This is the fourth part in the Beyond Today Bible study series: The Ten Commandments. The Fourth Commandment begins: “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy”. Is it really that important to observe the Sabbath from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset? Is Sabbath keeping necessary for salvation? Join Steve Myers for this week’s Bible study as he discusses the significance of the Fourth Commandment.
[Steve Myers] Good evening everyone. Welcome to our bi-weekly Bible study. We’re continuing our series on the Ten Commandments tonight and so we’re going to delve into number four. Number four is up for today, the Sabbath command. We’re going to talk about the different aspects of the Sabbath, we’re going to try to zero in and not stray too much because there’re so many things that we could talk about when it comes to God’s Sabbath. We’ll try to stay as tight as we can with the commandment itself. So that’s our goal for this evening. We’ve got about an hour to talk about that and so let’s go ahead and get right into that. We’ll begin by asking God’s blessing on our evening, so if you bow your heads, we’ll ask God’s blessing.
Great loving Heavenly Father, thank you so much for Your wonderful Word and Your way. What a blessing it is, God, to have You open our minds to Your truth to understand Your Word and, Father, to open our minds to understand the even deeper things about You and Your way. We pray You’ll do that tonight. We pray that You’d guide us and lead us, everything that’s said, help us as we listen to the words that are spoken that really come from You, Father, Your Word. And we’re so thankful that You’ve given that to us. So we pray for Your inspiration, we pray for Your guidance, and Father we just pray for Your presence not only here but everywhere and to everyone who would hear these words of yours as we strive to delve into the power of Your way and Your Word. So we thank You for this, we put it into Your hands, ask Your presence and blessing and ask it all by the authority of Our Savior, Jesus Christ, amen.
So we are going to talk about the fourth command. The Fourth Commandment is tonight’s topic and it is an interesting one. Maybe one, you would say, even in the religious world is a controversial one as well. If you want to begin to turn over to Exodus 20, we’re going to read through the command. In fact, a second version of that command is also found in Deuteronomy. I thought it might be helpful to take a look at these and see what they say, maybe read through them so we have the whole concept in mind as we begin to talk about it. So if you turn over to Exodus 20, the Fourth Commandment begins in verse 8, Exodus 20:8 Exodus 20:8Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
American King James Version×. It starts out by saying, “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.” Verse 11 goes on, “For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore, the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.” That concludes the Fourth Commandment as it’s recorded in Exodus.
Now if we flip over to Deuteronomy 5, it’s also mentioned again just as the Israelites are about to come into the Promised Land. If you look over at Deuteronomy 5, see if you notice any differences in the way that this fourth command is worded in Deuteronomy 5:12 Deuteronomy 5:12Keep the sabbath day to sanctify it, as the LORD your God has commanded you.
American King James Version×. Deuteronomy 5:12 Deuteronomy 5:12Keep the sabbath day to sanctify it, as the LORD your God has commanded you.
American King James Version×, we’re just going to go ahead and read through it. It says, “Observe the Sabbath day to keep it holy as the Lord, Your God commanded you. 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 ox, nor your donkey, nor any of your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you.”
Verse 15 goes on, “And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord, Your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm. Therefore, the Lord, Your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.” Now you may have noticed a couple of differences in those two quotations of the Sabbath command. We’re going to talk about those things in just a moment but maybe you noticed a couple of other interesting things as we’ve gone along in our series. In fact, if you want to go back to Exodus, you could flip back over there for a moment. There’s a couple of interesting things we can see just right off the bat before we get into deeper study about the whole topic. One of the things that’s interesting is the length of this command. Did you notice something a little bit different about this command compared to the others? You’ll never guess which one is the longest. Okay, it’s this one, it’s the Fourth Commandment. It is a long commandment. It’s got four verses here in Exodus.
