How God Loves Us in the Fourth Commandment

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Episode Synopsis

What do your Sundays look like? Why do you think God wants us to give Him one day each week? Listen in as Jani and Heidi as they discuss how God loves us through this fourth command.

Audio Transcript

Jani: Hello everyone. Thank you for listening. We’re so grateful to have you be part of our audience. I’m Jani Ortlund here with my friend Heidi Howerton.

Heidi: Hello everyone. It’s good to be with you today…

Jani: …and we’re not at the farmhouse today are we Heidi?

Heidi: I know, I was thinking, I wanted to tell everyone we’re sitting up in Jani’s study in her little tea room and it’s so sweet. She has her tea cups all around…so we get to record at Jani’s house today.

Jani: Yeah, so it’s a little different environment for us, but we’re so glad to be back with you again in this series we’re doing on the 10 Commandments. We hope that you’re finding it helpful and that God’s law is becoming a love letter to you rather than a list of do’s and don’ts. Today we’re going to look at the fourth commandment, which is about remembering the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Heidi, why don’t we start today by sharing a little bit about our Sundays? What does Sunday look like in the Howerton house?

Heidi: That’s a great question. Jani. Sundays have been something, really over the past two years, that I’ve been working through with the Lord. What does it mean to create a rhythm of rest for our family? The Lord calls us to rest. How can I make Sundays restful for my children, for my husband, for myself, and as a sacrifice to him? Sundays in the Howerton house now have just changed up a little bit because our church went to two services and we think it’s wonderful. So we get up and we eat an easy breakfast. We go to church right away and then we come home and we’ll often do an easy lunch, nothing big. I’ll put a crock pot meal on for Mike and I to have a warm meal but our kids love the most that we let them eat pancakes on Sunday nights. So we call it Sunday night pancake night at the Howerton house and we eat breakfast and it’ll often just be a day where we get to worship the Lord at church and then really just play on the farm. We try to stay home on Sundays and not go too many places.

Jani: Isn’t that great? Oh, I’d like to be your fourth child and come over and spend Sundays with you! As I think about Sundays, I go back into my childhood and I remember Sunday as being a very special day. My family did not come from believing families. The Lord called all of us to himself over the course of 11 years. My mom, first of all, and my dad last of all, isn’t that something? I remember Sunday says a child as being very special to me because we were all together as a family and in those days, in the “olden days”, way, way, way back in the 1950s people would have their big Sunday dinner. They’d come home and have a roast or something that mom had put in the oven and we’d usually have our good dishes out. Oftentimes we would have guests, but I loved Sundays. We’d have a quiet afternoon and then go back to church Sunday evening for youth meeting and then a Sunday service in the evening.

Heidi: That’s so sweet. It sounds like your mom really put in the effort to make it special and that’s something you’ve taught me over the years too. How can you make Sundays special for your children, for your family? I’ve enjoyed learning from you.

Jani: Thank you Heidi. I’ve had to learn from others and from the Lord and we do want to get into that over the next few podcasts as we talk about how we can make Sunday special for the Lord, for ourselves and for any children in our life. Before we get to commandment 4, I would just like to review a little bit where we are. We’ve been doing this series on the 10 Commandments and some of our listeners might be thinking, well, how would the law restore my soul? “I mean Jani you and Heidi have named your podcast ‘He Restores My Soul,’ but I’ve never thought of the law as soul restorative and anyhow, how does God’s law relate to us today? I thought we’re supposed to live under grace and grace does away with the law!?” Why are the 10 Commandments still honored by new Testament believers when the other laws in the Old Testament aren’t? Now, these are good questions and I think this episode right here at the beginning would be a good time to address those. Let’s think for just a few minutes, Heidi, with our listeners about how we should understand the various laws, all the different laws in the Old Testament. Well, we can divide them into three different categories: the moral law, the civil law and the ceremonial law. What is the moral law? It’s the righteous standard for our relationship with God and others. It’s a permanent obligation. Exodus 32:16 says this law was written by God on the tablets of stone. Oh my goodness. And it was the only part of the law kept in the Ark of the Covenant. The moral law is the foundation of all other laws and it’s eternal in its nature and function. It’s the law that will reign in heaven. The moral law will make heaven heavenly. Then there’s this civil or judicial law. That consisted of laws for Israel as a nation. It would be their legal system for how to run their country. God intended Israel to be a theocracy and represent him in her reign of peace and righteousness on the earth. These civil, or judicial laws, dealt with war, land use, debt, or any laws concerning Israel as a nation, and all of these laws pointed forward to the Kingdom of Christ. They foreshadowed Christ as King. These were the civil laws. Now we have a third kind of law in the Old Testament, the ceremonial law and these laws told the Israelites how to conduct worship in the sanctuary and during festivals. These laws gave instructions for the sacrificial system. If any of you are reading through your Old Testament, you come on to a lot of them about how the animals were to be sacrificed, who was to sacrifice them, how they were to cleanse themselves before and after and what kind of animals could be sacrificed? There were so many ceremonial laws. These laws pointed forward again to the cross and foreshadowed Christ as our prophet and priest. You see both as civil and the ceremonial laws contained shadows of the real. Then Christ came, and there was no longer any need for the shadows because the reality was here. Now that Christ has come, these laws have been set aside. Colossians 2:17 puts it this way…

