God’s Memorial Day

2019-05-24T14:17:47-04:00 May 27th, 2019|

In the United States, we set aside Memorial Day each year to remember those who gave their lives in the armed forces. We remember those who died on faraway battlefields to bring freedom and democracy to oppressed peoples. We commemorate their actions by honoring them in ceremonies across the land. We sometimes call it Decoration Day because we decorate the graves of fallen heroes with flags and flowers.

When Israel crossed the Jordan River to enter the Promised Land for the first time, God commanded Joshua to pile up a heap of stones at the place. “So these stones shall become a memorial to the sons of Israel forever.” The stones memorialized God’s great grace.

Then too, as a great statue of David memorializes the work of Michelangelo, the universe commemorates the genius of the living God. “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands” (Psalm 19:1). We see His might, power, glory, and strength in the brightness of the distant stars, the glow of the blazing comet, and in the shadow of a lunar eclipse.

“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power, and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made” (Romans 1:20). The universe is God’s Memorial. Every day is, therefore, God’s Memorial Day.

Denny Prutow

Robbing Time

2019-05-18T12:40:22-04:00 May 20th, 2019|

“You shall not steal” (Exodus 20:15). In other words, don’t take what is not your own. Let’s talk about time in this regard. Time is fixed. It inexorably moves ahead. You cannot box up a quantity of time and save it for later. Oh yes, you can reserve time to take a vacation. In doing so, you plan ahead. When the time comes, which it will, you take your vacation. When the allotted time expires, you return to work. The point is, you don’t control time; you control yourself. You don’t manage time; you manage yourself. Time management is self-management.

In your work at home, in school, in church, or your profession, you have a certain amount of time at your disposal to accomplish your tasks. When you work with others, you are under obligation to complete your assignments in the time allotted. Stepping aside, you allow others to complete their assignments in the time allotted to them. You should not take time away from them which is not yours. You shall not steal.

Quite a number of years ago, I was asked to do a short conference at a mission church. The pastor of the mother church was there and asked if he might say a few words to those assembled. His words turned out to be not a few. He consumed the entire time allotted for the meeting. I did not preach that evening as planned. You shall not steal.

In the position of a guest minister on another occasion, there were three other ministers on the program in the hour-long service. When I was introduced to the pulpit, it was ten minutes to the end of the hour. Debating what to do, I read the Scriptures, preached my sermon, introduced the closing psalm, and pronounced the benediction, one half-hour after the appointed time.

Not too much of a problem you may say. But we plan around announced service times. In this case, residents of a home for the elderly may have been deprived of a meal because of the insensitivity of the preacher. Perhaps the other ministers in this service overdid their parts and took time away from me. But I also took time away from congregants, time not my own. You shall not steal.

All of this applies to meetings, meetings which last too long and take time away from other people like family members. Yes, all manner of board meetings take too long and rob time from other areas of life. Think of the times you have been in school board meetings, teacher’s meetings, staff meetings, or church meetings that churn on and on because of a lack of good management. The answer is, therefore, more planning and self-management. You shall not steal.

Sure, I’m talking about common courtesy and common sense. But it’s deeper than this. It involves ethics. It involves God’s moral law. Early in my tenure as a seminary professor, a student preacher not only took his allotted twenty minutes in the chapel service, he extended his sermon for an additional twenty minutes. This took us well into the following class period. The student did not seem to grasp what he had done. “I don’t understand,” he said. “When I preached this sermon in church, it took an hour [sixty minutes] but I cut it back twenty minutes!”

Significantly enough, the topic of the sermon was ethics. However, our student failed to grasp that he robbed fellow students and professors of a significant amount of their class time. You shall not seal. Sadly, I too am guilty of robbing time. Are you?

Denny Prutow

Pat Downs and Full Body Scans

2019-05-10T08:05:19-04:00 May 13th, 2019|

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated….” This is the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. Do full body scans and full body pat-downs at airports violate the Fourth Amendment? A former Assistant Administrator for the TSA affirmed, “Nobody likes to have their 4th Amendment [rights] violated going through a security line, but [the] truth of the matter is, we’re gonna have to do it.” And so the official position of the United States seems to be to casually violate its own rule of law. Thus we are in danger of becoming a country ruled by men rather than by law. Yes, the above is old news. But it provides food for thought.