In fact, if you did this study and looked at all the words, it makes up about a third, almost one third of those words are the entire Ten Commandments. So almost a third of the words of the Ten Commandments are about the Sabbath—a whole lot more than adultery, a whole lot more than murder, a whole lot more than lying, those kinds of things. So we see it’s…yeah, does that tell us anything? Well, we’ll see that in a moment. What does that tell us? Almost a third of the words of the Ten Commandments are found in the Sabbath command. Also interesting, something different about this command, the way that it’s worded. Now if we were to read the rest of the commandments, most of them have words that say something to the effect of thou shalt not, thou shalt not do this or that. This one is different. We could say this one is a positive command, I suppose you could say it that way. It’s positive, it starts here in Exodus with remember, remember the Sabbath. Deuteronomy said it a little differently. Do you remember what Deuteronomy said? It said observe it or keep it, keep the Sabbath. And so that implies something to us immediately when we begin to think about this command. Yes, it starts with a very positive way but if you’re going to remember it, that seems to imply that it was something that was already there. It was something that was already known. It was something that wasn’t brand new. This Sabbath already existed. And now God is instructing to remember it.
Okay, we’re going to come back to that in just a moment. Take a look at what it says here in Exodus 20. As it says not only “remember the Sabbath day,” but then it also says “to keep it holy,” and that becomes a critical element, this concept of being holy. We’re to keep it not just to remember it, but we are to keep it holy. When you talk about something that’s holy, that’s something that’s set apart, that’s something that’s sanctified, that’s something that’s dedicated for a sacred purpose. In this case, the Sabbath, the seventh day, is consecrated to God. So it’s set apart. It’s sanctified for God.
And so we come up with a couple of things that become obvious right off the bat, to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy, that it becomes very clear. Some things are holy and other things aren’t. God makes it very clear. This day shouldn’t be profaned. This day should not be kept in an unholy way. It shouldn’t be treated like it’s just another day, it shouldn’t be treated commonly because it’s sanctified. It’s set apart from all the other days. And so it becomes pretty clear as we begin looking at Exodus 20 that there is a specific amount of time every single week that is holy, that’s sanctified, that’s set apart. And that’s not set apart, or it’s not holy, it’s not something that we should keep because the United Church of God says you should. That’s not why. It’s not because some minister says you should do it. No man, no organization can call common what God has set apart. God set apart this seventh day as holy. He called it that.
And so if you noticed right off the bat, maybe we should read it again. Notice what it says in verse 8, “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” He didn’t say remember the Sabbath day and make it holy. It didn’t say that, and that’s a big difference. He didn’t say to make it holy. He says it is holy because we can’t make it holy. We can’t make it holy. God has made it holy. In fact, He says remember it because it’s already been made holy. Now we have to recognize that fact, that the Sabbath is holy and that it is differentiated from the other days, and we have to recognize what God has done and respect the fact that He set this seventh day apart. And so He tells us to remember it, remember it, keep it holy. Make sure that in your behavior, your approach to that day it is holy because God Himself has done this. He has assigned that special significance to this seventh day. We could say He blessed this day, He set it apart, He made it holy, He consecrated that day. And so what we begin to see by what God did on this day, He set it apart and made it distinct. He said it’s holy.
Now it’s up to us to recognize that fact and maintain a relationship with God. God said, “I have set apart this day. It’s holy.” So if we’re to have a right relationship with God, we’ve got to recognize this very fact, He set the day apart as holy. If we want the right relationship with God, does that mean then that we have to keep it that way? You see, God’s pointing to that very thing. Deuteronomy said it a little bit differently, it said to keep it holy. Observe the Sabbath, keep it holy. So it ties in that concept of observing. So not just remembering it, “Oh, yeah, I remember it is.” No, but then in our behavior, recognize this as a fact that we have a holy God who set apart this day as holy.
In fact, if you turn back just a few pages to Genesis chapter 2, and in verse 3. In Genesis 2:3 Genesis 2:3And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.
American King James Version×we have the beginning, you could say, of this Sabbath that was created by God, right there at the days of creation. We can notice what happened in that account in Genesis 2:3 Genesis 2:3And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.
American King James Version×. It says, “God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.” So God made those other days, those other things. He gets to the seventh day, it says, “He blessed it and sanctified it.” Now it’s interesting, if you read those words, which one of those words do you think in that particular verse is the same word as “holy” in the Fourth Commandment? It is “sanctified”. Sanctified. He set it apart. Yes, He not only blessed it but He sanctified it. He made it holy. He set it apart. And it’s interesting because it also says, “in it He rested from all His work.” That word for rested is the base word for Sabbath. If you wanted to do a little transliteration you could say God blessed the seventh day, sanctified it because in it He sabbathed from all His work, because that’s what He did. He rested, and so He rested from what He had created and made. So that becomes a pretty significant thing because God in Exodus 20 points back to that very event. He points back to this time and says, “Remember.” Remember that first rest, that first sabbathing of God back in chapter 2.
