The first table of the law are all about our personal relationship with God. This Fourth Commandment preserves that relationship, helping it to grow more intimate, and teaches us to take time for it.
Marriage counselors urge couples to establish the habit of taking time for each other. ” Take a date night. Get away from the kids and work and enjoy one another.” Good advice. This fourth commandment requires that of our relationship with God. We are to take one day and devote it to worshiping and enjoying our great God. Here is another friend to guard us in our ways–to keep us from neglecting this most important relationship of all.
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it (Exodus 20:8-11).
Legalists tend to think up many ways to make this commandment a burden by prescribing detailed instructions. Jesus responded to them with sweeping generalities by explaining the need for deeds of mercy and necessity. Then those on the other extreme, antinomians, toss out the whole moral law because of this one law, saying it all applies only to the Israelites. Others don’t like the change made by the apostles from Saturday to Sunday. So there is much controversy about how to apply this commandment.
We can see from the Exodus passage and the New Testament passages that it is to be a day set aside from the rest of the week for worship of the God who created all things and purchased our redemption through his suffering and death. By changing the day from the seventh to the first, the apostles were acknowledging that Jesus’s rising from the dead on Sunday was the final blow to our sin’s wrenching us from a personal relationship with God. The leaders in the church during the generation following the Apostle John’s death continued worshiping on Sunday. Those involved in these controversies, and others like them, hurt their intimacy with our Savior by rejecting this special day entirely, or by making Sunday so unpleasant they grow weary and end up just going through the motions. Don’t let that happen to you. Sunday is to be our delight–a time for worship and prayer and thinking about God. ministering to others, and resting from our work. Don’t let legalists or antinomians rob you of these blessings.
Here is a beautiful image from Isaiah of what those blessings are like:
If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, From doing your pleasure on My holy day, And call the Sabbath a delight, The holy day of the LORD honorable, And shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, Nor finding your own pleasure, Nor speaking your own words, Then you shall delight yourself in the LORD; And I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth, And feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father. The mouth of the LORD has spoken ( Isaiah 58:13-14.)
One time I rode a horse across the continental divide in Colorado. I was riding the high hills of the earth. What a ride! The beauty! The adventure! Delighting in this set time to worship God results in the thrill of knowing God better. It is like riding across those mountain peaks, but not nearly as dangerous. God blesses those who keep his Sabbath with a closer relationship with himself. Here is another friend advising us and giving us good counsel.
Of course, every mother knows what work it is to get the kids up, fed, dressed for church. Not to mention the car ride there. I once had a young mother tell me, “The best thing you can do for me on Sunday morning is to hand me a cup of coffee and lead me to a quiet, comfortable place.” There is work and preparation involved in keeping this commandment. The more orderly and routine you make it, the easier it will be for you. After all, mothers need to worship and pray and learn and hear the word preached as well. I have observed that frequently church leaders fail to take into consideration the pressures put on women and children by setting up church dinners, extra discipleship classes or small group meetings on Sunday afternoon and evening. Or women leaders schedule baby showers or other special events on Sunday afternoons. And now our secular friends want us to go shopping and take the kids to birthday parties or sports events. Try to look at all these demands through the lens of Jesus’s teaching about necessity and mercy. Sometimes you must quietly and meekly say “no,” and see the necessity for y for rest and meditation on Sunday afternoon and evening. One of the best things I ever did for myself was reading a Charles Spurgeon sermon every Sunday afternoon. Another good lesson is the setting of personal boundaries for avoiding working on this day. My mother set a good example for me in this. She worked hard on Saturday preparing the household for rest and worship on Sunday. She did not do laundry, clean, or other household or garden chores on Sunday. What is it you need to say “no” to in order to delight in this special day?
Your attitude of delighting in the day will pass on to the children. And the blessings of the Sabbath will show itself in your relationship with God.
Those who put aside their work and personal pursuits and delight in Sundays as a time to think about and worship God will know God better and enjoy him forever. As the warm-hearted Calvinist Martyn Lloyd-Jones said during his final battle with cancer, “Knowing God is what it is all about.” He meant that even his ministry of preaching should not be more important than his relationship with his Father (www.carolbrandt.com/Warm-hearted Calvinists/D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones). What are you putting before knowing God?
Knowing God is what this Fourth Commandment is all about and that is life’s greatest delight.