Calvary Road Baptist Church

“THE FOURTH COMMANDMENT”

Exodus 20.8-11

This morning our survey of the commands God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai addresses the fourth command. It is the only command of the ten that is not specifically repeated somehow and in some way in the New Testament. However, we should not as quickly as some dismiss this fourth command has not representing a timeless principle that applies to even our lives. Please turn in your Bible to Exodus chapter 20:

8     Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.

9     Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:

10    But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:

11    For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

Allow me to read from the regular list of commentators that I feel comfortable with, after which I will make specific comments and applications that I think are appropriate. I will not read everything that is pertinent, since it would take too long. However, I will post the full texts of what I am giving you a portion of when this sermon is posted to the church website.

First, from Spurgeon’s A Catechism With Proofs:

49. Q. Which is the fourth commandment?

A. The fourth commandment is, “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it” (Exodus 20:8-11).

50. Q. What is required in the fourth commandment?

A. The fourth commandment requires the keeping holy to God such set times as He has appointed in His Word, expressly one whole day in seven, to be a holy Sabbath to Himself. 1. Leviticus 19:30, “Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the LORD.” Deuteronomy 5:12, “Keep the sabbath day to sanctify it, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee.”

51. Q. How is the Sabbath to be sanctified?

A. The Sabbath is to be sanctified by a holy resting all that day, even from such worldly employments and recreations as are lawful on other days, and spending the whole time in the public and private exercises of God’s worship, except so much as is taken up in the works of necessity and mercy. 1. Leviticus 23:3, “Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; ye shall do no work therein.” 2. Psalms 92:1-2, “(A Psalm or Song for the Sabbath day.) It is a good thing to give thanks unto the LORD, and to sing praises unto thy name, O most High. To show forth thy lovingkindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness every night.” 3. Matthew 12:11-12, “What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days.”[1]

It is quite obvious from Spurgeon’s comments on this fourth command that he was a proponent of the Christian sabbath, that he advocated Christians setting aside one day of the week during which no work or play should be engaged in. He advocated that the Christian sabbath be, like the Jewish sabbath, a day of rest, since the word “Sabbath” means rest.[2] Spurgeon would not have seen the Christian sabbath as a legal requirement, but as a wise precaution to seize the benefits provided by such an observance. He saw the fourth commandment as setting forth a beneficial principle of help to all men, while the legal requirement to observe the Sabbath was given only to the Jewish people.

Second, Keil and Delitzsch have this to say:

