The Fourth Commandment
Why are the lives of so many empty and meaningless? The surprising answer is discovered in the Fourth Commandment! Here is one of the most vital articles in this series expounding the Ten Commandments.
“Our youth are no longer in rebellion but in a condition of downright and active mutiny.” This is what a prominent psychiatrist told a Lost Angeles audience. He continued: “We must re-evaluate the meaning of life.”
Yes, what is the “meaning of life’? What is the true goal of life and what are the laws of life by which that goal can be attained?
Most people are so busy with the day-to-day cares of making ends meet that they devote almost no time at all to the spiritual issues of life. If questioned about their Bible study or prayer, most people reply that “there just isn’t enough time” for these religious activities.
Because he is so engrossed with his job during the day, and with television, movies, parties and sports in the evenings and on week-ends, the average American is totally lacking in even a rudimentary knowledge of his own religious beliefs. And he is childishly ignorant of the fundamental truths of the Bible so much so that in a survey showed that the average American is unable even to name the four gospels correctly.
God seems “way off” to him. The Bible is “for old folks and preachers” to read and understand. Yet, he proclaims that he “hopes to do better” someday.
The big question is WHEN? When will he take the time to really get to know God? When will he take time to study the Bible, to pray earnestly to the Creator as his Father, to meditate on the laws and purposes of life? (If you would like to get to know God better and what His Plan for mankind is, enroll today in our Mini-Correspondence Course)
For most people, the true answer will probably be “NEVER” unless they learn to obey the 4th commandment of Almighty God. Obedience to this little-understood commandment is a powerful factor in bringing the lives of men and women close to the Creator God and to His blessings and direct guidance.
In the first three articles of this series, we discussed the prevalent sin of putting another “god” in place of the true God. We learned that God commands us to worship Him directly, and to avoid using any image, picture or physical object to “remind” us of the great Creator, or as an “aid” to worship. And we were warned against the vain use of the name of Almighty God, which stands for His position, His character, His power, His office as the great Ruler of this entire universe.
The 4th commandment completes the first section of the Decalogue which deals with man’s relationship to God. It provides for the perpetual observance of a sign of the relationship between God and man.
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour and do all thy work: but the 7th day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor the stranger that is within thy gates: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the 7th day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it” (Ex. 20:8-11).
This command is, in its wording, the longest of any of the ten. It is placed, protectively as it were, in the very midst of the ten Commandments. Yet, sad to say, it is the one command about which men “reason” and argue most and which they would most quickly tear asunder and try to separate from the rest of God’s law.
Notice that it starts out with the injunction to “remember.” This very statement proves that the Sabbath command was already understood by God’s chosen people and that, in incorporating it as part of His basic spiritual law, God was reminding them of a command of which they already had knowledge.
“Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” You cannot “keep” cold, water hot! And mortal man cannot make any thing holy. Therefore, to fully grasp the significance of this Divine command, we need to learn who made the Sabbath day holy and when.
Jesus said: “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath: Therefore the Son of Man is Lord also of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27-28). Note also that Jesus did not say that the Sabbath was made for the Jew, but for man for all mankind in other words. Then He stated that He - Christ is “Lord” of the Sabbath. In this statement, He claims to be not the destroyer but the Lord of the Sabbath.
In His human life, Jesus kept the Sabbath, and many verses in the four gospels are devoted to His instructions which the Jews had added.
But, before continuing let us answer the question: “Who made the Sabbath day?”
In understanding the command to “remember” the Sabbath day and “keep” it holy, and who “made” the Sabbath in the first place we need to turn to an account of the very beginning of God’s creation. The New Testament gives such an account in the first chapter of the gospel according to John.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:1-3). Here we find Jesus Christ described as the “Word” or “Spokesman,” as the original Greek may more properly be rendered. This passage reveals that Jesus has been with the Father from the beginning, and that all things were made by Him by Jesus Christ. Yes, Christ was the CREATOR.
Christ was the second person in the Godhead along with the Father and it was He that was the instrument through whom the creation was brought into being. The apostle Paul was inspired to speak of how God “created all things by Jesus Christ” (Eph. 3:9).
In Hebrews, we find Christ described as the Son of God, “Whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds” (Heb. 1:2).
These and many other scriptures show that He was the person in the Godhead who later became Jesus Christ, who actually carried out the job of creation! He was the One who said: “Let there be light,” and there was light. He was the One who created man and set him on this earth in the garden of Eden.
So, speaking of Him in particular who did the creating, the inspired writer of Genesis states: “And on the 7th day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the 7th day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the 7th day, and sanctified it: Because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made” (Gen. 2:2-3).
Jesus said the Sabbath was made for man. Here we see that the Sabbath was made when man was made. And it was made by the very Divine person who later became Jesus Christ! It was made as an intrinsic part of the environment which surrounded man and which God made in the seven days of creation.