Heidi: “These are a shadow of things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.”

Jani: There we have that word shadow again. Those two kinds of laws, the civil and ceremonial laws, foreshadowed Christ. But Romans 10:4 teaches us that Jesus is the end of the law to everyone who believes. So now that Jesus is here, there’s no need for the shadow. The reality is here. But what about that third kind of law that we’re studying in our podcasts, the moral eternal law that we still keep and cherish and delight in and want to obey? The moral law shows us how relationships work best with God and with other people and the moral law is worth our time to study and meditate on and take in and to teach to the rising generation.

Heidi: I love how Psalm 19:7&11 put it Jani, The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.” I always think that the Lord has just spread a huge pasture and the moral law is just that sweet fence and he’s saying, “This pasture is huge. Go explore, there’s life found in it” and that fence is there to keep us safe and to help us flourish because outside the fence is just darkness and death…

Jani: …wolves and tigers and all sorts of bad things to get us. That’s good Heidi. I like that image. Wow. I like that verse too, “…reviving the soul.” The law can revive the soul, so don’t give up on us listeners. There is a point to why we’re studying the law, the 10 Commandments, and I can promise you that as you attend to the law, it will have a restorative power. It will warn you, and in keeping them there is great reward. It will revive your soul. So let’s get down to our command for today, the fourth commandment, which says, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” (Exodus 20:8) It’s interesting to me that the fourth commandment is the only one of the 10 Commandments whose interpretation has been hotly debated through the centuries. It’s not Heidi’s and my purpose today to solve that debate on this podcast. We’ll leave that to all the theologians out there, but let me just say this in light of the fourth commandment, every single one of the 10 Commandments is repeated in the New Testament except this one. Now, I believe that the Lord’s day, as it’s called in some passages in the New Testament or in other places, we see it called the first day of the week, is the New Testament fulfillment of the Old Testament Sabbath. And as God’s redeemed children, we can delight to keep this commandment just as we love to hallow his name and not have any idols in our hearts. We want to worship him the way he asks us to, so why not welcome this command as well? Let’s think for a minute. We’re trying to focus in on how God loves us through these commands. So how does he love us through this command that tells us to keep the Sabbath day holy? Well, imagine this with me. Imagine you’re on a long trip. Heidi, do you ever drive your kids long distances?

Heidi: We love to go on road trips and adventures as a family, yes. So here I’m in the car Jani with Mike and my three kids. Now tell us what happens next.

Jani: This is what you see Heidi. There’s a road sign on the side of the road that says “Next Rest Stop” and underneath in capital letters it says “NO WHERE.”

Heidi: That would make me want to cry.

Jani: Isn’t that true?

Heidi: My soul would feel weary!

Jani: Yes. It would be so discouraging and sometimes we feel like our pathway through life is like that. With that sign, “Next Rest Stop.” Who knows when? I don’t know when it’ll be. I’m just on a treadmill and I’ve got to keep going. But God, he has put his own delightful road sign along our highway to heaven in this very commandment. He says, “Next Rest Stop: Sunday.” I love that. Think if someone told you there was a way to glorify and enjoy God, a way to step out of your over committed, fast paced life, a way to slow down enough to catch your breath, rest your body, refresh your soul, revive your relationships with family and friends, a way to think about the most worthy things in life and also a way to share your blessings with those in need and you could do all of those things by obeying the fourth commandment. You would say, “Oh, no way, Jani, that’s impossible!” But it isn’t, dear listener, that’s what this commandment does for us. God loves us through this commandment in so many beautiful ways. He loves us by freeing us and refreshing us through this commandment. The fourth commandment refers back to creation. Exodus 20:11 puts it this way, “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day.” In six days, God made it all, but on the seventh day he rested. Now God didn’t have to rest. He’s never depleted, but it was his delight to rest and he blessed the pattern. In Genesis 2:3 in the creation account, it says, “So God blessed the seventh day and made it Holy.”

