And the LORD said to Moses, “You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you.’” Exodus 31.13
Keeping the Sabbath – the Lord’s Day – should be high on the weekly priorities of every believer, for God intends it as a kind of rehearsal and reinforcement of the first three priorities of the conscience. It is a “sign” to remind us that we must fear and love God and that He has called us to holiness as a people in His sight. On the Lord’s Day we nurture fear and love of our God. We love our neighbors by maintaining a proper witness to them concerning this day and its importance, and by joining to encourage them in the worship of God. And we practice the holiness we seek in ways appropriate to this most important day of the week.
The two iterations of the fourth commandment (Ex. 20.8-11and Deut. 5.12-15) include two specific kinds of activities and two motivations. We are to “remember” and “guard” the Lord’s Day because it reminds us that God is our Creator and our Redeemer.
We “remember” the Lord’s Day by preparing for it diligently and using all the time of that day to rest in the Lord and His providential and redeeming grace. At the same time, we must “guard” the Lord’s Day against any intrusions from normal, everyday activities, such as work or personal recreation. By keeping the Lord’s Day we discipline our conscience to preserve the priorities of love for God and neighbor and the pursuit of holiness. This weekly reminder and exercise is extremely important, given our tendency to drift into sinful ways. Thus we must regard Sabbath-keeping as a very high priority, indeed, and give it all the attention and care this high priority requires.
For a practical guide to the role of God’s Law in the life of faith, get The Ground for Christian Ethics by going to www.ailbe.org and click on our Book Store.