Commandment #4- Remember the Sabbath

Opening Question

What image comes to you when you think of rest? (what does ‘rest’ mean for you?)

Exodus 20:8-11

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 male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 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.

Notes: the word ‘sabbath’ means ‘to cease’ or ‘to desist’.

In the beginning (5 mins)

What does the 7th day after creation teach us? Read Exodus 20:11 and Genesis 1:31-2:3.

  1. The six days account for the whole process of creation from beginning to end. That is, after six days, it is all finished and therefore God rests (literally ‘ceased’) from his labour. He declared it to be very good and then he rested. The work was done. And God did it all!
  2. There was no evening on the seventh day. Thus, no eighth day nor a second week to continue anything unfinished. This rest points to a completed work and that is what makes it significant. It’s not the length of the week that is significant but the promise of completion and the glory in God’s work.

The command to Israel (5 mins)

Read the rest of the command (Exodus 20:8-10). What was Israel instructed to do (or not do)? What does it teach them?

See also, Exodus 16:23; 23:12 31:13-16; Lev 19:30; Numbers 28:9; Isaiah 56:2, 58:13-14; Ezek 20:12,20

The Sabbath was a gift for Israel and all who lived within Israel’s society. A reminder that God had redeemed them, they are his. God made them holy. It is a reverent day. A special day. A holiday. It is a day of blessing because of their relationship with Yahweh.

Essentially, it functioned like the earlier covenant sign of circumcision. Anyone failing to observe the Sabbath showed their disdain for the special relationship established between the LORD and Israel – that God has blessed them and made the holy.

Israel’s history (10 mins)

Lookup these verses and describe how Israel performed under this command.

  • Exodus 16 (the chapter is long and can be summarised reading verses, 2-5, 15-31, NB verse 29); see also Jeremiah 17:21-27; Ezek 20:12-13; 22:8
  • Luke 13:14

The Gospel (10 mins)

How did Jesus regard this law?

  • Matthew 11:28-32 – Is the Sabbath meant to be treated as a burden?
  • Matthew 12:1-13 – What does Jesus mean in verse 7 and 8? Are we to think of the Sabbath day as a sacrifice (a legal requirement to offer to God?) Is the Sabbath a blessing or a rule? What’s the difference? How did Jesus justify the disciples eating the grain?
  • Mark 2:23-27 (parallel story to Matthew). What does Jesus mean in Verse 27?

Christian Living (15 mins)

With the resurrection of Jesus, and sins paid for, a Christian church known as the holy people of God, the sabbath rest transformed from the shadow of what was to come into the reality of life in Christ.

  • Hebrews 4:1-11 – what is the rest that Hebrews refers to? How was the 4th Commandment pointing to this? The Sabbath rest is about faith in God and knowing that He provides both physically and spiritually. We must not be driven to keep working as if we have no provision from God. Jesus gives us permanent rest in his covenant. Our greatest work is to enter the rest before it is too late! Ie, be saved!
  • Colossians 2:16-17 – What is the Sabbath day described as? It is a shadow and the reality is in Christ.
  • How do we keep the Sabbath today? 
    • We trust in the LORD – every day.
    • Live in the new life that we found in Christ – he has made us holy and sanctifies us every day (Romans 6:8-14). We live under grace.
    • Accept the gift of physical rest – knowing that God is bigger than our daily problems. See Psalm 46 (esp v10); Psalm 4:8.
    • Pray with thanksgiving for all of our needs – “Give us today our daily bread.”
    • Assemble with Christians (the church) for good order. We assemble for encouragement and fellowship – to hear God’s word and reset (Acts 2:42). We could do this every day but that is simply impractical and unnecessary!
    • We have observed Sunday as the day for church (not necessarily the Sabbath) because we are no longer under ritual but we are under good order (1 Corinthians 14:40) and meeting regularly (Hebrews 10:25). The Christian Sunday is not an equal to the Sabbath because we have found our rest in Christ every day but we have celebrated Sunday because it is the day that he rose from the dead and brought life to us.