The Fourth Commandment states that we are to remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy (Exodus 20:8-11). To keep something holy simply means to set it apart (Leviticus 20:26). That is, on the Sabbath we are to cease from the things that we do the other six days of the week and rather do things that bring glory and honor to God (Ezekiel 20:12). So, have you set apart one day of the week where you cease doing your normal routines and rather spend time honoring God? If you cannot say “Amen”, Say “Oh, Me!”
In the original Hebrew of the Old Testament the word “seven,” the word “Sabbath,” and the word “rest,” are all the same basic word Shabat. Therefore, the heart of the meaning of Sabbath is rest but not the type of rest after working hard in order to restore our strength. It simply means the ending of activity or the cessation of OUR efforts.
Furthermore, under the Old Testament or Covenant, the Sabbath day is what we now call Saturday. However, in the New Testament the early church changed the Sabbath to Sunday in order to honor the day the Lord Jesus rose from the grave (Mark 16:9. Acts 20:7. 1 Corinthians 16:2).
The reality is that the day of the week that we rest is not the issue but rather that we have a day of rest in the week. However, by aligning your day of rest to Sunday then there are many opportunities to “assemble” together in a local church (Acts 4:23-35). I use the term “assemble” versus simply attending a gathering of people at a church building. I remember to this day being taught as a young child by Esther Lowery (2) that the church was not a building but rather we Christians are the church! (1 Peter 2:5. Ephesians 1:22,23. Romans 16:5)
That is, it is wherever Christians assemble together in one spiritual accord that we have church and not when people just simply gather together in a building. Unfortunately, this means you could religiously attend a church service every Sunday with the wrong motive (e.g., keeping rules to try and earn God’s pleasure juxtaposed to receiving His pleasure by grace through faith Ephesians 1:6. Ephesians 2:8,9), receive little to no benefit and likely become increasingly legalist and belligerent (Hebrews 12:15. Colossians 2:21-23. Colossians 2:16,17).
For example, I know of a young couple that was driving on Sunday in Chicago when their car broke down on a busy section of a downtown Interstate highway. They were in a dangerous position so they called the local parents of the young lady for rescue; however, they stated that they were just getting ready to go into a church and consequently could not help – legalism! Legalism is being more concerned about keeping the letter of the rules than fulfilling the spirit of the rules! (Luke 10:30-37) The Bible clearly indicates that the Sabbath can be used to care and rescue animals and children (Luke 13:15. Luke 14:5); consequently, rescuing your own children is certainly allowed and even required! (1 Timothy 5:8. Titus 2:4)
That is, the Sabbath was made to provide a day of freedom for mankind from our normal duties and not created to bring us into bondage to another set of rules (Mark 2:27). Interestingly, the fact that Jesus performed good works (e.g., healing) on the Sabbath was what caused most of the murder attempts (1) on His life by the leaders of the church of that day (Matthew 12:10-14. John 5:16-18).
He causes everyone to stop working, so that all people may know his work. (Job 37:7)
Some might say that is it more efficient to just keep working without taking a day off. While this seems logical and reasonable, due to the continuity of workflow, we do not see our lives from God’s perspective (Proverbs 14:12. Proverbs 16:25). For example, very early in my career, I was an Instrumentation and Control Technician and I routinely performed testing of nuclear reactor protection equipment. On one occasion I found a faulty electronic module, replaced it and completed that channel of testing. I had already completed testing one of the other channels without having to replace any modules. I had a choice then of completing the last channel of protection testing or taking time out for lunch break and resuming testing afterward. Normally I would have just completed the testing before lunch as that would have been more efficient. However, I knew in my spiritual heart (1) that I needed to take the lunch break (i.e., lunch rest) then although I did not know why – yet. While eating lunch the module that was just replaced failed and that caused a reactor trip signal to be generated from that channel. If I had NOT taken lunch then I would have been testing the last channel when the module failure occurred, in the previously calibrated channel, and that would have resulted in a two out of three-channel reactor trip! This would have cost the company several million dollars in replacement power costs during the time the unit was re-started. My point is that God our Father gave us a Sabbath day of rest because we need it – even if we cannot always understand why – similar to when I took lunch based on what some would call a hunch (2 Corinthians 5:7).
