Keep the Sabbath holy

God's presence

4. You shall keep the Sabbath holy/ Area: Time

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

With this commandment God has given humans the privilege to work and to rest from our work. Doing work is not part of the curse which fell upon the human race because of their sin. In Genesis 1:26, 27 God said: “let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the life stock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” In Genesis 1:28 God blessed the man and the woman and commanded them: be fruitful and multiply and subdue it and have dominion over…everything that moves on the earth.” It is clear from these Scriptures and others (Psalm 8) that God made mankind to rule and to work on earth and have dominion over all living things of earth. Genesis 2:15 says the Lord took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. We were made to work and to be God’s representatives on this earth. Because of the fall of man God said we would have difficulties and suffer when we work and by the sweat of our face we shall eat bread (Genesis 3:18,19).

There is a rhythm in the created order, and that is why God made the creation week so that we should follow Him in working and resting. We human beings are not God. We cannot work non-stop. We need sleep every day and we also need rest at the end of every week. God, however, does not need any sleep, because He is God (Psalm 121). God made the Sabbath for man and not the man for the Sabbath as Jesus said. In Jesus’ day the Pharisees, many times accused him of doing good on the Sabbath day and healing the lame and sick. Jesus, however, saw nothing wrong in doing good on the Sabbath day (Matthew 12:1-8). We should therefore not be legalistic about the Sabbath. We are allowed to do works of mercy and works of necessity on the Lord’s Day which replaced the Sabbath (1 Corinthians 16:2). If your car breaks down or someone breaks a leg or gets sick, or you have any crisis, it is allowed according to the law of love to help those in need and any crisis. Therefore people working as doctors, or vets or in the police or the army, etc. are allowed to do their duties on the Lord’s Day. Paul commanded the believers in Ephesians 4:28, “Let him who stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing that is good, that they may be able to give to him who needs.” Paul also reprimanded the believers saying: “..this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. For we hear that there are some who walk among you disorderly, working not at all but are busybodies…we command you by our Lord Jesus Christ that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread” (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12).

The Heidelberg Catechism says the following of this commandment:

“First, the ministry of the gospel and the schools be maintained and that I, especially on the Sabbath, that is the day of rest, diligently frequent the church of God to hear His word, to use His sacraments, publicly to call upon the Lord, and contribute to the relief of the poor, as becomes a Christian. Secondly, that all the days of my life I cease from my evil works, and yield myself to the Lord, to work by the Holy Spirit in me, and thus begin in this life the eternal Sabbath.”

–Many Christians are contentious about whether the day of rest should be on a Sunday or Saturday. They say the people of God in the Old Testament rested on the Saturday. This is true, but it clear from the New Testament writings (1 Corinthians 16:2; Acts 20:7; Revelation 1:10) and from the early Christian fathers, that the Lord’s day was the day when the Christians came together and broke bread and stored up money or something for the poor. Because Jesus Christ rose from the dead on the first day of the week and because God started His new work of redeeming people by Christ, or the new creation, Sunday was the obvious day to come together and celebrate and hear the word of God preached. Some Christians regard all days as the same as Paul said (Romans 14:5,6) and some believe to keep the Sabbath is part of the Old Covenant (Colossians 2:16,17). It is true the Sabbaths in the Old Testament was the shadow of things to come. To be united to Christ is the substance of the spiritual life and in Him, we rest of our evil deeds. However, we are still in this body, and this body gets tired and sleepy and sick and old, therefore let us not be wiser than God but come to Jesus Christ at the appointed times to be refreshed by the Word of God and the fellowship of the brethren (Acts 2::42,46).

Sins forbidden by the fourth commandment:

Desecration of the Lord’s day: forsaking the assembling of the brethren (Hebrews 10:25; 3:13). Going on with normal work and not setting time aside for fellowship with other believers and hearing the word of God.

Laziness: laziness is condemned by many texts (Proverbs 6:6-11) in the Bible because we were made in the image of God and to represent Him on the earth. If we don’t work, we live irresponsibly and selfishly. We were made to work. Work is love in action.

Workaholism: working without taking necessary rest and time of refreshment in the Word of God. Workaholism is a form of pride. When we seek God and His kingdom first God will give us what we need. We don’t have to work in a way thinking our livelihood depends only on ourselves. The reason God gave the Sabbaths to old Israel and the seventh year of rest was so that they would depend on and trust in Him.

Scriptures to consider: Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30: “Come to me all who are weary and heavily laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me for I am meek and lowly in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and, and My burden is light.” We cannot rest rightly unless we work. And when we work with God and take His yoke upon us we will enter eternal rest

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