The fourth commandment is the last commandment in the First Table of the Law. That means it’s the last commandment that teaches us how to love God with all of our hearts. Listen to what Exodus 20:8-10 tells us: “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 (rest) 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.”
When God created our universe, he didn’t make everything all at once. Over the course of six days, he formed and filled his brand-new world, adding wonderful new creations each and every day. On the sixth day, God finished his universe construction project. So what did he do the next day? The Bible tells us God rested from his work. Was he worn out? Did he need a nap? Nope – our all-powerful, omnipotent God doesn’t get tired!
God rested on the seventh day to set an example for his people. Just like he rested on the last day of his creation week, God commanded his people to do the same. He told them to take a “sabbath,” an old word from the Hebrew language that means “rest.” The Sabbath day was designed to be a day of rest and worship. As they enjoyed a break from their work, God’s people had time to focus on their Creator: to worship him for who he was and thank him for the amazing ways he cared for them. This rest was for everyone. It didn’t matter if you were rich or poor, an Israelite or a foreigner, or even if you were a cow – everybody got to take a break on the Sabbath!
For about 1,500 years, God’s people enjoyed a Sabbath rest every Saturday. But all that changed because of Jesus. After dying on the cross to pay the price for our sins, Jesus took his final breath on a sad Friday afternoon. But no grave could hold the Son of God! On an unforgettable Sunday morning, Jesus rose back to life!
After witnessing that amazing miracle, God’s people started doing something incredible – they shifted their Sabbath day of rest and worship from the last day of the week (Saturday) to the first (Sunday). They even had a special name for that day: they called it “the Lord’s Day” (Rev. 1:10) because it was the day the Lord Jesus rose from the dead.
2000 years later, God’s people still do many of the same things the Israelites did so many years ago. They rest from their work and gather to worship God. They pray together and sing God’s praises. And they enjoy the preaching of God’s Word.
But as they gather each Lord’s Day, they have something brand new to praise God for. Because Jesus finished his work of saving us from our sins, we have the hope of spending forever with God, where every day will be a sabbath, an endless rest in paradise! (Heb. 4:10-11) By gathering to remember what Jesus did to earn us that forever rest, we can honor God’s command to keep the Sabbath.