, , , , , ,

The Fourth Commandment: God’s Right to the Use of Your Time



Ten Commandments Too Personal

 The editor of a small weekly newspaper in a town in the West had difficulty one week trying to find subject matter for his column. So, instead of writing something, he set up the Ten Commandments, and ran them without making any editorial comment. Three days after the paper was published, he received a letter saying: “Please cancel my subscription. You’re getting too personal.”


Well, if you think talking about the Ten Commandments is too personal, you are reading the wrong blog today! J


Let us look at the fourth commandment: Keeping the Sabbath Day holy


Exodus 20:8–11 (ESV)

8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.


·        Small wars have been fought over this 4th commandment.


·        Why so much debate about this issue of the Sabbath; did God really make it that complicated?


Sabbath Simplicity

Matthew 11:28 (ESV)

28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.


o   According to the New Testament, Jesus Christ is our Sabbath rest!

o   What could be easier?

§  You come to Jesus and you lay down the labor that you have been trying to exert to try to please God.

§  You lay down all your exertion to try to be right with God.

§  All of that work is gone! All that work is finished!

§  Jesus is our Sabbath Rest!


·        There are some interesting clues in the scriptures that let us know that the idea of Sabbath runs deep in the fabric of the spirit realm.

o   We are going to do some detective work and try to uncover some of those clues and try to come to some understanding of this matter with the help of the Holy Spirit.


·        Clue #1: God takes a Sabbatical Before the Law Ever Existed

o   God in creation


Genesis 2:1–3 (ESV)

1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 2 And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. 3 So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.


·        God took a Sabbath rest before the law ever existed – before there was ever a 4th commandment!

·        QUESTION: When you think about God and His make-up, do you see someone who needs to take a rest?

o   Why does He need that?

o   When things like this cause puzzlement in your mind or heart, that means here is an area of God that you do not understand yet.


·        Clue #2: There Is A Rest to Come Spoken of for God’s People


Hebrews 4:8–11 (KJV 1900)

8 For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. 9 There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. 10 For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. 11 Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.


·        DEFINITION: ‘Sabbath-rest’ – this is the only place in the entire Bible, New Testament or Old that uses this word. The Greek word is ‘sabbatismos‘ or Sabbath-rest defined as a special period of rest for God’s people modeled after the traditional sabbath[1]

o   So way before the law ever existed and way after the law was abolished in Christ, we have talk of a ‘Sabbath -rest’!


·        It is obvious that we are not looking at this idea of the Sabbath correctly.

o   People have slid down unknowingly into legalism trying to make rules for and about the Sabbath instead of following and flowing out of their hearts which is the New Testament order.

·        It is not a new problem. They had trouble with the Sabbath in Jesus day.



What Jesus said About the Sabbath

Matthew 12:1–8 (ESV)

1 At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. 2 But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” 3 He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: 4 how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? 5 Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? 6 I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. 7 And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. 8 For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”


·        Chronologically, the gospels are under the Old Covenant. So, Jesus is saying to these Old Covenant experts (the Pharisees), “Look you did not get this Sabbath thing correct. Your idea of the Sabbath and God’s idea of the Sabbath are not the same thing.”


Matthew 12:11–12 (ESV)

11 He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”


·        Mark’s version of this account adds the following…


Mark 2:27–28 (ESV)

27 And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”


·        Doing good and showing mercy are part of any day.

·        Now, things were no better under the New Covenant in that you find the same problem about ‘special days’ among the believers at Rome. Paul addresses that situation…


What Paul Said About the Sabbath


Romans 14:1,5–8 (ESV)

1 As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions… 5 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.


·        The saints at Rome were making distinctions between days and judging people over it. And Paul said each person should determine things in their own heart.

o   ILLUSTRATION: my mother-in-law, who has gone home to be with the Lord, used to turn off her TV on a Sunday – no TV watching on a Sunday in her home. That was something that she determined in her heart to honor God. She was fully convinced that that was the right thing. And for her it was the right thing!


As we look at all the problems that people had and still have about the Sabbath, are there any spiritual principles that we can glean and learn from?



·        The principle is that God as Lord and head of your life has a right to dictate what you do with your time.

o   He said to Israel, you labor 6 days; you rest one day

o   He is setting the course, He is giving input for how they should spend their time the entire week!


Notice several other important facets of this diamond.

·        The Sabbath was nothing without the other six days!

o   Ask yourself this question? What good is the Sabbath without the labor of the other 6 days?

o   You have labor – and you have rest – and you have a commandment from God to balance the two.


