Heidi: Welcome, everyone. We’re so glad to have you here with us today, Heidi Howerton is here with Jani Ortlund and we’re talking about the Fourth Commandment. What does the Bible teaches about the Sabbath? How can we dedicate our Sundays to the Lord?
The Whole World Worships
Heidi: Jani, one image comes to mind, as I think about the fourth commandment that I would love for you to share with our listeners today.
Jani: I know what you’re talking about, Heidi. Do you mean that one that Mom Ortlund taught me and I shared in discipleship group about how the whole world love…?
Heidi: …yes. Would you share that image with our listeners about Sunday’s?
Heidi: Yes. I love how Mom mentioned that to me one time. She might have even have written about it in one of her books.
Heidi: She talks about how every Sunday—one day, each week—the whole world joins in worshipping Jesus. It starts way out in the far east where the new day begins and believers get up there—I don’t know where it is, maybe in Asia somewhere. I don’t know where that line of demarcation is, but they start and they get up and they praise the Lord. And then the earth rotates a little bit more and the sun rises over Africa and some other parts of the world—Eastern Europe and then Europe—and then Christians get up there and start praising the Lord and they go to worship. Then, the earth keeps turning and the sun rises on America. On the East Coast, our friends get up and go to church, gather their families and head off to worship the Lord. And then it comes to our part of the world, Heidi, and Christians all over Mid-America get up, then South America, Central America as well, to worship the Lord. And then it keeps going and going as the world turns to the western coast of America and on into the islands, Hawaii and beyond until the sun finally sets on Sunday. And all over the world, all day long, people have been rising to praise the Lord. His praises go up all day long on Sunday.
Heidi: I love that story, Jani. It gets me excited to worship the Lord and to just stop and meditate on it, and think, “Wow, what an honor, what a privilege to get to be here in Nashville, Tennessee, part of this tiny little corner of the world, as the sun rises over us and send up our praises and worship to God.” It’s a big movement. And what an honor to be a part of that. I often share that story with our children as we drive to church to get our heart’s in the right place of what a joy it is to go to church on Sundays.
Jani: That’s good, Heidi. We do need to lift your eyes up so that we don’t feel that we’re just this one little group. We are part of a great movement of God across the whole world—so let’s join in!
Topic for Today: “How” we can Dedicate our Sundays to Jesus
Jani: The question we want to answer today, as we join into that, is how? We talked in our last episode “How God Loves Us In the 4th Commandment” about why the Sabbath is special. Today we want to talk a little bit more about how to make it special in your own life and in your own family and how we can dedicate our Sundays to Jesus.
From a day of “dont’s”…
Jani: Well, let’s think back a little bit. By the time of Christ, the fourth commandment had been so mistreated and misrepresented that the Sabbath had become a day of “don’ts” rather than a day of delights.
Jani: For example, here are some laws that I found in my study. A radish could be dipped in salt, but not for too long, because that would begin the pickling process, which was not allowed on Sabbath. Another example is, if you were a woman, you would be forbidden to look in the looking glass on a Sabbath because you might discover a white hair. You’re too young, Heidi, but I might discover a white hair and pull it out, which would be a sin because it’s work to pull out a hair.
Jani: You young moms might find this interesting. You were allowed to pick up your child, but not if he was carrying a toy or anything else, because then you would be lifting a burden. Oh my. I liked this one, too: if a woman spilled on her garment, it was debated whether she should shake it off or ring it dry. Which one was less work?
Jani: Oh, you see these silly, silly rules that were built around the idea of keeping this day special, but this became a heavy, endless list of burdensome don’ts. Rules make the day of the spirit unspiritual. They hinder our spirits. They bind us.
Jani: Now we can also err on the other side. Back in Isaiah’s day, people were ignoring the Sabbath for the sake of business. Isaiah 58 talks about how people had no time to fit God into their busy weeks. So God comes to us in the fourth commandment and lovingly shows us there is more to life than work. God says that the Sabbath is to be a day of liberation and kindness and holy delight. Let’s not rob God of his day. God encourages us that we can work on six days, but one out of every seven is his and ours alone. He’s calling us to stop the everyday treadmill that we have jumped on.
