Summary: How the fourth commandment commanding observance of the sabbath applies to Christians.
We’ve got to learn to slow down before it kills us. In 1991 economist Juliet Schor wrote a book called "The Overworked American," where she demonstrated that work hours and stress are at an all time high for us (Bass 1). Today’s full-time employee works an average of 163 more hours than employees in 1969 (Russell 1). In a 1992 survey 38% of Americans admitted that they "always feel rushed" (Russell 2).
Even during our off time we’re often engaging in activities that are exhausting. In an article on work habits in "American Demographics," Cheryl Russell says, "There are more TV channels to watch, more amusement parks to visit, more movies to rent, more magazines to read, more online networks to explore, and more pressure to spend our leisure time wisely. Playtime itself sometimes seems too much like work" (2). How many of us after a week camping trip or a day at Disneyland feel like we need a few days off just to recover from our leisure time? We’ve got to learn how to slow down.
Job related stress is a leading cause in health problems among Americans. A magazine published by the New England Journal of Medicine called HealthNews claims that long term job stress increases blood pressure and significantly increases the risk of coronary heart disease (HealthNews 2/27/98). Chronic stress impairs our memory, accelerates the aging process, and weakens our immune system. We’ve got to learn how to slow down or it’s quite literally going to kill us.
We’ve been in a series through the 10 Commandments called LANDMARKS FOR A NEW MILLENNIUM. Today we’re going to talk about the fourth commandment, God’s command to keep the sabbath.
Now the fourth commandment is by far the most controversial of the 10 commandments among modern day Christians. Some Christians worship on Saturday, other Christians worship on Sunday, and some Christians worship at alternative times like Friday night. Some Saturday worshipping Christians believe Sunday worship is a violation of the fourth commandment, a few even calling Sunday worship the mark of the beast from the book of Revelation. Today we’re going to look at the fourth commandment and try to find how it applies to us today. We’re going to look at a sabbath principle, a sabbath law, and a sabbath blessing.
1. The Sabbath Principle
The 10 commandments are actually found listed in two different places in the Old Testament. The first list is in Exodus 20, and this list represents God’s original delivery of the 10 commandments to Israel. This occurred just months after God had brought Israel out of Egypt, parted the Red Sea, and brought them to the foot of Mt. Sinai. The second list is found in the book of Deuteronomy, and that list represents a second delivery of the law to Israel. The second list in Deuteronomy was given 40 years after this list was given, and it was given to a new generation of Israel, right before they entered into the promised land. So the second list represents a renewal of God’s commitment with Israel for a new generation. Until today I’ve been going out of the Deuteronomy list because the wording of the two lists are virtually identical.Here on the fourth commandment, we find a significant difference between the two lists.
Exodus 20:8-11—"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 manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. 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" (NIV).The Hebrew word "remember" means far more than recalling a memory into our mind (NIDOTTE 1:1100). To "remember" in Hebrew means to "commemorate," much like we remember our wedding anniversary by buying a gift, or we remember a child’s birthday by throwing a party. This commemoration of the sabbath is for the purpose of keeping the sabbath holy, that is, for it to be set apart to God.Here we learn that God wants us to work, that work isn’t bad or evil. Since we bear God’s image, our labor is a noble, godly part of our existence. God wants us to work, to labor, to use our energies and our creativity to supply our needs.
But on the seventh day—-which is Saturday—-God commands Israel to stop working. In fact, the word "sabbath" comes from the word for "stop" or "cease" (NIDOTTE 4:1157). The idea here is an interruption of the work being done the other six days. Just to make sure Israel gets it, God lists six possible sources of labor (Durham 289). Everyone is to stop working: the children, the servants, the livestock, even the non-Jewish guest in the community. The entire Jewish economy is to grind to a halt on the sabbath day.