Why Studying The Fourth Commandment Will Help You Understand the Other Nine: Part 2

(Read part 1.)

How do we obey the Fourth Commandment?

We have to understand what it is not.

If you would have asked me a year ago what the Fourth Commandment is, I would have told you that it is the rule against working on the Sabbath. Yet I was focusing on the wrong part. 

In fact for me, it was the only part.

Yes, God told Moses not to do any work on the Sabbath, but there is much more to it than that. But before we go any further, let's take a moment and read through the actual commandment:

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. Exodus 20:8-11

Notice that the commandment begins with the word “remember.”

There are two kinds of commands, positive and negative. The latter tell what NOT to do: you shall not murder, you shall not covet. The positive commands tell what to do: do to others as you would have them do to you (Luke 6:31).

The Fourth Commandment actually contains both aspects, positive and negative. But it begins with the positive: “Remember the Sabbath.” The negative portion of the commandment demonstrates what not to do (namely, work), but it is not all inclusive.

I have learned in my short time as a parent that it is better to give children positive commands because they are clearer; they communicate your intent.

If you tell a child to “stop making that sound,” he might begin making a different, yet equally annoying sound (not that I have any experience in this matter), and technically he is acting in obedience. 

A better command would be, “please be quiet.”

“Be quiet” is all-encompassing and much more precise. It is implied in the first command, but not necessarily understood. Positive commands are much more powerful because they require action, not inaction.

This is why when asked what the greatest commandment is, Jesus responds with: 

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. Matthew 22:37-40

These are both positive commands.

Jesus tells us that all other laws are derived from these two, so that includes the Fourth Commandment. 

With this statement He makes the intent of all commandments clear; the reason they exist is not so that we will have rules to follow, but rather they help guide us to love the LORD and others. 

Wouldn't it have been easier if Jesus had said, “Do not do anything to others that you would not want them to do to you”? Instead the positive command requires action and thought rather than simply not doing something.

Therefore those who boil the Fourth Commandment down to a list of “do nots” do not understand it.


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