The 10 Commandments Series : # 4 Remember the Sabbath
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep 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, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days, the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy”
Most churches today consider Sunday their “Sabbath day.” Christians go to enjoy and worship God while taking a day off from work. If you go to a local Mexican restaurant at lunch on Sundays, you will find a group coming from their Sunday service. Here is a question to consider. When we eat out at restaurants, patronize grocery stores, or visit movie theaters on Sundays, are we forcing other people to sin by making them work on the Sabbath? Are we keeping it holy, or have we infected it with our American culture?
The answer I will argue from Scripture is “no.” However, it should make us contemplate what it means to “remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy,” both for the original audience of the Bible and for contemporary Christians today.
What Does It Mean?
God gave three commands on what we “shall not” do. We are not to have any other gods before Him, utilize idols or graven images in our worship, or take His name in vain. After three “negative commands,” God transitions to a positive command to “remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.” In the Old Testament, Saturday was the Sabbath day. There would be no work of any kind done. God says no one is to do any work, including servants, sojourners, and livestock. They could not work their cows on the Sabbath day. No one was supposed to work. Everyone was supposed to treat this day as a holy day of rest and remembrance of what God had done throughout the week.
One of the most explicit examples of the Sabbath day commandment being enforced is right after the Israelites' exodus from Egypt and crossing the Red Sea. The Israelites groan for bread because their bellies are not as full as they were in slavery. God, in His patience and mercy, provides manna from Heaven for them. He institutes instructions on gathering it based on the Sabbath day principle. “Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather daily”” (Exodus 16:4-5).
“On the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers each. And when all the leaders of the congregation came and told Moses, he said to them, “This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Tomorrow is a day of solemn rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord; bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil, and all that is left over lay aside to be kept till the morning.’” So they laid it aside till the morning, as Moses commanded them, and it did not stink, and there were no worms in it. Moses said, “Eat it today, for today is a Sabbath to the Lord; today you will not find it in the field. Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, which is a Sabbath, there will be none.” On the seventh day some of the people went out to gather, but they found none. And the Lord said to Moses, “How long will you refuse to keep my commandments and my laws? See! The Lord has given you the Sabbath; therefore on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Remain each of you in his place; let no one go out of his place on the seventh day.” So the people rested on the seventh day.”
They gathered twice the amount on the sixth day so they would not have to gather on the seventh day, the Sabbath. They could not keep leftovers on any other day, but God allowed them to on the seventh day. Some did not listen and went to gather on the Sabbath day, and there was no food to be found because God set it aside for rest. God says to Moses, “How long will you refuse to keep my commandments and my laws? See! The Lord has given you the Sabbath; therefore on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Remain each of you in his place; let no one go out of his place on the seventh day.” God gets onto the people, and when Moses communicates this to them, they rest on the seventh day. The Sabbath day was a day of rest. God meant it seriously. No person or creature was to work on the Sabbath day to keep it holy and set apart for His glory and worship.
Why Does God Command It?
For Us to Remember What God Has Done
Remembering is a constant theme throughout the Bible. “God remembered Noah and the beasts” on the ark to let the waters subside so they could begin to repopulate the earth (Gen. 8:1). God remembered Rachel and opened her womb, giving her Joseph, the one who would save His family from famine (Gen. 30:22). God heard the cries of the Israelites in slavery and remembered His covenant to Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Exod. 2:24).
When God remembers, He has not forgotten. Instead, it shows that He is now acting on His promises. He acknowledges His covenant and love for His people, and when He remembers, He acts. When God commands His people to “remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy,” He is calling them to acknowledge and not forget what He has already said through His Word or His actions. He wants them not to forget His actions on the Sabbath day.
He explains the command. “Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God… For in six days, the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” In Genesis 1, God creates the heavens, earth, and everything populating these regions over six days. Then, at the beginning of the second chapter, we see a shift. “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day, God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation” (Genesis 2:1-3).
God had finished His work of creation, so He rested from all the work He had done and blessed this seventh day. He “made it holy” and set it apart because God rested from His work. Did God need rest? No. He never tires. He does not need sleep. Why did He rest then? To bless this day. God blessed the seventh day after creation, and He blessed the seventh day to set apart rest for us. In Genesis 2, He uses the word “hallow.” He blesses and hallows it, sanctifying and setting it apart for us to give a special focus to it. God rested not to regain energy but to stand back and appreciate the good work He had done. He desires us to do the same. We work with the time, resources, and energy God gives us. He wants to show His involvement in our lives through the Sabbath. “And the Lord said to Moses, “You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between you and me throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the Lord, sanctify you” (Exod. 31:13).
When we rest from our work, we gain time to reflect on what God has done in our lives through that week. When you work through the week, it takes up a lot of your time. Most people spend 40 hours each week working. This does not include those working overtime, side hustles, or other work engagements. When you put your head down to grind through your work, you do not have the time to appreciate what has been done and, more importantly, what God is doing. God gave us the Sabbath so we can remember what He has done.
For Us to Remember What We Cannot Do
God also gave us the Sabbath because He wants us to remember what we cannot do. We are finite creatures. We get tired. On average, we sleep as many hours as we work every week. We need rest. God created everything out of nothing. He needed no extra boost or Power Nap. He could have worked day in and day out. He does not need rest.
