The Fourth Commandment - Remember The Sabbath
Exodus 20:8-11 ďRemember 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.Ē††††††††
Have you ever felt that time was such a rare commodity that when you try to grab onto it, it runs away from you. Have you ever felt that time is so maxed out in our lives that so many people live their lives that way, with seemingly no time to spare or take a breath, to relax or have time to think and consider their lives. We cram more into a week today than our ancestors did in a month due to the modern technologies and capabilities of vehicles, planes, cell phones, printers, microwaves, refrigerators, washer and dryers and all the other devices to do things in less time.
The average business executive is strung out and we thought that all these modern technologies of faxes and cell phones and laptops would make things easier but what they have done is to put more stress on our lives, due to greater demands of more and more productivity and getting things done faster. That is without saying anything about the average mom today who is running here and there and driving as much as a taxi driver taking kids to this thing and that, shopping and doing all the house work. Kids have music lessons, sports games, little league and a multiplicity of activities without mentioning church activities, which usually get the short end of the stick because everyone is too busy to make time for God other than maybe an hour on Sunday morning. The average family has no time to be a family or to spend together because of all the activities and things that clutter their lives and take their time and as a result they hardly know one another. It is easy to understand how so many mothers come to face what is called the empty nest syndrome when the last child leaves home. And that is if they are blessed to have stayed together as a family that long, because that is also not the norm anymore as fewer and fewer families stay together as a family and fewer children grow up with their two parents.
The American Psychological Association not log ago released a new study that said 43% of adults in
Americasuffer an adverse health affect from stress. From 75 to 90% of all doctor office visits are stress related, directly and indirectly by sicknesses brought on by stress. The cost of treating sickness and disease in Americatoday caused by stress is estimated at over 300 billion dollars.
Now with the outsourcing to countries 12 hours difference from the home office in America it is getting worse as workers are handing off back and forth to a group across with world by phone conferencing, making them work till late at night then early in the morning.
And it is because we do not comprehend nor understand nor have the desire to obey the loving command of the Lord given us in the fourth commandment. God gave us the fourth commandment out of love and not as the enemies of the cross would lead us to believe that the commandments are given to us for our misery and punishment. They are not to hinder and impede our lives and make them more difficult and full of problems. God gave us the commandments out of His deep love for us including, remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Keeping the commandments of God will decrease our problems, not increase them, it will make life easier, better, richer, fuller and more enjoyable and healthy.
Everywhere you have control, everywhere you have authority, it ought to be a day that belongs to the Lord and the Lord alone and it is a day to rest from your labors. God made us and He knows that our physical bodies need rest from continuous labor. We were not created to work seven days a week. Also, the going aside from the hustle and bustle of life and its normal activities is also needed to refresh and rest the mind and emotions and give us a break from the normal stress of life. Too many face burn out, emotional and mental breakdowns, turning to alcohol and drugs, all because of stress.
Probably the fourth commandment is the most misunderstood commandment. The reason or purpose for the others are more clearly understood. It doesnít take a rocket scientist or brain surgeon to grasp the purpose and reason for ďthou shalt not killĒ or ďThou shalt not steal.Ē The commandments are either about honoring God or about having an orderly and good society that is for the best of all concerned.
But the fourth commandment was misunderstood by the Jewish leaders in the Old Testament and the one they broke and corrupted the most and it is misunderstood by Christian leaders today. Let me give you an example of how an unbeliever sees the Lordís Day.
June 13, 1997 Time magazine released an article that was an interview with Bill Gates. They asked Mr. Gates the question, ďWhy do you not believe in God.Ē He said, ďIn terms of allocation of time resources, religion is not very efficient. There is a lot more I could be doing on Sunday morning.Ē That is how so many people in our culture see the Lordís Day. It is a day for them to mow the yard and work around the house or some other work that they canít do on their no rmal business work days.
Though most donít realize it, the fourth commandment is in all three sets of laws that God gave His people. Partially because of that the fourth commandment created an eloquent amount of exotic interpretation on the behalf of the Jewish leaders.
As I said, God gave them three sets of laws. You say three? Yes. He gave them the ceremonial laws that were fulfilled in Christ. He gave them the civil law which ended with
Israel. Then He gave them the moral law, known as the Ten Commandments, which is for all people for all time, not just Israel.
Because this one commandment was given in all three laws and the Jewish leaders found in it a fertile ground for exotic interpretations. They wanted to help God out. They wanted to make sure that men would not break this one law, so they came up with 39 clarifications of this one command. Those 39 clarifications were divided into categories and sub-categories down to every area of life that would take hours to read. They surely were written by lawyers. They are the only ones who can write 50 pages on a topic and call it a brief and think it is something simple.
