the commandments. today.

Welcome back to our series exploring the 10 Commandments as part of our ‘Choose Life’ Deuteronomy series. Today we come to the fourth commandment, all about Sabbath:

‘Observe the sabath day and keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you.’ (Deuteronomy 5:12)

The Big Idea

The 10 Commandments are often broken up into two parts: the first four being about our relationship with God, and the last six about our relationship with others. This is a helpful idea, and makes this instruction about Sabbath the final part of the ones about how we relate to God. And it is all about rest.

For the Israelites about the enter the Promised Land, they need to make sure they remember that everything that has got them to this point is God’s doing, not their own. That’s why as part of this re-giving of the Commandments, Moses says, “Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there” (Deut 5:15).

Every time they trusted in themselves, things went wrong. When they rested in God, things went well. So one day a week where they rest in Him is a crucial reminder not to rely on themselves.

For us, the principle of Sabbath is the same. Jesus upholds the Sabbath for His followers (with warnings not to become legalistic about it), so it is important to get right. The truth is, we are wired to need rest; God made us that way. We need to work from a place of rest, instead of being forced to rest when we can work no more. It needs to be a rhythm, one that points us to the same truth the Israelites needed: we cannot do everything in our own strength. We need God.

Obeying it Today

How then do we put this commandment into practice?

Don't just ignore Sabbath

Perhaps out of all the Commandments, this is the one that has fallen out of popularity the most. And by that, I mean amongst Christians, not just the world as a whole. Being busy is a way of life for a lot of us, sometimes even a badge of honour because of how much we achieve or what we can get done compared with others.

But to embrace that way of living fully is to reject the heart of Sabbath.

So decide to embrace Sabbath. Embrace the idea that if we are busy, we need to stop regularly even more to remember we are not superman or superwoman and that we need God. If we feel we could not possibly find the space in our diaries to rest, we are likely doing far too much.

Something might need to give in our lives. Don’t let it be resting and remembering our need for God.

Don't become legalistic

For most of us, the only way this is going to work is to carve out time in our diaries and be pretty strict with ourselves. To make sure our families are on board, that the time each week we are going to rest from our work, to deliberately stop, is known and protected.

That is a good thing! But it can lead us down a slippery path.

Jesus warned a group of people about this when He said, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath.” (Mark 2:27) This principle is there to serve us, to release us and make us more fruitful, not to restrict and constrain us. Make a plan? Yes. Try to keep it and make it meaningful? Yes. Beat ourselves up if it changes? No. Use that as an excuse not to do it in the first place? Definitely not!

Some things we can do…

  • Make a plan. Decide which day, morning, evening or period of time will be set aside to rest from all of the work we normally do. And make sure that time is planned to be used in part to deliberately seek God.
  • Assess how we are spending our time. Honestly, are you doing too much? Are you busying your time and pushing out the principles of rest and dependence? Does something need to shift?
  • Help each other! Ask each other about how we are resting and whether we are rested, instead of only feeding into the activist mindset and asking about what we have ‘done’ with our time.