This next commandment, the fourth one, has resulted in a strange contradiction and conflict in this age of grace and the fulfillment of the foreshadows of the laws of Moses in the coming of the Son of Man and His sacrifice on the cross. Here is the commandment:
4. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8)
The commandment is expanded in the context to explain the reason for it:
“Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days theLord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it” (Exodus 20:9-11).
The controversy surrounding this commandment seems to have some interesting twists in regard to rightly dividing the Word and finding the balance of Scripture on the topic. It has been said that of the ten, this is the only one that is not repeated in the New Testament. I believe that is true. So, the question looms large before us: Why?
There were times when Jesus was confronted with a charge of violating the Sabbath by healing a person on that day. One time He and His disciples were so charged for picking grain and eating it on the Sabbath, as recorded in Mark 2:23-28:
“Now it happened that He went through the grain fields on the Sabbath; and as they went His disciples began to pluck the heads of grain. And the Pharisees said to Him, ‘Look, why do they do what is not lawful on the Sabbath?’
‘But He said to them, ‘Have you never read what David did when he was in need and hungry, he and those with him, how he went into the house of Godin the days of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the showbread, which is not lawful to eat except for the priests, and also gave some to those who were with him?’
And He said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath. (Italics added for emphasis.)
Of course, those people did not want to believe He was Lord of the Sabbath, but to us, now, the truth is obvious…or is it? Let’s go further.
Paul writes in Colossians 2:16-17:
“So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or Sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.”
That this is a foreshadowing of a future fulfillment of that which is in the law of Moses (Hebrews 10:1) is apparent, for here we are told it is fulfilled in Christ, who claimed, in Mark 2 above, that He is Lord of the Sabbath.
The Apostles and early Disciples must have had keen insight to know that things were different after the resurrection of Jesus and the coming of the Holy Spirit within them at Pentecost. The believers in the early church began to meet on the first day of the week (Acts 20:4; 1 Corinthians 16:2). It is significant that Jesus rose from the tomb on the first day of the week (Mark 16:9), and 50 days later—that’s seven Sabbaths plus one day, Sunday, the first day of the week, and the Church was born on Pentecost!
A new era began with the birth of the church. The Lord of the Sabbath is also the Lord of Rest, for He bids us to His rest with these words from Matthew 11:28-29:
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
It is a rest of faith based on a relationship with the Lord of the Sabbath that this fourth commandment foresees and which Hebrews 4:10 describes:
“For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.”
We can’t move on until a couple more points are explored. The possibility of a strange but significant connection of two events recorded in the Old Testament have always interested me, in regard to their combined result in their effect on our numbering of days passed.
The first such event is described in Joshua 10:12-14 where God did a great miracle for the Israelites:
“Then Joshua spoke to the Lord in the day when the Lord delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel:
‘Sun, stand still over Gibeon; and Moon, in the Valley of Aijalon.’ So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the people had revenge upon their enemies.
Is this not written in the Book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and did not hasten to go down for about a whole day. And there has been no day like that, before it or after it, that the Lord heeded the voice of a man; for the Lord fought for Israel.”
Now, add that amount of delayed time of a stopped clock to this like event during the reign of Hezekiah, when God gave him fifteen more years to live:
“And Hezekiah said to Isaiah, ‘What is the sign that the Lord will heal me, and that I shall go up to the house of the Lord the third day?’
Then Isaiah said, “This is the sign to you from the Lord, that the Lord will do the thing which He has spoken: shall the shadow go forward ten degrees or go backward ten degrees?”
And Hezekiah answered, “It is an easy thing for the shadow to go down ten degrees; no, but let the shadow go backward ten degrees.”
So Isaiah the prophet cried out to the Lord, and He brought the shadow tendegrees backward, by which it had gone down on the sundial of Ahaz” (2 Kings 20:8-11). In Isaiah 38 is a more detailed account of the incident.
These ten degrees on the sun dial of 360 degrees, or the portion that reflected the movement of the shadow on the dial, when added to Joshua’s “about a whole day” and we see a day being blanked out by the Lord. If this backed up day were a Friday, then the following day, a Sabbath, would be replaced by the first day of the week, a Sunday.
My conclusion, then, in the calculation is that the Sabbath that existed when the commandment was given to Moses has now been removed and replaced by Sunday, the first day of the week, the day Jesus rose from the tomb and the day the church was born, fifty days later. It’s an interesting and seemingly unscheduled and coincidental development that God does not take time to explain, but He does it to cover every angle of His perfect plan for the ages.
Once I listened to a radio preacher giving a message of the way of salvation as I drove home from another city one night. It was going great, and I was on the same page with him almost to the end. Then, after he had declared the reality of John 3:16 as the fully adequate provision for eternal life, he began to elaborate on the necessity to keep the Sabbath, worshipping God on Saturday, or the hope for eternal life was a lost cause, even though he had presented Jesus as the means to eternal life. It boggled my mind, then, and has caused me to think through the issue many times. I must agree with the apostle Paul, as he writes in Galatians 2:21:
“I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.”
James also tells us that the whole law must be kept, for failing one part brings as much guilt as failing the whole thing (James 2:10). Likewise, then, keeping one of the commandments, by itself, means nothing toward justification. I am glad that Jesus is also Lord of the Sabbath!
The Final Six Commandments Affecting Others
Having four commandments that cover our relationship with the God of creation, we are given six that deal with our relationships with our fellow man, starting with that relationship that is next dearest to our existence.
5. “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12).
The length of one’s life is linked to how much we have honored our parents? Sure, from conception to birth we are connected to our life source, then the umbilical cord is cut, and we are on our own…almost. As I have thought on the matter, it seems to me there are three phases of a child’s development in relation to his parents:
1. Dependence – the youngster’s early years when he cannot care for himself and until he reaches the early teen years.
2. Independence – the adolescent years, when he begins to develop into his own person, when life’s discoveries cause him to question the wisdom of his parents and resist their discipline and advice;.
3. Interdependence– the adulthood status when, hopefully, that relationship becomes one of mutual understanding and respect for each other’s insights, opinions and wisdom and is willing to receive counsel.
If the child and the parent, both, have lived the principles Ephesians 4:15 over their years, the likelihood that the third growth stage is realized will have been far greater. That verse says, “But, speaking the truth in love, [he] may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ.”
While Paul repeated this commandment in Ephesians 6:1-4 with these words, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother,’ which is the first commandment with promise:‘that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.” He added this for the parent side of the relationship: “And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.”
It’s with a deep sense of regret that I recall my inadequate parenting attempts, yet my children have honored me with appreciation and respect for their early years. The increasing number of fatherless homes and of those where there is no honor or consideration is heart-rending. Some years ago I was listening to a news report at the scene of an execution in Florida. The prisoner was asked if he had any last words, and he replied, “My dad always told me that I would never amount to anything, and I guess he was right!” (He had been convicted of murder.)
What an awful, awful summation of one’s life and the relationship he had with his father. And what an indictment of the father. I would suggest that a person find something in the lives of his parents that he can be thankful for and tell them so, even though it may be a minor thing, and even if the parents are not Christians. Thank them for their correcting you with a paddle when you were young and rebellious.
And if there is nothing you can point to for thankfulness, thank them for allowing you to be born and not aborted, so that you could possibly experience the life God had planned for you (Psalm 139:13-18). It will do wonders for your own heart, not to mention what it might do for them.
Think on it. (Continued in Part Three)