EXODUS 20:8-11

The Fourth Word, “Remember the Sabbath-day, to keep it holy,” presupposes an acquaintance with the Sabbath, as the expression “remember” is sufficient to show, but not that the Sabbath had been kept before this. From the history of the creation that had been handed down, Israel must have known, that after God had created the world in six days He rested the seventh day, and by His resting sanctified the day (Genesis 2:3). But hitherto there had been no commandment given to man to sanctify the day. This was given for the first time to Israel at Sinai, after preparation had been made for it by the fact that the manna did not fall on the seventh day of the week (Exodus 16:22). Here therefore the mode of sanctifying it was established for the first time. The seventh day was to be ubw (a festival-keeper, see Exodus 16:23), i.e., a day of rest belonging to the Lord, and to be consecrated to Him by the fact that no work was performed upon it. The command not to do any (lK) work applied to both man and beast without exception. Those who were to rest are divided into two classes by the omission of the cop. v before jdbo (v. 10): viz., first, free Israelites (“thou”) and their children (“thy son and thy daughter”); and secondly, their slaves (man-servant and maid-servant), and cattle (beasts of draught and burden), and their strangers, i.e., foreign labourers who had settled among the Israelites. “Within thy gates” is equivalent to in the cities, towns, and villages of thy land, not in thy houses (cf. Deuteronomy 5:14; 14:21, etc.). row (a gate) is only applied to the entrances to towns, or large enclosed courts and palaces, never to the entrances into ordinary houses, huts, and tents. hkalm work (cf. Genesis 2:2), as distinguished from hdbo labour, is not so much a term denoting a lighter kind of labour, as a general and comprehensive term applied to the performance of any task, whether easy or severe. hdbo is the execution of a definite task, whether in field labour (Psalm 104:23) and mechanical employment (Exodus 39:32) on the one hand, or priestly service and the duties connected with worship on the other (Exodus 12:25-26; Numbers 4:47). On the Sabbath (and also on the day of atonement, Leviticus 23:28,31) every occupation was to rest; on the other feast-days only laborious occupations (hdbo hkalm, Leviticus 23:7ff.), i.e., such occupations as came under the denomination of labour, business, or industrial employment. Consequently, not only were ploughing and reaping (Exodus 34:21), pressing wine and carrying goods (Neh 13:15), bearing burdens (Jeremiah 17:21), carrying on trade (Amos 8:5), and holding markets (Neh 13:15ff.) prohibited, but collecting manna (Exodus 16:26ff.), gathering wood (Numbers 15:32ff.), and kindling fire for the purpose of boiling or baking (Exodus 35:3). The intention of this resting from every occupation on the Sabbath is evident from the foundation upon which the commandment is based in v. 11, viz., that at the creation of the heaven and the earth Jehovah rested on the seventh day, and therefore blessed the Sabbath-day and hallowed it. This does not imply, however, that “Israel was to follow the Lord by keeping the Sabbath, and, in imitation of His example, to be active where the Lord was active, and rest where the Lord rested; to copy the Lord in accordance with the lofty aim of man, who was created in His likeness, and make the pulsation of the divine life in a certain sense his own” (Schultz). For although a parallel is drawn, between the creation of the world by God in six days and His resting upon the seventh day on the one hand, and the labour of man for six days and his resting upon the seventh on the other; the reason for the keeping of the Sabbath is not to be found in this parallel, but in the fact that God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because He rested upon it. The significance of the Sabbath, therefore, is to be found in God’s blessing and sanctifying the seventh day of the week at the creation, i.e., in the fact, that after the work of creation was finished on the seventh day, God blessed and hallowed the created world, filling it with the powers of peace and good belonging to His own blessed rest, and raising it to a participation in the pure light of His holy nature (see Genesis 2:3). For this reason His people Israel were to keep the Sabbath now, not for the purpose of imitating what God had done, and enjoying the blessing of God by thus following God Himself, but that on this day they also might rest from their work; and that all the more, because their work was no longer the work appointed to man at the first, when he was created in the likeness of God, work which did not interrupt his blessedness in God (Genesis 2:15), but that hard labour in the sweat of his brow to which he had been condemned in consequence of the fall. In order therefore that His people might rest from toil so oppressive to both body and soul, and be refreshed, God prescribed the keeping of the Sabbath, that they might thus possess a day for the repose and elevation of their spirits, and a foretaste of the blessedness into which the people of God are at last to enter, the blessedness of the eternal katapausiV apo twn ergwn autou (Hebrews 4:10), the anapausiV ek twn kopwn (Rev 14:13). See my Archaeologie, §77).

But instead of this objective ground for the sabbatical festival, which furnished the true idea of the Sabbath, when Moses recapitulated the decalogue, he adduced only the subjective aspect of rest or refreshing (Deuteronomy 5:14-15), reminding the people, just as in Exodus 23:12, of their bondage in Egypt and their deliverance from it by the strong arm of Jehovah, and then adding, “therefore (that thou mightest remember this deliverance from bondage) Jehovah commanded thee to keep the Sabbath day.” This is not at variance with the reason given in the present verse, but simply gives prominence to a subjective aspect, which was peculiarly adapted to warm the hearts of the people towards the observance of the Sabbath, and to render the Sabbath rest dear to the people, since it served to keep the Israelites constantly in mind of the rest which Jehovah had procured for them from the slave labour of Egypt. For resting from every work is the basis of the observance of the Sabbath; but this observance is an institution peculiar to the Old Testament, and not to be met with in any other nation, though there are many among whom the division of weeks occurs. The observance of the Sabbath, by being adopted into the decalogue, was made the foundation of all the festal times and observances of the Israelites, as they all culminated in the Sabbath rest. At the same time, as an entolh tou nomou, an ingredient in the Sinaitic law, it belonged to the “shadow of (good) things to come” (Colossians 2:17, cf. Hebrews 10:1), which was to be done away when the “body” in Christ had come. Christ is Lord of the Sabbath (Matthew 12:8), and after the completion of His work, He also rested on the Sabbath. But He rose again on the Sunday; and through His resurrection, which is the pledge to the world of the fruits of His redeeming work, He has made this day the kuriakh hmera (Lord’s day) for His Church, to be observed by it till the Captain of its salvation shall return, and having finished the judgment upon all His foes to the very last shall lead it to the rest of that eternal Sabbath, which God prepared for the whole creation through His own resting after the completion of the heaven and the earth.[3]

