Exodus 20:8-11

Sermon preached on April 27, 2008 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2008. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

This weekend Natalia is in Fredonia visiting her friend Katie. She phoned me yesterday and told me that on Friday night they went to hear a Ralph Nader lecture. I asked her what it was like and she told me that he is against much of the technology that people use today. At one point he said that people spend too much time updating their Facebook profiles when they should be doing other things. Natalia laughed and told me that the exact moment he said that she had her iPhone out and was in the process of updating her Facebook profile.

I think that Ralph Nader is right. There are a lot more productive things to do rather than updating your Facebook profile. A lot of people are spending their time doing the wrong thing.

Bill Gates was once asked why he didn't believe in God. He said, (Time magazine, Jan. 13, 1997, quoted from Ryken, Written in Stone, p. 102)

"Just in terms of allocation of time resources, religion is not very efficient. There's a lot more I could be doing on a Sunday morning."

He basically said that it's a waste of time to spend time on worshipping and serving God. He had better things to do, like making money. He seems to be unaware of the Bible's teaching about the rich fool.

Yet most people think that Bill Gates has it right. Sunday has lost its sanctity. Sunday has become a secular day. Sunday morning is a time for school sport activities. It has become a time for shopping. If you work in retail it's very difficult to get Sunday morning off. The reason it's hard to get off is not because other workers want it off in order to go to church—but so that they can spend it at the beach or at a party. Even Christians who normally go to church are often tempted to skip church and play golf on Sunday. I once knew of a minister who used to wear his golf clothes under his robes on Sunday morning, and who, as soon as the service was over, would rush up to the golf course for a round of golf.

I actually heard a story about a minister who loved golf and spent about two weeks looking for a time to play but every time he had a few hours it was raining. Finally, after days and days of rain he woke up very early on Sunday morning to a beautiful sunny day. He thought about it and decided that if he played fast he would be able to get a round of golf in before church. So he went to the golf course and even though he was feeling guilty about playing, he teed up his ball and took a great swing at it. To his great surprise he hit it right down the middle of the fairway—farther than he had ever hit it before. His approach shot to the green was even better as he hit it within inches of the pin. He tapped it in for a birdie. And that's the way that it went—hole after hole. He was having the best round of his life, with more eagles and birdies than he ever had. When he approached the par 3 17
th, the one with water in front if the green, some of the angels were wondering what God was doing giving him the round of his life and asked God about it. God said to them,

"Watch this."

They then watched as the minister hit his shot. The angels thought that the shot was going to go in the water and ruin the minister's great round, but instead it cleared the water, bounced on the green and rolled into the hole for a hole in one, the first the minister ever got. The angels were flabbergasted, but when they looked at God, He smiled and said,

"Who's he going to tell?"

That's a funny story that shows how far we've come from when the Lord's Day was held in high esteem. It's either another work day, a day for pleasure, for self-indulgence. But let's look at what the Fourth Commandment tells us about how we should keep the Lord's Day. God said, (Exodus 20:8-11)

"Remember the Sabbath day
by keeping it holy.
Six days you shall labor and do all your work,
but the seventh day is a Sabbath
to the LORD your God.
On it you shall not do any work,
neither you, nor your son or daughter,
nor your manservant or maidservant,
nor your animals,
nor the alien within your gates.
For in six days the LORD made the heavens
and the earth, the sea,
and all that is in them,
but he rested on the seventh day.
Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day
and made it holy."

Is any of this relevant to us today? Is there anything we can learn from what God told His ancient people about the Sabbath day? What meaning does it have for us?

The main command that we have here is that the Israelites was that they were told

to remember the Sabbath Day.

In telling them to remember that day, it was clear that God required action. In remembering it they were expected to do certain things.

It would be just like if your wife came to you some time before your anniversary and said,

"I'd like you to remember our anniversary this year."

If she said something like that, just bringing it to your mind sometime during your anniversary day would not just cut it. If after waiting all that all that anniversary day for something your wife said to you as you were getting ready for bed,

"I thought I asked you to remember our anniversary this year."

And you replied,

"Oh, yeah. I did. I thought of it during lunch. I thought to my self, 'Today is our anniversary. So I did remember it.'"

