Not too many Sundays ago, a little girl came to church in her jeans and T-shirt. She got up in front of the congregation and said, “It is not a matter of how you dress or if you come to church or not – it’s what’s in your heart that makes the difference.” She sat down.
I was taken aback. She was right. It doesn’t matter to God how you dress. He loves you anyway, but there was something that didn’t sit well with me.
It went against what I had been taught, but I was willing to consider her point of view. What did God really expect?
I had always been taught that the Sabbath was a special day set apart to honor God. When He created the Earth, He labored for six days and then, on the Sabbath, He rested and commanded all of His children to do the same.
In my family we dressed up for our Sabbath meetings and were encouraged to wear our Sunday best all day long. We didn’t purchase things on Sunday because that caused others to labor, and we knew that God wanted everyone to obey His commandments.
In my grandmother’s family, they cooked a special meal to honor the Sabbath. They wanted to give the very best to God.
The tradition of Sabbath Day worship has been handed down from generation to generation and has been diluted over time. The rules of the Sabbath have gradually relaxed until now there seem to be no rules at all. In the Colonies there were strict rules. I found the following on this website (click here to view).
“Keeping the Sabbath was part of religious tradition and expectations since the founding of the Colonies and would not change until Irish and German immigration redefined the role of Sunday in American culture.
So important was Sunday church attendance that, in the earliest days of the Virginia colony, a newly arrived governor, Sir Thomas Dale, called for repeated church absences to be subject to capital punishment.
Keeping the Sabbath in colonial America was a key feature of religious practice, regardless of the particular denomination enforcing the rule.
“Parishioners were summoned on the Sabbath by the ringing of bells, beating of drums or the sound of a trumpet.
Lay church leaders scoured the communities, making sure everyone that wasn’t sick was at church. In Virginia, for example, it didn’t matter whether a person was a member of the Church of England. Attendance was still required.
“The Sabbath also banned any activities considered profane, such as hunting, sporting, dancing or doing non-essential work.
The Sabbath was ‘the Lord’s Day’ and any activity that was deemed inappropriate was an offense against God. In New England and Dutch New Amsterdam, also a Calvinist community, these rules were far more stringent and more rigidly enforced.”
The Sabbath in Colonial days was strictly observed. Of course, I am not convinced that the forced worship of the Sabbath and the punishments were pleasing to the Lord, but children and families were taught to have respect for God’s day. It was a school master for future generations.
It was rare even in my day to drive down the streets of a city and see shops without “closed” signs in the windows or drive across an agricultural area and find any machinery at work.
Nowadays nearly every shop is open and fields are alive with machinery. Amusement parks rake in the money because that is a big day for families to get away from it all.
Lakes, rivers and beaches are filled with joy-seekers. If the joy-seekers are Christian, their excuse for Sabbath Day recreation is generally the same: “I don’t have to go to church to be close to God.
I can worship God when I am out in nature. I feel closer to God in the forest than in an old stuffy church.”
The excuse may be good for them, but what about their children? What are they learning from their parents’ Sabbath Day observance?
What will this tradition teach them? I wonder if they will ever know that their parents are worshipping God when their boat skips across the water amidst peals of laughter and screams of delight? Where is the reverence that once permeated the Lord’s Day?
Christ said, “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” The Lord gave us the Sabbath as a sign or a covenant, a sign that would let God know that we were truly on His side.
A covenant is a two-way promise – an “if you do this for me, I will do this for you” kind of thing. The Lord intended it to be forever, not just during the time of the Israelites. If the people would keep the Sabbath Day holy, He would bless them abundantly.
And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you.
The Lord has attached a blessing to the observance of the Sabbath.
If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words:
Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.
Riding upon the high places of the Earth sounds like being able to avoid the pitfalls and the sorrows of the Earth. There are so many things in life that bring us low. So many people are tangled in webs of woe.
They pop pills to take away their depression and misery. They are definitely riding in the low places of the earth. If we “delight” ourselves in the Lord, we will know how to seek and trust Him. He has all the answers. He knows how to solve every problem.
The problem is we don’t take time to ponder and pray. Every day is just like the last. We work every day of the week and play on the weekend. When do we stop and take “delight” in the Lord? That was supposed to be on the Sabbath. I wonder if it happens at all nowadays.
The blessings of the Sabbath are not just for the children of Israel. They are for everyone who keeps the Sabbath Day holy.
Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the Lord, to serve him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant;
Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people.
I can’t help but wonder if our national woes are not connected with the way we keep the Sabbath Day. We have forgotten the Lord and His commandments. We seek our own pleasure and do our own thing. Prayer is only for days like 9/11. Going to church is just an afterthought on Easter and Christmas.
Our children are learning that the name of God is profanity on the lips of those who don’t know a loving Father who is the Creator of all things and the answer to every heartfelt prayer.
Our crops in the field are plagued with pestilence, we have natural disasters in record number and armies from other countries wait for our moment of weakness. There is a threat of calamity on every side.
We labor seven days a week and yet our bank accounts don’t get any larger and our debt grows and grows. Many of us are riding on the low places of the earth and we don’t recognize the warning signs.
My little friend who got up in church to announce that she had discovered that it didn’t matter how you dress – or where you worship – is mainstream America.
My little friend doesn’t know that dress is a matter of respect and honor. You dress your best, not because you want to impress others with the way you look – you want to put on your best because you want to impress God.
You want Him to know that you are keeping His day special. You dress differently, you act differently and you spend your time in a differently on the Sabbath to show Him that He is special to you. If we make God special, He will make us special. He will honor those who honor Him. PD