Third, I read from Adam Clarke, a Methodist contemporary of Mr. Spurgeon in 19th century England.

THE FOURTH COMMANDMENT AGAINST PROFANATION OF THE SABBATH, AND IDLENESS ON THE OTHER DAYS OF THE WEEK.

Verse 8. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.— See what has been already said on this precept, Genesis 2:2, and elsewhere. See Clarke note on “Genesis 2:2”. As this was the most ancient institution, God calls them to remember it; as if he had said, Do not forget that when I had finished my creation I instituted the Sabbath, and remember why I did so, and for what purposes. The word ubw shabbath signifies rest or cessation from labor; and the sanctification of the seventh day is commanded, as having something representative in it; and so indeed it has, for it typifies the rest which remains for the people of God, and in this light it evidently appears to have been understood by the apostle, Hebrews iv. Because this commandment has not been particularly mentioned in the New Testament as a moral precept binding on all, therefore some have presumptuously inferred that there is no Sabbath under the Christian dispensation. The truth is, the Sabbath is considered as a type: all types are of full force till the thing signified by them takes place; but the thing signified by the Sabbath is that rest in glory which remains for the people of God, therefore the moral obligation of the Sabbath must continue till time be swallowed up in eternity.

Verse 9. Six days shalt thou labor— Therefore he who idles away time on any of the six days, is as guilty before God as he who works on the Sabbath. No work should be done on the Sabbath that can be done on the preceding days, or can be deferred to the succeeding ones. Works of absolute necessity and mercy are alone excepted. He who works by his servants or cattle is equally guilty as if he worked himself. Hiring out horses, etc., for pleasure or business, going on journeys, paying worldly visits, or taking jaunts on the Lord’s day, are breaches of this law. The whole of it should be devoted to the rest of the body and the improvement of the mind. God says he has hallowed it — he has made it sacred and set it apart for the above purposes. It is therefore the most proper day for public religious worship.[4]

Moving back a century we come to Mr. Spurgeon’s predecessor, Dr John Gill:

Ver. 8. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.] By abstaining from all servile work and business, and from all pleasures and recreations lawful on other days, and by spending it in religious exercises, both internal and external. This the Israelites are bid to “remember”, by observing it in such a manner, because this command had been given them before at the first time the manna was rained about their tents, (Exodus 16:23,25,26) and because it was a command of positive institution, and not a part of the law of nature, and therefore more liable to be forgotten and neglected; for, as a Jewish writer observes, all the laws of the decalogue are according to the dictates of nature, the law and light of reason, and knowledge of men, excepting this: wherefore no other has this word “remember” prefixed to it; there being somewhat in the light of every man’s reason and conscience to direct and engage him in some measure to the observation of them. In what day of the week this sabbath was to be kept next follows; for all to the end of the eleventh verse belongs to this command, which is the fourth.

Ver. 9. Six days shalt thou labour, etc.] This is not to be taken for a precept, but a permission; not as a command enjoining men to work and labour with their hands, to provide for themselves and families things useful and necessary, and honest in the sight of God; but as a grant and allowance of so many days to employ themselves in, for their own profit and advantage, and that of their families; the Lord only reserving one day out of seven for his service, which ought to be looked upon as a singular favour, that he required no more of their time for his use, and the rest they might spend as they pleased, so that they did not indulge themselves in sin. It is required indeed of all men to labour in some sort and way or another, with their heads or with their hands; though all are not obliged to labour in the same way, or to the same degree, for he that will not work ought not to eat; but this law is not an injunction of that kind, only a toleration of labour on the six days of the week, if proper and necessary, when it is forbidden on the seventh: and do all thy work, which is incumbent on a man, he is called unto, and is necessary to be done for the good of him and his family; particularly care should be taken, that all should be done on the six days that could possibly be done, and nothing left to be done on the seventh.