Ha. That wouldn't fly, would it? When your wife tells you to remember your anniversary, she wants flowers and perhaps jewelry. She wants you to bring her to a nice restaurant—she wants you to treat her in a very special way. She doesn't want you to just call it to mind and dismiss it. She wants you to do something about it—to act in a certain way.

In the same way, when God tells His ancient people to remember the Sabbath Day He was telling them to do certain things on it. He wanted them to behave a certain way.

So then, how were the ancient people to remember the Sabbath?

The first thing we should see is that

the day was to be dedicated to the Lord.

God did not set it aside for us for it to be our day, rather a day for Him. The commandment tells us that the seventh day is,

"a Sabbath to the Lord your God."

The wording reminds me of Revelation 1:10 where the apostle John wrote,

"On the Lord's Day I was in the Spirit,
and I heard behind me
a loud voice like a trumpet,"

The Sabbath day was to be devoted to God. It was a Sabbath to the Lord. The Hebrew word 'Sabbath" means, 'to cease, to stop' or 'to celebrate'. The idea is that we are to cease our normal work and let God work in us. It is to be a day dedicated to God and His glory. Philip Ryken writes, (p. 105)

"To keep a Sabbath 'to the Lord' is to give the day over to God, setting it apart for him and his glory."

This was very important. The punishment that was to be inflicted on those who broke the Sabbath shows us that. In Exodus 31:14-15 God said,

"Observe the Sabbath,
because it is holy to you.
Anyone who desecrates it
must be put to death;
whoever does any work on that day
must be cut off from his people.
For six days,
work is to be done,
but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest,
holy to the LORD.
Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day
must be put to death."

What severe punishments. Desecration of the Sabbath was to be punished with death. Anyone caught working was to be cut off from the people. John Calvin wrote, (Institutes, II:8:29)

"The Lord enjoined obedience to almost no other commandment as severely as to this. Numbers 15:32-36; cf. Exodus 31:13 ff.; 35:2] When he wills through the prophets to indicate that all religion has been overturned, he complains that his Sabbaths have been polluted, violated, not kept, not hallowed — as if, with this homage omitted, nothing more remained in which he could be honored [Ezekiel 20:12-13; 22:8; 23:38; Jeremiah 17:21,22,27; Isaiah 56:2]."

So it's like if the Sabbath was neglected it was a sign that the people's hearts were far from God. If they loved Him they would be careful to keep the Sabbath. If they didn't, the would profane His Sabbaths. As Thomas Watson has written, (The Ten Commandments, p. 99)

"To do servile work on the Sabbath shows an irreligious heart, and greatly offends God. To do secular work on this day is to follow the devil's plough; it is to debase the soul. God made this day on purpose to raise the heart to heaven, to converse with him, to do angels' work; and to be employed in earthly work is to degrade the soul of its honor."

Philip Ryken says of the Sabbath, (p. 103)

"it demands the total engagement of our whole person in the service of God."

The ancient Jews were to give the day over the Lord, setting it apart for His glory. Philip Ryken writes, (p. 105)

"It is not a day for 'business as usual'. Rather, it is a day… to step back from life's ordinary routines in order to rediscover God's goodness and grace."

He continues, (p. 103)

"We are prone to forget the great work of God in creation and redemption. And when we forget, we fail to praise him for making us and saving us. But the fourth commandment is a reminder. It is God's memorandum to his people, reminding us to give him glory for his grace."

The second thing we see from this is that

the Sabbath was for man's benefit.

It was not given to us to be a burden. In Mark 2:27-28 Jesus said to the Pharisees,

"The Sabbath was made for man,
not man for the Sabbath."

One of the great purposes of the Sabbath was to give us rest. There are two aspects of that rest. On the one had it has the idea of not doing any work, of being able to get rest from the daily grind of life. We get a break from our hard labor under the sun. This applied to family members, servants and even animals. They were all to get rest.

What a great blessing that is. What would your life be like if you had to work every day? What a grind life would be. God, in His great mercy has given everyone a day of rest from the daily grind of work.

But there was
another aspect of rest that is much higher and an even greater blessing. The rest of the Sabbath was patterned after God's actions when He created the universe. We read,

"For in six days the LORD made the heavens
and the earth, the sea,
and all that is in them,
but he rested on the seventh day.
Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day
and made it holy."

