8 MARCH 365 Days with Calvin

The Purpose of the Sabbath

It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises unto thy name, O most High. Psalm 92:1

suggested further reading: Isaiah 1:12–18

As the psalm’s inscription says, the Jews were in the habit of singing Psalm 92 on the Sabbath day. It is apparent in other passages that other psalms were also applied to this use. As the words may be literally read in the Hebrew, it is good for giving thanks unto the Lord. The psalmist says it is good to have a certain day set apart for singing the praises of God; it is a useful arrangement that one day is chosen on which the Lord’s people can celebrate God’s works.

The reason the psalmist dedicates this psalm to the Sabbath is obvious. The day is not to be holy in the sense of our being devoted to idleness, as if idleness could be acceptable worship to God, but in the sense of separating ourselves from all other occupations so that we can meditate upon divine works. Because our minds are inconstant, we are apt to wander from God when exposed to various distractions. We need to be disentangled from all cares if we would seriously apply ourselves to the praises of God.

The psalmist teaches us that rightly observing the Sabbath does not consist of idleness, as some absurdly imagine, but in the celebration of the divine name. The argument that he makes is drawn from the profitableness of service, for nothing is more encouraging than to know that our labor is not in vain and that what we engage in meets with divine approbation.

for meditation: The Lord did not give us the Sabbath so that we might fritter it away doing nothing profitable. It is given so that we might focus on him and on his Word, and keeping it is a matter of the heart. Take a moment to re-examine how you spend your Sabbaths. Is there room for improvement?[1]


[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 86). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

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