“And He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.”
An important part of the fourth commandment is God’s instruction to work (Exodus 20:9), a point often missed. Legitimate work glorifies God and has eternal significance (Ephesians 6:5-8) if done in balance with appropriate rest. That’s the underlying truth of this commandment.
Effective and God-honoring labor is impossible without rest. That’s why God ordained a rhythm of work and rest based on His actions during the 7 days of creation (Exodus 31:17). When we tamper with this pattern, we get in trouble. During the French Revolution when the 7-day week was lengthened to a 10-day week, even the horses got sick. Without renewal, the body breaks down.
But there’s a deeper spiritual significance to observing a day of rest. While we must avoid all legalistic attitudes and practices regarding it (Romans 14:5-6), we need a regular time to reflect on our relationship with God—a rest not merely for physical renewal but for spiritual renewal. We must ponder what Christ has done for us on the cross and experience the rest that comes by trusting completely in His finished work (Hebrews 3–4).
God had created everything in six days, and rested on the seventh thus, we are to follow God’s pattern as it is our example from God. It is for our benefit, we work a period of time then rest, and start the cycle all over again.
“Thus the spirit of the Sabbath was joy, refreshment and mercy, arising from remembrance of God’s goodness as Creator and as the Deliverer from bondage.” In other words the Sabbath was designed to be not only a time to cease from physical labour, but also to be refreshed by the act of worship and remembering the Lord; taking their minds off of the things of this world and the cares and stresses and praising and rejoicing at the memory of God’s goodness and power.
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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version of the Bible.
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