Yet in reality, all their clarifications and exotic interpretations had nothing to do with Godís Word and had no basis or grounding in the Word of God. Godís Word is not complicated, but simple and God said all that needed to be said on the subject.
As an example, one category in the Talmud, which is not Godís Word but manís, forbad the carrying of any load whatsoever on the Sabbath. Jesus confronted that when they took the grain on the Sabbath because they were hungry or when He healed the impotent on the Sabbath and told him to get up and carry his bed.
After they made the prohibition that no load could be carried on the Sabbath, they hedged that one with another prohibition for every area of life, every aspect of life. They left nothing out. So they said, anything that is as heavy as a dry fig is a load that canít be carried on the Sabbath. So, you could carry half a fig, but not a whole fig, unless if you put it down, then to pick it back up was to double the load and that would be sin. They could pick up a child on the Sabbath, a baby if it cried, but they have to insure to examine the hands of the baby to make sure that there is nothing in the hands of the baby, because then they would be carrying a load.
In fact, today if you go to Israel to one of the hotels between Friday evening and Saturday evening you would find that they have a certain elevator with all the buttons automatically lit and the elevator stops at every floor on the way up and on the way down because the orthodox Jews are not allowed to push one of those buttons because that would be work. We are talking about the year 2005 and these insane laws of man have continued to be passed down and modified or added too, because they could not have had such a prohibition about pushing a button before they existed. But they at least do take a day to rest from physical labors, though it is taken a bit far to the ludicrous.
We have so much to be thankful for and that the Lord delivered us from such nonsense and traditions of men that had nothing to do with the original commandment of God. Over and over Jesus tried to correct all the misconceptions of the Jewish religious leaders and again and again He showed the error of their conceptions and how man can and does take a clear command that is meant to be a blessing to His people, to give them a day of rest and turn it into a grievous burden that is too heavy to bear. Jesus made it clear that the Sabbath was created for man and not man for the Sabbath. God is a God of life and spirit, but they turned their faith into a religion of man-made laws that replaced the Word of God that was given to them.
There is something of uttermost importance about these commandments of God because our culture is saying the exact opposite and that is that the Ten Commandments were Godís gift to humanity and not meant to be punishment. In reality they are to keep us from His judgment and punishment. The Ten Commandments are a expression of Godís love for humanity and not His anger toward them. The Ten Commandments are an expression of Godís grace and mercy and favor and not meant for our misery. They are Godís way of giving us that which is best for us and not something to harm us. They are meant that we might have a blessed, long and prosperous and abundant life full of good things and not that which comes to life because of sin and wickedness and the breaking of Godís commandments which cause heartache, pain and misery both in this life and for eternity.
Out of His love and mercy and grace, God said, one day a week, stop running around doing your business and pleasure and rest and focus on me, focus on my Word and find rest and renewal and peace for your spirit and soul. Out of Godís love and mercy and love, God told us to get off the treadmill of life and rest and spent time with Him. That one day a week we are to forget about work, making money and paying bills and the normal responsibilities of life and remember His Work of creating and redeeming us; to cease from our normal labors and remember Him and what He has done for us and all the blessings He has bestowed upon us and given to us that have made our lives what they are. It is a time for remembering His love for us, His mercy to us, His blessing to us, His gifts, His kindness and goodness and all that He has done for us and continually does for us, knowing that even the breath we breathe is because of His blessing and each new day is a gift from God to us.
In fact, the fourth commandment was Godís mercy to
Israelin the wilderness. When they were knee deep in the mud pits of Egyptthey worked sunup to sundown, seven days a week, month after month with no rest, no vacation, no time off. That is why God said, I did not create man for work, but work for man. So, out of His love for us, He wanted us to take one day a week to rest from those labors and remember His love to us. This is something that men like Bill Gates will never understand until they wake up in eternity and it is too late, unless the Holy Spirit opens up their blind eyes, there is one thing that few believers in Christ may have forgotten and tend to forget is that when we honor God, He can bless the six days and make them more fruitful and productive than seven done without Him. In fact, God can bless one hour more than a lifetime of work. And that is without mentioning that if we have been saved by His grace and washed from out sins, we owe Him our lives, everything we have and are, which are but a gift from Him for what do we have that He has not given to us? For even all of your abilities that you use in life to life and make a living are a gift from God.