You can also say “remember” to the Israelites and Exodus because He had just gotten done pointing out to them all over again what day that Sabbath was. If you remember the story, the Israelites were captive in Egypt. The Pharaoh had them under his control. They were slaves. When they were released they were out in the wilderness, God had to reveal what day was the Sabbath. And so He did that—do you remember how? Do you remember how He revealed what day the Sabbath was to the Israelites? It was through the manna, by feeding them. He gave them twice as much on Friday, and how much was there on the Sabbath? Nothing, that’s right, there was nothing there. Pretty good indication you’re not supposed to go out and pick up manna on the Sabbath, right? So part of it might be remembering that as well. Remember that seventh day, not just to observe it, because, well, I could recognize that. I could recognize there’s no food out there on the Sabbath, but God’s pointing to more than that, isn’t He? When He says to keep it, He says, “Don’t just remember it,” but there’s the instruction to keep the Sabbath. And so I think that becomes critical as well—we’re to keep it. We’re to keep it in a special way. We’re not just supposed to observe it, but we keep it holy. We keep it holy. The Sabbath day is commemorated as a holy day. God said that in Genesis 2. He reminds us of it in Exodus 20. He reminds us again in Leviticus 23, that “This is My Sabbath. This is My…” He gives a whole listing of various Holy Days, but He says the Sabbath is His Sabbath.
And so it’s commemorated as a Holy Day, which means some significant things. One of the things that He mentions here, of course, is don’t work. But keeping the Sabbath means a whole lot more than just not working, at least according to what God gives right here. If you want to go back to Exodus 20, notice what He says in verse 11. Exodus 20:11 Exodus 20:11For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: why the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
American King James Version×He reminds us once again that “in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore, the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.”
So He points out something that’s very interesting here. He had just gotten done with the creation, all right? He had formed these different things, He had made the animals, all the things that were created at that time. Are any of those things supposed to be worshiped? They’re not supposed to be worshiped. So God points out with the Sabbath that instead of that commandment that talked about idols, instead of worshiping created things, you worship the Creator. And it is such a critical point that mankind has had such a challenge not worshiping the creation or some form of the creation. It seems like we’re just drawn to that, but here, God points it out so clearly, we’re to worship God by imitating… what aspect? Not by imitating the creation or the creatures, the things, by making idols or anything like that. Here He tells us in the command, we’re to worship Him, we’re to keep the Sabbath holy by imitating His actions. By imitating His actions. We rest as He rested.
We have a relationship with Him as He had a relationship even back there with Adam and Eve. He observed and kept the Sabbath, He, in a sense, worked those six days and then He rested on the seventh. So we have this remembrance of what happened at creation. It started at creation. In fact, it’s interesting the Sabbath starts when, I think we could say, when the keeping of time started. When time started to be kept, we began marking Sabbath. God started labeling them very clearly right off the bat.
It’s also important I think to recognize, did God work so hard that He was tired that He had to take a break? We know that’s silly, He didn’t do that. He didn’t do it that way, right? What was that seventh day? It becomes critical to recognize the fact that, all right, He created these things, sometimes we call it the recreation, but then He got to the animals and man and all these wonderful things. God’s creating the Sabbath was not a reaction to hard work, but what was it instead? Instead, it was the culmination of His creation. You could say it was the peak. This was the ultimate. It was, you could say, the grand finale of creation. It was the height of His creation. It wasn’t just an add-on to say, “Well, I’m done so now I’ll rest.” No, it wasn’t that at all. Everything He had done up to that point was pointing to this very thing, to the seventh day. So it was the culmination of what His creation was all about. Yes, the Sabbath was last in creation, but it wasn’t a reaction to that creation at all. It was the culmination of that very week. How do we know that? Because God says Who it belongs to—it belongs to Him. It’s God’s day.
So if you think of this whole concept of creation and how it is the culmination of that creation week that’s described back there in Genesis, it’s also a reminder that it points directly to God. It points directly to having a right relationship with God. If the Sabbath is the culmination of His creation week, it’s pointing directly to Him. And that, as human beings, the seventh day should point us directly to God. It should be the culmination of our week as well. And so it points us in that direction.
