A Day for Holiness

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (v. 8).

- Exodus 20:8–11

It might come as a surprise, but God speaks of the fourth commandment more times in Scripture than any of the other laws He gave at Mount Sinai. Whenever Israel profaned God’s Sabbath, He threatened them with death. And failure to keep the Sabbath always paralleled religious decline in Israel. The two always seemed to go hand in hand. Whenever the fire of religious zeal and faith waned low in Israel, the seventh day became more a day of trade than of worship. This has been true of the church since the beginning, for throughout history we see a parallel between decline in religious commitment and failure to keep the Lord’s Day. This makes sense because the Sabbath is set aside for us to worship God, to consider His works, to exalt His name in holy duties, and to take our minds off ourselves and our own work. It is reasonable, then, that as soon as our religious conviction grows dim, we begin to think more of our earthly desires on the Lord’s Day than of the Lord Himself.

The Sabbath was instituted at creation, for God called the seventh day holy, and on that day He rested from His works. We, too, are to rest on the Lord’s Day. We are to refrain from all those labors that either could have been done the day before, or can wait until the following day. Any acts of necessity, of course, are allowed. We are not to seek our own selfish pleasure, but we are to serve God, for it is a day sanctified, or set apart, by Him, for the sanctification of His people.

To put our own desires aside for just one day takes a certain measure of death to self, which is the goal of the day—our sanctification, being freed from sin’s corruption. In this sense, the Sabbath is an expectation of that great day when we will join our Savior in glory, when we will completely live for Christ and not for ourselves. When you inquire into how one should keep the Sabbath, consider this: it is a day that represents heaven. Do you think you will be pursuing your own goals in heaven, working as you have done throughout your entire life, or do you think you will be resting in the Lord, basking in His glory, delighting in His presence, worshiping Him with all your heart, soul, and mind? Let this be the model that is set before you as you strive to keep the Sabbath. Remember it is for your sanctification as you enjoy a foretaste of rest in the presence of the Lord.

Coram Deo

Some people believe that Jesus fulfilled the Sabbath, therefore we do not have to keep it. But nowhere does Christ abrogate this one command of all the Ten. It was established at creation and will continue until glory. Confess the ways in which you fail to keep the Sabbath. Beginning this week, take serious steps to keep this law.

Passages for Further Study

Genesis 2:2
Nehemiah 13:16–19
Jeremiah 17:19–27
Luke 6:1–5

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