Commandment #3: The Sabbath

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, October 29, 2018 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20:8-11)

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” This is the third commandment in my series on the Ten Commandments. The meaning of this commandment according to Luther’s Small Catechism is, “We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.”

First of all, what is the Sabbath day? We need to know what it is before we can remember (or honor) it. Fortunately, the text from Exodus 20 above gives us a good explanation of it. The Sabbath day is the 7th day of the week; we work 6 days, and then we rest for 1 day (verses 9-10). The Jewish people generally consider Saturday to be the Sabbath, but most Christians consider the Sabbath to be Sunday, to honor the day that Jesus rose from the dead. The specific day that is the Sabbath is much less important than the meaning of this commandment, so don’t get too hung up on exactly when it is.

Also in the text, we see the reason for this commandment: because God did it (verse 11). Genesis 1 tells us of all the work God did during the six days of Creation, and Genesis 2:1-3 tells us how He rested after it was all completed: “Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.”

When we observe this commandment, we are honoring God by imitating what He did. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery after all, right? We show God how much we love Him by setting aside a day for Him, so that we can rest from the labor of this world and honor Him for a day. The commandment is very specific too, in that it instructs all people to rest from their labors, not just the head of the household. Even the animals who work should take a Sabbath day!

But how do we observe the Sabbath in today’s culture? It’s definitely difficult, especially when our culture seems to be against this concept. Part of observing the Sabbath is what Luther referred to above: hearing the preaching of God’s Word and learning from it. Attending a church service is one way to honor God on our Sabbath day each week.

For many people in our culture, we have a 5-day work week instead of 6 days, so we get 2 days off from our paid labors. But what do we often do with those weekend days? We fill them with all the things we didn’t get done during the week, going to sporting events, running errands, cleaning the house, etc. While these things are not inherently bad, are we really focusing on God when we do them? Probably not. Are we resting from our labors and holding God as sacred in those times? Again, probably not.

What does a Sabbath day look like? It doesn’t mean you spend the entire day sitting around twiddling your thumbs and thinking about God, but perhaps it’s a time of fellowship with other believers. Perhaps it’s spending more time than usual in prayer, reading the Bible, or worshipping God through music. Perhaps it’s a day to just take things at a slower pace and do what energizes and relaxes you, so you’re less focused on the things of this world and more focused on God and what He created you to enjoy. Perhaps it means preparing extra meals or doing extra housework the day before so you don’t have to do those tasks on your Sabbath.

What would need to change in your life if you were to observe a true Sabbath day? Just as with all the commandments, we should desire to keep this one to show how we honor God with our whole lives, every day of the week.

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