There is a higher law to which governments and individuals, especially Christians, must bow. It is God’s law. The Seventh Commandment stipulates, “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14). What does this commandment require? It requires “chastity in body, mind, affections, words, and behavior”; and in addition, it requires “modesty” (WLC, 138). Among other things, the Seventh Commandment also forbids “immodest apparel” and “lascivious pictures” (WLC 139).

Reports are that full body scans may reveal nakedness. Depending upon machine settings and/or the manipulation of images, there are various levels of detail. And if reports are accurate, full body pat-downs involve government agents reaching into undergarments and touching private body parts. This includes improperly touching small children. You be the judge. Are these activities government sanctioned violations of the Seventh Commandment?

Not only so, note the Bible’s view of nakedness. Listen to Nahum 3:5, “‘Behold, I am against you,’ declares the LORD of hosts; ‘And I will lift up your skirts over your face, And show to the nations your nakedness And to the kingdoms your disgrace’.” Nakedness is a sign of God’s judgment upon Nineveh. Jeremiah speaks of Jerusalem in a similar way. “Jerusalem sinned greatly, Therefore she has become an unclean thing. All who honored her despise her Because they have seen her nakedness” (Lamentation 1:8).

It is inevitable that images from naked body scans are leaked and posted on the internet. This already seems to be the case. Think about it. If the nakedness of Americans is put on display before a watching world, is the government’s inappropriate touching and the revelations of this nakedness a sign of God’s judgment?

What must we do? First, we must answer several questions. Do TSA requirements really involve us as Christians in violations of the Seventh Commandment? If this is the case, should we submit to full body scans and full body pat-downs? Can husbands allow their wives or parents allow their children to undergo such procedures? Is this the place to take a stand? What are the consequences? Should Christians avoid flying? How does Acts 5:29 fit? “We must obey God rather than men.”

Implementation of God’s commandments, the Seventh Commandment included, is not always easy. It requires diligent study, both individually and corporately. “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

Second, in this particular case, obedience to the Seventh Commandment also requires us to pray for our leaders and for our country, both individually and corporately. “I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (2 Timothy 2:1-2).

Denny Prutow

Honor the Sanctity of Marriage

2019-05-03T10:19:26-04:00 May 6th, 2019|

“You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14). On the positive side, God requires sexual relations within marriage. This is a Christian duty. “The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control” (1 Corinthians 7:3-5). God charges husbands and wives to find fulfillment and satisfaction in each other. This means that, in sexual relations, as in other areas of life, every husband and wife should seek fulfillment for their spouse.

On the negative side, God condemns adultery, sexual relations between a married person and someone not his or her spouse. Under the heading of the Seventh Commandment God also forbids, fornication, sexual relations between two unmarried persons, and homosexuality, sexual relations with someone of the same sex (Leviticus 18:22, 1 Corinthians 6:9, Hebrews 13:4). In addition, God condemns bestiality, sexual relations with an animal (Leviticus 18:15-16). And He condemns incest, sexual relations with a parent, child, sibling, or grandchild (Leviticus 18:17, 1 Corinthians 5:1). The condemnation extends to rape, prostitution, and child molestation. In each case, men and women seek self-pleasure and self-satisfaction. They do not give proper consideration to their duty toward their spouse or future spouse.

Christ also connects the above outward acts with sinful passions. “I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). These words apply to women as well as men. A woman who looks at a man with a lust for him has already committed adultery in her heart. Lust betrays a lack of contentment with one’s current status or situation. We will look at this more fully under the heading of the Tenth Commandment. For now, realize that to lustfully gaze upon another violates God’s command.

