There seems to be at least some fundamental difference between the 10 Commandments and the rest of the Old Testament legal code. While Jesus fulfills the Levitical system, freeing his people from the more idolatry related stipulations given to the Israelites in the wake of the Golden Calf episode (Ex. 32), the 10 Commandments seem to stand firm as instructions for the people of God today. In the western world, we tend to take most of the 10 for granted (do not steal, do not worship other gods, etc.), but what about Sabbath rest? In light of the way Jesus and Paul deal with the issue of Sabbath (Matt. 12, Rom. 14), it is self defeating to be legalistic about the commandment, either focusing on the literal nature of the “7th” day, or developing hardcore restrictions about what is or is not work.
However, that should not mean that we totally dismiss it. In fact, at least in American life, breaking the Sabbath is often a point of pride. Have you ever heard a Christian say, “Man, I haven’t had a day off in like 3 weeks!” Far from being impressed, all I see in this exclamation is the reality that they disobeyed God 3 times by not taking a Sabbath for 3 weeks. I don’t want to come across as a blind judge here. I know my propensity to overwork, and the reason I am writing on this topic is because I have struggled with, been convicted of, and repented of Sabbath breaking recently. So why should it be a big deal? Why does God command this in the first place?
First, God knows that we need rest and peace in our life. Looking back to Gen. 1, when we stop from work we reflect God who looks out over his creation and says, “This is good.” God did not rest because he was tired. He rested because he had finished the creative work. Stopping to ponder and observe is a way of centering our lives on the glory and reality of the Creator Himself. Secondly, taking a day for rest is a way to recognize how much we need the continued sustenance of our God. A wise man said to me recently, “I believe that God can get done in 6 days, what I couldn’t in 7.” When we rest, we recognize that God is big and able to accomplish through us what we couldn’t dream of accomplishing ourselves. Brothers and sisters, I invite you to be obedient and rest once a week. Forget what the American work ethic builds into our lives. We are made for the purpose of glorifying God, and it is seldom in the busyness of our lives that we are fully able to recognize, ponder, and reflect that reality.