Notice that God “blessed” the 7th day and “sanctified” it. Such an honor was not conferred on any of the preceding six days. When God blesses something, He bestows His Divine favor upon, and His Divine presence in, that thing. The very word “sanctified” means to set apart for holy use or purpose.
Thus, we see that in the very act of creation, the Almighty God put His Divine favor upon, and set apart for holy use and purpose, a certain space of the most enduring thing there is--time.
Certainly this insight into the background of the Sabbath gives added meaning to God’s command: “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” Through Jesus Christ, God made the 7th day of the week holy and on His authority, as our Creator, He commands us to keep it that way!
The Sabbath, then, is holy time. Yet, it was made for man- as a great blessing to all mankind!
Our Creator knew that we would need a period of rest and worship every 7th day, and this is the basic purpose for which the Sabbath was created. Each of us tends to become overly absorbed in our daily cares and work and pleasure during the week. Our Creator foresaw this, and set apart His Sabbath day as a consecrated time when we can completely forget our daily routine and draw closer to the Creator God in study, meditation and prayer.
Modern man desperately needs the period of time in which to have real communion with his Maker and God. Taking time to think upon God and to worship God, to pray, to study and meditate upon the purpose for human existence, and upon God’s revealed laws of life, all this adds great strength and meaning to man’s life the other six days of the week.
The Sabbath is one of the greatest blessings that has ever been bestowed upon the human family!
The command to keep the Sabbath is the only one in which we are enjoined to “remember.” Yet it is the one command which many ministers and religious people seem most anxious to forget! Many have reasoned that since the Sabbath was contained in what is called the “Book if the Covenant” in Ex. 20 through 24, therefore it is no longer binding on us today who are under the New Covenant of Christ.
Such people seem to forget that, as we have already shown, God made the Sabbath day holy back at creation - long before there was any Jew, and before the Old Covenant was made with Israel! They also forget that God doubly commanded the Sabbath by making a special and separate covenant with His people to keep it. This special covenant is spoken of in Ex. 31.
God told Moses: “Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, verily my Sabbaths ye shall keep: For it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye many know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you” (Ex. 31:13). Here the Sabbath is spoken of as a “sign” that identified the true God the God of Israel. But how is it a “sign”?
“It is a sign between me and the children of Israel forever: For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the 7th day he rested, and was refreshed” (v. 17). The Sabbath is a “sign” because it identifies God as the One who created all things!
God commands: “Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant” (v. 16). Here is an everlasting covenant to identify the true God of Israel the Creator! God Himself rested on the 7th day, and made it holy in memory of His work of creation, and as an everlasting “sign” that He is the Creator.
Throughout the Old Testament, the history of the nations of Israel and Judah show that they were blessed in every way when they worshipped the true God and kept His Sabbath holy. But when they neglected this command to “remember” His Sabbath, and began to worship the created instead of the Creator, they went off into pagan idolatry, human sacrifice, bloodshed and were punished by God through the stripes of men.
Approximately 721-718 B.C., the nation of Israel went into the greatest national captivity and punishment that has ever befallen any nation in all the history of this earth! The reason for that punishment is described by God Himself in Ezekiel 20.
After describing how He brought Israel out of Egypt and gave them His statutes and judgments, God states: “Moreover also I gave them my Sabbaths to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctify them. But the house of Israel rebelled against me in the wilderness: they walked not in my statutes, and they despised my judgments, which if a man do, he shall even live in them; and my Sabbaths they greatly polluted: then I said, I would pour out my FURY upon them in the wilderness, to consume them” (Ezk. 20:12-13).
Over and over throughout this chapter, God indicts the nation of Israel for rebelling against Him, and specifically condemns them for breaking His Sabbath.
And it will be well to notice that God does not call them your “Sabbaths,” or ‘Jewish Sabbaths,” as so many like to say with contempt today, but the Almighty speaks of “MY SABBATHS,” and condemns Israel for neglecting this command which He obviously regarded as of extreme importance.
It is important to reiterate that God Himself rested on the 7th day and “sanctified” or made holy that day as a time of rest and worship pointing to the true God the Creator of all.
God made the Sabbath command a special and everlasting covenant between Him and Israel. And the inspired example of Jesus Christ and His apostles certainly indicates that this identifying “sign” of the true God ought to be observed by the true servants of God the “spiritual Israel” today (see Rom. 2:28-29 and Gal. 3:28-29; 6:15-16).
It is an undeniable fact that every nation and every individual who has failed to “remember” the true Sabbath has been cut off from the true God and turned to some form of pagan idolatry! For the Sabbath-keeper, God is REAL He is the living, active Creator and Ruler of the universe. He is a God of power and activity.