Jani: We tend to work ourselves to death, at least I do. Solomon taught us in Psalm 127 that,
“It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil.”Psalm 127:2
Work shouldn’t control us. We should control our work.
Jani: So what does that mean for us? How can we liberate this day, making it one of kindness and holy delight? Well, surely, not by creating another set of rules, we must never add to what the Bible says. Let’s not use Sunday to oppress our family by setting up such strict guidelines that our children come to Sunday with little anticipation and sometimes even resentment.
…to a day of “delights”
Jani: The Lord has told us that he is Lord of the Sabbath, that this is his day. Whose day? The Lords! But whose benefit? Ours, because we’re not slaves anymore. This day is God’s good gift to us. Let’s use it to liberate our enslaved souls.
Jani: So how can we make this day of delight? Only when our deepest joy is in God will his day become our day of delight. If God is burdensome to me, than his day will be burdensome as well. When my worship loses reality with God, it becomes perfunctory and then I marginalize it because it becomes a burden rather than a joy. You see, this commandment, like the three preceding ones we’ve talked about, is really a matter of the heart. Is God a burden to me? Is God a burden to you?
Jani: God is reminding us that our main purpose in life is to enjoy him, to worship him, to delight in him and meaningful worship with others in the manifest presence of the King of the universe is so deeply satisfying that it will become our delight to participate in. We will hardly be able to wait for Sunday to roll around, as the Psalmist said,
“I was glad when he said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.'”Psalm 122:1
Jani: Jesus did not come to destroy the fourth commandment. He came to fulfill it. He does so by calling us to himself alone on the Lord’s Day, to the exclusion of my ordinary other daily duties and preoccupations. My husband, Ray, puts it this way,
“Jesus invites us harried, breathless, modern people to slow down and for one whole day do nothing but indulge ourselves in his goodness and truth.”Ray Ortlund
Tip #1: “Remember” it
Jani: God has given us a loving rhythm of six days of work broken with a day of holy rest. How can you dedicate this day to him and draw refreshment from his invitation to rest in an atmosphere of delight? Well, I think we each need to ask God, “How do you want me to make this day special Lord?” He’ll show us. Let’s wrestle with his commandment. It will look different for each one of us. But I find the key is in the first word of this commandment: “Remember…” Let’s not leave this day to chance. We plan our other six days, why not take even more care to plan the Lord’s Day?
Heidi: I love this, Jani. I read a book once called Rhythms of Rest, where she talked about, “What if, instead of viewing Sunday as the first day of the week, you viewed all the days of the week as leading up to Sunday?” How can we think about Sunday on Wednesday? Is there anything I need to plan for on Sunday? What do I need to set aside? What do I need to cook? This is the idea that we can use Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday to get ready for Sunday. So when Sunday comes we’ve thought about it, versus thinking, “Oh, it’s Sunday. Now what do I do?”
Jani: Yes, that’s so good. Heidi, give us the title one more time.
Heidi: The title of the book is Rhythms of Rest.
Jani: Thank you. That’s good. I want to read that.
Jani: If you were devoting a whole day to someone else, a loved one or a spouse or a friend, what would it look like? Or what if someone said to you, “I want to devote next Saturday to you? What would you like me to do? How can I please you and show you what you mean to me?” Well, that’s kind of like our Sundays with the Lord. What would God have my Sundays look like? What would he have your Sundays look like? Ask God to help you make his day special. He will show you how. Wrestle with this commandment, search the word, pray, discuss this with family and friends and make some changes.
Tip #2: Gather with Others
Jani: Certainly, there would be corporate worship with other believers. Leviticus 23:3 calls the Sabbath a “holy convocation.” So it would, of course, be a day given over to God set apart for him and for his glory. This would have to include gathering with others for worship. I hope you don’t think “Oh, I’m really tired and I’ve really given myself this week, and I know the Lord wants me to have a Sabbath rest, and so I’ll just stay at home and worship through a podcast or I’ll just worship in my own way with the Lord.” Join in with others, let it be a holy convocation, gather with others for worship.
