Remember the Sabbath
BOOKS | The mercy of the Fourth Commandment
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Sabbath-keeping may not be a popular sermon topic. But Rhode Island Pastor Daniel Howe brings a refreshing perspective to the Fourth Commandment in Worship, Feasting, Rest, Mercy: The Christian Sabbath (Crown & Covenant 2023). He shows the countercultural nature of keeping the Sabbath in a secular society.
Like the children of Issachar, he identifies subtle but mistaken secular thinking and shows what to put in its place. Sabbath-keeping does not need to be a hard duty, such as a 5 a.m. jog. The Sabbath opens up a means of grace and an opportunity to witness to Christian faith before a frantically busy watching world.
A day given to the Lord challenges the American cultural consensus that our busyness proves our significance. Rest and worship are antidotes to much of what ails our society.
He also develops an interesting theme that Sabbath observance can show mercy to others and indirectly help alleviate inequality. One day of rest can offer a way to be generous to those who serve us. “Unless it’s necessary, we don’t shop on Sunday,” he writes. “Extend rest to those who wait tables and pump gas.”
One of his strongest chapters is “Ebenezer,” or a stone of remembrance of the Lord’s sovereign rule. Here he develops an underlying theme that the Sabbath allows believers to bring the influence of Christ to a secular and unbelieving culture. “The Sabbath is our Ebenezer: a hard-edged, rugged testimony to the fact that salvation is of the Lord,” he writes. “The living God is the source of every blessing.”
Sabbath-keeping also can be an effective response to the internet/cell phone takeover of our personal lives. Put them all away for at least one day a week.
His chapter on the example of Jesus shows the power of positive thinking. He identifies what we should pursue on the Sabbath, not so much what we should not pursue.
Howe is pastor of the Christ Reformed Presbyterian Church (RPCNA) in the Providence, R.I., metro area. He writes plainly and offers much wisdom on a neglected commandment.
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