There’s also another passage that we could look at, and we’ll try not to get off too far here. But if you turn over to Exodus chapter 31. Exodus 31:12 Exodus 31:12And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,
American King James Version×, here we have a reiteration of some of the aspects of that command that was given just a few chapters ago in Exodus 20. So if you look over at Exodus 31, notice what He says here at Exodus 31 beginning in verse 12. “The Lord spoke to Moses saying, ‘Speak also to the children of Israel saying surely…’” Whose Sabbaths? Oh, it’s My Sabbath, it’s God’s Sabbath. “My Sabbath you shall keep for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations.” And why would He give that? “That you may know that I am the Lord who sanctifies you. You shall keep the Sabbath therefore, for its holy to you. Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death, for whoever does any work on it that person shall be cut off from among his people.” He talks about the work that should not be done on this day. “Work shall be done six days but the seventh is a Sabbath of rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. Therefore, the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.”
And so here again we see this connection, this culmination that points to a relationship with God. Did you catch that as we read through verse 12 for example? “It is a sign between Me and you,” so it points to a direct relationship that we have with each other. We know God is the Lord, He is the Creator, He sanctified. He sanctified this day, and He also sets us apart, He sets us apart as well. And so He points out how critical this is.
Now oftentimes people would read this particular passage and they’ll say, “Well, yeah, okay. The Sabbath is interesting and it was important for those Israelites but for us, we’re under the New Covenant and this was just strictly for the Israelites. It’s not really for us. It was supposed to be something, well, just because it says perpetual doesn’t mean it was really perpetual. Just as long as they were around, they were supposed to keep it.” What was the purpose again? The purpose was sanctification. It was made holy, it was set apart. Does God set apart His people today? Does God want a relationship with His people today? Does the seventh day still point to God as Creator? It does, it does.
I’m not going to get into a long discussion about the Old Covenant, the Mosaic covenant, the covenant at Sinai, all those kinds of things. There’s a couple of things that point, I think, pretty easily to help refute this whole concept that it was just a Jewish kind of a thing. There’s an important passage over in Mark 2 that Christ Himself spoke, Mark 2:27 Mark 2:27And he said to them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath:
American King James Version×. We could start there. In Mark 2:27 Mark 2:27And he said to them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath:
American King James Version×, here we find Christ teaching, giving some instructions, something important when it comes to the Sabbath itself. Because some would say, “Well, the Sabbath was just for those Israelites. It wasn’t for anybody else, and once their whole nation was done, that was done. Once that covenant was over, we don’t have to worry about that anymore.” Well, if that’s the case, we would have a problem with what Jesus Himself said in Mark 2:27 Mark 2:27And he said to them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath:
American King James Version×and 28. Here’s what Christ Himself said. He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath.” Okay, we read through that very quickly and you could say, “Yeah, the Sabbath was made for those Israelites or those Jews, but not for anybody else.” But that’s really not what the words are saying there. If you were to look that up in the original language, if you look that up in the Greek, it’s not saying the Sabbath was made for man as opposed to a woman, not saying that. What the word is actually pointing to is that the Sabbath was made for mankind. The Sabbath was made for people. And we could say the Sabbath was made for everybody. The Sabbath is made for everyone, that’s what Christ Himself was saying. The Sabbath was made for mankind, not the other way around, because some of the Jews of that day didn’t get to proper observance of that day, how to really keep it holy.
Christ points it out, it wasn’t just a Jewish thing, it was for everyone. Then He also points out something significant that brings us right back to Exodus 20 all over again. He says verse 28, “Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.” He’s pointing all the way back to this time. He is the Lord of the Sabbath, He is the Lord of the Sabbath. And so if you ever had to pick a day that Jesus is the Lord of, what day would you say that He is the Lord? There’s a thing today where people will call Sunday “the Lord’s Day.” That doesn’t work, wait a second. We take Jesus’ own words, what day is the Lord’s Day? Out of His own mouth, Christ Himself said, “The Lord’s day is the Sabbath. The Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.” Lord of the Sabbath. So He makes it very clear. Yeah, there’s lots of things you could talk about when it comes to New Covenant versus Old Covenant, but New Covenant Christians keep the Sabbath. New Covenant Christians keep the Sabbath. You can study that throughout the book of Acts, you can study it throughout Paul’s writings. It becomes obvious even though some would say, “Well, it was never totally reiterated in the New Testament.” I’d say those are pretty powerful words of what Christ had to say. In fact, if there’s a whole chapter in the Bible about circumcision, how many chapters would there have to be if, for some reason, the Sabbath was suddenly changed? I think you’d have probably volumes if that were the case.
