Let’s begin today by reading 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.”
It might help here to define some of these words. According to the Holman Bible Dictionary, “Sabbath” comes from the Hebrew word shabbat which means “to cease” or “desist”; in this case to cease from all labor. “Holy” has to do primarily with “God’s separating from the world that which He chooses to devote to Himself.” So God is calling for a day of rest, a time set apart for those who belong to Him. Just as God Himself spent a day resting after His work, so we should as well. Do you find it easy or difficult to take a day off from ordinary work to rest?
Listen to how serious God is about this. In Exodus 35:2 it says, “For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day shall be your holy day, a Sabbath of rest to the LORD. Whoever does any work on it must be put to death.”
Why would this commandment be so important to God? Remember back at the beginning of our study I mentioned that one reason for the commandments was to teach us about relationship, in this case with God. He knew that it would be all too easy to make every day like another with no time to stop and commune with Him. So He modeled it, then commanded it.
But listen to this promise He gives us in Isaiah 56:6-7—
“…all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it
and who hold fast to my covenant—
these I will bring to my holy mountain
and give them joy in my house of prayer.”
And again in Isaiah 58:13-14–
“If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath
and from doing as you please on my holy day,
if you call the Sabbath a delight
and the LORD’s holy day honorable,
and if you honor it by not going your own way
and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,
then you will find your joy in the LORD,
and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land
and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.”
Luther’s meaning of the Third Commandment says this, “We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.” Do you find it a chore to spend a few hours at church on a Sunday morning? Would you rather sleep in, watch the game or take care of some chores around the house? If so, when do you “gladly hear and learn [the Word of God]?
In today’s 24/7 world, it’s tough to think of one whole day of doing nothing. But in fact even Jesus reminded the religious leaders that the Sabbath belongs to the Lord. So perhaps a better view of this day is not “doing nothing”, but rather dedicating the day to the Lord. Make everything you do on the Sabbath, be about building relationships – with God and family and serving those people God has given us.
So what kinds of things take up your Sabbath rest day? What can come out of your manger?
Creator God, you worked for six days, and what wonderful work it was! You called it good. And then you took a break from working. Help me to make Your Sabbath rest a priority in my life. Help me find ways to spend a day away from work to build relationships and to serve others. In Jesus’ name, amen.