Dr. Ray E. Heiple, Jr.
Commanded to Remember
And also I gave them My sabbaths to be a sign between Me and them, that they might know that I am the LORD who sanctifies them.
Question 121 of the Larger Catechism asks, “Why is the word Remember set in the beginning of the Fourth Commandment?” It gives the answer, “The word Remember is set in the beginning of the Fourth Commandment, partly, because of the great benefit of remembering it, we being thereby helped in our preparation to keep it, and, in keeping it, better to keep all the rest of the Commandments, and to continue a thankful remembrance of the two great benefits of creation and redemption, which contain a short abridgment of religion; and partly, because we are very ready to forget it, for that there is less light of nature for it, and yet it restraineth our natural liberty in things at other times lawful; that it cometh but once in seven days, and many worldly businesses come between, and too often take off our minds from thinking of it, either to prepare for it, or to sanctify it; and that Satan with his instruments much labour to blot out the glory, and even the memory of it, to bring in all irreligion and impiety.”
When God commands humans to remember He is not talking about a mere intellectual exercise where we call to mind again something that we already know. To remember biblically speaking means to do. Thus, in the Fourth Commandment God calls us to remember the Sabbath Day to or in order to keep it holy. Here, remembering is for the purpose of doing something, namely keeping one day in seven holy to the Lord. Still something more than mere doing is indicated by the inclusion of the word “remember” at the beginning of this Commandment. For God could have simply commanded that we keep the Sabbath Day without adding the word remember as He does in the other Commandments. Thus, in the First Commandment God does not say “Remember to have no other gods before Me,” but simply “You shall have no other gods before Me.” Likewise, in the seventh God does not say, “Remember to not commit adultery,” but only “You shall not commit adultery,” or “Remember to honor your father and your mother,” but just “Honor your father and your mother,” and so on for the others.
Accordingly, when God adds the word “remember” to this Commandment He does so for our benefit. The Sabbath would be a blessing to us but in order for it to be such we must have it in our minds. Being mindful of the Sabbath day enables me to prepare to keep it properly in a way that is unique to this Commandment. Since the Fourth Commandment requires an entire day’s worth of response, people need to be thinking about it before it arrives if they are going to be in a position of keep it. If I have no plans for going to Sunday morning worship before I go to bed Saturday night, I am almost certainly going to miss it. Likewise, if I have not taken steps to rest from my ordinary job before Sunday morning arrives, I will probably not be able to when it comes. Additionally, the divines notice that keeping the Sabbath Day holy helps us to keep the other Commandments. Here they reference the verse at the head of today’s devotion in order to call attention to the fact that keeping God’s Sabbaths is one of the ways God sanctifies us. Sanctification means to make holy. The life of the believer is a life of growing in holiness, which means growing in our personal obedience to God’s laws. Since the Sabbath was given for us to know God is sanctifying us, that can only mean that keeping it will help us to grow in our obedience to the other Commandments.
So, are you wrestling with some particular temptation that seems to continually get the better of you? Try keeping the Sabbath more diligently! Keeping the Sabbath will help us to grow in all obedience. Thus, today’s answer states not only that the Sabbath is given for our sanctification, but also that Satan labors much to make us forget it! Satan cannot take away a believer’s salvation, but he can lead us astray into sins which will bring us heartache and pain. Consequently, we might forget the importance of the Sabbath in our sanctification, but the devil will not. He knows that he will be better able to bring in “all irreligion and impiety” if he can get us to forget to regularly rest in our God! Therefore, remember to keep the Sabbath Day holy, for God’s glory and your own good! In keeping it holy we accelerate our own growth in holiness.