Sadly, the Israelites kept on breaking the Sabbath. They kept wondering if they would miss some opportunity for a new business deal so they would work on the Sabbath, they would wonder if they would miss an opportunity to make more money so they would work on the Sabbath. God kept saying through His prophets, please obey the commandment and cease from your labors and focus on me one day out of the week. It was not just for their physical well being but also their spiritual and emotional well being. God tried to tell them that He could give them enough money and physical prosperity in six days so that they didnít need to work seven. Yet, even when He abundantly blessed them and they had more than enough, they refused to obey and were greedy, covetous and lusted for more.
You read throughout the pages of the Old Testament that God permitted them to be taken into exile, into
Babylon and slavery until they learned that lesson.
If you forget everything else, donít forget these three words, ďRemember the Sabbath.Ē The word remember doesnít mean, a recognition type of remembering. The word is fuller in meaning than that. Remembering the Sabbath is the same way as you are expected to remember your anniversary. If you just scratch your head and say, yeah, I kinda remember, I think we were married on this day some years back. No, it takes work, preparation and something to let your wife know that you remember and not just a casual passing thought through your head. Godís idea of remembering means that you do something about it, not just have a passing thought that requires no action. Any man who treats his anniversary that way will know he is a fool before the day is over. And the man who is too busy for God is also a fool.
Remembering the Lordís Day is something you prepare for. You prepare for worship the night before and in the morning when you arise. You prepare you heart and mind and spirit for worship to come and have an encounter with the living God the morning before going to worship. If you do not prepare for worship you will soon look at worship as a boring routine and you will look for and desire something more exciting than church and worship.
Remembering the Sabbath day means that you prepare for it mentally, emotionally and spiritually to come with great expectations that you are going to be worshipping the living God and have an encounter with Him and you want to receive something from Him.
I heard the story of a preacher that decided to play hooky one Sunday morning. He called the deacon and said, youíre going to have to preach this morning because Iím not feeling well today. It was a small town and in a few minutes later he started to get dressed. His wife said, what are you doing, you just called and said you were sick, what if somebody sees you. He said, Iím going to go play golf far away and no one will know. He got into his car and drove a long way to a golf course and setup to tee off. Then two angels showed up and the one said to the other, should I send his ball into the woods. No, the other said, give him a hole in one. Hole in one, this man lied, he cut church and lied about it, how can you reward him with a hole in one, we need to punish him. Yes, a hole in one. Why the other said. The reply was, ďwhom is he going to tell?Ē
In the Old Testament the Sabbath was the seventh day of the week, but in the New Testament the Sabbath has become the first day of the week. Why? Because the disciples saw themselves that Jesus rose from the dead on Sunday (Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:9, John 20:1), that He appeared to the eleven disciples without Thomas on Sunday (John 20:19-23), telling them that He was sending them forth as He was sent of the Father and He breathed on them and commanded them to receive the Holy Ghost. Then He appeared to two disciples on the road to Emmaus on Sunday (Luke 24:13-31) also the Holy Spirit was poured out on Pentecost Sunday. Pentecost is a Greek name for the Jewish ďFeast of WeeksĒ which was celebrated a week of weeks after the ďFeast of HarvestĒ or ďFeast of First FruitsĒ and was a celebration the wheat harvest (Exodus 34:22).
In Acts 20:7 the early church worshipped on the first day of the week, and that was when they were told to bring their offerings to the Lord and so they saw that Sunday proceeded Saturday as the Lordís Day. Having six days to work and one day to stop and worship the Lord and be with the saints for fellowship and renewal did not change. The problem is the church today has totally dropped and forgotten about keeping the Sabbath, about a day set aside to stop working and doing your own pleasure, for the Lord. God gave a set of details concerning the fourth commandment that He still intends for us to keep.
First there is the foundational command, ďKeep the SabbathĒ and then the details. Exodus 20:9-11 ďSix 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.Ē
Though this command was not given until Moses brought the children of
out of bondage, God never intended for man to work seven days a week and therefore be too busy and have no time for Him. Long before from the time of Adam and Eve, man was given sacrifice for sin and they were to pass down the things that God had given them to their children. We see men walking with God, communing with Him, praying, (as Enoch) sacrificing long before Moses and the giving of the Ten Commandments. Israel
Paul tells the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 16:2 to lay aside the Lordís money until the first day of the week in which they would give it to the Lord. So, Sunday is the day we set aside, as the Lordís Day, a day we focus on the Lord on the work of God and the things of God. Today there are people that are forced to work on Sunday that have no choice, as those who work in hospitals and emergency workers and others. But God has commanded us all to work 6 days and take a day of rest for the body and soul and to be spent focusing on God, worshipping, praying, hearing and studying His Word, meditating on His blessings and giving thanks.
