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Exodus 20:8-11 - Fourth Commandment

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Thomas S. Myers



Exodus 20:8-11

8 "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 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.

11 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. (NIV)

            The 1st commandment tells us who to worship.  The 2nd commandment tells us how to worship God.  The 3rd commandment tells us we are to worship God sincerely.  The 4th commandment tells us that we are to worship God regularly.  I don't know if you have noticed it or not, but the 4th commandment is the longest of all the commandments and it is probably the most misunderstood of all the commandments.   

            There are some groups that make the 4th commandment the cornerstone of their doctrine.  There are some who gauge acceptance on what you do or do not do on the Sabbath Day.

            I want to make it very clear that Sunday is not the Sabbath Day.  Saturday is the Sabbath Day.  We worship on Sunday not the Sabbath Day.  No where in the Bible is Sunday ever called the Sabbath. 


1A.  some  MAKE the Sabbath day a day a day of burden and misery.  

            You can read accounts about that in the early days of our country.  For example in New England a sea captain had been away for 2 years.  Upon his return his wife ran from the house and hugged and kissed her husband and they promptly arrested her and put her in jail for running on the day of worship.   God never intended  His day to be a day of burden or a miserable day.  And even today some will take the Sabbath (Saturday) and will add rules and regulations. 


                The Hebrew word "Sabbath" means rest.  It refers to a ceasing from labor.  It refers to a ceasing of work.  Sabbath therefore means rest.  Sometimes someone will ask, "Do you observe the Sabbath?"  My answer would be, which Sabbath's are you talking about?  Because, when you study the Bible you will discover that there are 6 different Sabbath's found in the Bible.   

            First, there is what I will call the initial Sabbath.  You will find this Sabbath in Genesis 2:1-3.  That is the Sabbath where, the Lord had created the heavens and the earth, and the Bible says God rested on the seventh day.  He set the seventh day apart from all other days.  That is, God made the seventh day a special day.  Now when the Bible says God rested,

that does not mean that God was weary.  The Bible says: 


 Isaiah 40:28

28  Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. (NIV)

            So when God rested on the Sabbath Day, it was a celebration and a climax of all His creative work.  That is the initial Sabbath. 

Second, there is what I will call the temporal Sabbath.  In Exodus 20:8-1 & 31:16 we are told about this temporal Sabbath.  Look at Exodus 31:16 and notice that the Sabbath Day was given just to the children of Israel. 


Exodus 31:16

16 The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant.  (NIV)

            You will find in the New Testament all the other Ten Commandments are given in some form or another.  But you will not find the Sabbath Day reiterated because the Sabbath Day was given specifically to Israel.  There is the temporal Sabbath.   


Third, there was the festival Sabbath.  In Leviticus 23:23-26 we are told there was a festival Sabbath on the seventh month on the fist day of the month. 

Leviticus 23:24-25

24 "Say to the Israelites: `On the first day of the seventh month you are to have a day of rest, a sacred assembly commemorated with trumpet blasts. 25 Do no regular work, but present an offering made to the LORD by fire.'" (NIV)


            Notice something about this Sabbath day.  It was to be observed on the first day of the seventh month.  That means this Sabbath day could fall on Monday or Tuesday or any other day of the week.   

Fourth, there is an agricultural Sabbath.   In Leviticus 25:1-8 God commanded the children of Israel that they were to work the land for 6 years but on the 7th year the land was to have a Sabbath rest.  That is once every 7 years the land was not to be worked. 

            Do you remember that the children of Israel spent 70 years in captivity in Babylon?  Do you know why they spent 70 years in captivity?  Leviticus 26:32 & 35 tell us. 

Leviticus 26:32

32 I will lay waste the land, so that your enemies who live there will be appalled. 35 All the time that it lies desolate, the land will have the rest it did not have during the sabbaths you lived in it. (NIV)

            What is God saying to the children of Israel?  He is saying that there will one year for every year they failed to observe agricultural Sabbath.  That's why they were in captivity for 70 years.  There was the agricultural Sabbath. 

Fifth, there will be a millennial Sabbath.  In Isaiah 66:22-23 we are told that during the millennium the children of Israel will once again restore the Sabbath. 

Sixth, is the eternal Sabbath found in Hebrews 4:9. 

Hebrews 4:9

9 There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; (NIV)

            This is the Sabbath that every believer in Jesus Christ has.  It is the resting in the finished work of Jesus Christ. 

            If somebody were to ask you, "Do you observe the Sabbath," your answer should be, "which Sabbath are you talking about?"  Since there are 6 Sabbath's found in the Bible.  That is the explanation of the Sabbath's. 



