Sabbath Rest

"Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord thy God. In it, thou shalt not do any work; thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor the stranger that is within thy gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that in them is, but on the seventh day He rested. Therefore, the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it." ~the fourth commandment

disclaimer: dictated by my husband, whose memory may be fallible, though the Word he may be misquoting is not.

The Lord takes the Sabbath very seriously. This commandment refers to the act of Creation - He created all that is in only six days. Should we not also be able to get our business taken care of in six days? The Sabbath is given to us for rest, but it is not only because of our need that we take a Sabbath. It is because the Lord God Himself, Yahweh and Elohim, has ordained that it is good and commanded us thus.

Who am I to argue?

For what it's worth, it makes all the difference in the Pearce household. As our pastors preached through the ten commandments recently, we talked about our observance of the Sabbath and whether we indeed keep it holy. We made a decision to set aside the Lord's Day as one of rest, to be focused on fellowship with other believers, preaching of the Word and the sacraments at church, and on rest and worship at home. Though it doesn't happen every single week, I try to make dinner in the crock pot and we enjoy leftovers for supper. The afternoon is spent with friends, enjoying or extending hospitality, reading the Word and related things, and/or listening to recorded sermons and lectures. And of course, taking the Sabbath Nap.

I can't emphasize enough what a difference it makes to truly set aside an entire day to the Lord. The things that He commands are to His glory and for our benefit - and the Sabbath rest is a great example of this. We find ourselves nourished by His Word, replenished in His grace, and ready for another week of labor for the Kingdom. Not only is the Lord's Day a source of rest and nourishment, but what assurance we receive from the preaching of Christ each Sunday! The rest of life is placed in its proper perspective when we return week in and week out to the Source of life Himself.

But even if it made no difference whatever in our experience, His commandment would be no less true and binding.

"Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away." ~Matthew 24:35

There are those who argue for a cultural or contextual view of the fourth commandment, saying that the Sabbath rest doesn't apply to us in our time and culture (or that it's just impossible/impractical to observe the Sabbath). But which of the other commandments is culturally bound? Has the Lord ceased to be our God? Is He any less jealous of our love and worship? Are we to steal and murder at will? Our culture is far from the law of the Lord on these matters, endorsing the self and experience as god and abortion as a viable option (but another post on that...). But the covenant elect are to remain faithful to His Word and to His Law, joyful at the revelation of His character and standards and grateful for His grace through Christ's atoning work since we can never perfectly achieve those standards.

I will close with this thought concerning the beauty of the law:

"The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple." ~Psalm 19:7

Thank God that we are righteous in Christ. But thank Him also for His law and statutes that bring nourishment to those who are alive in Him! When I am able by His grace to keep His laws, even in my fragmented, human way, He is glorified and reflected in me. When I walk in His ways, then do I most fully reflect His image. May this be the chief end for which we strive: to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever! (Westminster Shorter Catechism, question 1)

How my heart leaps at those words!


Rebecca said...

thank you for this post Liz. said...

I agree, the Sabbath is a wonderful opportunity to use the time to draw closer to God. We need this one day a week to seek Him.

Some traditional Christians argue that the Sabbath day is only part of the Old Covenant and was abolished after the death of Jesus Christ. But as I pointed out in my blog, there are many scriptures in the New Testament that show that the Ten Commandments including the Sabbath commandment are part of the New Covenant as well as the old.

If the Sabbath was not important to God, God could have made it a commandment separate from the Ten Commandments. But God, to show its importance and that it is for all mankind, put the Sabbath command in the context of such universal commands such as "do not murder" and "do not steal". Jesus said that the Sabbath was made for man, that is, mankind, not just the Jew (Mark 2:27). Jesus said that the Sabbath was made, and the only record of the creation of the Sabbath is in Genesis 2:1-3. God created the Sabbath by resting the seventh day, not because He was tired, but to create the Sabbath by setting an example for man of resting. This shows that the Sabbath was made for all mankind for all time, not just for the Jews from the time of the making of the Old Covenant until Christ.

I also think there is a close connection between the Sabbath and faith. God's law actually requires that we have faith, for Jesus said that faith is one of the weightier matters of the law (Matthew 23:23). The Sabbath, as a day of rest, can represent the rest we have in Christ when God forgives us our sins and the burden of guilt is removed from us. But to have rest in Christ requires faith.

It also takes faith for someone who was not raised in a Sabbath-keeping tradition to keep the Sabbath. Mankind is able to figure out that it is wrong to murder, to commit adultery, to steal, etc. Most societies recognize those moral laws even if they do not have the Bible. But we must be willing to believe God's Word to know that we need to rest on the seventh day (Friday sunset to Saturday sunset) - that is something that mankind cannot figure out apart from God's word. And it takes faith to believe what God says. That is why I think there is a strong connection between the Sabbath command and the spiritual principle of faith.