The fourth commandment is the last commandment that deals with our relationship with God. In this blog, we look at this simple request – the one asking us to rest on the seventh day of the week.
It is this commandment that gives us the category of obedience to God’s word because we see Him as our only authority, even over own selfish selves.
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 a Sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy” (Exodus 20:8-11).
This commandment, like the others, offers us a spirit of obedience that we are to follow to start us on God’s pathway to becoming His. In His genius, God is easing us into His ways by giving us the easiest of all commandments, to simply take a day off.
A simple message
The commandment is straightforward, and it is clearly designed to demonstrate our faith in God. Somehow we as a people who claim to be His have gone terribly astray.
Saturday or Sunday?
There has been a lot written about the move from God’s covenant commandment of keeping the Sabbath to Sunday worship, so I will only touch on it here.
1. Constantine’s famous edict of 321 A.D. stated: “On the venerable Day of the Sun let all magistrates and people… rest” (Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, article “Sunday Legislation”).
2. There is an interesting scripture in Ezekiel where God is showing Ezekiel some of the sins of the people. God shows him people in his temple that are worshiping the sun.
Ezekiel 8:16: “Then He brought me into the inner court of the Lord’s house. And behold, at the entrance to the temple of the Lord, between the porch and the altar, were about twenty-five men with their backs to the temple of the Lord and their faces toward the east; and they were prostrating themselves eastward toward the sun.”
3. We can trace Sunday worship back before Constantine’s edict to Justin Martyrs First Apology 150 A.D.:
“But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Saviour on the same day rose from the dead. For He was crucified on the day before that of Saturn (Saturday) [this is an incorrect understanding of the death and burial of Jesus]; and on the day after that of Saturn, which is the day of the Sun, having appeared to His apostles and disciples, He taught them these things, which we have submitted to you also for your consideration” (Justin Martyr, First Apology, Chapter 67, Weekly worship of Christians).
There has been a concerted effort to separate the ways of His people with the ideas of Christianity. This is, in my opinion, a significant problem with Christianity.
We can read that the nations are to learn the ways of His people in Jeremiah 12:16-17: “‘Then if they will really learn the ways of My people, to swear by My name, As the Lord lives, even as they taught My people to swear by Baal, they will be built up in the midst of My people. But if they will not listen, then I will uproot that nation, uproot and destroy it, declares the Lord.”
Only by learning what God wants, we can declare that the Lord ‘lives’ as He is living through our lives according to His word.
4. In all probability, we can see the first changes of Sabbath worship to Sunday worship instituted by Jeroboam, the new king of the northern tribes. The unified kingdom of Israel was split in two. Judah (along with Benjamin and the Levites) went to the south and the House of Israel (the ten northern tribes) to the north.
2 Kings 17:15-16:
“They rejected His statutes and His covenant which He made with their fathers and His warnings with which He warned them. And they followed vanity and became vain, and went after the nations which surrounded them, concerning which the Lord had commanded them not to do like them. They forsook all the commandments of the Lord their God and made for themselves molten images, even two calves, and made an Asherah and worshiped all the host of heaven and served Baal.”
Baal is a generic term and signifies the worship of many different gods and even concoctions of our imagination. One is that of sun worship “on the venerable Day of the Sun….”
Listening to God
My aim here is not to explain theologically why Sunday worship is wrong and why Sabbath-keeping is correct. It is instead, my intent to draw a line in the sand that we must listen to God’s word and not to men. This is the difference between His people and the people of the world. His people listen to Him and the people of the world listen to men over His word. Sabbath-keeping is from the word of God and Sunday worship is from the words of men.
I challenge everyone who practices Sunday worship to think back to where and how they began.
If it came from the traditions and words of men, and you want to be His, I would suggest casting it aside. We should, as His people, listen to His words and trust in Him only.
There are other reasons why we should listen to God and follow this fourth commandment of keeping the Sabbath according to God’s word:
Keeping the Sabbath is an easy way to be obedient to God.
Keeping the Sabbath allows us to teach our children what we believe.
Keeping the Sabbath gives us a chance to rest and renew our minds.
Keeping the Sabbath builds family ties.
1. Keeping the Sabbath is an easy way to be obedient to God.
Are you kidding me? To be obedient to God, I must take a day off?
It is true. His commands are not burdensome!
1 John 5:3: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.”
This verse exposes yet another lie from the pastors and priests in Christianity. We are not to serve ourselves we are to serve Him by following His ways. Those who do not “do the will of the Father” will not be allowed into God’s kingdom. We cannot both be His and the people of the world.
This is why we must make choose “today whom we shall serve” as we can read in Joshua 24:15: “If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
We cannot serve both. Matthew 6:24: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other….”
We either serve God and hate ways of sin, or we serve sin and hate the ways of God.
Less of us and more of Him
When we start listening, He becomes more important. We become less.
Therefore, John the Baptist tells us in John 3:30: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” He was setting the example that we are to follow.
We can read about this concept in Luke 9:24: “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.”
We lose our ways to His ways and our will to His will.
Living in obedience to His ways is the main point of this commandment. I will explore this further later in this blog. For now, we can understand that this Sabbath commandment is meant to ease us into listening to Him and obeying His ways.
2. Keeping the Sabbath allows us to teach our children what we believe.
It should be clear to our children: what we believe is important. We set a whole day apart for worship because God tells us to.
