Are we resting in the finished work of Christ? The most faithful Sabbath keeper will in the end be the most joyful Sabbath keeper. Sabbath, in the end, isn’t something to be observed but something to be celebrated. And we celebrate not merely a day off from work. We celebrate the victory of our King.
Obedience is a rather narrow road. Disobedience, on the other hand, has a great, sweeping plain of options. Because we are like the Pharisees, we find it easy to convert the law of God into sundry sins of omission. We’re much better at not doing what we’re not supposed to do than we are at doing what we’re supposed to do. Thus, we reduce the Sabbath to all the things we’re not allowed to do. We work at fine-tuning the definition of “work” so we can make sure we don’t do it on the Sabbath. In so doing, as is our wont, we miss the point. Were we to divide the Ten Commandments not according to duties toward God and duties toward man, as many do, but instead on the basis of prohibitions and commands, the Sabbath commandment would end up with the commands. It is less about what we are forbidden to do and more about what we are commanded to do.
First, believe it or not, the Sabbath commandment commands us to work. “Six days shalt thou labor” isn’t an interesting prelude designed merely to set the context for the command to come. It is a command in itself. We’re supposed to be busy with the work set before us. We are to be passionately pursuing the kingdom of God. We are to recognize that we live in the not-yet of the kingdom. Not all enemies have yet been made a footstool. We have not yet fully exercised dominion over the creation. The reign of Jesus is not yet universally recognized. The Westminster Shorter Catechism asks, “How does Christ execute the office of a king?” Its answer: “Christ executes the office of a king in subduing us to Himself, in ruling and defending us and in restraining and conquering all His and our enemies.” As we rule with and under Him, this is the work we are called to — seeking His kingdom, making manifest His reign.