Ver. 10. But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God, etc.] Not which he rested on, and ceased from the works of creation in, though he did rest on the seventh day of the creation, and so on every other day since, as well as that; nor does it appear, nor can it be proved, that this day appointed to the Jews as a sabbath was the seventh day of the week from the creation of the world; but was either the seventh day of the week from their coming out of Egypt, or from the raining of the manna: but this is called the Lord’s sabbath, or rest, because enjoined by him to the people of Israel, and not to them until they were separated from other people, and were a distinct body of men under a certain meridian; for it is impossible that one and the same day, be it the seventh, or any other, should be kept to exactness of time by all the inhabitants of the earth; it being night with one part, when it is day with another, and not the same day to them all: in it thou shall not do any work; of a servile nature, exercise any trade or any hand labour, or any kind of work for pleasure or profit, only works of mercy and necessity. No labour or handicraft was to be exercised, according to the Jewish canons, until the going out of it, or the appearance of the stars: thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter; neither a man nor his children, male and female, such as were under age, and under the tuition, direction, and care of their parents, who were to instruct them in this kind, and not suffer them to work on this day, and much less oblige them to it; for as for those that were grown up, and no longer under the inspection of parents, and were heads of families themselves, they are included in the word “thou”, and are in the first place charged in this command; thy manservant, nor thy maidservant; this is to be understood, according to the Jews, not of hired servants, concerning whose rest from labour a man was not bound, but of such as were born in their house, and bought with their money; and of such menservants as were circumcised, and in all things professed to be proselytes to the Jewish religion, and to conform to it; for as for one that only received the commands of the sons of Noah, and was not circumcised, he might do work for himself on the sabbath day, but not for his master; and no Israelite might bid him work on the sabbath day for the necessity of an Israelite, though he was not his master. If a servant does work without the knowledge of his master, and it is known to all that he does it without his knowledge, there is no need to separate him from it, or take him off of it: so maidservants, when they did things without the knowledge of their masters and mistresses, and without being bid to do it, they were free to do it: thus, for instance, they say, “a cheese which maids make of themselves, of milk that belongs to an Israelite, is lawful when he does not bid them make it:” nor thy cattle, of any sort whatever that is used to labour, because if the cattle did not rest, servants could not, who are concerned in the care and use of them: in (Deuteronomy 5:14), the ox and the ass are particularly mentioned, because laborious creatures; the one were used in ploughing, and treading out the corn, and the other to ride upon, and carry burdens; and concerning the latter the Jews have this canon, “he who is going in the way, (or on a journey,) and has sanctified for himself the day, and has money with him, and has an ass; and though he has with him an idolater, he may not put his bag upon his ass; because he is commanded concerning its rest; but he may give his bag to the idolater to throw it upon it; and at the going out of the sabbath he may receive it from him, and even may not give him a reward for it;” but not only those, but all sorts of cattle were exempt from labour on this day, as horses, camels, mules, etc. which, according to the Jewish canons, as they were not to be employed in work by the Jews, so they were not to be let or lent out to an idolater: nor the stranger that is within thy gates: who was a proselyte of the gate, and not of righteousness; as for the proselyte of righteousness that was circumcised, and professed the Jewish religion, about him there could be no doubt concerning his rest on this day; but the proselyte of the gate, his case was not so clear, and therefore is particularly expressed; and by which description it should seem that he was not obliged by this law, had he not been within their gates, or a sojourner in anyone of their cities; since it was contrary to the laws and usages among whom they dwelt, and might be an offence to some, and a snare to others, and, as Grotius thinks, might be to their detriment, get their work and their gain from them, they are forbid to work; and yet, according to the Jewish writers, they might work for themselves, though not for an Israelite, as before observed.

