe all day a holy rest from their own works, words and thoughts about their worldly employment and recreations, and give themselves over to the public and private acts of worship for the whole time, and to carrying out duties of necessity and mercy."

    I don't see a disagreement between this and what I set forth above.
  17. VictorBravo

    VictorBravo Administrator Staff Member

    Touché (from one who is smart enough to know he is not smart enough for chess).
  18. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Junior

    I would simply say: there is a Puritan and Presbyterian view of the Sabbath that I am assuming, which you do not seem to be aware of. Having been made aware of it, I would recommend looking into it (Thomas Boston and James Durham on the 4th commandment are good; Jonathan Edwards on the Morality and Perpetuity of the Sabbath; for a contemporary work, Pipa's work on the Lord's day; Robert Shaw's exposition of the Westminster Confession; Rev. Mark Koller has a sermon series on the matter; James MacGregor's The Sabbath Question) or starting your own thread on it. I would ordinarily love to take up a conversation on the matter--even just to have practice discussing it, but I have limited time now (this sort of conversation can take a while to sort itself out), and I am likely to be having a conversation on this matter in the near future with someone, so I do not wish to weary myself too early. Hopefully others can take you up on this.
  19. Vox Oculi

    Vox Oculi Puritan Board Freshman

    Given my language, I presume you took my reference of 'more holy' to be toward the day, but in that case I want to emphasize that it is directed toward the individuals. The day may be holy -- holy meaning separate, set apart -- but that does not mean that believers should put on what is effectively a pretense of acting more holy, by totally changing their behavior for one day out of the week and disregarding the supposed solemnness with which they worshiped on Sunday throughout the workweek. I emphasize the private aspects of the LBC's sections on the Sabbath because it is evident that worship is not only what you do on a certain place, at a certain time, in a certain setting, but something you ought to do all the time, and therefore, ought not be lessened intentionally during the week, lest that be a sorry testimony to our rigid rule-following and lack of life and joy in our spirits to serve the Lord.
  20. JimmyH

    JimmyH Puritan Board Junior

    I am reminded of a tape I heard of Donald Grey Barnhouse where he said if someone offered him a shot of whiskey he did not have to think about it. He simply said to himself, "Holy Spirit, would you like a slug of liquor ?"

    Applying that question to ones self when they are wondering how to observe the Lord's Day might answer the question.
  21. VictorBravo

    VictorBravo Administrator Staff Member

    I suggest you look harder and be very careful about calling the confessional position that of a "legalist."

    If the Sabbath is to be kept holy, than it is different from the other days, contrary to what you said here:

    You gave us a suggestion against "teaching as doctrine the commandments of men." Let me gave a different suggestion: that you study up on what the confession means regarding the Sabbath before advocating against it.
  22. VictorBravo

    VictorBravo Administrator Staff Member

    Very well said.

    I've put it in a more homely fashion before: "if you keep your eyes on the road, you don't need to worry about hitting the guardrails. The guardrails are there to protect you if you find yourself drifting."

    The road, of course, is focusing on the worship of God and mediation on what he has done and is doing--including all the good works that are associated with that.
  23. VictorBravo

    VictorBravo Administrator Staff Member

    Another book for my digital library. Thanks for the link.
  24. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    Vic, I'm no good at it either, unless I am playing with the children. :) But I do know it is child's play compared with the glories and delights of heaven.

    Good illustration on the rails and the road. I might borrow that one some time.
  25. ZackF

    ZackF Puritan Board Graduate

    Games, sports in Heaven? I wouldn't think our glorified selves would need referees anyway.
  26. ZackF

    ZackF Puritan Board Graduate

    As my knowledge and application of the Bible's teachings on Sabbath increases I find it changes everything about the rest of the week. The Lord's Day rightfully becomes the weekly high point rather than an appendage to bolt on.
  27. Cymro

    Cymro Puritan Board Junior

    To rest in Christ on a day set apart from the normal intrusions of the week, is to have a God given opportunity to devotedly delight in Him. In which the soul monopolises ones activities and regains perspectives. Work and recreation dominate most of our lives,and so there is a spiritual necessity to "come ye apart" and rejoice in a totally spiritual ambience. But not only for our benefit, but to worship and adore the lover of our souls with the "great congregation", which itself is a harbinger of the eternal employment in the great assembly above. At present my mind is labouring with,"delight thyself in the Lord", and one facet of of that is Delighting in Him on the Lord'day. Isaiah 58 is transparent,"if thou turn away thy foot from the Sabath, from doing THY PLEASURE, NOT DOING THINE OWN WAYS, NOR FINDING THINE OWN PLEASURE."
  28. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    This post below of yours stuck me like a bolt of lightning that has help me to no end in my pursuit of the 4th commandment though I fall oh so short of doing such. :) The "guardrails" still scratch the side of my car often and I suspect I will leave a lot of paint on them till the day I arrive in glory though I am becoming a better driver when I concentrate on the "road".

    "The Lord's day is a burden if we devote our focus to what we can't do. In that case, we are drawn down to the physical equivalent of not scratching itches, as it were. But if our focus is on the Lord of the Sabbath, and on the freedom he gives, and the destination to which he is taking us, the yoke is easy."
  29. TheOldCourse

    TheOldCourse Puritan Board Sophomore

    Can you, with a view toward the duties of the ninth commandment, interpret a confessional document in such a way as to support a position which is diametrically contrary to the intention of its authors? Even if you disagree with it, a humble study and acknowledgement of the historical distinctions and theology referred to in those words seems appropriate before you discourse at length on it.
  30. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    This is it. We are to eschew secular work on the Lord's Day that our hearts and minds might have leisure to fly heavenward and enjoy a foretaste of the heavenly rest.

    But where would be the logic in doing that and yet pursuing secular recreations and entertainments and yet believing that the purposes of the day would not be marred or broken up by these or that our hearts and minds could be taken up by these and yet that that leisure to fly heavenwsrd not be ruined.

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