Today's post comes from the series of articles based on the Heidelberg Catechism that Grace is running in our local paper. Currently, we're working through the Ten Commandments.
ABOVE ALL ELSE
I was glad when they said to me, "let us go to the house of the LORD!" - Psalm 122:1
We read the Fourth Commandment in Exodus 20, beginning in verse 8: "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God..."
Does this Commandment apply to Christians today?
Consider all the other Commandments: You shall have no other gods. You shall not make for yourself a graven image. You shall not take the LORD's name in vain. Honor your father and mother. You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness. You shall not covet.
Yes, we all break all of the Commandments. But if we are truly God's people, we understand that our sinfulness in failing to keep God's commands is an outrageous offense to His holiness. We run to Jesus and trust the good news of the Gospel: that Jesus has kept the Law perfectly on our behalf. Our failure to keep God's Law grieves us, and we desire earnestly to repent and to honor God by striving to live in obedience to His Law. As Keven DeYoung put it, "We obey the commandments, therefore, not in order to merit God's favor...We obey the law in gratitude for the gospel."
I bring up the other nine Commandments for this reason: Why, as modern-day Christians, are we quick to acknowledge that it dishonors God for us to lie, steal, commit adultery, covet, and murder, but then we treat the Sabbath with casual indifference? To take God's name in vain - yeah, that's bad. To murder - or to hate our neighbor - yeah, that's bad, too. No, I definitely shouldn't steal or lie. But keeping the Sabbath - that's really no big deal, is it?
Reading through the book of Exodus, I came across a passage concerning the Sabbath that stunned me. Moses had just given the children of Israel a ton of instruction from God. The Ten Commandments, ceremonial laws, instructions for building the tabernacle - it was like a crash course in holy living. Maybe it seemed to the Israelites like too much information to process, too many details, too much to remember. As if to summarize everything He had just told them, God wrapped up His lesson in holiness this way:
And the LORD said to Moses, "You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, 'Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generation, that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you. You shall keep the Sabbath, because it is holy for you. Everyone who profanes it shall be put to death.'" (Exodus 31:12-14)
Now if I were the one writing the Law, I'd probably say something like, "If you only get one thing right, make sure you don't start murdering one another." Or, "If you only remember one thing that I've just told you, above all else, don't lie."
But God said, "Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths." How serious was God about the Sabbath? So serious that the penalty for disobedience - for profaning the Sabbath - was death.
Do you take the Sabbath that seriously, Dear Reader?
I, too, have taken the Sabbath lightly. And because of my sin, Someone had to die.
Question 103 of the Heidelberg Catechism asks: What is God's will for you in the Fourth Commandment? Answer: First, that the gospel ministry and education for it be maintained, and that, especially on the festive day of rest, I regularly attend the assembly of God's people to learn what God's Word teaches, to participate in the sacraments, to pray to God publicly, and to bring Christian offerings for the poor. Second, that every day of my life I rest from my evil ways, let the Lord work in me through His Holy Spirit, and so begin already in this life the eternal Sabbath.
My prayer for us today is that we would have a high view of the Sabbath, and that we would begin now to joyfully anticipate the eternal Sabbath we will celebrate in Glory. May we, like the Psalmist, think of this "festive day of rest", not as a burden, but as a good gift from a loving God!