From the Word: 10 Now then, why do you test God by setting a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? 11 But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, even as they will. (Acts 15:10–11)
From the Confessions: The Large Catechism, The Ten Commandments
The Third Commandment
Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.
The term “holy day” is rendered from the Hebrew word “Sabbath,” which properly means to rest, that is, to abstain from labor. So, when we say “stop working,” we are literally sanctifying a Sabbath. Now, in the Old Testament, God set apart the seventh day, appointing it for rest, and commanded that it should be regarded as holy above all other days. In regards to external observance, this commandment was given to the Jews alone, so that they would abstain from hard work, and rest, that both man and beast might recuperate, and not be debilitated by unending labor. However, they observed the commandment too narrowly. They so grossly abused it that they maligned Christ, and would not endure him doing those works that they themselves were accustomed to do on that day, as we read in the Gospel. It was as though the commandment is fulfilled by doing no manual work of any kind. This was not the meaning of the commandment, but, as we shall hear, it means that we should sanctify the holy day or day of rest.
Pulling It Together: When we read the law, much less try to keep it, we must also hear the word of grace. The commandments do us no good without God’s grace. What good does it do us if we do not murder, but hate the person anyway? What good is it to keep to our own beds, but truly desire to be in others? Grace must pervade the law, so that we keep it in the right spirit. Furthermore, grace is necessary so that the law does not become unbearable. If the commandments are merely things we have to do, we will come to hate them because we know our hearts. We recognize that we really do wish that guy was dead, or that his wife just might be more than desirable to the eyes. So, if that is who we really are, what good is keeping the letter of the law? What good does it do us, in the end? It does us no good, because our hearts were undone from the start. So again, we must observe the commandments with our hearts always trusting in God’s grace, so that we are not overwhelmed by the bent of our natures.
Prayer: Keep me true, Lord, and save me, by the grace of Jesus. Amen.
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