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Whom Will God Honor?


As published in the Antrim Review on June 24, 2008

The small, rural school had made it to the big time. Most improbably these young, underdog girls had won and won and won until they stood on the threshhold of a national title. Unprecedented! And then they resigned.

Why? The tournament managers scheduled the final for Sunday, May 25, 2008. The spunky lasses from Scotland's Isle of Lewis chose the Lord of the Day (Revelation 1:10) over the gods of sport.

I'm sure there are many different responses to their decision. Perhaps the most insulting is the facile jab that they chickened out when facing their last challenge. Mockers (Isaiah 57:4) like that can hardly conceive of stakes higher than the outcome of a children's game. Unless it is the outcome of a children's game played by adults.

But there are also quite a few religious types quick to separate themselves, saying, "Not all of us are fanatics like that! Mine is the sort of God who insists on nothing but my happiness." How does God respond? "You thought that I was altogether one like yourself, but I will rebuke you" (Psalm 50:21).

This whole discussion comes back to the late abandonment of the ancient and eminently Christian doctrine of the Sabbath. The moral nature of such observance is founded in creation (Genesis 2:3). It was later codified in the moral cornerstone of Israelite law, the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:8). Jesus Christ identified himself as "the Lord of the Sabbath" (Luke 6:5), proving he is its eternal reference point, as well as his authority to shift the particular weekday observance to "another day" (Hebrews 4:8).

Hebrews 4:9 teaches that just as the Israelite Sabbath-rest did not pass away even after they rested in the Promised Land (Joshua 22:4), there remains a Sabbath-rest for God's people. The children of Israel were to "take possession" of their Sabbath each week to be reminded that their tangible inheritance was not eternal (2 Corinthians 4:18).

Believers still anticipate their final rest in the Lord; therefore, it is most proper to observe the Christian Sabbath, to "take possession" of it. Neither could Israel past, not can we present, properly take possession of our Day of Rest if we pervert it from it's intended end. The Lord Jesus Christ has entered into his rest (Hebrews 4:10), and we who love him commune with him at his summons.

"If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honorable; and shall honor him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words: then shall you delight yourself in the LORD; and I will cause you to ride upon the high places of the earth." (Isaiah 58:13-14a)

The stand of the Lewis' soccer team isn't totally without precedent. You may recall a similar act of principle by Scottish 1924 Olympic hope, Eric Liddell, who refused to run on Sunday. In the movie, "Chariots of Fire," he was encouraged by a reference to 1 Samuel 2:30, in which God declares, "Them that honor me, I will honor." The verse goes on to say: "they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed."

We should highly esteem those preferring "praise not of men, but God" (Romans 2:29).