Why The Fourth Commandment Holds the Key to Freedom

I felt like a slave.

I wasn’t doing any hard labor. I didn’t spend long hours in the sun.

But I felt just as exhausted at the end of the day.

I spent nearly an hour in traffic commuting to work, risking my life and destroying my car—the cost of suburban living and urban work.

I was stressed out before I even got to my job which was often stressful itself.

Then another hour in traffic.

I fought going to sleep because that meant the next day would come sooner.

I didn’t even notice how tired I really was until I changed jobs. I had become accustomed to it.

I had accepted it.

Rest Means Freedom

We don’t often realize we are held in bondage if the chains are metaphysical. The chains of alcoholism, workaholism and lust may not be material, but they are real.

Until we are free we cannot be truly refreshed.

And God wants us to be refreshed which is why the Fourth Commandment tells us to rest on the Sabbath.

But as is often the case in scripture, the meaning goes deeper than the surface. Yes God did command Israel to rest physically, but reading the commandment only in a literal sense would be a grave mistake.

I believe that that rest is symbolic of at least three different things—freedom, peace, and heaven—but they all relate back to one thing: eternity with our LORD.

For evidence let’s look in Deuteronomy.

You see the Ten Commandments are listed twice in the bible, in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. The fourth commandment is almost identical in both passages, but Deuteronomy contains an additional phrase:

Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day. 5:15

The second sentence may seem like a non sequitur, but not from the Hebrew perspective.

In Egypt there was no rest. The Israelites worked ruthlessly at the hands of their slave masters, and their lives were constant laboring (Exodus 1:14).

Moses brings this up for two reasons.

First: to remind them that God delivered them from their bondage and God alone; the Israelites did nothing of their own accord to free themselves from Egypt.

Second: so that they would use the day to commemorate their freedom by resting voluntarily (Gill’s Exposition). When Israel was enslaved by Egypt they did not have the option to rest.

Our Own Egypt

For anyone who believes in Jesus Christ, the Exodus from Egypt is no less important. It is much more than a history lesson; it is representative of our own narrative. We too were in bondage by our own Egypt, and there was no rest.

Our Egypt is sin.

But in His mercy God sent His son to free us from that bondage. Jesus lived a blameless life and died a sacrificial death so that we could have eternal life (John 3:16).

Just like the Israelites we were helpless, unable to free ourselves. And “with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm” God freed us from the bondage of sin.

Therefore, Christians too should remember that once they had no rest, and celebrate the freedom we have in Christ.

Now that I work just a few miles from where I live, I often look at the clock when I get home and remind myself that in the past I would still be trapped in my car for another forty-five minutes.

And I am thankful.

God wants us to rest.

What’s holding you back?


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