This command of God is to everyone to stop and have one day a week to rest from their normal activities and focus on Him. It is a command to all that can and to those who canít do it on Sunday; you will take another day to rest and focus on Him. The fact is, if you are a Christian, then Jesus will be the Lord of your Sunday and Lord of your life. That is the bottom line and you wonít need someone to give you a list of doís and doníts because you will want to honor the Lord and His Word and put Him first on the Lordís Day. If He is Lord of your life, you wonít ask if you can do some business or go on holiday on Sunday. You will obey His commandment because you want to honor Jesus. If you are away from home on a trip, whether business or pleasure, you will stop and keep the day of rest and focus on Jesus and worship Him, whether as a family or going to a local church where you are traveling, but set aside and give the Lord the day that He commanded.
During the French Revolution in their rebellion and wanting to turn away from God, they dis-established the Lordís Day and soon they had to re-instate it because soon the people were too exhausted. The same thing happened in the
Soviet Union among the commoners. They came up with this fancy idea of a ten day week, but soon they had to go back to what God had established because the people were exhausted and collapsing. It is built into man by God who created us, both the need for a day of rest from physical labor and a need for something beyond ourselves, fellowship with Him. If we ignore those needs of the physical and spiritual man, we will be the ones who suffer for it and it surely will cost us in the end just as it cost the Israelites when God sent them into captivity. They refused to give the land a rest, to work the land for six years and let it lay dormant for the seventh and so God gave the land back the Sabbaths from their refusal to keep His Word.
Just as the tithe belongs to the Lord and not to you, so the Lordís Day belongs to the Lord and not to you. Just as God wants to be the recipient of the first fruits of your labor, your tithe, He wants to be the recipient of the first day of your week. But Jesus gave us a whole new meaning to the Sabbath. He came into the world to finish the work of His Father and therefore He is able to give rest to all souls that come to Him. We donít have to strive for our salvation because He gives our souls rest. God is honored when His people focus on Him on the Lordís Day. But the question is, do your want to honor God. That is the question you have to ask yourself. To not take a day of rest is a sin against God and a sin against your body.
Jesus was not only living out the Law and Word of God after they read it each Sabbath, but He broke the Pharisees laws of the Sabbath to provoke their response that He might teach them the accurate way, Godís way of keeping the Sabbath and what His intention was all about, that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath. With God there are even exceptions to the rule. They were not to work for profit and do their own pleasure, but surely it is acceptable to God for a man to do good on the Sabbath, to help one in need, to even get an animal out of a ditch to save its life. He was trying to show the priority and that it is about life and not about just keeping rigid laws for the laws sake, but for our good.
They took what was meant for manís good and turned it around to become a chain around their neck. So Jesus picked food on the Sabbath, healed the sick on the Sabbath and showed the love of God in doing ďgoodĒ on the Sabbath. That is the pattern He has given us, that we should do as He did and call and count the Sabbath as Godís day and not our own, a day to cease from our own labors, work and our own pleasures to honor, remember and serve Him and do good for others and for the Lord. It is okay to feed the hungry, visit the sick and imprisoned and help those in need on the Sabbath, for it is about life and Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath and said it was made for us and us for it. With God there is a balance in everything, even in laws and keeping the commandments. They are meant for life and good not just rules or regulations with no mercy, compassion or grace.
Jesus proved that when He said things like Matthew 12:1-8 ďAt that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungred, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day. But he said unto them, Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him; How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the showbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests? Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless? But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple. But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day.Ē
So it was not sin for the one Jesus told to take up his bed and walk to do so on the Sabbath. For one, it was not for personal pleasure or monetary gain, which is the work that is breaking of the Sabbath. Yet, God didnít count it as sin against David for he and his men eating the showbread that was only for the priests, because of the circumstances. Man was not made for the Commandments or laws of God, but they for man. God puts life above such laws. There is a time and place for all things according to Ecclesiastes 3:1 ďTo every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.Ē That is scripture no one wants to believe today. We canít accept that the same God who said donít hate or kill, tells us there is a time to kill, a time to hate, a time for war. But many professing believers today deny that any war or killing is acceptable, as capital punishment because they donít know God or His Word and donít want to believe Him.
And keeping the Sabbath, keeping a day of rest is one thing they donít want to do, even if they do go to church on Sunday, most of the day is still following their own pleasures or working, rather than believing and obeying God.
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