The Ten Commandments Series
The Fourth Commandment: Part 2
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The Ten Commandments are the “law of liberty,” the very opposite of a “yoke of bondage” (James 1:25, 2:12).
And the Fourth Commandment especially represents freedom. Freedom from slavery, including modern slavery to a 7-day workweek. Freedom from materialism, fear and insecurity—Sabbath-keepers are trusting in God to be their daily Provider. Freedom from the monotony of living every day just the same. Freedom from loneliness because of the time reserved for fellowship with God and God’s people. And we could list other freedoms.
Scriptures Commonly Misunderstood
Exodus 35:3 says: “You shall kindle no fire throughout your dwellings on the Sabbath day.” How should we understand this? Weren’t they allowed to start and maintain fires for warmth? Of course they were. Most Bible scholars are certain this refers to fires used for construction purposes, like shaping metals and smelting ores. God foresaw that some people would be tempted to get their work fires started and blazing hot so as soon as the Sabbath ended, they could immediately begin to do their productive work. The lesson is that God forbids using any part of the Sabbath for preparations for work.
The same principle explains why “a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day” was committing a serious sin (Numbers 15:32-36). This was not a matter of picking up a few sticks for a campfire. He evidently was gathering firewood in preparation for work to be done after the Sabbath, apparently excusing his actions as not being the creative “work.” Clearly God wants us to avoid planning, preparations and worrying about our jobs during the Sabbath!
A major purpose of Sabbath fellowship is getting to know our brothers and sisters in Christ. Some people, with good intentions, have advocated that we limit our Sabbath conversation to talking about the Bible and the sermons. With that limitation, we could never get to know each other at church services. When getting acquainted, it’s completely appropriate to ask questions about each other including the questions, “What is your occupation?” “Where do you work?” “What are your hobbies?”
The Sabbath Day is Family Day!
Sabbath-keeping is a huge benefit for family relationships. Each of us needs to spend time alone to pray and study, but the Sabbath should also be a time of family togetherness. When couples have busy lives, husbands and wives often can have more quality time to spend together on each Sabbath. The Sabbath is often the most relaxing and enjoyable day of the week for couples.
When there are children at home, parents should do their best to make the Sabbath loving, educational, inspiring and delightful. That includes family prayer and Bible study, which are wonderful to do every day, but they are especially important to do on the Sabbath. Eating together is also edifying and joyful.
Each family prayer time can involve everyone praying a short prayer, one at a time. This is an ideal way for children to learn how to pray on their own from their hearts. How inspiring it is for parents to hear the prayers of their children!
The Sabbath is a time for parents to teach God’s truth to their children and do it in pleasant and interesting ways that include interactive discussions. There are other spiritually edifying things families can do together on the Sabbath, including singing, listening to godly music, playing Bible games, writing cards to people, visiting a shut-in, fellowshipping with another family, playful wrestling and marveling about God’s Creation.
Everyone can pitch in to share the necessary chores of food preparation, setting the table, minimal cleanup, taking care of pets, etc., so no one person has to spend much time with such routine things.
The Sabbath is also a great time to review the inspiring prophecies of how wonderful the world will become after Christ returns to Earth. Chapters 3 and 4 of Hebrews make it clear that the weekly Sabbath pictures 1,000 years of peace, joy and prosperity after Christ’s return! Hebrews 4:9 says: “there remains a rest for the people of God,” and the Greek word translated “rest” is sabbatismos, which literally means “Sabbath rest!” The Millennium is also often called “the great Sabbath!”
Let’s rest our minds from “things on the earth” so we can set our minds “on things above” (Colossians 3:2).
Each Sabbath is a time for a “holy convocation” (Leviticus 23:2-3). A convocation is an assembly and it is holy because it is convened by God. He doesn’t just invite us—He summons us! We worship God privately all week, but God clearly wants us to participate in group worship each Sabbath when a congregation is within a reasonable distance.
Some believers try to justify staying home by saying they can pray, study, sing hymns and listen to webcasts while at home. First of all, it is God who ordains church attendance. Secondly, we give God joy when He sees His people coming together to give honor and homage to Him.
Thirdly, we should be dedicated to giving more than getting. Although a person can get some spiritual benefits while at home, he cannot fellowship and give of himself to his spiritual family. At church services, you can get to better know and encourage one another, nurture relationships, welcome new people and visitors, and often learn about personal needs you can pray about. As a spiritual community, we need to communicate and commune with each other. By attending Sabbath services, we show love for God and for God’s other children.
Furthermore, there are many routine tasks that need to be done to enable a church service to run smoothly. If you are there on a regular basis, the congregation can rely on you to fulfill regular responsibilities. As you serve, you experience significant satisfaction and you develop a “servant’s heart.”
If you live too far from the nearest congregation, or if sickness prevents you from attending, it’s a blessing if you have Internet access and can connect with one of the several live webcasts of United Church of God Sabbath services. If you don’t have Internet access, you can be put on a mailing list to receive a CD once every eight weeks that has recordings of eight sermons.
The Meaning of Sabbath “Rest”
“Sabbath rest” primarily means that we cease working and stop participating in materialistic and non-essential mundane activities. We arrest those activities. Think of what we say about a rolling ball when it stops. We say the ball has come to rest. Notice the wording in Genesis 2:2-3 (emphasis added): God “ended His work” and “rested from all His work.” God was not tired and was not resting.
Many Sabbath-keepers regularly have to expend more energy on the Sabbath than on any other day just to travel and attend Sabbath services. And the misunderstanding of the word “rest” can counteract a decision to serve others with a labor of love. Jesus Christ emphasized that it is “lawful” and wonderful to “do good on the Sabbath” with acts of “mercy” (Matthew 12:7-12; also Mark 3:4 and Luke 6:9).
Getting some mild exercise on the Sab- bath can be refreshing to your mind and body. It can be a walk, short jog or short swim. And it’s wonderful to go outside where you can be inspired by God’s awesome Creation! We learn about God by studying His “Book” of revelation and His “book” of creation—His Word and His works (see Romans 1:20).
Exercise is especially important for young children. Energetic children can come to think of the Sabbath as a miser- able time if they are restricted to being still all day. Of course, decisions regarding what activities to allow depend on the age of the child. Little children certainly need some time to play. And if children burn off some energy before they go to church, they’ll be less fidgety during services.
“Rest” is a good topic on which to bring this article to a rest. How shall we rest each Sabbath? Let us rest from working on our physical needs so we can work on our spiritual needs. Let’s rest from the mundane in order to pursue the sublime. Let’s get our nose in the Book. Let’s rest from our creations to focus on God’s creations. Let’s rest from laying up “treasures on earth” and focus on laying up “treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:19-21). Let’s rest from serving ourselves so we can reach out and serve others. Let’s rest our minds from “things on the earth” so we can set our minds “on things above” (Colossians 3:2). Let’s rest from the secular and temporal so we can focus on what is sacred and timeless. Let us use precious holy time to become more holy as God is holy.
What a blessing that God is enabling us to understand and appreciate the broad range of what the Bible means by Sabbath rest!
On each and every sacred Sabbath day, as we rest from our work and worries, let us refresh, rejuvenate and “rejoice in the Lord” (Philippians 3:1; 4:4)!
Read the rest of The Ten Commandments Series here: www.ucg.org/tags/the-ten-commandments-series.