ODJ: Babies and Bathwater

June 17, 2017 

READ: Isaiah 1:10-17 

As for your celebrations of the new moon and the Sabbath and your special days for fasting—they are all sinful and false. I want no more of your pious meetings (v.13).

A woodcut illustration in a German book from 1512 depicts a woman tossing out a baby along with wastewater from a bucket. This is the first known use of the idiom, “Throwing the baby out with the bathwater.” Some say this phrase came from the idea of a family sharing bathwater (from oldest to youngest) until, finally, the last one—the baby—could barely be seen in the dirty water. Whether this story is true or not, we can be grateful for the invention of modern plumbing!

Unfortunately, “throwing the baby out with the bathwater” is something like what I did when it came to honouring the idea of Sabbath-like rest in my life. During college, I remember reading Isaiah 1 and being shocked at the way God describes the Sabbath and other religious observances, calling them meaningless, detestable and even disgusting (v.13). I used this verse to come to the conclusion that the Sabbath had little value for me, and that it was theologically acceptable to neglect the rest and refreshment found through spending time with Him.

But if you read this chapter carefully, you see that God doesn’t despise the Sabbath in itself. The reason He wouldn’t hear Israel’s prayers was because the people were guilty of injustice (v.15). So it’s not the Sabbath that God hates, but the Sabbath without the pursuit of justice. Isaiah says that the Sabbath still holds great value, especially as one of the main ways in which people are identified as believers in God (58:13).

Though we no longer need to celebrate the Sabbath as a legal requirement (Colossians 2:16), the idea of Sabbath rest still holds tremendous value for us. In a culture where we’re constantly busy and stressed, it’s nothing less than a gift from God. May we take time to rest today in the Lord of the Sabbath—Jesus Himself (Matthew 12:8).

—Peter Chin

365-day plan: John 1:35-51

Read Mark 2:23-28 to see how Jesus viewed the Sabbath—as a blessing to help us, not a curse to burden us. 
How do you experience rest and restoration in Jesus on a regular basis? Why is it vital to take time to pull away from the busyness of life?