And so we begin to see Christ validated exactly what was intended on the Sabbath and He made it very clear. And so at best you’ve got some argument from silence out of the New Testament, but we see pretty clearly that it points to a relationship with God, and that could never change, that could never change. He said, “that you might know that I’m the Lord who sanctifies you,” that we’ll have a relationship. In fact, try looking in your Bible, see if you find any case that it says it’s the Sabbath of the Jews. You won’t find that at all. You won’t find that at all. In fact, when you study through history, Sunday doesn’t even become a big issue until you get to several hundred years after the crucifixion. And so no doubt Christ set the seventh day apart from the other six right there at creation. And think about it in this way for a moment. As God set Israel apart at the Exodus, as a people, He gave them the Sabbath. God sets us apart by opening our minds to His truth. He sanctifies us in that sense. So He had the seventh day itself set apart from the other six. He sets apart Israel from the rest of the people at the Exodus, and today He’s setting us apart.
And so what does God want us to do? I think it points back to what He’s saying right back in Exodus. He wants us to recognize that very fact, that He wants us to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. It reminds us under the New Covenant, it reminds us what it means to keep ourselves holy. What does it take for each of us to make the choices in our life to remain sanctified? You see, observing the Sabbath is an object lesson, it’s a weekly reminder about sanctification, about holiness. It’s an object lesson in holiness. So as you go back, let’s turn back to Exodus 20 once again as we consider this, the sense of the object lesson of sanctification and holiness that God is giving us.
A couple of things that we’ll want to notice here. There’s something important that He talks about here in verse 9. In verse 9, Exodus 20 He says, “Six days you shall labor and do all your work.” So it begins to point to us the fact that work is important. There’s an importance of work. He said most of your time, you’re going to have to labor, you’re going to have to work six days. He doesn’t say five days and rest two, or two out of three ain’t bad. He didn’t say anything like that. He doesn’t say, “Well, do some of your work in six days and if it hangs over into the seventh day, well, that’s all right.” No, He’s pointing out pretty clearly, it says work six days, rest one. So is something wrong with work? I don’t think so. In fact, I think it’s just the opposite. Work is what we have to do. We have to feed our families. It’s the nature of life at times. We’ve got to accomplish things. Work is important, no doubt about that. But one thing we notice about work… Maybe we describe it that way. What do you usually do? Monday I go to work. I usually go on Tuesday. Work is usual, work is common, work is every day but the seventh, right? Work is common. It’s not evil, not necessarily anyway, not necessarily evil.
But remember, what’s holy is set apart. What is holy, God makes a distinction. God says the seventh day is special. You ought to put seventh day to a different use, to a different use than a regular day. God distinguished that seventh day by resting as opposed to working. And so for us, He set that example that we’re to do likewise. We’re to do the same thing, because what happens on that seventh day is to be different than what happens on any other day. So it says six days you’ve got all the time to do what you need to do. Then the seventh day is different. So I think we see not only as work important but it’s good, it’s good to work. It’s really good to work. There’s value in working.
I don’t think God says you should hate those six days and love the Sabbath. He didn’t say that either. He didn’t say that at all. In fact I remember many, many years ago, I remember going to a party. It was for a man who had worked for 40 years at a particular job, 40 years, and it was kind of a retirement celebration for him and the whole thing. And we got into a conversation that afternoon, it’s 40 years at the same place, that’s amazing, especially for some of us that might have jumped around the jobs, for him 40 years for the same employer all that time. And I couldn’t help it, it came to my mind, I said, “Wow, you must have loved working there.” You know what he said? “I hated every day.” It’s like, oh, how terrible would that be? God doesn’t want us to hate work. We’re not supposed to just have to put up with it. I think God wants us to like what we do, maybe we should love what we do. And ideally that would be the case. I think God says, “Yes, there’s some hard work to do. We’re not supposed to be lazy.” There’s lots of other passages that talk about that. Certainly work is important, God created work. If He thought it was bad He wouldn’t have said He worked for six days, would He? That wouldn’t be the case. In fact, God gave lots of people work in the Bible, didn’t He? God created work. He gave Adam work. And so there’s going to be work later on as well. And so one of the things that this commandment points out is the value and the dignity of working. That’s a good thing. You think that principle still applies today? I think it does, I think it does.
Then of course He follows it up with rest, and rest is certainly important. Rest is important. It’s critical as well. The seventh day is a day of rest, a day of rest. Not just for us as individuals, but for our entire household, everyone in the house is supposed to, even the animals aren’t supposed to work. You don’t work, your kids don’t work, your animals don’t work, your wife doesn’t work, nobody. Not to do any work. That doesn’t just mean you don’t go into work that day, right, we just don’t go to our job. It means you don’t do any work at the house, you don’t get out your computer and start doing work. That’s not supposed to be done either. And so the Sabbath is also an important lesson in rest, in rest, because remember who this commandment initially was given to here? Exodus 20, this was given to a slave people. What was their work like? Probably like that guy I knew, probably hated every day of it. Because they were slaves. They had been former slaves for 400 years. So if you could imagine their lifestyle, sun up to sun down, seven days a week, no rest, no vacations, no PTO, no paid time off, nothing like that at all, right?
Now, God brings them out, and He says not only are you allowed to take time off, here’s the cool part, you’re commanded to take time off. It’s not just like well, this is a nice idea and you’re going to accumulate it and maybe never use it. No, He says you’re commanded. So here we have the Fourth Commandment. You could maybe even think of it in terms, depending on the problems that you have—is this God’s command to workaholics? Maybe. He’s telling us we need a break. We need rest. He doesn’t want us to work too much. Some of us have that tendency. Yes, some don’t work that hard but others work too hard. We love work so much we’re addicted to it. We can’t seem to get away with it. We’re the first one there, we’re the last one to leave. We can’t get enough, we come to work, we work when we’re sick, we work all the time we possibly can. Some are like that. But God says not this day, not the seventh day. You have to take time off. In fact, not just time off, not just rest, but to develop a relationship with Me, God says.
So when you look at the example of Jesus Christ, it’s an interesting one on the Sabbath. We won’t take time to go through all His example but when you think of rest, oftentimes we might think, “Well, I get to sleep all day.” But you look at Christ’s example of Sabbath observance and keeping the Sabbath holy, He didn’t sleep all day, He didn’t do that. He didn’t stay by Himself, He didn’t stay home and just pray and study all day. He didn’t do that either. He didn’t make large banquets that day, He didn’t do that. He didn’t buy or sell things on the Sabbath. He didn’t go on long trips on the Sabbath. He pointed through His example what we should do, how to develop a better relationship with God. Jesus Christ spent His activities on the Sabbath in serving, serving God, serving others. It wasn’t just hanging out and napping all day.
And so Christ set a wonderful example of a day that was not just a day of inactivity but a day of special activities. The Sabbath was a day of special activities. And so Christ set that example, showing how important rest is. Now of course it doesn’t stop there, because in this Sabbath command we also see the importance of worship. Worship is important. Worship is critical. In fact, it points us to the lesson as God set apart this seventh day—it takes time to be holy. It takes time to develop a relationship with God. You see in the Old Testament even, the Sabbath was not just a day of physical rest, there were also worship purposes on that day. You might write down Leviticus 23:3 Leviticus 23:3Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; you shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the LORD in all your dwellings.
American King James Version×, I won’t turn there, but on that day the Sabbath, Leviticus 23 reminds us not only is it a day of rest but Leviticus 23 says the seventh day is a day of Sabbath rest and then adding “a day of holy convocation,” or some translations say a day of sacred assembly or commanded assembly. It’s a time to come together and worship God. And so Sabbath is so critical for worship.
