Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy

Q. 57: Which is the fourth commandment?
Answer: The fourth commandment is, Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

Q. 58: What is required in the fourth commandment?
Answer: The fourth commandment requireth the keeping holy to God such set times as he hath appointed in his Word; expressly one whole day in seven, to be a holy sabbath to himself. (WSC)

It is just and right that a certain amount of time be set aside for the worship of God. It is true that we ought to serve God in everything we do, but part of the service we owe to God is to directly and explicitly praise him, thank him, call upon him, pay homage to him, meditate on his deeds, hear his word, and renew our covenant with him. Thus, the law regarding the sabbath (Exodus 20:8-11) is a moral law at its core, not merely a ceremonial law.

In his word, God has specified that we set aside one day in seven for this purpose, as a holy sabbath. He has taught this pattern to us by the way he made the world, by resting on the seventh day and thereby blessing and sanctifying it. The sabbath is a creation ordinance that predates man's fall as well as the giving of the ceremonial law to Israel. Another catechism question will address the shift from the seventh day to the first day, but the proportion of time is the same from the creation of the world to the present. And in both Old and New Testaments, the day is specified by God’s word and sanctified by his deeds. 

The catechism accurately notes that the fourth commandment does not merely require a cessation from your normal work. The commandment requires us to “keep it holy,” that is, to set it aside from other days and consecrate it to the worship of God. God has made it holy (“hallowed it”), and so we ought to treat it as holy. It is not only a day of rest, but also a day of worship. In Old and New Testaments, the church has assembled for worship on its weekly day of rest (Lev. 23:2, Acts 20:7). Rest and worship complement each other. The rest allows us to direct our attention to the worship of God, and in turn the worship of God refreshes us. God “blessed” the sabbath day, and he makes it a blessing to us as we observe it with faith and gratitude.

No comments: