A Fourth Word about God: His Rest

December 10, 2014 at 2:51 pm | Posted in Exodus | 2 Comments
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The first Word of the Decalogue prohibits the attitude of idolatry.

Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

Exodus 20:3

The second Word of the Decalogue prohibits the “practice” of idolatry.

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;

Exodus 20:4-5

Is this fair, that the descendants of idolators get punished for the crimes of their ancestors? What the Lord was describing was not the imputation of guilt. Rather, it was the (accurate) prediction of the outworking of sin through generations of sinners.

The next verse expresses God’s heart of love in the matter.

And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

Exodus 20:6

The first three Words of the Decalogue are negative commands (thou shalt not). The fourth is the first positive command (thou shalt).

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.

Exodus 20:8

This helps us to see it as more than just a command to stop working. In fact, it is followed by a specific command to work – on the other six days of the week.

Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:

Exodus 20:9-10

In other words, the Sabbath was a day set aside specifically for serving God, and not for the normal activity of serving God along with serving self.

Work could not be shifted off onto children, servants, or even animals. This was something the people were used to (or should have been) from their dealings with the manna (no gathering on the Sabbath, but gathering enough on the second-to-last day of the week to last two days). Why was the 4th Commandment such an important law?

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

The Hebrew word for “days” is yom, the same word used in the creation account, lending more evidence to show that creation took place in six literal 24-hour days. Then on the seventh day, God rested. Why did He rest? Not because He was tired, but because He was finished. And in order to show that everything that was made needs to stop – at least once a week for a whole day – in acknowledgment of Him. Everything needs to “glorify” Him for our existence. The Lord Himself had already blessed this special day. He had hallowed it – made it holy or separate – and decreed that it was dedicated to Him. It was not intended as a day for making money or a day dedicated to having worldly fun (unless it is fun that glorifies Him). It does benefit us physically to rest one day per week, but that is not the primary function of the Sabbath day. It was also a picture of our spiritual rest, which is Christ Himself, and so it is often said to have been fulfilled, making the Fourth Commandment the only word of the Decalogue no longer applicable in the New Testament, although this has been greatly debated and much disputed. Also, in the New Testament, we do observe the first day of the week as “the Lord’s Day,” and some if not all of the same principles apply.

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  1. […] do not commit adultery; Christ says, do not even look at a woman with lust in your heart; Moses said, give God a day (the Sabbath); Christ says, Give God every moment of every day of your […]

  2. […] (Exodus 20) 31. Three Words about God: His Supremacy, His Image, and His Name (Exodus 20:1-7) 32. A Fourth Word about God: His Rest (Exodus 20:3-11) 33. Teaching the 3rd and 4th Commandments to Children (Exodus 20:7-8) * 34. […]


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