“‘If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath
    and from doing as you please on my holy day,
if you call the Sabbath a delight
    and the Lord’s holy day honorable,
and if you honor it by not going your own way
    and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,
then you will find your joy in the Lord,
    and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land
    and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.’
            For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
Isaiah 58:13–14

At the very heart of Judaism is the Sabbath — the only ritual ordained in the Ten Commandments. In a world where there are so many distractions, it is imperative to learn about and cherish the one day a week set aside for rest and contemplation, a day Jews call Shabbat. This is one of 12 devotions exploring the many lessons we can learn from this rich observance. For more teaching on the Sabbath, download our complimentary Bible study.

What would you be willing to do to have a life filled with unlimited joy, spiritual blessings, and abundant provisions for your needs? Would you be willing to pay a certain amount, or undergo an elaborate screening process to “qualify” for these benefits? What about taking one day out of your week and devoting it entirely to God?

That’s really all it takes, for these three blessings are promised to those who observe the Sabbath. But they are what we call “conditional promises.”

Those are the promises we make of a reward that will happen if certain prerequisites are met. “You can have an extra serving of dessert IF you finish your homework before dinner.” “You can go to the ballgame IF you clean up your room.” As parents, we use conditional promises all the time.

God’s three conditions have to do with dedication, delight, and devotion. And the rewards include joy in the Lord, spiritual blessings, and God’s abundant provision. First, God says He will reward our dedication to observing the Sabbath: “If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day” (Isaiah 58:13).

Second, God says He will reward our delight: “if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s holy day honorable” (Isaiah 58:13). Third, He says He will reward our devotion to the Sabbath: “if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you  please or speaking idle words” (Isaiah 58:13).

In return, God promised His people that if they would do these things, then they would receive three blessings. First is the blessing of fulfillment or satisfaction that comes from focusing on God: “you will find your joy in the Lord” (Isaiah 58:14). Second, God promised spiritual blessings, as indicated by His statement: “I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land” (Isaiah 58:14).

Third, God promised abundant provision, as evidenced by the statement that they would “feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob” (Isaiah 58:14). This specifically referred to feasting on the produce of the Promised Land, but applies in a broader sense to God’s provision for our lives.

Is it any wonder that observing the Sabbath is described in Judaism as equal to all the other commandments in the Torah? It brings together under an overarching canopy virtually every value worthy of pursuit — God, spirituality, family, community, prayer, love, study of God’s word — the list goes on.

The Sabbath is a way to express our love for God by submitting our desires, if only for one day, to Him. As we incorporate the Sabbath into our daily lives and routine, we will discover that putting God first, above our own agenda, is not a burden, but the path to joy in the Lord.

Learn more about the traditions and meanings of Shabbat in this free issue of Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein’s Bible study series, Limmud (“study” in Hebrew), Shabbat:  A Day of Delight

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