REVIEW of The Taste of Sabbath, by Stuart Bryan

I am involved in many groups and committees; it’s a rare week when I don’t have at least one evening meeting for the King’s Academy Board, Ladies’ Book Club, my Bible Study, the RCC Music Team, or the Lord’s Day Book Committee. The last of those groups has been taking up the lion’s share of my attention this summer, and one of my projects for that group has been to read The Taste of Sabbath, by Stuart Bryan.

What exactly is the Lord’s Day Book Committee? It is a small group at Reformation Covenant Church dedicated to compiling some of Pastor Dennis Tuuri’s sermons (from the last twenty-five years) into a book on Sabbath-keeping. When aiming to publish a book, it is  important to review similar books in the same field.  After all, one doesn’t want to run the risk of redundancy, putting out a book that has already been written by somebody else.

The Taste of Sabbath: How to Delight in God’s Rest was published by Canon Press last year. In the book, Stuart Bryan makes the case for the abiding validity of the Sabbath in our world today.

In the first chapter, he argues that it is a perpetual ordinance because God established it at the creation, God equates it with justice, and God intends it to regulate our worship. The next chapter explains the change from the Jewish Sabbath to the Christian Lord’s Day. Bryan shows that while the old Sabbath celebrated the redemption from Egypt, the new Sabbath celebrates the greater redemption effected by Jesus Christ. Christ’s resurrection on the first day of the week and his subsequent appearances to the disciples (also on the first day) set a new pattern for Sabbath observance.

In the third chapter, Bryan deals with the famous “Lord of the Sabbath” passage which some have used to claim that the Sabbath is now abolished. Bryan argues that Jesus is not really breaking the Sabbath because He is embracing the principles behind the Sabbath (that the Pharisees, with all their rituals, were ignoring). He also argues that Jesus’ kingdom work took precedence over the Sabbath because the Sabbath is a “lesser matter of the Law.”

The fourth chapter examines Jesus’ activities on a typical Sabbath day from Mark 1. Bryan shows that Jesus attended corporate worship to hear the Scriptures, performed acts of mercy and necessity, and participated in fellowship. He spends a significant amount of time in this chapter emphasizing the importance of attending corporate worship since worship is warfare; it is the place where we call on God to act in the world.

The concluding chapter of the book is devoted to application. Bryan mentions a few things that we should do on the Sabbath day: be given to hospitality, rejoice by “eating the fat”, do works of mercy. He also mentions a few things that we should avoid: doing laborious work, or exploiting others by forcing them to work. The main emphasis of the chapter, however, is that if we have the right attitude to the Sabbath–considering it a delight!–then we should be able to resolve specific questions of how to keep the Sabbath on our own.

Bryan’s book is a quick read and a good introduction to the Sabbath. Though it overlaps somewhat with the Lord’s Day Book that our committee is preparing, I think the two will be companion pieces rather than repetition or competition.

While Bryan deals briefly with the Sabbath as a creation ordinance and a redemptive ordinance, Tuuri thoroughly exposits these concepts using the whole Old Testament. Bryan jumps quickly from the Old Testament Sabbath to the New Testament Lord’s Day (using the book of Isaiah and Jesus’ appearances as support), but Tuuri adds a much richer level of meaning by showing all the eighth day prefigurements of this change in the Old Testament sacrificial and festal systems. In the section on the “Lord of the Sabbath,” Bryan can almost be seen as trivializing the Sabbath by claiming that Jesus was doing something more important with his kingdom work; Tuuri’s exegesis of this passage provides a link between Jesus’ kingdom work and the Sabbath, giving increased importance to the day of which Jesus claims to be Lord. Although Bryan’s book has  some specific points of application, he does not deal with many Old Testament passages that would inform the reader more fully. Tuuri emphasizes the “whole day” nature of the Sabbath and gives more help to those wondering how to keep the day properly (e.g. the Day of Preparation, Nehemiah’s prohibition of buying and selling).

One distinct advantage that Bryan’s book does have over Tuuri’s, however, is that it is already published. You’re going to have to wait a year–or two–to crack the cover of Pastor Dennis Tuuri’s Sabbath book. If you want a quick overview in the meantime, I strongly recommend The Taste of Sabbath.

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