The first two lines of the Fourth Commandment say we are to, “Remember to observe the Sabbath as a holy day. Six days a week are for your daily duties and your regular work, but the seventh day is a day of Sabbath rest before the Lord your God.” (Exodus 20:8-10) (“Sabbath” is derived from a Hebrew word meaning “day of rest.”)
I struggle with the Fourth Commandment. I know that I am not right with God in this regard and I haven’t been in a very long time. I don’t always understand what God requires of me. Even when I do, I often disobey. With God’s help, my understanding and ability to please Him will improve.
There is much written and debated over the meaning of the Fourth Commandment. It was similar when Jesus walked among us in human form.
Jesus observed the Sabbath. Yet sometimes Jesus ignored the man-made rules governing its observance. In one instance Jesus risked arrest by healing a man on the Sabbath (at that time, any form of “work” was strictly forbidden on the Sabbath). “Then turning to his enemies he asked, ‘Is it all right to do good on Sabbath days? Or is this a day for doing harm? Is it a day to save lives or to destroy them?’ But they wouldn’t answer him.” (Mark 3:4) Jesus looked at his enemies angrily”...for he was deeply disturbed by their indifference to human need.” (Mark 3:5)
God’s love calls people to worship Him; it is human need that He hears.
Everything Jesus says and does is for our benefit — to bring us closer to God. His approach to observing the Sabbath as a holy day is no different. Jesus stressed that, “..the Sabbath was made to benefit man, and not man to benefit the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27)
We may argue among ourselves about how we should observe the Sabbath or which Old Testament laws relating to the Sabbath apply to Christians? But Jesus said, “And I, the Messiah, have authority even to decide what men can do on Sabbath days!” (Mark 2:28) And in this matter, Jesus made one thing abundantly clear: If we are to follow Christ — to grow closer to God — we can never allow ourselves to be indifferent to human need.