The Law of Consequence for Violating the Commandment
What if you miss going to church one or more Sundays in a row? Well, what would happen if you miss one or more meals in a row? My point is that you can survive without eating for several days; however, you will be physically weaker. The danger is found in substituting junk food for the meal you missed and if repeated long enough it will habitually take the place of eating balanced meals. Long term this can lead to serious health issues and even untimely death. Spiritually you can miss a service or two in a row with minimal effect. However, the danger is that you find something to do on the Sabbath that appears to fill you up spiritually but is not wholesome for your spirit (Proverbs 23:3). Similarly, long term this can lead to very serious life issues and even an untimely death (1 Corinthians 11:27-32. 2 Timothy 4:10).
For example, I was recently on a combination of business and pleasure trip (i.e., pleasure being visiting my oldest son). While on this trip I was not able to attend church two Sundays in a row. For this, I did not feel guilty as I am not attending church trying to please God but rather because it brings Him pleasure! That is, I do not attend church because I “got to” but rather because I “get to” – not good English usage but good teaching all the same! Simply put that is the difference between having a “religion about God” and having a “personal relationship with God”. Nevertheless, I missed and longed to attend church because I enjoy worshipping God with the “assembled” Christians that meet in a building “called” a church on Sundays! (Psalms 122:1)
In fact, I just got back from a wonderful Sunday church service. Attending church today has caused me to feel stronger spiritually and was a sober reminder that I needed some spiritual food after fasting worship service for two weeks!
“God made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure. ” – A line from the movie “Chariots of Fire” attributed to Eric Liddell. Eric Liddell refused to run the 100 m race he had extensively trained for due to it occurring on a Sunday in the 1924 Olympics. This decision was based on his personal Christian convictions. However, he ran the 400 m race that he had not prepared nearly as much for and broke the world record thrice in two days! That is, God, honors those that honor Him! (1 Samuel 2:30).
The Opportunity of Blessing for Keeping the Commandment
If we choose to observe the Sabbath day of rest (whatever day that is for you, (Romans 14:5-7)) then you will be blessed by God (Isaiah 58:13,14). However, factor in that even with the Sabbath day of rest we must still find time to spiritually “assemble” ourselves with others in the family of God (Hebrews 10:25) so that we can worship Him with our spirits via the Holy Spirit (1) (John 4:23,24. John 15:26 ). Sunday happens to be a day where both can be done and in addition, we honor Jesus Christ on the day He was raised from the dead who is the Lord of the Sabbath! (Matthew 12:8) Some churches, have another service on Sunday night that is a replica of the morning services for those that work a night shift.
Realize, just as a burning ember removed from the fire will quickly cool off and be extinguished, we too need to fellowship with one another in the Body of Christ so that we have the hope, strength, and vision to victoriously fulfill our God-given destiny (Proverbs 18:1).
Finally, realize there is only one genuine Sabbath or rest and that is the Sabbath or rest that Jesus Christ gives, the rest of remission and forgiveness of sins, the rest of ceasing from striving to be right and of being found righteous in Him. The rest of NOT having to earn security, significance, and self-worth by performing well enough every day that we obtain the approval of others but rather because we are approved forever by God in Jesus Christ based on His flawless performance. This is the Gospel of Peace! (1) (Ephesians 2:13-18).
I pray that this rest is yours today (1) (Matthew 11:28-30. Hebrews 4:1-16. 2 Corinthians 5:21).
(1) Left-click on the underlined phrase to open another article in a different tab with more explanation.
(2) Esther Lowery (August 10, 1923 – July 17, 2013) is the mother of Dr. Charles Lowery and the wife of my childhood pastor Fred Lowery, Sr.(September 28, 1919 – January 22, 1993).
Links to the entire series:
The Ten Commandments Series:
- The Ten Opportunities
- The Tenth Opportunity
- The Ninth Opportunity
- The Eighth Opportunity
- The Seventh Opportunity
- The Sixth Opportunity
- The Fifth Opportunity
- The Fourth Opportunity
- The Third Opportunity
- The Second Opportunity
- The First Opportunity
- The Null Opportunity