The purpose for the creation of mankind was to love God and be loved by Him. As Jesus stated, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment.” (Matthew 22:37-38) Man’s love for God is demonstrated by reverence of and obedience to God and His commandments. These four commandments, found in Exodus 20, are listed first, as they require first priority in the heart of mankind.
The fourth of these commandments is found in verses 8 through 11: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates."
This account in Exodus goes on to provide the reason to honor the Sabbath day: “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.” (Exodus 20:11) In other words, God provided a template for His people to follow: work for six days and then rest on the seventh day. The truth is that God did not need to rest. The Bible teaches that the God of Israel neither sleeps nor slumbers. (Psalm 121:4) The need for rest did not begin with God, but came from mankind. And it is mankind’s responsibility to set aside one day every seven days, as an act of honor to God.
Interestingly, the first account in Exodus 20 emphasizes the day of rest in conjunction with God’s day of rest after He created the heavens and the earth. But the account of the commandments found in Deuteronomy provides a different emphasis. This time, the Sabbath finds its importance from the creation of the nation of Israel. As recorded in Deuteronomy 5:15, “And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.”
The people’s miraculous escape from Egypt signified the end of their slavery. It was no longer necessary to continue their work for Pharaoh, during which time no rest had been allowed. The Israelites were not to take for granted their day of rest. It was a privilege that had been given to them by God. And it was in honor of God’s awesome works that the children of God observed the Sabbath day.