Some say, “You may look but not touch.” However, Christ’s words extend to all types of looking such as viewing nudity and pornography. Plying the pages of popular magazines, surfing the internet, or visiting ‘adult’ clubs to gratify personal lust violates the Seventh Commandment. Pornography is more explicitly sexual. Viewing pornographic material, visiting pornographic internet sites, or so-called ‘adult’ stores to gratify personal lust, again violates the Seventh Commandment. God condemns such activity. It betrays discontent with and besmirches the marriage relationship.

Why this hedge around marriage? God designed marriage to picture the exclusive relationship Christ has with His church. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless” (Ephesians 5:25-27). Marriage is a high calling. Marriage is a holy calling.

Miss or Master Christian, to fulfill this calling, you must honor the sanctity of marriage. If you fail, you must seek Christ’s forgiveness and recommit yourself to Him. And Mr. and Mrs. Christian, you must devote yourselves exclusively to each other. “You shall not commit adultery”

Denny Prutow

The Heart of Murder

2019-04-27T16:01:58-04:00 April 29th, 2019|

“You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13). The Sixth Commandment forbids direct assaults on God’s image bearers. “Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed, For in the image of God He made man” (Genesis 9:6).

Numbers 35 reveals three elements to murder. First, there is specific action which results in the death of another human being. Striking a person with an object of wood, metal, or stone, or with the hand, which may cause death, and does cause death, is murder (Numbers 35: 16-18 and 21). Second, there is ill will or hostility. This means striking out at a person with “enmity” or “hatred” so that death occurs (Numbers 35:20-21). Third, there is premeditation. Numbers 35:20 and 22 speak of “lying in wait” and then striking a person so that he or she dies.

In hopes of finding favor with David, two rebel commanders of Ishbosheth, Saul’s son and king of Israel, plot to kill him. They plan the murder for noonday when the king is napping. Second Samuel 4:7 describes the dastardly deed. “Now when they came into the house, as he was lying on his bed in his bedroom, they struck him and killed him and beheaded him.” Here there is clear premeditation and an act causing death. The desire to curry favor with David no doubt carries with it commensurate ill will toward Ishbosheth. Murder is therefore just as much a matter of heart as it is an outward deed. The desire is to inflict fatal injury.

It is to this matter of heart that Jesus turns when He speaks about this commandment. “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell” (Matthew 5:21-22).

You see, Christ plumbs the depth of the commandment. It is not only outward acts which are significant. The Scribes and Pharisees emphasized only the outward acts. When their anger and rage erupted against Stephen, they stoned him to death. They saw no problem. In their hostility they suborned witnesses. The ends justified the means. In their eyes, Stephen was a heretic. He deserved death. They thought nothing of the anger filling their hearts. But it is this anger, ill will, hatred, and hostility which precipitates such murderous acts. The outward acts cannot be separated from the inward disposition of heart.

And so, you must take care. As the apostle Paul exhorts, “BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Ephesians 4:26). How difficult this posture actually is. A brother or sister in the church may call you an empty-headed fool and moron. In anger, he or she may indict you as reprobate. Words like this spoken in anger, such assaults, are tantamount to murder.

In these cases, sudden anger may quickly overtake you. Subdue your own heart. Do not respond in kind. Especially do not allow anger and bitterness to stew in your heart through the night. Such brooding anger and hostility may lead you to retaliate. Remember, your assaults on God’s image bearer, your words and actions, made in the heat of passion are also equivalent to murder. Remember God’s word, “You shall not murder.”

Denny Prutow

The Promise of Temporal Blessing

2019-04-20T10:34:12-04:00 April 22nd, 2019|

“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you” (Exodus 20:12). Moses restates the command in Deuteronomy 5:16. “Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, that your days may be prolonged and that it may go well with you on the land which the LORD your God gives you.” Paul quotes, interprets, and applies Moses, emphasizing the promise. “HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER (which is the first commandment with a promise), SO THAT IT MAY BE WELL WITH YOU, AND THAT YOU MAY LIVE LONG ON THE EARTH” (Ephesians 6:2-3).

Paul broadens the focus of the promise from the land of Canaan to the whole earth. Why? The answer is simple. Canaan was a token. It was emblematic of God’s greater promise. “For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants [was] that he would be heir of the world” (Romans 4:13). But this promise does not simply refer to geography. God had in mind people like you and me. “The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘ALL THE NATIONS WILL BE BLESSED IN YOU’” (Galatians 3:8). And so, the promise of Exodus 20:12 relates to all the true children of Abraham, the children of faith (Galatians 3:7).

As to the promise proper, Calvin reminds us, “There are two kinds of promises of God, and we must note that well. Some of God’s promises belong to the salvation of our souls, such as his receiving us to mercy, his pardoning our sins, his showing us his will, his giving us the power to withstand Satan … But there are other promises with which to pass through this world to give us ease in our miseries.” (Calvin’s Sermons on Ephesians, 627-628). In other words, this particular promise assures us of God’s present personal care.

Because of this promise, there is a good reason for us to pray as Scripture directs. That is, because of our relationship with God through Jesus Christ, we take the commandment seriously and act on it as Paul exhorts. “I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Timothy 2:1-2). Similarly, we follow Jeremiah who wrote to those taken captive and transported to Babylon. “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare” (Jeremiah 29:7).

This does not mean that God delivers you from all your earthly cares and anxieties and troubles. The exiles in Babylon lived in less than desirable circumstances. Timothy was in Ephesus to combat “strange doctrines” (1 Timothy 1:3). Paul faced further imprisonment and martyrdom.

So why pray as Scripture directs? You show proper honor for those holding governmental, educational, political, scientific, medical, religious, and family authority just as God exhorts in the Fifth Commandment. You also honor God in doing so. You show your love for him (1 John 5:3). You trust his promise and look to him “SO THAT IT MAY BE WELL WITH YOU, AND THAT YOU MAY LIVE LONG ON THE EARTH” (Ephesians 6:2-3). All of this opens your eyes to recognize God’s blessings (Acts 16:14, Romans 10:17).

Denny Prutow

God-Ordained Authority Structures; Fifth Commandment, Part Two

2019-04-12T11:14:57-04:00 April 15th, 2019|

The Fifth Commandment is short and simple: “Honor your father and your mother” (Exodus 20:12). It has to do with institutions ordained by God for the benefit of His human creatures. Once again, Peter is quite clear. “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution” (1 Peter 2:13). These “human institutions” include government authority (1 Peter 2:13-17), the business environment (1 Peter 2:18-19), and the institution of marriage (1 Peter 3:1-7). God requires submission to and within these authority structures.

The apostle Paul reinforces the point. “Be subject to one another in the fear of Christ (Ephesians 5:21). This subjection includes authority structures within families (Ephesians 5:22-6:4) and in the business environment (Ephesians 6:5-6:9). In Romans 13:1, Paul adds, “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.” We can also include church authority in the list (Hebrews 13:17).

God ordains all these governing authorities. We, therefore, owe proper obedience and deference to them and within them. But we live in a fallen world. Men and women abuse their God-given and God-ordained authority. They overstep God-ordained boundaries in government, business, families, and the church. When this occurs, what should we do? The words of Acts 5:29 ring in our ears: “We must obey God rather than men.”

Let’s zero in on government. Legislative bodies at the local, state and national levels pass ordinances and laws. The executive branches at the local, state and national levels should enforce these various laws and ordinances. The courts should interpret these laws and adjudicate differences. In each case, the authority government officials exercise comes from God (Romans 13:4). God may use appointments or elections as His means for putting people into office. However this may be, legislators, judges, mayors, governors, and presidents need to recognize that their authority ultimately comes from God. They are, therefore, responsible to God to carry out their duties according to His righteous commandments (Romans 7:12). They should acknowledge Christ as King and govern accordingly (Daniel 4:37).

Government officials overstep their God-ordained boundaries when they order and enforce laws contrary to God’s Law and God’s Word. When King Darius forbid prayer upon penalty of death, Daniel refused to comply (Daniel 6). When the Jewish Council forbid the disciples to preach the Gospel facing them with imprisonment, they refused to comply (Acts 5). When foreign nations forbid Christian worship and evangelism, the church rightly supports underground activities in these countries in obedience to Christ’s commission (Matthew 28:19-20, Acts 5:29).