Ver. 11. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, etc.] And of which six days, and of the several things made in each of them, see the notes on the first chapter of Genesis: and resteth the seventh day: which does not suppose labour, attended with weariness and fatigue; for the Creator of the ends of the earth fainteth not, neither is weary, (Isaiah 40:28) nor ease and refreshment from it, but only a cessation from the works of creation, they being finished and completed, though not from the works of Providence, in which he is continually concerned: now this circumstance, before recorded in the history of the creation, is wisely improved to engage an attention to this command, and to the observation of it; there being an analogy between the one and the other, that as God worked six days, and, having done his work completely, ceased from it and rested, so it was fit and proper, that as the Israelites had six days allowed them to labour in, and do all their work, they should rest on the seventh, they and all that belonged to them, or had any connection with them: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath, and hallowed it: he separated it from all other days of the week, and set it apart for holy use and service, by obliging his people to cease from all work on it, and to give up themselves to the exercises of religion, as hearing, reading the word, prayer, praise, etc. and he blessed it with his presence, and with the communications of his grace, as he still continues to do, whatsoever day his people make use of for his worship and service. The note of Jarchi is, “he blessed it with manna, by giving double bread on the sixth, and sanctified it by manna, that it might not descend on it;” so that there was a provision made for it, which was blessing it; and it was distinguished from all other days, no manna falling on it, which was the sanctification of it; and all showed it to be a day the Lord had a particular regard to, and that it was to be a day of rest, and exemption from labour.[5]

Now I read from Matthew Henry’s commentary:

4.   The fourth commandment concerns the time of worship. God is to be served and honoured daily, but one day in seven is to be particularly dedicated to his honour and spent in his service. Here is, (1.) The command itself (v. 8): Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy; and (v. 10), In it thou shalt do no manner of work. It is taken for granted that the sabbath was instituted before; we read of God’s blessing and sanctifying a seventh day from the beginning (Genesis 2:3), so that this was not the enacting of a new law, but the reviving of an old law. [1.] They are told what is the day they must religiously observe — a seventh, after six days’ labour; whether this was the seventh by computation from the first seventh, or from the day of their coming out of Egypt, or both, is not certain: now the precise day was notified to them (Exodus 16:23), and from this they were to observe the seventh. [2.] How it must be observed. First, As a day of rest; they were to do no manner of work on this day in their callings or worldly business. Secondly, As a holy day, set apart to the honour of the holy God, and to be spent in holy exercises. God, by blessing it, had made it holy; they, by solemnly blessing him, must keep it holy, and not alienate it to any other purpose than that for which the difference between it and other days was instituted. [3.] Who must observe it: Thou, and thy son, and thy daughter; the wife is not mentioned, because she is supposed to be one with the husband and present with him, and, if he sanctify the sabbath, it is taken for granted that she will join with him; but the rest of the family are specified. Children and servants must keep the sabbath, according to their age and capacity: in this, as in other instances of religion, it is expected that masters of families should take care, not only to serve the Lord themselves, but that their houses also should serve him, at least that it may not be through their neglect if they do not, Joshua 24:15. Even the proselyted strangers must observe a difference between this day and other days, which, if it laid some restraint upon them then, yet proved a happy indication of God’s gracious purpose, in process of time, to bring the Gentiles into the church, that they might share in the benefit of sabbaths. Compare Isaiah 56:6, 7. God takes notice of what we do, particularly what we do on sabbath days, though we should be where we are strangers. [4.] A particular memorandum put upon this duty: Remember it. It is intimated that the sabbath was instituted and observed before; but in their bondage in Egypt they had lost their computation, or were restrained by their task-masters, or, through a great degeneracy and indifference in religion, they had let fall the observance of it, and therefore it was requisite they should be reminded of it. Note, Neglected duties remain duties still, notwithstanding our neglect. It also intimates that we are both apt to forget it and concerned to remember it. Some think it denotes the preparation we are to make for the sabbath; we must think of it before it comes, that, when it does come, we may keep it holy, and do the duty of it. (2.) The reasons of this command. [1.] We have time enough for ourselves in those six days, on the seventh day let us serve God; and time enough to tire ourselves, on the seventh it will be a kindness to us to be obliged to rest. [2.] This is God’s day: it is the sabbath of the Lord thy God, not only instituted by him, but consecrated to him. It is sacrilege to alienate it; the sanctification of it is a debt. [3.] It is designed for a memorial of the creation of the world, and therefore to be observed to the glory of the Creator, as an engagement upon ourselves to serve him and an encouragement to us to trust in him who made heaven and earth. By the sanctification of the sabbath, the Jews declared that they worshipped the God that made the world, and so distinguished themselves from all other nations, who worshipped gods which they themselves made. [4.] God has given us an example of rest, after six days’ work: he rested the seventh day, took a complacency in himself, and rejoiced in the work of his hand, to teach us, on that day, to take a complacency in him, and to give him the glory of his works, Psalm 92:4. The sabbath began in the finishing of the work of creation, so will the everlasting sabbath in the finishing of the work of providence and redemption; and we observe the weekly sabbath in expectation of that, as well as in remembrance of the former, in both conforming ourselves to him we worship. [5.] He has himself blessed the sabbath day and sanctified it. He has put an honour upon it by setting it apart for himself; it is the holy of the Lord and honourable: and he has put blessings into it, which he has encouraged us to expect from him in the religious observance of that day. It is the day which the Lord hath made, let not us do what we can to unmake it. He has blessed, honoured, and sanctified it, let not us profane it, dishonour it, and level that with common time which God’s blessing has thus dignified and distinguished.[6]

