Introduction: Last week we saw how Jesus summarized the Ten
Commandments into two groups. The first four dealt with our love for
God and the last six with our love for our fellow humans. (See
Matthew 22:36-40) Some of you may have said, “Wait a minute, Bruce,
I’m not sure the fourth commandment neatly fits into one of those two
groups. It has as much to do with God’s love for us and with our love
for Him.” I agree it is a special commandment that deserves more
attention. Let’s dive into God’s Word and see what we can learn about
the fourth commandment!

  1. Sabbath Benefit

    1. Read Exodus 20:8-11. The third commandment tells us not to
      misuse God’s name. That command is clearly in the “love
      God” category. The sixth commandment tells us not to
      murder. That commandment is clearly in the “love humans”
      category. For whose benefit is the fourth commandment that
      tells us to keep the Sabbath holy? Into which category
      should it go?

      1. In the United States, “President’s Day” is a federal
        holiday that just took place. If you had that day off
        from work, for whose benefit was the holiday created?
        (It honors the presidents and it gives us a break
        from work.)

    2. What does the Sabbath honor? ( Exodus 20:11 tells us that
      in six days God created the world and He rested on the
      seventh day. The Sabbath celebrates Creation. Since
      Creation is the “birthday” for humans, the Sabbath honors
      God and it honors us.)

      1. Why is God’s Creation important to remember? (Our
        allegiance to God in the beginning, His claim to
        authority over us, was that He created us.)

      2. Is God’s claim as the Creator at issue now? (The
        theory of evolution is a frontal attack on the
        authority of God as our Creator.)

    3. Read Genesis 2:2-3. Do you think God needed to rest? (No.
      He generally spoke His creation into existence.)

      1. If God did not need to rest, why did He designate the
        seventh day for rest? (He seems to have done it for
        two reasons. First, God designated the Sabbath as
        holy to give us a weekly reminder that He is our
        Creator. Second, the Sabbath gives us a day of rest –
        and, unlike God, we need to rest!)

  2. Sabbath Sign

    1. Read Exodus 31:16-17. This text tells us that the Sabbath
      is a “covenant” and a “sign.” In what way is the Sabbath a
      “covenant” (promise or contract)?

      1. Have we studied anything like this earlier in this
        series of lessons? (Read Genesis 9:11-13. God told
        Noah that the rainbow was the sign of the covenant
        that God would never again destroy the earth with
        water. That is not the only sign of agreement given
        by God to humans. Remember that circumcision was a
        sign of God’s covenant with Abraham? ( Genesis 17:9-10))

      2. When you think of the rainbow as a sign of God’s
        promise not to drown us all, what was Noah promising
        in exchange? (I think the promise was based on Noah’s
        past performance. He promised nothing for the future
        that I can see.)

      3. What is “our side” of the Sabbath covenant? What do
        we promise? (Our side of the Sabbath is resting and

    2. Read Deuteronomy 5:12-15. To what event is Sabbath-keeping
      linked in this recitation of the Ten Commandments? (God
      rescuing His people from slavery.)

    3. Read Hebrews 4:1-4. To what is Sabbath-keeping linked in
      these verses in Hebrews? (You may need to read Hebrews
      chapters 3 and 4 to get the complete picture. The “rest”
      spoken of in these verses is our “rest” in Jesus’ work on
      our behalf as our High Priest in heaven. This is a
      picture of righteousness by faith.)

    4. Read Exodus 31:12-13. To what event is Sabbath-keeping
      linked here? (God making us holy.)

    5. Put all four of these “Sabbath link” pictures together:
      Sabbath/Creation; Sabbath/Rescue from slavery; and, (two)
      Sabbath/Rescues from sin. What is the “big picture” you
      see from these four smaller “pictures?” What kind of
      “sign” is the Sabbath? (The big picture is that God
      created us and then saved us (or recreated us) from sin.
      The Sabbath is a sign of what God has done and continues
      to do for us!)

      1. Given this picture, how important do you think it is
        for us to keep the Sabbath holy? (It is central. What
        more important “sign,” what more important “flag,”
        could we waive than what God has done and is doing
        for us!)

    6. Our lesson (Tuesday) has a brilliant question: “What is it
      about the Sabbath that would make it so appropriate a
      symbol of the saving relationship with God?” (The answer
      is that we “rest” on the Sabbath. Many Christians claim
      that those who still concern themselves about the Ten
      Commandments are legalists. But in fact, at the heart of
      the Ten Commandments is our rest in what God has done to
      create us, save us from sin and make us holy. The Sabbath
      of rest and remembrance is a beautiful sign of the most
      important covenant that God has made with us. Resting on
      the Sabbath is a wonderful symbol that when it comes to
      salvation, our job is simply to accept (rest in) what
      Jesus has done for us.)

  3. Sabbath Application

    1. What we have studied so far suggests that the Sabbath
      applies to all humans. Some argue that it only applied to
      the Jews. Do we have any evidence that the Sabbath
      command existed before the giving of the Ten Commandments
      at Sinai? (Read Exodus 16:22-26. This text refers to
      “manna,” the food that God miraculously supplied each
      morning to His people during the Exodus. The manna was
      supplied in this way prior to the giving of the Ten
      Commandments, thus tending to show the Sabbath rest
      requirement did not begin at Sinai. Instead, the Creation
      account shows that the Sabbath observance began at

      1. One argument against the continuing validity of the
        Sabbath is that it is not mentioned in the time frame
        between Creation and the Exodus. What explanation do
        you have for that? (The Bible is not a very large
        book – and this particular (and long) time frame is
        covered very briefly in the Bible. If the Sabbath was
        not a matter of dispute, I would not expect it to be

    2. Read Isaiah 66:22-23. To what does the phrase “the new
      heavens and the new earth” refer? (This is talking about
      time after the Second Coming of Jesus.)

      1. What does this tell us about the Sabbath? (That it is
        celebrated even in heaven and the earth made new!)

        1. What does that say about the argument that
          Sabbath observance is for Jews only? (The
          Sabbath began at Creation and continues through
          eternity. It transcends a specific race. This
          gets us back to our familiar text, Galatians
          3:29, which says that if we are in Christ, then
          we are of “Abraham’s seed and heirs according to
          the promise.” The Sabbath is for all of
          Abraham’s seed.)

    3. Some today argue that keeping the Sabbath is not
      necessary. If they are right, what reason can you present
      for keeping it anyway? (If it is our choice, why not
      choose to do what God told us to do? If we could pick any
      day to worship God, why not choose the day He commanded?
      This gets back to the old question: Do you worship God or
      do you worship yourself? If I worship God, then I go with
      His choices, even if I think it might not be terribly
      important. Of course, because the Sabbath is a sign of
      Creation and our recreation, I consider it to be of utmost

    4. Friend, God has a special time for us to rest and remember
      His work of creation and salvation. It is a sign of our
      acknowledgment of God as Creator and Redeemer. If you
      have chosen Christ, will you observe the sign of His
      authority and graciousness to you?

  4. Next week: The New Covenant.