The most difficult portion of Scripture to study for most Christians is the Old Testament. Not only do we find the culture of the Ancient Near East foreign and the events unrelated to us, but when we do discover a biblical principle we are not sure that it applies to the New Testament saint, and if so, how.
The Fourth Commandment provides us with an excellent opportunity to sharpen our interpretive skills. The commandment is found early in the Pentateuch (the five books of the Bible written by Moses, the first five books of the Bible). Two related texts come before Exodus 20:8-11, but there are many Sabbath passages in the rest of the Old Testament and in the New. Because this passage comes so early in the Bible, we are able to learn how the later Old Testament writers interpreted and applied the Sabbath teaching of the Fourth Commandment. We then can turn to the New Testament, to see how the Pharisees misinterpreted and applied this commandment, and how our Lord corrected them. Finally, we can find the interpretation of the Sabbath as provided us by the teaching of the apostles and the Book of Hebrews. We have the privilege to look over the shoulder of the prophets, apostles, and even our Lord, to learn from them the way to interpret and apply the Old Testament Scriptures. This, my reader friend, is a rare privilege, which should make better Bible students of all of us.
And lest you think that all of my comments above are but a preparation for the study of an irrelevant text (where we learn a method, but get no message), I can assure you that the Fourth Commandment is related to more than the question of whether or not the State of Texas should repeal its “Blue Laws.” Surrounding the subject of the Sabbath are many differences of opinion, some of the strongest opinions are held by those who are Christians. There is one denomination (which some call a cult), the Seventh Day Adventists, who have chosen to hang their hat on this commandment as one of the touchstones of the faith. The principles we will discover from our study of the Sabbath will take us to where “the rubber meets the road”.