One more commentary to read to you before I bless you with my own commentary. This time I read from Henry Morris’ The Defender’s Study Bible, which has wonderful notes and commentary defending the Genesis account of creation:

20:8 Remember. The Hebrew word for “remember” actually is in the sense of “mark” or “set aside.” The Israelites didn’t need to be told to remember the sabbath, because they, like other nations, had been keeping time in weeks ever since the first week (Genesis 2:1-3). Note the references to the sabbath in the giving of the manna, prior to the giving of the Law (Exodus 16:23-29).

20:10 the seventh day. It is important to note the principle of one rest day following six days of work. The Hebrew word for “sabbath” does not mean “Saturday” or “seventh day”; it means “rest” or “intermission.” The institution of the sabbath (one day of rest, worship and remembrance of the Creator) was “made for man” but not as an arbitrary legalistic ritual performed on a specific day (Mark 2:27). In fact, the Christian observance of the first day as the day of rest seems most appropriate, signifying a “marking” not only of God’s completed work of creation but also His completed work of redemption of the creation (note His victory cry on the cross—It is finished!”—John 19:30) affirmed forever by His victory over sin and death on the first day of the Jewish week.

20:11 in six days. This verse, written on stone by God’s own hand (Exodus 31:18) settles once and for all the question of the meaning of “day” in the creation chapter (Genesis 1). Man was to work six days and rest one day because God did; in fact, God took six days, instead of a single instant, to finish His work of creating and making all things to be a model for humanity (Genesis 2:1-3). God’s week was of precisely the same duration and pattern as man’s regular week. The Hebrew word for “days” (yamim), furthermore, is used over 700 times in the Old Testament, and cannot be shown ever to require any meaning except that of literal days—certainly never to anything comparable to geological ages. There seems to be no legitimate exegesis of Genesis that can ever allow for the theoretical ages of evolutionary geology. Further, no such gap is necessary; all the data of rocks and fossils are much better explained in terms of the great Flood. It is also significant that other human measurements of time (day, month, year) are keyed to astronomical processes. The universal week, however, has no astronomical base whatever. We keep time in weeks simply because God does.

I have read commentary after commentary to you folks, and now I want to summarize and try to crystallize into your thinking four things related to this only command of the Decalogue that is not specifically repeated in the New Testament.

First, THERE IS THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THIS FOURTH COMMAND AND GOD’S CREATION IN SIX LITERAL DAYS

As Henry Morris’ study Bible points out, this command settles once and for all how long it took God to create the heavens and the earth. Either the creation of all things occurred in six literal 24-hour days or words have no meaning. If, after reading this command, you still believe in evolution and you still believe the earth and the universe to be billions of years old, and you still believe that God’s creative acts spanned hundreds of millions of years, you quite simply do not believe the straightforward teaching of the Bible. After all, if Adam was not created on the sixth day, and if he did not fall into sin the way God’s Word says he did, then the Fall of Adam into sin and everything about the coming of Jesus Christ to save us from our sins is meaningless. On this depends everything the Bible teaches about salvation.