Yes, Scripture requires respect for earthly rulers: “Honor the king” (1 Peter 2:17). But Christians must “praise, exalt and honor the King of heaven” (Daniel 4:37). The latter command covers every area of life. As government becomes more and more intrusive, points of conflict arise between “subjection to governing authorities” and confessing “Jesus is Lord.”

When Christ confessed His Kingship before Pilate (John 18:37), he asked the Jews, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests gave this astonishing answer, “We have no king but Caesar” (John 19:15). They displayed their true allegiance. Scripture declares, “The LORD is King” (Psalm 10:16). We must not confess Caesar as Lord. We must confess Christ as Lord (Romans 10:9). When government claims absolute authority and forces a choice between Christ and Caesar, “We must obey God rather than men.” The Fifth Commandment requires this submission.

Denny Prutow

Honor All People

2019-04-04T09:58:45-04:00 April 8th, 2019|

Put the Ten Commandments in two columns. The first column or table, consisting of commandments one through four, ends with this positive rule, “Remember the Sabbath day” (Exodus 20:9). The second column or table of the Law begins with a positive principle. “Honor your father and your mother” (Exodus 20:12). In the first table, God governs your relationship with Him. In the second table, God governs your relationships with others.

The word translated honor refers to that which is weighty or heavy. The people you honor carry weight in your life. You respect them and defer to them. You put off your desires in favor of their desires. Specifically, you defer to your parents. As a first-year cadet at West Point, I wanted to throw in the towel. The incessant pressure of perpetual hazing was getting to me. I knew my parents would be profoundly disappointed if I gave up and quit. With this realization, I pressed on. Even as an unbeliever, it was my desire to honor my parents by deferring to their desires rather than my own. When your parents carry weight in your life, you honor them. You respect their wishes.

You honor God in the same way. You indicate He is the One who really carries the weight in your life. You set aside your desires in favor of His. You do His will. You implement the principles of His commandments. This, of course, includes the Fifth Commandment, “Honor your father and mother.”

But father and mother in the Fifth Commandment represent authority structures in general. First Peter 2:13 exhorts, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution.” These human institutions are organizational structures ordained by God for the benefit of humankind. They include government authority (1 Peter 2:13-17), the business environment (1 Peter 2:18-19), and the institution marriage (1 Peter 3:1-7). One way you honor government figures is to pray for them. “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Timothy 2:1-2).

Such deference and honor is not a one-way street. “Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king” (1 Peter 2:17). Yes, honor is due to people in authority over you; “honor the king.” But in addition, you must honor “all people.” This means honoring your peers, people who are the same age or status or rank as you. If you are in school, you honor your classmates and athletic teammates. In the work environment, you honor your fellow workers at the office or in the plant. In the family, you honor your siblings and your cousins. In each case, you always treat them with dignity. You give them their space. You help them when needed. You work with them as required.

The same is true if you carry authority in a particular sphere of influence. If you are a teacher or school administrator, you do not play the heavy and throw around your weight. You respect and honor the dignity of each student and each teacher. If you are a manager or supervisor in an organization or business, you treat your employees with respect and dignity and honor. “The fifth commandment requires the preserving the honor, and performing the duties, belonging to everyone in their several places and relations, as superiors, inferiors, or equals” (WSC 64).

Denny Prutow

First Day Sabbath?

2019-03-30T08:57:33-04:00 April 1st, 2019|

Why do we set aside the first day of the week rather than the seventh? Exodus 20:9-10 is quite clear. “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God.” First, the command regarding Sabbath rest is moral and perpetual. It is a creation ordinance (Genesis 2:3) much like marriage (Genesis 3:18, 21-25). The Sabbath was therefore observed before God gave the Ten Commandments (Exodus 16:23). Why then the change from the seventh day to the first day?

This change was prefigured in the Old Testament ceremonial law. Leviticus 23 outlines the various feasts God required Israel to celebrate. Verse 10 says, “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When you enter the land which I am going to give to you and reap its harvest, then you shall bring in the sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest.” This offering of first fruits occurred on the day after the Sabbath or on the first day of the week. “He shall wave the sheaf before the LORD for you to be accepted; on the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it” (Leviticus 23:11). This was also the first day of the week after the Passover.