But the God of the Sabbath-breaker evolves into a sort of “essence” or a harsh, stern unreal being who is “way off” somewhere. And in reality, such a false worship degenerates into carrying on a form of religious observance only because it is “socially acceptable” (2 Tim. 3:5).
The Sabbath guards against false religions and false gods!
Understanding, then, that the Sabbath command is just as binding as the commandments against murder and adultery, let us proceed to analyze and expound this commandment of God and its application to our personal lives today.
Except for the explanatory and expository statements, the 4th commandment consists of two basic injunctions. First, “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” Second, “Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work.”
It is by the authority of God that the first six days of the week are appointed for man’s business and labor. It is the will of God that man should work and earn his daily bread. He who idles away his time in the six days is equally guilty in the sight of God as the man who works on the seventh! The idle person is ordinarily clothed with rags, and his idle mind and hands lead him into many wretched vices and sins.
This second part of the Sabbath command is just as binding as the first! He who never works is totally unfitted for worship! The honest, purposeful work of the six days is in itself an act of worship and obedience to God.
Man is placed in a world that contains all that is necessary for his physical being, but to obtain it he must work for it! It is part of the original intention of God, for man was placed in the garden of Eden “to dress it and to keep it.”
However, in like manner, he who never pauses from his daily business and pursuits to worship as God commanded us on the 7th day which God has made holy and set apart is through lack of contact with his Maker rendered incapable of his highest potential achievement in work, in service and in the joy of accomplishment.
Since the very Creator has so commanded, we can keep the Sabbath day of rest and spiritual rejuvenation with complete confidence that God will bless and prosper us because we have done this!
Normally speaking, if you would quit working every few days to take a needed rest, you might naturally expect to get behind with your work and finances. But God Himself has set in motion a great LAW. God’s Ten Commandments are living active laws just like the law of gravity. They are in operation they work automatically.
The law of the Sabbath backed up by the very POWER of the Creator says that if you will pause to rest and worship Almighty God on the 7th day every week, you will be so blessed during the work of the six days that this will more than make up for what you might have accomplished by laboring on God’s Sabbath! Do you realize what this amounts to?
In one way of looking at it, God is giving us a paid vacation every 7th day! But this vacation is not only for the purpose of physical rest, it is also a time for worship, for spiritual rededication, for the contemplation and exercise of the spiritual purpose and laws of life which God has set. In observance of the 7th day which God has made holy and which alone points to creation, man is brought into close communion with his Maker and his God. For God’s very presence as well as His divine blessing are especially evident in this day which he has set apart and sanctified.
These are the busiest days that humanity has ever seen. These are days in which most men seem to have little or no time for the contemplation of the spiritual purpose and goals of life, the most important questions which man ought to be considering.
The tremendous blessing of God’s true Sabbath is that it enables man to take TIME to fully consider and weigh these most important of all questions in life and to commune with His God and Creator in a way in which few men in this age have ever experienced. The true observance of the Sabbath would keep man in contact with God! Without that contact, he is cut off from the very purpose of his existence from the laws that govern his success or failure in life, from an understanding of what he is, where he is going, and how to get there.
Without this contact with Creator God, the life of man is emptiness, frustration and a thing of vanity. In this age above all others, man needs the contact with God, the spiritual strength and understanding and the Divine blessing and guidance which proper observance of God’s true Sabbath provides.
Through a complete misapplication of the teachings of Jesus and His apostles, some men have tried to make the Sabbath command appear as a “yoke of bondage.” They often call it “Jewish” with a sneer and a smirk. They talk as if the Sabbath were very hard and difficult to keep, as though it were a great curse to mankind.
Actually, however, as many Protestant religious writers have themselves admitted, the essential Hebrew idea of the Sabbath was not that of gloom, but rather of gladness and joy. The Sabbath was a day of delight, a day in which man found in creation from toil and labor, the full understanding of his purpose and spiritual capacity.
God spoke through Isaiah: “If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on My holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honorable; and shalt honor him, not doing thine own ways, not finding thine own pleasure, not speaking thine own words: Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it” (Isa. 58: 13-14).
Notice that God says we are to delight in His Sabbath day. Yet we are not to seek our own human pleasure. But rather to increase our spiritual joy through honoring and worshipping our heavenly Father and God.
We are not even to speak our own words. Rather, we should spend the time during this holy day in prayer to God, and in studying, discussing, and meditating upon God’s Word literally saturating our minds and hearts with the thoughts and character of our Holy Father in heaven. Such observance of the true Sabbath brings deep happiness and joy because we are able to completely rest from worldly work and care, to worship our Maker with peace of mind and unhurried freedom, and because we have the time to think on and exercise our spiritual capacities and thus strengthen ourselves for the days and weeks ahead.
