“In those days I saw people in Judah treading wine presses on the Sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and loading donkeys with wine, grapes, figs, and all kinds of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the Sabbath day. And I warned them about the day on which they were selling provisions.” Nehemiah 13:15
The fourth commandment begins with the words, “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…”
The Sabbath can be a very inconvenient day for anyone that isn’t accustomed to it or is unprepared for it but for those that are prepared and have made the effort to pattern their lives after God’s appointed order we find that there’s also tremendous blessing to be found in remembering the Sabbath day.
God’s promised significant blessings if we will remember and sanctify, or set aside, the Sabbath hours. Isaiah chapter fifty-eight promises that God will cause his people to “ride on the heights” if they will keep the Sabbath. In saying this God’s telling them that he will provide for them and ensure that they will always have food, water, and shelter.
It’s easy to take such blessings for granted and forget that they’re only promised to those that meet the conditions for receiving them. And for this blessing the condition is to “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.”
Nehemiah knew that Israel was deeply dependent upon God’s blessings. Because of their rebellious waywardness they’d only just returned from seventy years of exile. Even now they’d only just begun to take steps that showed that they were really turning a corner and becoming a people and a nation once again. But they’d forgotten the sacredness of the Sabbath day.
So Nehemiah took steps to enforce the keeping of the Sabbath commandment in the city of Jerusalem. First he warned the people about breaking the Sabbath, then he shut the city gates and closed down the market on the Sabbath. When some tried to set up, a market outside the city gates he ordered them to leave. Finally, he called the leaders together and asked them why they were once again courting the wrath of God by permitting the Sabbath to be profaned by the people.
We, too, are dependent upon the blessings and mercies of God. And, like Israel, we find that it’s still easy to not prepare for the Sabbath and then to find ourselves in a situation that calls for us to do work or perform tasks that aren’t in keeping with the honoring of the Sabbath day. Friends, if we want to count on receiving the blessings promised for those that remember and keep the Sabbath commandment then we need to keep it all week long. We need to do the work required by life on days one through six so that we can enter into the sabbath on the seventh.