This hints to a spiritual aspect of 'rest'. This is confirmed by what we read in Hebrews 4:9-11,

"There remains, then,
a Sabbath-rest for the people of God;
for anyone who enters God's rest
also rests from his own work,
just as God did from his.
Let us, therefore,
make every effort to enter that rest,
so that no one will fall
by following their example of disobedience."

John Calvin writes, (Institutes, II:8:28)

"under the repose of the seventh day the heavenly Lawgiver meant to represent to the people of Israel spiritual rest, in which believers ought to lay aside their own works to allow God to work in them."

Calvin continues, Institutes, II:8:29,

"the sum of his statement comes to this: that the Sabbath is a sign whereby Israel may recognize that God is their sanctifier [Ezekiel 20:12]. If our sanctification consists in mortifying our own will, then a very close correspondence appears between the outward sign and the inward reality. We must be wholly at rest that God may work in us; we must yield our will; we must resign our heart; we must give up all our fleshly desires. In short, we must rest from all activities of our own contriving so that, having God working in us [Hebrews 13:21], we may repose in him [Hebrews 4:9]…"

In his Institutes John Calvin wrote, (Institutes II:8:28)

"The purpose of this commandment is that, being dead to our own inclinations and works, we should meditate on the Kingdom of God…"

The third thing we should see is that

Christ has fulfilled certain aspects of the Sabbath.

In a certain sense Christ fulfilled the Sabbath. I've mentioned before how in the Old Testament there were civil, ceremonial and moral laws. The Sabbath commandment included aspects of all three. Under the Old Testament theocracy, there were strict penalties for Sabbath breaking. These are not longer in effect because the theocracy no longer exists. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that they were fulfilled in Christ. When He came He fulfilled the Old Testament law in that regard.

There was also a ceremonial aspect to the Sabbath that were fulfilled in Christ.
Colossians 2:17 refers to Sabbath days and says,

"These are a shadow of what was to come;
the substance is the Messiah."

John Calvin writes, (Institutes II:8:34)

"The purpose and fulfillment of that true rest, represented by the ancient Sabbath, lies in the Lord's resurrection. Hence, by the very day that brought the shadows to an end, Christians are warned not to cling to the shadow rite."

Calvin, Institutes, II:8:31,

"But there is no doubt that by the Lord Christ's coming the ceremonial part of this commandment was abolished. For he himself is the truth, with whose presence all figures vanish; he is the body, at whose appearance the shadows are left behind. He is, I say, the true fulfillment of the Sabbath. 'We were buried with him by baptism, we were engrafted into participation in his death, that sharing in his resurrection we may walk in newness of life.' Romans 6:4-5 p.] For this: reason the apostle elsewhere writes that the Sabbath [Colossians 2:16] was 'a shadow of what is to come; but the body belongs to Christ' [Colossians 2:17], that is, the very substance of truth, which Paul well explained in that passage. This is not confined within a single day but extends through the whole course of our life, until, completely dead to ourselves, we are filled with the life of God. Christians ought therefore to shun completely the superstitious observance of days."

Thus there are certain aspects of the Sabbath that no longer apply to us. For example, we don't observe Saturday as the Sabbath. The day for our worship has changed to Sunday, the first day of the week. We don't have a specific command in the Bible to change the day but as B. B. Warfield writes, (Selected Shorter Writings, [The Sabbath in the Word of God] Volume 1, p. 319)

"both our Lord and his apostles appear to commend the first day of the week to us…"

Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week. B. B. Warfield, (Selected Shorter Writings, [The Sabbath in the Word of God] Volume 1, p. 319)

"Christ took the Sabbath into the grave with him and brought the Lord's Day out of the grave with him on the resurrection morn."

In Acts 20:7 Luke tells us about the practice of the early church. He writes,

"On the first day of the week,
we assembled to break bread.
Paul spoke to them,
and since he was about to depart the next day,
he extended his message until midnight."

And in 1 Corinthians 16:2 the apostle Paul gave certain directions to the Corinthian Christians. These directions very strongly suggest that early church had been directed by the Holy Spirit to meet together on Sunday, and not the Old Testament Sabbath. Paul wrote,

"On the first day of the week,
each of you is to set something aside
and save to the extent that he prospers,
so that no collections will need
to be made when I come."

John Calvin writes, (Institutes II:8:34)

"the ancients did not substitute the Lord's Day… for the Sabbath without careful discrimination. The purpose and fulfillment of that true rest, represented by the ancient Sabbath, lies in the Lord's resurrection."

Philip Ryken writes, p. 110,

"We still need to work, we still need to rest, and we can still receive the creation blessings of God's holy day. The main thing that has changed is that we have received a new and greater deliverance. We no longer look back to the old exodus for our salvation; we look to Jesus Christ, who accomplished a greater exodus by dying for our sins and rising again. Jesus is the fulfillment of the fourth commandment, as he is of all the others. The Old Testament Sabbath pointed to the full and final rest that can only be found in him."

Now what does this all mean for us? How do we apply the Sabbath Day principles to our lives today?


how we should praise God for His goodness to us in giving us a day of rest, a day for Him to work in us.

As such we should appreciate it and praise God for it. The Puritan Thomas Watson wrote, (The Ten Commandments, p. 96)

"We should look upon this day as the best day in the week."

He continues, (p. 97)

"The Sabbath is the market-day of the soul, the cream of time. It is the day of Christ's rising from the grave, and the Holy Ghost's descending upon the earth. It is perfumed with the sweet odor of prayer… on this day manna falls… This is the soul's festival-day, on which the graces act their part… This day a Christian is in the altitudes; he walks with God, and takes as it were a turn with him in heaven."

Ryken, p. 102,

"Out of his great mercy, God has provided a remedy: one whole day out of seven to rest in his grace. His has given us a rhythm of work and rest, with six days for labor and one day for leisure. And he grants us our leisure specifically for the purpose of his praise. The Sabbath is a day for worship, a day for mercy, and a day for rest."

Secondly, this means that

you need to resist the attempts of our society to encroach on our Sundays.

Sunday is the Lord's Day. It's not a day for the world. It's not even your day. It's a day especially for the Lord.

We don't want to be legalistic about the Lord's Day and make up all kinds of man made rules like the Pharisees did. They had their rules and the one they criticized the most was Jesus—who was perfect and kept the Sabbath perfectly.

But I ask you—do you take time on Sunday to have God work in you? Do you take time to meet with God's people and so be blessed by the preaching of the Word and the fellowship of the saints? Do you regard Sunday as, 'the Lord's Day'? John Calvin writes, (Institutes, II:8:32)

"Although the Sabbath has been abrogated, there is still occasion for us: to assemble on stated days for the hearing of the Word, the breaking of the mystical bread, and for public prayers [Acts 2:42]; (2) to give surcease from labor to servants and workmen."


this principle of one in seven, of giving the Lord the seventh day- the number seven being symbolic of completion- ought to make you long and strive for perfection—for your heavenly rest.

In Romans 8 we read that the whole creation groans, waiting for the redemption of the sons of God.

The Sabbath principle ought to make you long for God's rest, long for your completeness in Christ, for the redemption of all things. Calvin writes on the number 7, (Institutes II:8:30)

"One can also interpret the number in another way: the Lord thus indicated that the Sabbath would never be perfected until the Last Day should come. For we here begin our blessed rest in him; daily we make fresh progress in it. But because there is still a continual warfare with the flesh, it will not be consummated until Isaiah's saying is fulfilled about "new moon following new moon and Sabbath following Sabbath" [Isaiah 66:13]; until, that is, God shall be "all in all" 1 Corinthians 15:28]. It would seem, therefore, that the Lord through the seventh day has sketched for his people the coming perfection of his Sabbath in the Last Day, to make them aspire to this perfection by unceasing meditation upon the Sabbath throughout life."

Lastly, for those of you who are not Christians,

recognize that the Sabbath was given by God to man – in His great mercy.

It symbolizes rest. It looks forward to the great time when His people will be with Jesus in perfect glory. There will be rest, contentment, joy, perfection because of what Jesus has done for them.

But recognize that
all those good things have an opposite. There is another place where there will be no rest, no joy, no perfection. It is the place for those who do not know or recognize Jesus. It is the place where the dragon and the beast are. As we read in Revelation 20:10,

"The Devil who deceived them
was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur
where the beast and the false prophet are,
and they will be tormented day and night
forever and ever."

Don't go there. There is no rest there. Instead go to Jesus. Find life in Him. As Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-29,

"Come to me,
all you who are weary and burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls. "