·        The key principle to gather here is the idea of BALANCE!

o   Balance is one of the toughest issues for believers to master.

o   People are either in the ditch on one side or they are in the ditch on the other side.

o   Staying in the middle of the road takes the most work to do.

o   The Sabbath is about the balance between labor and rest.


·        The Sabbath was about stepping back from the labor of a 6 day work week and taking time to center up on God.

o   The Sabbath is about the proper delegation of TIME.

o   Look at the experience of the children of Israel who came out of Egypt.

o   The Egypt experience was a slavery experience.

o   Israel worked every single day of their existence as slaves. They had no vacations; they had no time or days off.

o   In Deuteronomy chapter 5, we have the Ten Commandments restated.


Deuteronomy 5:12,15 (ESV)

12 “ ‘Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you.

15 You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.


o   The Lord said, ‘I want you to keep the Sabbath day because I want you to remember what was it like to be a slave and to not have a day off.”

o   This is what Jesus was referring to when He said


Mark 2:27 (KJV 1900)

27 And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath:


§  The Sabbath was an aid to help man and man took it and turned it into a religious burden.

o   There is something in the nature of man that wants to mess this TIME thing up; that gets this whole ‘working’ thing out of balance.

§  We have seen the effect of a husband who focuses almost solely on his work trying to provide something good for his family and ends up losing his family because he spends all of his time trying to be a provider and not enough time being a dad.

o   Here is a quote from Bill Gates that illustrates this point of balance.

§  When billionaire Bill Gates was asked why he didn’t believe in God, he said, “Just in terms of allocation of time resources, religion is not very efficient. There’s a lot more I could be doing on a Sunday morning.”[i]

o   Bill Gates said, ‘It is not efficient to set aside time for God’.

§  What Bill has failed to see is this next point.


·        The Sabbath espoused this thought – You can do MORE with LESS.

o   It is the same principle as tithing or giving unto God.

o   You have to believe that you can do more with the 90% that you have left after you tithe than with the whole 100% if you withhold it.

o   You have to believe that you can do more taking time to rest in God – taking time to center up on Him than if you worked solely on your calling everyday of your life.

§  Mark this down and do not forget it.

·        Time spent praying. Time spent reading, studying, meditating. Time spent worshipping. Time spent devotionally with God is NEVER wasted time.


o   Laying aside time for God is a faith matter. You have to believe that you can get more done if you spend time with Him than if use all your time trying to accomplish a thing.

o   Martin Luther said, I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.”

o   Martin Luther understood what Bill Gates has yet to learn.

§  That with God, ‘MORE does not equal MORE; LESS PLUS GOD equals MORE’.


·        The Sabbath was about understanding that God gave man 6 days to work on the calling for his life.

o   The calling is that thing that you are wired to do.

o   The thing that you are crafted to do.

o   The thing that you will stand before God and give an account of.

o   It includes the anointing of God and all other physical and soulical temperaments that have been wired into your DNA.

o   So the Lord said to Israel, “You go ahead and work on your calling 6 days but for one day out of the week, I don’t want you to work FOR me; I want you to spend time WITH me.”

§  Translating this into the New Testament dimension of being led by the Spirit – there are times that you work for God and there are times that you pull back and spend time with Him.

§  Here is Jesus applying this principle in His own ministry.


Mark 6:30–31 (KJV 1900)

30 And the apostles gathered themselves together unto Jesus, and told him all things, both what they had done, and what they had taught. 31 And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat.


o   The disciples were laboring, they were working and Jesus said stop laboring – stop working and come aside and take a Sabbath, take a rest.

o   QUESTION: How many of you have an overwhelming drive, I mean it is in your heart to do something significant for God?

o   God is saying, “While you possess this overwhelming drive to do something significant for the kingdom of God, don’t get LOST in the process. Always take time to pull back – take time to center up on me.” Always take the time to rest in me.

§  A bow that is always bent will break!


·        We understand that these Ten Commandments are about loving God and loving man. This Sabbath commandment is the last of the loving God commandments.    

o   It is fitting that this particular one is the last of the loving God commandments because how do really spell love anyway?

o   You spell love T-I-M-E

o   Love for someone is demonstrated through the expenditure of time.

o   It is foolish to think that you really love someone, if you do not spend any time with them.

[1] Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed.) (909). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

[i] Bill Gates, quoted by Walter Isaacson, “In Search of the Real Bill Gates,” Time (January 13, 1997), p. 7.