Dr. Ray E. Heiple, Jr.
The God Who Reasons With Sinners
“Come now, and let us reason together,” says the LORD, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” Isaiah 1:18NKJV
Question 120 of the Larger Catechism asks, “What are the reasons annexed to the fourth commandment, the more to enforce it?” It gives the answer, “The reasons annexed to the fourth commandment, the more to enforce it, are taken from the equity of it, God allowing us six days of seven for our own affairs, and reserving but one for himself, in these words, Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: from God’s challenging a special propriety in that day, The seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: from the example of God, who in six days made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: and from that blessing which God put upon that day, not only in sanctifying it to be a day for his service, but in ordaining it to be a means of blessing to use in our sanctifying it, Wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath-day, and hallowed it.” Last week we looked at how the Sabbath is profaned when we insincerely worship and rest in God. Today we consider how God graciously gives us reasons to listen to Him!
In four of the ten commandments, the Catechism rightly calls attention to the fact that God annexes, or tacks on, reasons as to why we should listen to Him. What an amazing thing to consider: the God of the universe, who has made all, owns all, and rules over all with the absolute authority and right to do whatever He pleases, does not just curtly give us His laws and demand our unquestioning obedience, but He actually stoops down as it were and patiently explains how it will be good for us to do what He says. Throughout the Bible we see God reasoning with His sinful and rebellious creatures! In the book of Acts, to describe Paul’s preaching the gospel to both believers and unbelievers, the Holy Spirit uses the word reason more than any other word. In the verse quoted at the head of this article, God calls His people to come and reason together with Him, that He might persuade them to receive His blessing rather than be destroyed. So also here in the fourth commandment, God gives four reasons why we should listen to Him.
First, we should keep the commandment of worship and rest because of how fair it is. We owe everything we have to God. He gives us life, breath, health, strength, wisdom, and this good earth and all that is in it. He created us and sustains our lives. Yet for all that, He does not require all of our time for Himself, nor half of it, nor even one quarter or one sixth, but merely one seventh. Sixth-sevenths of the time God gives us to live for ourselves, to order our own affairs and livelihood. That means approximately 86% of your life is, by the design and intention of God, given to you to focus on your own welfare.
Second, we should keep the seventh commandment because God claims a special propriety on that day. God has said that the seventh day is His Sabbath day. Even as God explicitly gave us six days to do our labor and our work, so He has articulated that the seventh day is a day for Him. Once again God gives a reason that is eminently reasonable. As Creator He could have said all the days are His, or six of the seven are His. But our God is so good, generous, and gracious that He has only claimed one of the seven days which we are to devote to Him.
Third, God sets His own example as another reason why we should set apart the Sabbath day. God worked for six days creating all things. Then He rested on the seventh day. Since we are created in the image of God, made to reflect God, it is only reasonable that we should act like God and work six days and rest one.
Fourth, God sets His blessing of the day before us as the final reason why we are to keep it holy. God obviously did not bless the day for Himself but for us. Therefore, if we want to experience God’s blessing we ought to keep the Sabbath day holy, for God has made the day to be a blessing to us. Believer, God has not only given us His law, which is for our own good, but He has even spelled out for us what goodness we can expect by obeying it. May our sovereign Lord grant that we would find His reasons fully persuasive, for His glory and for our good!