God set aside the Sabbath so we can see the necessity of resting in Him. The Sabbath is a day set apart by the Lord for the Lord. We are the creation. He is the Creator. The Sabbath exists, so we remember that we need Him. Babies need naps because they cannot keep the strength and energy to stay awake in the same way as an adult. Organizations institute mandatory time off because they know people cannot always function at their best. God gave the Sabbath so we can remember what we cannot do. We cannot exist on our own. We cannot give ourselves eternal energy. We need God to give us rest physically, mentally, and spiritually.
What Does the Sabbath Look Like Today?
The Sabbath looks different today than when the Lord first instituted it. We do not have to stay home and do no activity on the Sabbath Day or face punishment. We go to church, travel, eat at restaurants, and perform many other activities on the traditional Sabbath day.
The Pharisees created extra rules to go along with the Sabbath. They would punish people harshly if they did anything on the Sabbath. They created artificial laws regarding clothes-making, animal dressing, and traveling beyond what they termed a “Sabbath’s-day journey” of 2,000 cubits (around 2/3 of a mile). These were not placed in Scripture, but the religious leaders added them to the tradition, making it more tedious and hard to rest on the Sabbath because everyone was concerned about whether or not they were obeying it.
When Jesus came to the earth, he shook up the idea of what the Sabbath actually meant and its intention. In Mark 2:23-28, the writer gives an account of one Sabbath day when Jesus and the disciples went through the grainfields. They had not eaten, so they began to pluck heads of grain. This would have broken the manufactured tradition, so the Pharisees bucked up against Jesus, saying, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” Look at Jesus’ response.
“And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar, the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?” And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:25-28).
Jesus uses an Old Testament example to show the meaning of the Sabbath. David was in need and hungry as he tried to escape King Saul who was trying to kill him. David came into the temple and asked for the bread of Presence. This bread was in front of the holiness of God, and no one but the priests was supposed to eat it. Yet the priest gave it to him. Why? Because David was in need. Does this mean Jesus is condoning breaking the Sabbath rule? No. But he goes on to say the Sabbath was made for man. God gave us the Sabbath for our benefit, not so that we would have a tedious rule to follow.
God desires mercy, not sacrifice (Hosea 6:6). He does not create rules arbitrarily. We were not made simply to follow rules. We were made to rest and enjoy God. Jesus ends by saying that the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath. Jesus, as the Son of Man, the Messiah, was not offended by the disciples’ actions because this was how they enjoyed God and rested. Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath. He has said he is our rest (Matt. 11:28). We do not have to treat the Sabbath day as a legalistic holiday each week. It is a day to focus on God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We must take time to worship God, which does not have to be on a certain day. We must take the time to worship and reflect. We still need a day to rest. Does this mean we must take an entire day, sit at home, and do nothing else? No. But we must take the time to reflect on Christ.
What Must We Do?
Listen to Your Conscience and Respect Others
Some people still observe the Sabbath day by doing little to nothing besides going to church. Others treat it similarly to every other day. A few even have kept Saturday as their Sabbath day instead of Sunday (Seventh-Day Adventists). What should we do? We should listen to our conscience and see if we are sinning. It is not a sin to observe a traditional Sabbath day. It is not a sin to use a Sunday to gather with the Church, worship the Lord, and then go and do other things. The Apostle Paul gives us room for theological diversity in this area. “One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day observes it in honor of the Lord” (Romans 14:5-6). In Paul’s day, some wanted to religiously observe the Sabbath, while others wanted to treat every day as the Lord’s day. Either way, we must listen to our conscience. If we feel uncomfortable about not observing a Sabbath, then observe it. If you are okay with esteeming every day as the same, then do that. But do not look down on others if they make a different decision. We must respect the conscience of others if it does not cause anyone to sin.
Take Time to Rest in the Lord
We must take some Sabbath. We must have some time to think about the Lord, how he saved us, how he raised us from our old life to a new one, and how he filled us to the uttermost. We must give thanksgiving to the Lord. Most use Sundays as the day for this because it coincides with gathering with the Church, and they are off work. If this is the best day for you to Sabbath, do it. If Tuesdays or Thursdays work better, then Sabbath then. No matter when we should be worshiping and thinking about the Lord each and every day. We should remember the sign of the Sabbath and why God gave it. He wants us to rest and reflect on what He has done.
For me, I Sabbath on Friday mornings apart from gathering with the Church. I try to use this time to have an early quiet time with some coffee and a Bible journal. I want uninterrupted time to give thanks for God and what He has done in my life that week and up to that point in my entire life. I want it to be time for us to get together and talk. I want to pray, journal, and read for His glory.
Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. Find your Sabbath and remember God to keep it set apart so you can reflect and remind yourself of God’s sovereignty, Christ’s sacrifice, and the Holy Spirit’s sanctification within you.
Christian serves as the Director of Mobilization/Missions
as he leads the For the Nations ministry for The Journey Church in Lebanon, TN. He is married to his wife Danyel.
- Old Testament, The 10 Commandments