The Sabbath Day

William C. Brownson

READ : Matthew 12:3-8

Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. (Ex. 20:8)

All of God’s commands spring from his love, and are given for our good. Think of how this is beautifully true for the fourth commandment—about a sabbath day.

The sabbath is a day to be remembered, a day to be kept holy. And that remembrance and keeping have to do with ceasing from work. That is all that is commanded—rest from our ordinary labor. Isn’t that good news?

So how did all these other sabbath duties and restrictions arise? Not from the Scriptures, but from rabbinic carefulness in defining “work.” It doubtless began with a commendable zeal to avoid breaking the sabbath command. But it grew to border on the ridiculous—no more than 2,000 yards walking, no plucking ears of grain to eat (that was considered “reaping and threshing”!) Some rabbis even objected to Jesus’ healing the sick and afflicted if the deed of kindness was done on the Sabbath.

What was Jesus’ attitude to this? He was grieved and angered. He reminded his critics that the Sabbath was made for people, not people for the Sabbath. He taught that human need takes priority over all man-made rules, and that he was Lord of the Sabbath.

So if you want to observe the Sabbath well, do it by ceasing from your work and letting the Lord work in you!


Father, teach us what it means to keep the sabbath holy!