Second, THERE IS NO LEGAL OBLIGATION TO OBSERVE ANY SUCH THING AS A SABBATH

After all, Jesus said one sabbath day when criticized for walking through a field and plucking and eating as He walked along, “The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath,” Mark 2.27. That is, the entire notion of a seventh day rest was initiated by God for your benefit. Thus, though the Jewish nation was obligated, you are under no obligation to observe some mandatory day of rest. However, you might consider, when making a decision concerning the wise and proper use of your time and your family’s time, what the benefit might be of spending pretty much an entire day resting, thinking, contemplating, meditating, reading God’s Word, discussing the things of God, and setting the distractions of business and worldly things aside.

Third, I WANT YOU TO CONSIDER ADOPTING A PERSONAL DAY OF REST ON SUNDAYS

There was a time when people who named the name of Christ observed what they called a Christian Sabbath. They just did not think it was appropriate to spend Sundays working, to spend Sundays preparing for finals, to spend Sundays harvesting crops, or to spend Sundays playing soccer. They felt that Sundays, started as they were in church with a sermon from God’s Word, were best spent at using the entire day thinking about the sermons, talking to friends and interacting with loved ones, as well as resting up for the coming week before attending the later church service of the day.

After all, six days is plenty enough time to get work done. Don’t you think? Sadly, we find so many professing Christians these days making Sunday a common and ordinary day, just like any other day, by the activities and concerns they are devoted to on Sunday. In light of what we have learned about the slowness of the heart to believe, how does it help anyone to be distracted by the things of the world on the one day of the week that you can pay serious attention to spiritual matters? Can someone cheer for a team from 2:00-4:00 in the afternoon and then expect his heart (that is slow to believe, after all) to really settle properly on spiritual issues during the evening service?

My own grandfather, who had not been to church in probably 30 years as I was growing up, observed Sunday. He did not go to church, but he just did not think it was right for a man to play, or horse around, or work on Sunday. He may have been wrong, but he lived to the age of 90. I also remember my pastor, Dr. Eli Harju, telling a story about his own childhood on the Finnish immigrant farm his parents worked in the upper peninsula region of Michigan. He remembered the family preparing to get in the old car to go to church on a Sunday morning when he was a child when they all stopped, stunned to silence by the sound of a tractor engine on a nearby farm . . . on a Sunday morning. Never before had such a thing happened in their community.

God’s Word shows that unconverted children hate God. They so hate God that unless God visits them to soften their hearts they will do almost anything to avoid thinking about God or the things of God. They hate God so much that they cannot wait to reach adulthood so they can gripe and complain about their moms and dads forcing them to go to church. Of course, they never imagine the horrors of life with parents who did not love God and attend church faithfully. Until grown, they will play with their toys, they will play basketball, they will horse around, drive around, mess around, fool around, they will go to the beach, . . . anything to avoid thinking about the things of God, the Word of God, the sermon preached by God’s man, and God, Himself.

Would it not be a wonderful thing if God’s people set aside a time to rest? To think about God? To take a long afternoon nap on Sunday? To read a portion of the Bible? To do something other than make the day profane and common by treating it like any other day? Think of the combination of spiritual and physical benefits from relaxing and focusing your attention on the things of God. Please understand that you do not have any legal obligation to even consider what I have suggested. However, if the Sabbath was made for man, rather than man being made for the Sabbath, could it just be that there is some combination of profound spiritual and physical benefits derived from taking one day of the week, the day we worship on, and choosing to make it special?

Finally, THERE IS THE FULFILLMENT OF THAT WHICH THE SABBATH PICTURES

May I emphatically state that the Sabbath was real? God really did create the universe and all that herein is in six, literal, twenty-four hour days. To remind His people of what He really did and how long it took Him to really do it before resting, He gave them the Sabbath rest of the seventh day of the week and other Sabbaths throughout their calendar year. Thus, the Sabbath looks back on real history that God wants His people to remember.