Although Christians are to live by the “spirit” of the law, we will certainly do well to follow the principle God gave to the Israelites in regard to preparing ahead for the Sabbath and thus enable ourselves to have that day completely free from worldly cares. In Exodus 16:22-23, God told the Israelites to do any heavy cooking or baking the day before the Sabbath. Since, as any real Bible student knows, God’s days begin and end at sunset (Gen. 1:5; Lev. 23:32), a real Christian should plan to have his work completed before sunset on the evening of the sixth day. A Christian woman should have her house cleaned up, her dishes washed, and any heavy cooking or baking done before sunset on this day so that she and her husband may observe the Sabbath in an atmosphere of rest and worship and that it may be a day which is truly kept Holy to God.
In many places, by teaching and example, Christ taught us how to observe the Sabbath. In Mark 2:23-28, Christ showed that it is all right to procure food on the Sabbath if one is hungry and it is really necessary. He told the Pharisees that He was Lord of the Sabbath it is His day, the true Lord’s day.
Then on another Sabbath Jesus showed them that it was lawful to do good on the Sabbath day and healed a crippled man to back up His point (Mark 3:1-5).
Further instruction on how to keep the Sabbath is found in Matthew 12:9-13. Here Jesus taught that it is certainly all right to relieve a human or an animal of physical suffering on the Sabbath day and to pull an ox out of the ditch, Jesus also taught, in principle, that you should feed and water your stock on the Sabbath day (Luke 13:15).
So the Sabbath is a day in which you should concentrate on the spiritual worship of God, but in which you can do good to others in spiritual matters of relieving suffering, and in which you may take care of any necessary “chores” such as feeding livestock so as to prevent their suffering on that day.
Jesus Christ the inspired example of how every true Christian ought to live taught by His own life and actions that the Sabbath is a holy convocation or commanded assembly for God’s people as is taught in Leviticus 23:3. Jesus’ example and customary practice is recorded in Luke 4:16 where we read that Jesus, “as his custom was . . .. went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up for to read.”
Certainly the true Sabbath is a day for the united worship and adoration of God by His called servants. And it is a time for the preaching and expounding of God’s Word and His living laws. It is the duty of every true Christian, then, to find out where is that church in which he can really worship God “in spirit and in truth,” a church which properly observes the true Sabbath of the Creator God, and a church in which man is taught to “live by every word of God.”
There are several churches which believe in keeping the 4th commandment. But most of these churches in their teaching and practice directly break one or more of the other commandments. Jesus founded only one church (Matt. 16:18), and it alone keeps all of God’s commandments.
So learn to keep the Sabbath in a positive way! Use the 7th day that God has sanctified and made holy as He has intended to rest from worldly labor, to pray, to study and to mediate on God’s Word and the purpose of human existence. Take time to do good to others, to care for the sick, to visit the afflicted. Assemble with other true Christians on the Sabbath if this is possible.
Be thankful and grateful that God has set aside twenty-four hours of precious time every single week in which you can worship Him and meditate on the really important lessons of life! This physical rest and spiritual rejuvenation will give your life new purpose and meaning. Because you have plenty of time to do so, you can establish a personal, vital contact with God the Creator by observing the very day which points to Him as the great Author of all creation, and the One in whom “we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28).
The beginning of all truth is to fear God (Prov. 1:7). You who understand should fear to break the 4th commandment and thus violate God’s Sabbath day!
God calls the Sabbath: “My holy day” (Isa. 58:13). The Creator Himself has sanctified and set apart this period of time in which to rest and worship Him. If you appropriate this day for your own business or pleasure, you are stealing from God and you are guilty as a thief and a violator of the 8th commandment! You are also “coveting” time that does not belong to you, but to God, and are therefore breaking the 10th commandment also! You are certainly putting something ahead of the true God, and are therefore reckoned as guilty of breaking the 1st commandment! You are breaking the 5th commandment as well, for you are dishonoring and disobeying your spiritual Father in heaven!
And regardless of the silly and often contradictory arguments of carnal minded men, you are breaking the 4th commandment the “test” commandment - which God has set as an identifying sign between Him and His people forever which points to Him as the Creator and Ruler of all, and which keeps those who obey this God-given “sign” in a right relationship with the true God!
In this materialistic age of “modernism” and religious confusion, of increasing crime and violence, and of constant threat of war and human annihilation, we need more than any other time in human history to obey the 4th commandment of Almighty God! We need to keep holy and sacred the 7th day that God made holy. More than people of any other age, we desperately need this sanctified time in which to, as was suggested, “re-evaluate the meaning of life.”
The 7th day and that day alone which God made holy is the commanded and God-blessed time for rest, for worship and for contemplation of the vital keys to the meaning of life.
Properly understood and properly observed, the 4th commandment God’s Holy Sabbath is one of the greatest blessings that the Creator has ever bestowed upon the children of men! It is an identifying sign between man and the true God. Remember it keep it holy!