Fifty days later, Israel celebrated the feast of harvest (Exodus 23:16). Leviticus 23:15-16 and 21 give the directions.

You shall also count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day when you brought in the sheaf of the wave offering; there shall be seven complete Sabbaths. You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall present a new grain offering to the LORD … On this same day you shall make a proclamation as well; you are to have a holy convocation. You shall do no laborious work. It is to be a perpetual statute in all your dwelling places throughout your generations.

Yes, all of this foreshadowed the work of Christ. On the Thursday of Passion Week, our Lord celebrated His final Passover with His disciples. That Friday, “Christ our Passover” was sacrificed for us (1 Corinthians 5:7). Then two days elapsed. On the first day of the week, Christ was raised from the dead, “the first fruits of those who are asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20). And then, fifty days later, the Spirit was poured out “when the day of Pentecost had come” (Acts 2:1). Clearly, the Old Testament looked forward to these great events.

The feast of first fruits and the first fruits of the resurrection, the resurrection of Christ, took place on the first day of the week. And since Christ fulfilled the ancient ceremony of first fruits with His resurrection, New Testament believers have always met on the first day of the week.

Paul also connects Christ’s resurrection with yours. He does so in 1 Corinthians 15:22-23. “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming.” Christ is the first fruits of the resurrection harvest. The resurrection harvest is already in progress. Your resurrection is therefore assured. Christ will come again. He will complete the harvest. “He will gather His wheat into the barn” (Matthew 3:12).

As a result, you gather on the first day of the week. You celebrate the resurrection of Christ. You also celebrate your own future resurrection.

Denny Prutow

Working and Resting God’s Way

2019-03-23T08:18:12-04:00 March 25th, 2019|

“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work (Exodus 20:8-10). We generally focus on the prohibition in the Fourth Commandment. God commands us to cease from our labor on the Lord’s Day to commemorate His creation and our redemption. We enter His rest by ceasing our work. Thus, we remember that God saves us by grace and not on the basis of our works. We celebrate the work of Christ rather than boast in our own.

But to cease from our labor in order to enter God’s rest directs us to His positive command. God requires work: “Six days you shall labor and do all your work” (Exodus 20:9). Yes, God requires us to work. This was God’s design from before the fall. “Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it [literally, ‘work it’] and keep it” (Genesis 2:15).

This work included naming the animals (Genesis 2:19), and what we call the Cultural Mandate, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:28). Adam and Eve were to build culture and society to the glory of God.

As keeping Sabbath is a creation ordinance, work is also a creation ordinance (Genesis 2:1). Working the ground, discovering and naming what God created, and building a culture and society to God’s glory were all part of God’s mandate for his human creatures from the beginning. As such, this work was not a toilsome burden. Rather, it was a joy.

It is sin and the fall which introduces toilsome labor. To raise a family and build a society of believing households in this world becomes painful. “In pain you will bring forth children (Genesis 3:16). To work the ground and carry out daily tasks becomes toilsome. “Cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you will eat of it all the days of your life” (Genesis 3:17). “By the sweat of your face you will eat bread” (Genesis 3:19). Even so, because it is a creation ordinance, the command to work remains our obligation to this present day.

Sin not only made work toilsome but because of sin, men and women pervert work. They use God ordained work to further their own glory rather than God’s glory. They refuse to build the city of God. “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name (Genesis 11:4). Even though work has become more and more toilsome, people use their work to oppose God and build cultures and societies which reject Him. And they use the Sabbath for their own relaxation and entertainment.

Jesus Christ saves you from this self-centered cycle of work and rest and returns you to the God-centered cycle of the rest and work. You rest and worship on the first day of the week as a sign that your work does not merit heavenly rest. You trust the work of Christ to open the ultimate rest of heaven for you. Then you work to the glory of God for six days. Your work is in the proper place. It vindicates your faith (James 2:26).

Denny Prutow