Summary: As we study the Sabbath law, we remember that God gives us laws for our benefit. We Christians still follow the 3rd Commandment. So 1 - Remember to obey it. 2 - Remember to benefit from it.
Let’s say that you had a friend at work that you found out was a Christian. This co-worker was a very strong Christian; they didn’t just know their Bible very well, but more importantly they really lived the Christian life. And so you felt that you wanted to get to know this person better. So you went out for breakfast one day before work, you are talking about your life, talking about your faith. You order your meal, and your co-worker asks you, “I noticed you ordered eggs and bacon and sausage. Don’t you know that the Bible says you shouldn’t eat food that comes from a pig?”
How would you answer that question? Maybe you’d say something like that law doesn’t apply to us anymore, but if he asked why it doesn’t, how would you answer?
There are a lot of laws that God gave the Israelites to follow. Laws that are written very clearly in the Bible. For instance, in the Bible it says you are not to make clothes make out of two different fabrics. And I’m guessing that if you looked through your closet, you’d find plenty of clothes that say something like "80 %cotton, 20%polyester." So why don’t we keep this law? Or there’s another law right there in the Bible that prohibits farmers from planting two different types of crops in the same field. And if any of you have any relatives who are farmers, chances are they have planted many different kinds of crops at the same time. So why is it ok that these pork laws, these clothing laws, these farming laws, aren’t kept anymore? The answer: these are laws that pointed ahead to Jesus. And now that Jesus has come, these laws are no longer in effect.
You see, the Israelites had a lot of laws that we don’t follow anymore. There is even one of the 10 Commandments that we don’t follow the same way as the Israelites did. I’m talking about the 9th Commandment: You Shall Not Covet Your Neighbor’s House. Now clearly, God does not want us to go about scheming to get our neighbor’s house in a dishonest and underhanded way. And yet there would be nothing wrong with us walking up to the door of a house we liked and offering the owner a bid on their house. That happens all the time in our world…but that was forbidden for the Israelites. Their houses and property were passed down from generation to generation. And if a person was to sell their house, then they were depriving their offspring of their inheritance. So “You Shall Not Covet Your Neighbor’s House” had an extra measure of importance for the Israelites that doesn’t have today.
There is another of the 10 Commandments that we do not follow to the letter: the Commandment that we have in our text for this morning, the 3rd: Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy. Though there are aspects about this commandment that we don’t follow anymore, we are going to discover this morning that We Christians Follow The 3rd Commandment. So 1. Remember to obey it. 2. Remember to benefit from it.
A minute ago, when I recited this commandment, I used the words that are in the catechism, “Remember the Sabbath Day.” These words are from Exodus 20. But you might have noticed in our text that there is a slightly different word used here, “Observe the Sabbath Day.” “Observe” in the Hebrew text is a much more intense word than “remember.” The root meaning of the word here is Deuteronomy is, “exercise great care over.” So literally our text begins with the words, “Exercise extreme care over the Sabbath Day.”
God’s people were to diligently observe this 7th day of the week. Every week, the Sabbath day was to be a day not only of rest from manual labor, but more importantly, rest for the soul. The only place that the soul finds rest is in the Word of God, and so the Sabbath was to be much more for the Israelites than merely a day off from work. Actually, in a manner of speaking, it was a day of work for their spiritual lives. The Lord required his people to flex their spiritual muscles one day each week.
And the Sabbath had one other aspect to it: respect. The 7th day was the day God rested from the creation of the world. And when his people also rested on this holy day, they were showing honor to the Lord God of heaven and earth.
One time, when the Israelites were wandering in the desert, they found a man who was working on the Sabbath Day. He was outside, picking up sticks to make a fire. And with this infraction against the 3rd Commandment, this man was brought before Moses, and the Lord commanded that he be put to death for this action. Now whenever I read that story, there’s a part of me that thinks, “now wait, isn’t this punishment a little severe? After all, this man wasn’t stealing anything from anyone. He wasn’t being unfaithful to his wife. This man wasn’t killing anyone. He was picking up branches so that his family could make a fire that day! Why was he put to death for the high crime of picking up sticks on the wrong day of the week?” But to even ask that question shows a lack of respect for the laws that the Lord set up.