Our attitude should be: ‘God is saying it, so I am going to do it.’ This is a demonstration of what we believe. If we don’t do what God is saying but we tell people that we are followers of God, we are hypocrites.
Children are not stupid! They can sniff out hypocrisy. If we don’t truly live according to God’s Word, we are teaching our children to do the same.
Everybody has the same decision to make about trusting in God. Every child must write his own story someday. If a child can see that his parents genuinely believe in the one true God of Israel, he/she will have a solid foundation.
Proverbs 22:6 tells us: “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
It is up to us. We must teach our children which way they should go. If we leave it to the world to do it for us, the world will take over.
Deuteronomy 6:4-7 talks about training up our children in the ways of the covenant:
‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.’
If we honor the Sabbath day, the day becomes all about Him. The start time on Friday evening and the end on Saturday evening are for us to focus on God for an entire day.
For one entire day each week, we demonstrate that our belief in Him is real, and unshakable to the point that we are willing to deny ourselves to fulfill His will.
There is nothing greater that we can do to show Him (and our children) that we are listening to Him and that we trust ourselves to His ways.
What should we do on the Sabbath?
We should dedicate it to God’s Word and fellowship with other believers. We should spend it with our families. We should listen to them and engage with them. The Sabbath is perfect for prayer, praise and worship, family conversation and family fun, study and to give thanks. God gave us so many blessings!
Indeed, it is the most exciting of all days for those who believe in Him.
It goes without saying that the Sabbath is not meant to be spent on things of the world. The Sabbath is different. The Sabbath is intended to be set aside for the things of God.
3. Keeping the Sabbath gives us a chance to rest our bodies and renew our minds.
Romans 12:2 tells us: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
This is a well-known verse. However, I would suggest that few people know exactly what this means unless they are keeping the Sabbath.
A. What better way to not be conformed to the world than by doing something that the world would never do? Keeping the Sabbath would be perfect.
B. What better way to transform our minds through obedience to Him? Keeping the Sabbath would be perfect.
C. What better way to renew our minds than by spending an entire day living in His word and His ways? Keeping the Sabbath would be perfect.
D. What better way to prove the perfect will of God then to be a witness to the transforming effect that knowing, listening to, and then obeying God’s word will have on both you and your family? Keeping the Sabbath would be the perfect way to prove out the will of God.
The Sabbath would be so effective in fulling this verse that I would have to say that, in my opinion, it would be the only way to fulfill this verse completely.
Only God in His infinite wisdom could design such a perfect commandment the impact we are yet to fully comprehend. Yes, the Sabbath is perfect.
Keeping the Sabbath is about having faith in Him and His word. Only those who do not have faith or trust in His word would ignore this commandment on keeping the Sabbath, there is no other practical reason. It is certainly not too difficult.
4. Keeping the Sabbath builds the ties of the family.
The Sabbath is not just a day to dedicate to Him. It is a day that the whole family can enjoy. Each family member can think about things they can do to honor and serve Him on this special day.
Families can come together to plan, prepare, and serve Him as few other opportunities can. Each can have given responsibilities and be included in this simple weekly celebration of God.
It should be simple, relaxing, fun, and inclusive for the whole family. It should be something that all families of believers should look forward to each week and should not include the non-biblical burdens that men have imposed on this simple command.
Together, if all are believers, we can set aside all our other differences and join in actual service to Him and each other. It can create enjoyable memories of faithful distinctive service to Him that can last a lifetime. Also, in it our families can find an identity as His people who seek to obey Him.
How to keep the Sabbath according to Scripture
Many verses show us how to keep the Sabbath. We surely do not need to add anything to the verses. We want to keep it simple.
First, remember that the Sabbath was made to be a blessing to us.
Mark 2:27: ‘Jesus said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.’
God gave us the Sabbath to bless our families and us. Let’s not make it a burden. Let’s make it a celebration of who God is, what He means to us in our lives, and a day of resting and enjoyment for our families.
Deuteronomy 5:12-14 is an excellent scripture to follow: “Observe the Sabbath day to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant or your ox or your donkey or any of your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you, so that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you.”
There it is.
Simply rest and make sure we don’t put others to work on the Sabbath. It is that simple.
A couple of things to keep in mind
Common sense tells us that we do not put aside the other commandments of the covenant just because we are following the Sabbath.
We hold fast to serving God and the needs of others, even on the Sabbath.
This is confirmed to us by Jesus Himself in Matthew 12:10-13: “And a man was there whose hand was withered. And they questioned Jesus, asking, ‘Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?’—so that they might accuse Him. And He said to them, ‘What man is there among you who has a sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will he not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable then is a man than a sheep! So then, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.’ Then He said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand!’ He stretched it out, and it was restored to normal, like the other.”
We must be in the business of serving others, when the opportunity arises, even on the Sabbath.
What if my job requires me to work on Saturday?
1 Timothy 5:8 tells us that we are worse than an unbeliever if we do not provide for our families: “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
So, we must be serving our families and providing for them, even if it must happen on the Sabbath.
However, those who genuinely want to be able to set aside the Sabbath for His worship can be on the lookout for new employment opportunities or maybe even examine becoming self-employed.
Keeping the Sabbath is not a higher command than the others. All God’s commandments are on equal footing.
It must always be our premise to serve God (through our obedience) and to serve the needs of those around us.
Next week, we’ll continue to look at the Fourth Commandment. Yes, there is a part two!
Until then, may you have a peaceful Sabbath.