Summary: Through the Third Commandment God shows his love for his people.
If you haven’t experienced it, you know someone who has: a flight delay. I’m not talking about a flight delayed for an hour or two because of bad weather; I’m talking about a flight that is delayed for eight hours or more because there is no crew available to work the shift. That’s what happened to a grandmother I sat next to on a recent trip. She got up at three in the morning to catch an early flight to see her new grandson but ended up waiting at the airport until evening before her plane finally boarded. The reason for the delay was that the crew scheduled to work her flight had spent much of the previous night waiting for a plane to be fixed so they could fly home. By the time they got in, they had exceeded the maximum hours a flight crew could work in a 24-hour period. By law they had to rest for the day before they could resume work.
If you’ve been caught in that situation, how did you feel? Frustrated, no doubt but hopefully thankful too. It’s not worth insisting on being on time if your pilot is so exhausted from the previous day’s work that he can’t keep his eyes open. Better late than dead! It’s not just the airline industry that has strict labor laws governing how long one can work before they must take a break. Such laws are meant to protect lives.
As we continue our sermon series on the Ten Commandments this morning, we’ll see that the Third Commandment functioned like our labor laws do today. God said: “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 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. 11 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” (Exodus 20:8-11). As we take a closer look at this commandment we’ll see how it revealed God’s love for his people in Old Testament times and how it continues to safeguard our rest today.
With the Third Commandment God was declaring: “Don’t just do as I say, do as I did!” In six full days, from the workshop of his Word, God fashioned Planet Earth and the solar system in which it spins (Sarah Habben). On day seven he rested from this work of creation though not, of course, from his work of sustaining and preserving what he had made. Now God wanted his people to do the same: work six days and then rest on the seventh. But why was it important that the Israelites follow God’s example in this matter? Because he knows what worry-warts and workaholics people are. With the commanded Sabbath Day rest an Israelite was forced every seven days to renounce his autonomy over his time and affirm God’s dominion over him…no wait, that makes it sound like God was just trying to show his people who was boss. Rather, with the Third Commandment, God wanted his people to see that they had no reason to worry about life because if he could create a universe in six days, he certainly could give his people what they needed to live on an earth that he continued to govern. God proved this point when he provided extra manna on Fridays so the Israelites didn’t have to go out and collect any on Saturdays, the Sabbath Day.
As if that wasn’t enough proof that the Israelites could afford to rest from their work on the Sabbath, Moses added this thought when he repeated the Third Commandment to the second generation of Israelites - the ones who were about to enter into the Promised Land. “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day” (Deuteronomy 5:15).
Why could the Israelites afford to keep desisting from work one day a week? Because the God who commanded it had not only created them he had saved them. That helps us understand why God was so adamant that this command be obeyed. To ignore it was to say: “God I don’t really trust that you love me and will provide for me. I’ve got to do it myself!” One man who thought this and went out to gather wood on the Sabbath was stoned to death for his sin (Numbers 15:32-36)! Yes, God was serious about this command for he used the Sabbath Day as a weekly object lesson to teach his people that his relationship with them was not based on anything they could do. Rather it was based on what he had done and would do as their Creator and Savior. “Do nothing,” God was announcing, “I made you and I will save you, in time (as in Egypt) and in eternity (through my Son).”