The Fourth Commandment

Wally Behan preached on Deuteronomy 5:1-15 today. This covers the first four of the ten commandments, those that deal with “loving God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength”. One bit which quite interested me was his treatment of the fourth commandment.

Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. 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 ox, nor your donkey, nor any of your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day. Deut 5:12-15

Now, I’ve always thought it strange that Christians treat Sunday as the Sabbath, because Sunday is the first day of the week, that great day on which Christ rose from the dead. Saturday is the seventh day. Wally encouraged the congregation to abstain from usual activity on Sunday, in keeping with Christian tradition, and the commandment. Sort of. In my opinion, there is no biblical warrant for a Protestant to move the Sabbath to Sunday, yet confessedly Sunday is the Christian Church’s day of worship. So here’s the Dale-O-Way. Our family rest from commercial activity on Saturday, as far as is practical. Jesus gave us the principals of Sabbath keeping:

And He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Mark 2:27

But He knew their thoughts, and said to the man who had the withered hand, “Arise and stand here.” And he arose and stood. Then Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one thing: Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy?”And when He had looked around at them all, He said to the man,“Stretch out your hand.” And he did so, and his hand was restored as whole as the other. Luke 6:8-10

Then, our family gathers together with other Christians for worship on Sunday – and often head to the mall for shopping afterwards. I often wonder whether it would be simply better to move the day of rest to Sunday to match up with the Church’s tradition, that would be more convenient in a lot of ways. But, if Church tradition can trump Scripture in something so important as the expression of one of the commandments, then the question has to be asked why Church tradition does not overrule Scripture in other areas as well. Ooo-er. I feel a counter-reformation coming on…

One thing I really like about the fourth commandment is that it is a reminder of God as creator. Why do we have a seven day week anyhow? A year is how long the earth takes to go around the sun. The months are marked out by the moon. A day is the rotation of the earth. But what about a week? Puzzling indeed.

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

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