by Geneva Durand
Week after week, day after day, the wheels of time roll forward. In the hustle and bustle of our lives, it is easy to tumble complacently along, always grinding away at our daily tasks and preoccupied with our work, never stopping to remember the words etched in stone so long ago by the finger of God – “the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work” (Exodus 20:10). What does that mean anyways? Is it relevant today? Is it true that “the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it” (Ex. 20:11)?
I was blessed to have memorized the Ten Commandments when I was seven years old. Ever since, I have understood that the commandment to keep the Sabbath day holy requires us to rest from our ordinary work. Later on, I realized that it also expected me to allow those around me to rest as well. Why were we commanded to rest on this particular day? For me the simple answer was that God had blessed and sanctified the Sabbath. Obviously, if he had blessed it, that was a good reason to keep it! But there is more to the commandment than that. What exactly is this blessing? Why does the commandment end with a reference to creation?
One of the greatest implications of taking one day for rest is the freedom it brings. If we work seven days a week, we are basically slaves! We may not be in physical bondage to another human being, but instead we are slaves to our work or maybe slaves to our desire for money. When we put the wrong things in first place they begin to control us. Taking a break once a week to keep the day holy to God is an important part of avoiding this form of slavery. However, the commandment goes still further – not only are we required to rest ourselves, but also to grant that resting time to all those around us. More than just making sure we do not become slaves, this commandment also makes sure we do not impose slavery on others. The blessing of freedom that the Sabbath day brings cannot be overestimated!
The fourth commandment ends with the words, “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it” (Exodus 20:11). Since man was created by God, his life is not meaningless, but has value. The freedom which the Sabbath brings ties into this value by elevating the worth of life and making sure that we are not slaves but are free to worship God. However, it is not the Sabbath in itself that gives this value and meaning to man. The mere fact that I rest one day a week does not make my life meaningful. Ultimately, the fact that we are creatures of an Almighty God, made in His image, is what gives value to mankind, and the fourth commandment recognizes and emphasizes this. It ends with an appeal to creation because that is essentially where its authority comes from. We must set apart a day for holy rest and keep ourselves and others free to do so because God created us, and our lives have a purpose!
This one command touches vital subjects such as freedom, creation, and, most importantly, the meaning of life. As it reminds us to take one day in seven and keep it holy to God, it eloquently points to the purpose for which we were created. At the same time, resting on the Sabbath day brings with it a multitude of benefits. Truly, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27).