Tip #3: Prepare Yourself
Jani: And if this day were really special—if we’re really remembering it to make it holy set apart, separate—then we wouldn’t just give God an hour and ten minutes, rushing in and rushing out so we can make it to the football game or the beach or the mall. We would prepare ourselves. This takes a little bit of dedication. What do your Saturdays look like? Do you crash all day Saturday, waking up late Sunday with a rushed mental list of all the things you need to do before Monday with church tagged on somewhere between stopping at the drugstore and going to the baseball game?
Jani: Sunday is the Lord’s Day. How does he want us to spend it? Do we give our best energies for playing and entertaining and amusements on Saturday night and then come to church tired and listless and late? Is our worship rather perfunctory? Do we live out this commandment by going to church and then doing the “fun stuff?” No, to dedicate ourselves to this day of delights will take a little planning, and that’s OK. It will mean saying no to certain invitations on Saturday. It will mean thinking through the day ahead.
Let’s Get Real; Don’t Pretend
Jani: What do your Sundays look like? Well, for me, now that Ray is no longer a full-time pastor, they look different each week, and it’s kind of hard for me, Heidi.
Heidi: I’m sure it would be a tough transition.
Jani: It has been. When Ray was a pastor, I had a weekly rhythm. We worked Tuesday through Sunday. Sunday was really a workday for us and then Monday was our Sabbath, we took it off, but now each week is different. I’m wrestling through that with the Lord right now, Heidi. I told you when you asked me today how I was doing and I was a little tired. Part of it is because last week I didn’t get a Sabbath rest. I need the Lord to help me here. I need to figure out, “How do I take that Sabbath rest?” and “What would it look like for me to dedicate part of that to worship as well?” I need the Lord to help me. We all need the Lord to help us, to figure out how to dedicate this day to Jesus.
Heidi: Something that I read from John Piper encouraged me to think about the ways that the Lord created my body to rest. And so my husband, Mike, and I have been talking about that. What do I love? What does my heart find rest in? What good gift has God given me that I can enjoy? For Mike, it’s reading a book, and it’s important for him to have a good book because that helps his mind slow down and his body to slow down, and also just realizing that those are good gifts from the Lord. So we try to do things that bring our heart delight in Jesus and help our souls to rest on Sundays. It takes time to figure out how to rest. What does that look like?
Jani: Yes. So let’s not pretend we have it all figured out.
Heidi: It takes time to figure out and to try different things, and then asking the Lord again, “Does this please you? Does this bring a smile to your face? Show me, Lord what you want Sundays to look like.”
Jani: …because, ultimately, that will bring us delight as well. It’s so kind how the Lord says, “If you follow this pattern, you’ll be blessed. It will bring blessing to you.”
Jani: So I would encourage us all this next week to look at Exodus 20—where the 10 Commandments are—and read through Exodus 20:9-11 several times. Heidi, let’s just read it right now. Would you read that for us?
“Six days you shall labor, and do all of your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”Exodus 20:9-11
Jani: That’s what we want to sink deep into your heart this week, deep into our hearts this week, Heidi: that the Lord made this day and he made it special, holy! So let’s ask ourselves as we think about Exodus 20:9-11 especially, “What new steps can we take to receive this kind gift from the Lord? How can we make the Lord’s day a day of delight for everyone in our circle of life.”
Jani: On our next episode, we’re gonna talk about how to make Sundays special for the children in your life.
A prayer for us all
Jani: Would you be willing to pray for all of us about this very issue of God’s Sabbath rest?
Heidi: “Heavenly Father, I pray for Jani and I and our listeners. Lord, we want Sundays to be a day of delight and not a day of duty. God, what does that look like? What can we do on Sundays to bring a smile to your face, Lord? You are such a good dad. You are a good Father. You created a day in the week where we get to rest, where we get to enjoy you, where we get to cast aside our idols and once again, lock eyes with you, Jesus. Thank you that on Sundays we get to lock eyes with you. We get to worship you. Help us to do this more, Lord. Help us to stay centered in you throughout the week and help us to know what would bring a smile to your face on Sundays. We love you, God. Thank you for this wonderful commandment. Teach us how it can restore our souls. Amen.”