It’s set aside and dedicated to God, and we keep that holiness of the Sabbath because we worship God. So not just the absence of work but the presence of worship. Not just the absence of work, but the presence of worship is critical when it comes to the Sabbath. And so Christ showed the way when it came to that very thing. In his behavior He worshiped, He went to services, we might say. He went to the temple on the Sabbath. He healed people on the Sabbath. He tended to their physical needs, their spiritual needs. He walked in God’s creation and worshiped and prayed to God. He fellowshipped, He worked on relationships with others, and of course built an amazing bond with people. He prayed to His Heavenly Father and had an amazing relationship. He studied the Word. And all of those things you might say are worshipful activities that are fully appropriate on the Sabbath. And so when you begin to recognize what was happening here, that Sabbath was set apart and sanctified, it was made holy, and we see that in order to have that as a part of our life, if we’re going to have a relationship with God, it is going to take time, and God planned it that way. In fact, He planned us to have the time to have a relationship with Him. I mean how cool is that? We know how busy life can be but God says, “All right, don’t do your everyday thing, don’t do that common thing. This day is consecrated. It’s holy to you. I want to build a relationship with you. Here’s the time that you can especially work on it. You can especially develop that relationship.”
You can begin to understand the significance of that day when we recognize that. So when you put this command with the first three, put all four of those commandments together, it gives us the time, the initiative, the reason that’s required for worship. And so how important is it? The commandment itself tells us to take that time. Because you know what? We have a tendency not to do that. We are so preoccupied with life, we have so many things going on. It is life is just so busy, there are so many responsibilities we all have. There are so many activities to go to. Now we’ve got our smartphones with the millions of apps that we have on them that can detract us or just distract us from doing other things that might be productive. There are so many things that preoccupy us and take our time that we can’t properly worship God.
But God says, “This is a day that you can. This is the day that you can worship and honor Me.” And so God gives this time especially the high priority. God gives it the priority that He wants it to have. So Israel, way back then, was told to quit working and I believe part of that purpose was to facilitate a better, stronger relationship with God. I don’t think it’s any different today. Remember He said back there in Exodus, “Let My people go. Tell Pharaoh, ‘Let My people go that they may serve Me.’” Let My people go that they may serve Me. Well, the Israelites didn’t have time to worship God because they were being beaten down, having to make bricks and work for Pharaoh all that time. Now God gives them the time. So in order for them to serve God, it was necessary for them to have the freedom and the time to do so. They needed the freedom and the time to do so. How much time do you have when you’re in bondage? Not much.
You see, that lifestyle is a hindrance to worship. Now think about that today. The bondage of all the things that distract us—does that keep us from a right relationship with God? Yeah, all too often it does. God built into His way an opportunity for worship, a special opportunity. We should be taking advantage of a part of every single day to draw closer to Him. But He gives us this special day that He set apart to do that very thing and take advantage of that. And so what a blessing that is, that God built it into His system that we can worship Him and we can honor Him, [phone rings in audience] and we can even answer our phone if it’s ringing. [laughter] You see, when you look at the Sabbath, it is such a critical thing. And no wonder some would say, “Well, you don’t have to do that. In fact, I have the freedom to worship God every day or any day.” But you know what I’ve noticed in my experience when someone says that? It normally means they don’t worship God any day. Yeah, they could but they don’t. But God set it up this way, and New Covenant Christians observe the Sabbath because God set it apart and made it holy. We remember that and we keep it holy.
In fact, He also points out I think another lesson that also is tied in with this command as well, and it’s about planning. It kind of comes back a little bit to number three but ties in with this as well. This idea that there is a lesson in planning when it comes to the Sabbath. It means we have to plan our week, plan to get all of the things we’re doing and we want done, try to get that done in those six days, and then on the seventh day we’re planning for special activities that honor and worship God and observe His Sabbath. Planning is a good thing, isn’t it? We plan for a career, we plan to go to college, we plan a marriage, we plan a family, we plan for our retirement. All of those kinds of things are good. The importance of planning in life is critical, isn’t it? Well, when it comes to the Sabbath, we should plan the same way that God planned. You see, when God started the creation process, did it just happen, “Well, I finished on the sixth day and I guess I’ll just take this one off?” Is it just something that kind of happened? Or do you think He planned it that way? You think He did it that way on purpose? Well, of course He did. It was the culmination of His plan. And so I think we have to strive to make that a reality in our lives, that we do our work in those six days and plan ahead so that we don’t have to work. Not even that we don’t have to—we don’t want to work. We don’t want to work, that we want to develop our relationship with God even that much more fully. We want to develop our relationships with each other as we keep this command and the significance of it. That’s what we’re striving for. And so God made it possible by giving us the time to do that very thing.
