Theme: Our Praise and Delight
From this week’s lessons, we see the need for the righteous to praise God continually.
Scripture: Psalm 92:1-15
In most Reformed circles and in some others there is an ongoing debate about the right way to observe Sunday. Some see it as an extension of the Jewish Sabbath and call for an end to all work, except what are called works of necessity, like providing emergency medicine and fighting fires. This is called the Puritan view. Others regard Sunday as a day for Christian worship but do not forbid other positive activities. This view is sometimes called the continental understanding of the Sabbath.
I side with the continental view on grounds of the activity associated with the first Lord’s Day as recorded in the gospels. But whatever the right answer to this ongoing debate may be, there can be little disagreement among Christians that Sunday is at least a day to worship God. The psalm we are to study now is the only one in the Psalter specifically designated “for the Sabbath,” and it tells us something that it is certainly good to do, that is, to “praise the LORD” and to do so throughout the day from morning until night. So I ask as we start: How do you approach a Sunday? Do you think of it as a day in which you have to go to church, but the duties of which you try to get over as soon as possible so you can spend the rest of the time with your family or get on to other more enjoyable things? Or do you think of it as a precious day given to you by God in which you can learn about him and so praise him? In other words, is Sunday a trial or a treat? Is it a delight or a deadly duty?
Derek Kidner says, “This Song for the Sabbath is proof enough, if such were needed, that the Old Testament Sabbath was a day not only for rest but for corporate worship (“a holy convocation,” Lev. 23:3), and intended to be a delight rather than a burden.”1 The rabbis made it into a burden, of course, but Jesus opposed their error, reminding them that “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). As such, Sunday should be a time for thanksgiving and joyful celebration.
This does not mean that we are not to praise God on other days of the week too, for of course we are. The Masoretes2 had an interesting way of asserting this, for they assigned a specific psalm to each day of the week, every one of which was written to help us praise God for different things. The specific assignments were:
On the first day, Sunday: Psalm 24
On the second day, Monday: Psalm 48
On the third day,Tuesday: Psalm 82
On the fourth day, Wednesday: Psalm 114
On the fifth day, Thursday: Psalm 81
On the sixth day, Friday: Psalm 93
On the seventh day, Saturday: Psalm 92
If we wanted to do it, we could follow the assignment for Sunday at least, for we have an excellent hymn based on Psalm 92. It is the hymn “How Good It Is to Thank the Lord” by Isaac Watts.
How good it is to thank the Lord,
And praise to you, Most High, accord,
To show your love with morning light.
And tell your faithfulness each night;
Yea, good it is your praise to sing,
And all our sweetest music bring.
Watts’ hymn stresses the goodness of praising God constantly.
1Derek Kidner, Psalms 73-150: A Commentary on Books III-V of the Psalms (Leicester, England, and Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1975), p. 334.
2A Masorete is one of the writers or compilers of the Masorah, a collection of critical and explanatory notes on the Hebrew text of the Old Testament. The Masorah was compiled from around the 7th to the 10th centuries A.D.
What are two Reformed views of observing Sunday?
What is the primary purpose of the Sabbath?
What error did the rabbis make about the Sabbath?
Reflection: How do you approach a Sunday?
Application: Follow the Masoretes’ schedule of reading and meditating for one month. Note how it enhances your praise of the Lord.
For Further Study: To learn more about how the Sabbath functions throughout Scripture and the changes that come with the coming of Christ, download and listen for free to James Boice’s message, “History of the Sabbath.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)