Most people know that one of the Ten Commandments is to observe the Sabbath Day. Exodus 20:8–11 says, “Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God.”

This command, for some, can seem odd among the rest of the Ten Commandments. One can easily understand the command not to murder, cheat, steal, covet, etc. But to be sure to rest one day a week? It hardly seems like a violation of human ethics to work for seven straight days. So, what’s the commandment all about? 

I believe the main point of the command to rest is to serve as a reminder to humanity that God, not us, is ultimately in control.Yes, the Sabbath is to serve as a sacred time for setting aside life’s worries and to focus on God and his provisions. Yes, practically speaking, the Sabbath is a time to rest and restore for the sake of increased productivity during the work-week. Ultimately, however, the Sabbath—ceasing work—is an outward expression of the internal reality that for believers, God is in control and trustworthy. 

Life is filled with worry and angst. We all have our fears and concerns. We work and toil to keep this thing of life going. We work to resolve problems and overcome obstacles in life, both long-term and short-term. However, God in his providence and immanence is the orchestrator of all of history. Deuteronomy 5:15 clarifies that the Sabbath for Israel serves to remind them that God delivered them from their ceaseless labor as slaves in Egypt. 

Life without God is just that: ceaseless labor. 

I wrote last week that the different between the Old and New Testaments is exterior vs. interior. In the Old Testament God wrote his law on a tablet of stone, but in the New Testament, he wrote his law on the tablet of the human heart. This means that that commands of the Old Testament that are external transform into an internal reality for Christians. The significance of this for the Sabbath is that while someone can certainly stop working one day a week, they can still have a heart posture that is dictated by worry, angst and fear. 

As Christians, to obey the Sabbath certainly means setting aside a day a week that is sacred to the Lord, but it’s more than that. As Christians, to obey the Sabbath means have a perennial, unshakeable sense of peace in your heart that grows out of a deeply rooted faith in God’s sovereignty and goodness. It means not letting worry, angst, and fear control or dictate our lives. Worry is a sign of a lack of faith in Jesus’s authority and power over all. Perfected faith means the absence of worry and fear. 

In the book of Mark Jesus slept soundly through a storm (Mark 4:38). Can you sleep soundly through the storms of life? Sabbath in your heart today. “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” (Mark 4:40)

Matt Ayars

President of Wesley Biblical Seminary


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