Life Hope & Truth

The Fourth Commandment: Remember the Sabbath Day

God made the Sabbath at the end of the creation week, and it reminds us of our Creator. How does He want us to remember it today?

God recorded the Fourth Commandment in Exodus 20:8-11:

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.”

The Sabbath was made at creation

God made the Sabbath at the end of the creation week, and it reminds us of our Creator: “Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made” (Genesis 2:1-3).

We follow God’s example and command by remembering and resting on this day each week. Unless God told us, how would we know how He wants to be worshipped? How would mortal man know what is holy time—unless God revealed it? Thankfully He has revealed it, though so few today “remember” the seventh-day Sabbath.

The Sabbath command is repeated in Deuteronomy 5:12-15, but this time God highlighted the theme of freedom. The Israelites were given freedom from slavery under Pharaoh, the ruler of Egypt. This pictured, in type, the freedom we can have from Satan and sin. As the One who became Jesus Christ delivered Israel from Egypt with a mighty hand (1 Corinthians 10:4), Jesus is our Deliverer and Savior today.

Whose Sabbath is it?

“The seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God” (Exodus 20:10). It belongs to God. Jesus said He is “Lord of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:28). But Jesus tells us His purpose for the Sabbath is for our benefit: “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27).

The Sabbath is not a selfish day. We are to let our servants (employees) rest as well (Deuteronomy 5:14). And Christ clarified that it is not wrong to do good on the Sabbath, giving examples of emergencies and setting the example of caring for the sick and injured (Matthew 12:10-13).

The Sabbath, the day God rested, is both the forerunner and the weekly reminder of the wonderful future rest, free from the bondage of sin.Why did the Pharisees and religious leaders accuse Christ and the disciples of “doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:2)? Because they and their ancestors had learned the wrong lessons from Israel’s punishment for Sabbath breaking and other sins. They had added many human-devised rules and laws as a hedge around the Sabbath. God’s commandments are not burdensome (1 John 5:3), but the rules of Judaism had become a burden (Matthew 23:4).

The Sabbath now and in the future

Chapters 3 and 4 of the book of Hebrews weave together the interrelated themes of the Sabbath, entering the Promised Land and entering the Kingdom of God. Each is a type of rest, with the Promised Land an imperfect picture of the future peaceful Kingdom.

The Sabbath, the day God rested, is both the forerunner and the weekly reminder of the wonderful future rest, free from the bondage of sin (Hebrews 4:4, 9). “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God” (Hebrews 4:9, New International Version).

In that future Kingdom, all people will worship before God on the Sabbath (Isaiah 66:23).

The Sabbath command today

We are still required to work diligently for six days to meet our needs and prepare well for the Sabbath each week. This teaches us diligence, planning and priorities. God mandates a day of rest not to promote idleness, but because we need it.

But more than sleep and doing nothing, the Sabbath is a day for doing something different: refocusing on God, worshipping and fellowshipping with Christians of like mind (Hebrews 10:24-25), praying, studying the Bible and meditating.

The Sabbath is a day to bond with family, appreciate the creation and do good, perhaps visiting the widows and orphans (James 1:27). The Sabbath should be a delight, not by doing our own hobbies, interests and pleasures, but by honoring God and seeking to please Him and do His will (Isaiah 58:13-14).

To learn more, read the article “Is the Sabbath a Sign of God’s People?”

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