In fact, you think about the subject of time that God gives us. How about our priorities? How are our priorities stacked in relationship to the time that we have? You think about your priorities and your time, the things that you need to do or you want to do. You can start stacking them up. How much of your time does that take? One of the interesting things about this particular command is maybe what’s most important isn’t always shown in direct proportion to our time. You know what I mean by that? God gave us six days to do what we want to do, what we need to do. God gave us one day, the seventh day, to do what He wants us to do, to develop a relationship with Him. What’s most important in our life? Hopefully it’s this relationship with God, is most important. And God gives us that one day to develop and continue to grow in that relationship with Him. And so in a sense, our highest priority, God doesn’t even demand that we do it every single day, that we set every single day apart as something special like the Sabbath day. He doesn’t do that. He doesn’t say that we come together in collective worship every single day, does He? He doesn’t say that we have to do that. He gives us the Sabbath, He gives us one day.
I think what that does is it helps emphasize how critical this day is, how critical. Because remember where it’s pointing. It’s pointing to who God is. Who is our God? Is our God the Creator? Is our God the one who made the Sabbath? We recognize that on the seventh day. And so we have to plan, we have to plan if we’re going to make it through this life, don’t we? Otherwise we’re going to be taken in by so many distractions and so many difficulties. We’re going to be overwhelmed with just the business of life and the things that are out there.
But God planned, He purposed this special day and He set the example for us, I believe, in that way, that He set that example to show us very clearly. So He wants us to plan, He wants us to finish our things on time so that we have His time. We remember His time. It does take time to be close to God. It does take time to grow in the character of Jesus Christ. It takes time to be holy. It took God time to make this special time, and I think it emphasizes that very fact for each one of us. That God made that time especially for us so we could have that right relationship with Him.
In fact, if you look back at Exodus one more time, it’s in verse 9 where He says, “Six days you shall labor and do all your work but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord, Your God.” So we have this opportunity to express to our Creator, to the Church, to each other, to the world, who our God is. We show the God of creation is the God who made all things. There is no other God that comes before us. We validate the First Commandment by keeping the Fourth. We validate the Second Commandment by not getting into idol worship. We have no other gods before Him. We validate those commandments. We don’t carelessly, uselessly use God’s name in any way. We are a representation of what God is all about. We don’t take His name in vain, we don’t take the name “Christian” in vain, and we prove it because of our behavior on the seventh. It validates, there’s an exhibit that we are striving to be His people, of course not perfectly, but striving to do that very thing.
And so in the Fourth Commandment we validate the others, that yes, in our lives God is number one. We have no other gods. Our God in our life. My own life isn’t my God. My phone isn’t my God. The Internet isn’t my God. My job isn’t my God. But the Creator is my God. There are no other distractions in my life that take me away from who I am. So we find ultimately a Christian’s identity is in the Sabbath because our identity is found in the worship of God. What a powerful day, what a powerful day. What a day that begins to show we can have a relationship with God the Father and with Jesus Christ. Without keeping this day, I believe you cannot say you’re keeping the first three. It doesn’t follow. So the Sabbath is all about this relationship that we have with God. He’s called us to this special relationship, He’s called us out of the common, He’s called us out of this world, the everyday, into a special relationship with Him, and He’s given us a special day to grow in that relationship. So what an amazing blessing He has given us. So these first four commandments are those that Christ… [no sound]
On, it is on. All right, see, if this battery would have rested on the seventh day, it would have worked. [laughter] It would have made it all the way, but it didn’t. Oh, well.
So I hope we begin to see the importance, how significant is the Sabbath. Well, it is absolutely amazing that God has blessed us with this special day at this special time to have a special relationship with Him. It’s not a legalistic thing, it’s a loving thing because we love God. We obey Him and we keep His commandments. So what a blessing, the Sabbath. Make sure we don’t miss an opportunity. Take advantage of the time that God has given us, because I know that as you do this you will begin to grow in that relationship with your Creator.
All right, well, that will do it for tonight. We’re just about that hour up. I didn’t have the battery last quite long enough so we’ll make sure it does next time. All right, we’ll see you in two weeks. We’ll get into commandment number five. Those next commandments begin to deal with loving your neighbor as yourself. So we’ll look forward to seeing you then. Thanks for coming out tonight.