However, the Sabbath also looks forward, as well. What does the Sabbath look forward to? It looks forward to the eternal rest provided by the Lord Jesus Christ for those who believe in Him and His saving work on the cross of Calvary to the saving of their eternal and undying souls. In our day of leisure and free time, we do not realize how people truly longed for rest from the drudgery, from the back breaking toil, and from the endless work that comprised their lives. From the time He took our sins upon Himself, from His crucifixion, burial and resurrection from the dead, Jesus did a saving work for sinners who could not save ourselves. The salvation He provided by His doing and dying includes not only forgiveness, cleansing, and life, but it also includes an eternal rest. Turn to Hebrews 4.8-11, where the writer to the Hebrews speaks of this rest for the spiritually weary:

8      For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day.

9      There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.

10     For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.

11     Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.

As the Old Testament name Miriam is the same as the New Testament name Mary, and the Old Testament name Jacob is the same as the New Testament name James, so Joshua and Jesus are the same name. Joshua the son of Nun and Jesus the Son of God had identical given names. That said, the Jesus referred to in Hebrews 4.8 is Joshua the son of Nun, the man who succeeded Moses and led the children of Israel into the Promised Land. This verse does not refer to the Lord Jesus Christ. The writer to the Hebrews is pointing out that Joshua’s deliverance of the people into the Promised Land did not give them rest. They had to fight to take and continue fighting to hold on to the Promised Land. The rest which the Sabbath anticipates is a different kind of rest, a rest for the people of God in which they have ceased from their works, as God ceased from His works. Notice, from verse 11, that it is a rest that is entered by faith. The Sabbath anticipated the salvation by grace through faith that Jesus Christ provides to sinners, wherein no work is required to obtain the salvation that have. Do we work? Yes, but not to obtain our salvation. We work to show our salvation and to reach others with the gospel. Someday, when we get to the heaven, and we enjoy the fullness of our salvation, we will cease even from that. Revelation 14.13 reads, “And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours.” While the lost must suffer an eternity of toil and endless fatigue to accompany their torments, we who are God’s children by faith in Christ have entered into our rest, have ceased from our own works, and now we work for Christ’s sake until we reach heaven’s shore, there to work no more, our eternal rest. Remember the Sabbath. Keep it holy. It not only reminds us of God resting after His creative works, but it reminds us of our eternal rest who know Christ as our Savior.

Parents? Give some thought to revamping your Sundays. The older your children are at the time the more difficult such a thing might be. It might even be impossible for your kids, though it is never impossible for you to improve the quality of your own life. How a Christian mom or dad chooses to spend their Sundays is their own business, even if it is too late in your older child’s life to persuade him of such an approach to life.

You already know the lost child hates God, so what do you have to lose by establishing for yourself a loosely organized family-together-at-home time on Sundays between church services? Maybe the kids are too old to expect them to be able to change their approach to Sundays, it already being difficult to get them to church without a struggle. However, they have no right to demand that you provide taxi service for them anymore on Sundays. “Mom, can you take me over to Vanessa’s house?” “Not today dear, mommy’s busy doing nothing and resting today. Remember, it’s Sunday, and we’re going to church again in a couple of hours.”

What if your youngster thinks so much during the Sunday slow down and talk things over with you sessions that he actually considers the gospel, considers his sins, considers the Savior, and eventually comes to Christ? Even if he does not want to slow down and set one day apart for the Lord, you doing so will result in God being honored and you being better prepared to be the Christian God wants you to be. A legal requirement? My heaven’s, no. However, it is something you would do well to consider.



[1] Charles H. Spurgeon, A Catechism With Proofs, (Pensacola, FL: Chapel Library), pages 17-18.

[2] Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1996), page 1687.

[3] C.F. Keil & F. Delitzsch, COMMENTARY ON THE OLD TESTAMENT, Vol I, (Peabody, MA: reprinted by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1996), pages 398-400.

[4] Adam Clarke, Clarke’s Commentary, Vol I, (New York: Abingdon Press), pages 404-405.

[5] John Gill, The Baptist Commentary Series Volume I, John Gill’s Exposition Of The Old And New Testaments, Vol 1 (Paris, Arkansas: the Baptist Standard Bearer, Inc., reprinted 2006), pages 429-431.

[6] Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary On The Whole Bible, (Bronson, MI: Online Publishing, Inc., 2002), bible@mail.com



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