This occurrence of the fourth commandment reveals another way that the Sabbath sanctifies. The emphasis here is that it be kept so that we will remain free: "Remember on this day that you were a slave." The implication is obvious. The Sabbath draws one to a remembrance of the past, of our spiritual slavery in Egypt, and where we are headed: toward the Promised Land.
The Sabbath looks back and forward, but with a somewhat different perspective than in Exodus 20. Before it was tied merely to the Creation, yet God still has a creative process going on. Now we find that His creative process is designed to produce freedom and to continue providing liberty from sin, Satan, and this world that God accomplished through the redemptive death of Jesus Christ.
This is done through the messages, the sermons, given in Sabbath services. Almost all messages involve sin and our enslavement to it to some degree. On the other hand, the Ten Commandments are the law of liberty (James 2:12), and by keeping them, we remain free of enslavement by Satan and this world. It is on the Sabbath that God instructs His people, through His Word, about how to keep the commandments and remain free.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 1)
Notice how we are commanded to sanctify the day. The emphasis here is on being free. God says, "Remember [on this day] that you were a slave." The implication is obvious. When the Israelites were slaves, they had no freedom to make choices. Therefore, if we keep this day properly, we can remain free. If properly used, the Sabbath compels us to remember the past as well as to look forward to where our lives are headed.
We do this through Bible study and hearing sound, inspired messages combined with meditation and conversation in fellowship. In church services we hear a great deal about the Kingdom of God and the world today. Most messages involve sin in some way. Sin is the transgression of the law (I John 3:4), but the Ten Commandments are the law of liberty (James 1:25). By keeping them, we remain free of enslavement by Satan, this world, and death. On the Sabbath, God instructs His people through His Word on how to keep His commandments and thus remain free. Exodus 16:4, 25-30 explains further:
Then the LORD said to Moses, "Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you. And the people shall go out and gather a certain quota every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not." . . . Then Moses said, "Eat that today, for today is a Sabbath to the LORD; today you will not find it in the field. Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will be none." Now it happened that some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather, but they found none. And the LORD said to Moses, "How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My laws? See! For the LORD has given you the Sabbath; therefore He gives you on the sixth day bread for two days. Let every man remain in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day." So the people rested on the seventh day.
The first commandment that God specifically revealed after He freed Israel from slavery was the one intended to keep them free, the Sabbath. God gave them this witness of a double portion of manna on the sixth day and none on the seventh for forty years! Contrary to those who assert the Sabbath has been done away or replaced, the Sabbath is a wonderful gift of God.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment
The Sabbath is clearly stated, in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5, to have two major purposes. The Sabbath is to remind us that God is Creator; we look back on Him creating. But it is also designed to show us that the Sabbath is the day that He has given to keep us free; it reminds us that we were once slaves.
Remembering God as Creator is good, but because it happened in the dim past, it does not always help us in our immediate concerns. But every Sabbath we are also reminded that God is our redeeming Liberator, and that we keep the Sabbath because we are free—and because we want to remain free. Those who are redeemed who do not keep the Sabbath do not retain their liberty.
Nations establish memorials for specific reasons. Here in the United States we have a Presidents' Day, Martin Luther King Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, Armistice Day, and so on. Why do we have these days? Our nation's leaders want us to be periodically reminded of our heritage. They want us to remember why we have what we have, why we should hold on to these things, and why we should strengthen what we have.
God's Sabbath—His memorial—is so important to His purpose that He has it recur every week! Not once a year, but every week! It is a constant reminder of our spiritual heritage from Him and of our release from sin, and it reorients us in any area in which we may have turned aside.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 2)
Because God rested after six days of labor, the Sabbath is also our day of rest and a memorial of Creation. He wants us to remember, not only what He did in the physical creation, but also that His spiritual creation continues in us now. When God blessed and sanctified the seventh day, He made it holy, set apart for God's use! Only God can make a day holy, and He does this by putting Himself, through His Spirit, into it.
We are then instructed to "keep" it holy. Various scriptures give examples of things God prohibits on His Sabbath: working, cooking, carrying burdens. God does not make a comprehensive list of "dos and don'ts" for us to follow. Instead, He gives us principles of what is proper and improper Sabbath behavior, and we then must use God's Spirit to decide our actions.
Martin G. Collins
The Fourth Commandment
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Deuteronomy 5:12: