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  • Chad Werkhoven

Deuteronomy 5:12-15 - Rest So You Can Rest

God commanded you to rest, but not necessarily on the Lord's Day.

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Read Deuteronomy 5:12-15

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Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 103

Q. What is God’s will for you

in the fourth commandment?

A. First,

that the gospel ministry

and education for it

be maintained,

and that, especially on

the festive day of rest,

I regularly attend the assembly of God’s people

to learn what God’s Word teaches,

to participate in the sacraments,

to pray to God publicly,

and to bring Christian offerings for the poor.


that every day of my life

I rest from my evil ways,

let the Lord work in me through his Spirit,

and so begin already in this life the eternal Sabbath.



As we begin a week of contemplating what God's will for us is on the Sabbath Day, we have to begin with a reminder of exactly what the Sabbath Day is. To begin with, this version of God's Law here in Deuteronomy 5 helps illustrate that the concept that a day of rest is not an idea that originated with the ten commandments. Here God says, "Observe the Sabbath Day... as the LORD your God has [already] commanded you." There's never been a time in our history that we've not been obligated to stop and rest every seventh day, replicating the pattern God set for us in the creation week.

Keeping the Sabbath Day means keeping it holy. The word holy at its core means separate; so the Sabbath Day must be markedly different than the other days of the week. Ironically one of the strongest imperatives in this command is to "labor and do all your work" in the six other days of the week, but then keep the seventh day separate by not doing any work, not only yourself, but by providing rest for all those you have authority over.

It might seem that God contradicts Himself in stating the purpose of the Sabbath. Here in the Law, He states that the Sabbath is a day "to the LORD your God." But then Jesus says in the Gospels that "The Sabbath was made for man." While there is some tension in these statements, there's certainly no contradiction. In order to truly benefit from the Sabbath Day, which was made for you, you must keep the Sabbath dedicated to the LORD your God.

This version of the commandment in Deuteronomy 5 also helps us understand the ultimate goal of the Sabbath: to be reminded that you've been set free by the "mighty hand and outstretched arm of God." Just as the Israelites were to reflect upon God freeing them from bondage in Egypt as they rested on the Sabbath, so you must reflect upon the freedom from sin won for you by Christ.

Dig Deeper

Make no mistake, going to church each week is hard work - especially for families with small children! Not only is it a battle getting the whole crew dressed and there on time, but then you're expected to sing energetically, pray fervently, and then studiously concentrate on a portion of ancient literature that's being presented. None of this seems conducive with the idea of a day of rest!

The reality is many Christians are too wore out on Sunday morning to worship well. Often even the ones who are able to make it there don't have the energy required to fully participate in the 'service' (a word that seems contradictory to rest!).

Part of our problem is that we've conflated the idea of Sabbath day of rest with what the catechism calls our festive day of rest. In other words, we go 150 miles per hour Monday through Saturday, not only doing all of our labor, but a thousand other things on the side. Unsurprisingly then on Sunday we have no energy for the festivities of corporate worship.

Let's reclaim an idea that's been preserved in the Spanish language. For sure you must keep God's command to labor six days a week and rest the seventh, but let's redesignate Saturday (in Spanish it's Sabado - you can see the allusion to Sabbath) as a day to wind down our work activities and rest up for Domingo - the Lord's Day.

This two-day pattern of rest is consistent with the Jewish Sabbath practices, which would begin the evening before. Begin your rest by winding down your activities already on Saturday afternoon so you have a full tank of energy for the Lord's Day, where your 'work' of reading, singing, praying and studying God's Word further energizes you for the week to come.

  • ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Our Father, who brought us out of slavery to sin with an outstretched arm and mighty hand;

  • ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Thank God for commanding you to rest and pray that you'll prioritize your week in a way that's centered around being prepared to fully worship God on the Lord's Day.



Read the New Testament in a year, a chapter a day - 1 Timothy 6


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