            When you get to the New Testament you become aware that a transformation has occurred to the Sabbath.  Believers are worshipping on Sunday, not on the Sabbath day.  Why do we gather together on Sunday and not Saturday?  When you begin to study why we worship on Sunday you discover several things.  You discover that Jesus was resurrected from the dead on Sunday (Mark 16:2,9).  That the disciples gathered together in the upper room on Sunday (Mark 16:11).  That the great commission was given on Sunday (John 20:21).  That the Holy Spirit was poured out on the church on Sunday (Acts 2:1).  That the church began to met on Sunday (Acts 20:6-7).  That financial gifts were collected in the house of God on Sunday (1 Corinthians 16:2).  As you read the New Testament, you discover that there was a transformation of the Sabbath.  Believers began to worship on Sunday.  Was Jesus upset about that?  I challenge you to find after the cross one single instance in the Bible where Jesus Christ observed the Sabbath Day in any way.  There has been a transition from the Sabbath Day to the first day of the week. 


Colossians 2:13-16

13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. 16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. (NIV)

            The Apostle Paul is saying that the Sabbath was a shadow announcing the arrival of Jesus Christ.  When the reality comes, you don't have to cling to the shadow anymore.


            Imagine that your wife has been gone for a few days.  When she returns you go out meet her.  As she stands there, you see both her and her shadow.

Do you go over to the shadow and start hugging and kissing the shadow?  Of course not, you go for the reality.  You and I are living in the reality of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  We live in the reality of the finished work of Jesus Christ.  In the Old Testament, they rested in the shadow of the Old Testament scarifies.  In the New Testament we rest in the reality of the living, breathing Jesus Christ.  There was a transformation of the Sabbath to the Savior.  




            Look at Romans 14:5-6.  Here the apostle Paul is dealing with matters which Christians often differ on.           

Romans 14:5-6

5 One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. (NIV)

            Paul is saying that the day is not the point.  If you attend a worship service on Saturday, that's fine.  If you attend a worship service on Sunday, that's fine.  If you have a list of rules and regulations that's O.K., but don't force your list of rules on others.  If you don't want to buy or sell that is fine with the Lord.  But If you want to buy and sell, that also is O.K. with the Lord.  The point is not the particular day or the activity.  There is a transformation from the shadow of the Sabbath to the Savior.

            To the Jews the Sabbath was a day of bondage.  The Jews had 1521 ways that the Sabbath could be broken.  You could not eat an egg that was laid on the Sabbath.  If a flea bit you on the Sabbath, you could not kill it.  You could not build a fire on the Sabbath.  You could not rescue a drowning man on the Sabbath.  You could not travel or cook a meal on the Sabbath.  But Jesus has come. Today the Sabbath is a time of gladness.  Jesus is alive. 

            Do you know when I keep the Sabbath?  I keep it 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  I keep the Sabbath by resting in the finished work of Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ is my Sabbath.   


            The fourth commandment speaks not only about the Sabbath it also speaks about work. 


Exodus 20:9

9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, (NIV)

            God has a message for us about labor.  Don't ever get the idea that work has something that came as a result of sin in the garden of Eden.  It did not.  Before Adam and Eve were forced out of the garden of Eden God said in Genesis 2:15

Genesis 2:15

15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. (NIV)

            The Bible teaches us that if a person refuses to work we are not to feed them. 

2 Thessalonians 3:10

10 For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: "If a man will not work, he shall not eat." (NIV)

            You see, to continue to feed a person who refuses to work, is a sin.  You may say, "That's hard hearted!"  No, that's what God says.  I'm not talking about those who can not work.  The Bible says,


1 Thessalonians 5:14

14  help the weak (NIV)

            Once upon a time there was a little red hen, who scratched about in the barn yard.  She discovered some grains of wheat.  She called her neighbors and said, "If we plant this wheat, we shall have bread to eat.  Who will help me plant it?"  "Not I," said the cow.  "Not I," said the duck.  "Nor I," said the pig.  "Not I," said the goose.   "Then I will," said the little red hen.  And she did.  The wheat grew tall and ripened into golden grain. "Who will help me reap my wheat," asked the little red hen.  "Not I said the duck."  "Out of my classification," said the pig.  "I'd lose my seniority," said the cow.  "I'd lose my unemployment and compensation," said the goose.  "Then I will," said the little red hen, and she did.  At last came the time to bake the bread.  "Who will help me to bake the bread," asked the little red hen.  "Oh, that would be over time for me," said, the cow.  "I would lose my welfare benefits," said the duck.  "I'm a drop out and never learned how," said the pig.  "If I'm to be the only helper, that's discrimination," said the goose.  "Then I will," said the little red hen.  She baked 5 loaves and held them up for her neighbors to see.  They all wanted some.  In fact they demanded a share.  But the little red hen said, "No, I can eat the 5 loafs myself."  "Excess profit," cried the cow.  "Capitalist leach," screamed the duck.  "I demand equal rights," yelled the goose.  And the pig just grunted.  And they painted  picket signs and march round and round the little red hen, shouting obscenities.  When the government agent came he said to the little red hen, "You must not be greedy."  "But I earned the bread, " said the little red hen.  "Exactly," said the agent.  That's the wonder free enterprise system,..  Anyone in the barnyard can have as much as he wants.  But under our modern government regulations, the productive workers must divide the product with the idle.  They continue to live, including the little red hen, who smiled and chuckled,but her neighbors wondered why she never baked any more bread.   


The point is, you are to work for what you receive.  You can not multiply wealth without work.  What one man receives without working for, another man must work for without receiving. 

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