Heidi: In Exodus 31:17 we read, “It as a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.”

Jani: Imagine God being refreshed on his day of rest, I love that. He not only rests, but he calls us to rest with him and to call others within our own spheres of influence to rest as well. The Sabbath is God’s gift to us. Even before the 10 Commandments were given, the people of Israel knew that the Lord had given them the Sabbath. Remember the the commandments aren’t given until Exodus 20 but before that in Exodus 16, the Lord talks to them about gathering enough manna on the sixth day so they can rest on the Sabbath, the seventh day. Jesus tells us again in Mark 2:27, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” You see, man was created on the sixth day. He already existed when God made the Sabbath on the seventh day. God created man and then God created the Sabbath for man. God loves us by creating a universal pattern where we lay down our overextended bodies and souls and minds and accept his offer of rest. Think of it, God’s gift to me is one seventh of my time freed from the cares and labors of my work to spend loving and enjoying him and others one day out of each week. That’s 52 days a year. That’s nearly seven and a half weeks, Heidi, of rest and refreshment. Think if you took a job and your boss said, “I insist that you take seven and a half weeks for resting and refreshment and I’ll pay you for those seven and a half weeks.”

Heidi: What a great way to put it, Jani. It makes me feel so seen by the Lord, that he sees us. He sees how our souls get weary. He sees how busy we work. He also sees how many idols we can have. Pastor Ray used to say that the Lord shows us where true North is, he resets our compass.

Jani: That’s good Heidi. Thank you. God wants to free us from thinking that our jobs provide for us. They don’t. God is the one who provides for us. God loves us by providing seven days worth of needs being met with six days of work. He wants us to trust him to make up the difference. I think we’ve developed a God-neglecting, soul-starving pace of life. We bear the weight of the world on our shoulders, our compulsive self effort show that we’re afraid to rest. Really in my own life. It’s a form of pride and self dependence. Think of all our over-scheduled Sundays. We might still go to church, but somehow we manage to squeeze it in between our sporting events, our laundry, or writing bills. Then this fourth commandment comes along and shows me myself focused soul. It teaches me that an all consuming pace of life is not God’s plan for me. It’s not his will for me. God loves me by calling me to a weekly rhythm of six days of work broken by a day of Holy rest. He gives us one day each week that is set above the ordinary routine of everyday life. Here’s a day set aside for the purpose of coming to God anew in worship and delight. Let’s just offer one more thought about the fourth commandment. Have you noticed how all six days of the creation account in Genesis 1 conclude with “so there was evening and morning the first day” and then “so there was evening and morning the second day” and on down through “so there was evening and morning the sixth day.” But when Moses narrates the seventh day, it’s not brought to closure. The text does not say, and there was evening and morning the seventh day. Isn’t that interesting? That sentence is left out. The day of rest and holy blessing stands open still. It points us to heaven. Our enjoyment and delight in the Lord’s day or lack there of reveals how earthbound we are because each Sunday is a little foretaste of heaven where we will enter a Sabbath rest that God has prepared for us. I love how Hebrews 4 puts it, “So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God…Let us therefore strive to enter that rest.” God loves us in this commandment by showing us that real life is not down here, but out there with him in an eternity of true worship and soul rest and refreshment. So how can we live out this commandment in ways that will please God and benefit our families and friends until we embrace our own eternal rest?

Heidi: I love that question, Jani. Even as you teach about the why, why do we want to follow the fourth commandment? What does the Bible teach us? I found my heart thinking, how do we do this? I want to do this.

Jani: Join us in our next episode when we talk about how to give this commandment to the people around you and live it out in such beautiful ways that it entices them into Sabbath rest.

Heidi: Listen in next week as we talk about how to dedicate our Sundays to the Lord.

Thank You

Thank you for joining us today. This podcast is generously funded through Renewal Ministries. If you would like to discover more about Jani and Ray’s ministry or make a donation, visit their website at If you have a question for Jani or would like to learn more about this podcast, please visit our website at

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He Restores My Soul with Jani Ortlund seeks to encourage women with God’s renewing power for their busy lives. Episodes include relevant biblical teaching, stimulating gospel conversations with other Christians, and “Ask Jani” sessions where we talk about what’s on our listeners’ hearts.

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