Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
What does this mean?
We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it. – from Luther’s Small Catechism
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. Exodus 20:8-11 (ESV)
The Third Commandment can seem a bit out of place in the Law, as it was originally directed at the observance of the seventh-day Sabbath (Saturday) of the Jews. Unfortunately by Jesus’ day, the Pharisees had turned Sabbath rest and observance into a laundry list of do’s and don’ts that had very little to do with learning God’s Word or spiritual rest and edification. Sabbath observance had become an outward display of faux piety rather than a day of the week consecrated to God.
One Sabbath he (Jesus) was going through the grainfields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. And the Pharisees were saying to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?” And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.” Mark 2:23-28 (ESV)
However, the observance of Sabbath rest and of hearing God’s Word taught and the Gospel preached are still very much in effect for Christians. The day we observe is not as important as the spirit of this Law, that we intentionally put aside time to regenerate our physical bodies as well as to devote time to regular worship together with other Christians and to study God’s Word.
For the Word of God is the sanctuary above all sanctuaries, yea, the only one which we Christians know and have. For though we had the bones of all the saints or all holy and consecrated garments upon a heap, still that would help us nothing; for all that is a dead thing which can sanctify nobody. But God’s Word is the treasure which sanctifies everything, and by which even all the saints themselves were sanctified. At whatever hour, then, God’s Word is taught, preached, heard, read or meditated upon, there the person, day, and work are sanctified thereby, not because of the external work, but because of the Word, which makes saints of us all. Therefore I constantly say that all our life and work must be ordered according to God’s Word, if it is to be God-pleasing or holy. Where this is done, this commandment is in force and being fulfilled. – Martin Luther, from the Explanation of the Third Commandment, from Luther’s Large Catechism
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. Matthew 22:36-38 (ESV)
The First Table of the Law is the first three Commandments- how we as creatures are supposed to relate to and to love our Creator God. The remaining seven Commandments govern how we are supposed to relate to our fellow humans.
The First Commandment teaches us that God is God alone- that there are no other gods beside Him.
The Second Commandment teaches us that God’s name is given to us for holy things such as prayer, praise and worship and not for cursing or misuse.
The Third Commandment teaches us that God made Sabbath rest for humans- so that we will take time to rest our bodies, worship Him, and study His Word.