Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
(Make sure you check out Part 1)
What does God Command in the 4th Commandment?
Exodus 20:8 teaches us what God requires in His fourth word: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” The answer to question 63 of the Baptist Catechism says, “The fourth commandment requires the keeping holy to God one whole day in seven to be a Sabbath to Himself” (Himself is referring to God).
The word Remember is used in two distinct ways in the Scriptures. First, with regard to the fourth commandment, the Israelites are called to remember what God established and what they had observed prior to Mount Sinai. There’s an important chronological distinction to make when considering this usage of the word remember. God provided manna from heaven for the Israelites in the wilderness, and Exodus 16 provides specific guidelines regarding their gathering of the manna. On the sixth day of the week, the Israelites were to gather twice as much manna because it would not be provided from heaven on the seventh day. Why? Exodus 16:23: “’This is what the Lord has commanded: “Tomorrow is a day of solemn rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord; bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil, and all that is left over lay aside to be kept till the morning.’”” God provided manna six out of seven days, and on the sixth day they gathered extra to prepare their meals for the seventh, because the seventh was the sabbath, a day of solemn rest and worship, free from their labors. The chronological distinction that’s important is the fact that the sabbath is to be practiced in Exodus 16 while the law was not given to Moses until Mount Sinai in Exodus chapter 20. So what?
God’s call to remember for the Israelites is rooted in history. The sabbath began with God’s work of creation. Whether Israel wanted to adhere to it or not, they saw God’s observance of His own command by not providing Manna for them on the sixth day. In other words, the sabbath is not a law that just shows up at Sinai (in fact, none of the Ten Commandments are), but is a creation mandate that is republished at Sinai as a reminder to the people of what God has always required and they were obligated to fulfill if they were to receive the blessings of life on the land. Additionally, the call to remember is not a call to remember just once, but perpetually — weekly. Like us, the Israelites needed to remember God, and having a specific day of the week designated for this remembrance is what God intends. Philip Ryken writes, “We are prone to forget the great work of God in creation and redemption. And when we forget, we fail to praise Him for making us and saving us. But the fourth commandment is a reminder. It is God’s memorandum to His people, reminding us to give Him glory for His grace.”
The second use of the word remember doesn’t involve memory or recall. While a weekly recalling of God’s great work in creation and redemption is glorious and necessary, it also involves the heart. Imagine if July 24th rolled around and halfway through the day I called my wife and said, “I remember — today is our anniversary! So, have a nice day!” That’s it. I remembered our anniversary, right? Ladies, how well does that go over? Men, please — I’m begging you — don’t do that! To remember our anniversary takes more than simply acknowledging my recall of the fact that we were married on July 24th, 2004. We ought to set aside time to celebrate and focus on one another, spend time away together, and thank God with one another for sustaining our marriage, our love, and our faithfulness. In the same way, remembering the Sabbath means using a specific day of the week to show our love for God in a special way. It means, as verse 8 points out, to keep it holy. Literally, we are sanctifying the day and setting it aside for holy or sacred use.
In the next post we will consider how the fourth word of God is to be obeyed.
(By: Nick Kennicott)