IBL04: Fourth Commandment (Craig Press)

Sabbath and Law


*This is an unedited and unoffical print version of R.J. Rushdoony’s lecture.

R.J. Rushdoony: 00:01 Our scripture this morning is Hebrews 3:14-4:11. The Sabbath and Law. We conclude our studies this morning in the Sabbath Law and begin next week, our study of the fifth commandment.

R.J. Rushdoony: 00:39 Hebrews 3:14-4:11, “For we are made partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end; while it is said, today if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation. For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses. But with whom was He grieved 40 years? Was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcasses fell into the wilderness? And to whom swear he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not?

R.J. Rushdoony: 01:28 So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief. Let us therefor fear, lest a promise being left to us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. For unto us was the Gospel preached, as well as unto them, but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.

R.J. Rushdoony: 01:52 For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, as I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise. And God did rest the seventh day from all His works. And in this place again, if they shall enter into my rest. Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief:

R.J. Rushdoony: 02:32 Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, Today, after so long a time, as it is said, today if ye will heard His voice, harden not your hearts. For if Jesus,” Or here, Joshua, because Jesus and Joshua are the same names. If Joshua “had given them rest then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also bath cased from his own works, as God did from His. Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.”

R.J. Rushdoony: 03:21 In these words, Saint Paul sums up some central aspects of the meaning of the doctrine of the Sabbath. He declares that at the beginning, God, having created heaven and earth, rested on the seventh day. That seventh day had no evening to it. St. Augustine spoke of the Sabbath of God as the goal of history, as the great Sabbath which hath no evening. That Sabbath God’s rest, God’s victory, God’s triumph, is the goal of history. And God separated from the beginning, certain men unto Himself to enter into that rest. Mad had departed from that rest in the Fall. The purpose of history, therefore, was to recall man, to re-establish man in God’s rest, in God’s victory. The people then were separated unto Himself for that purpose.

R.J. Rushdoony: 04:44 They were called out of Egypt, out of slavery, out of bondage, to be made partakers of that rest. But because they did not believe, many of them died in the wilderness in their unbelief, so we see that they could not enter in because of their unbelief. Moreover, those who did enter in did not enter in to the fullness of rest. In other words the Sabbath was not fulfilled in the Promise Land although it was a partial fulfillment. For if Jesus, because Jesus and Joshua are the same name. Jesus is the translation of it through the Greek, Joshua through the Hebrew. If Joshua had been able to give them true and full rest by their entrance into the promise land then would he not afterword have spoken of another day “There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God” The fullness, the fulfillment, is yet to come.

R.J. Rushdoony: 06:08 Now this interpretation of the Sabbath is not merely that of Saint Paul, it is the interpretation of the whole scripture. It is the interpretation that, also, the Old Testament scribes, and the Rabbis fully knew. They declared that the Sabbath was a type of God’s victory in time and of the world to come, that in the Sabbath the idea of creation is realized in redemption, in a redeemed society, and finally, in all its fullness, in the new creation. This has been the interpretation throughout the ages. As one modern scholar has summed up the meaning of the Sabbath, “Man’s Sabbath rest begins when he enters into God’s rest, as that was the goal of the created work. So to the people God this rest is the goal of their life of works.”

R.J. Rushdoony: 07:17 In terms of this therefore the meaning of the Sabbath as Saint Paul declares it and all of scripture witness to it, we must note first of all, that the Sabbath has always had reference to the future. As we pointed out last week its pattern is in the past, the Sabbath of creation. It is a present rest based on past events with a future reference and fulfillment. But we must, having said all this, say that the future is always the keynote to the Sabbath. The fact that we observe the Sabbath today means that we are a people whose sights are geared to the future. We believe in victory. We believe that God’s law-order shall prevail. We believe that history is geared to triumph, that the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, so that those who observe the Sabbath are the people who are geared to the future.

R.J. Rushdoony: 08:39 Even the subversives know this. A century ago when alien subversive forces began to work in this country, they realized that the key to capturing The United States was to capture the churches, the people of the Sabbath. And so, they began then their infiltration of the churches, beginning with the seminaries, an infiltration which has reached its triumph today. They did this because they recognized that here, there was a land and a people geared to the future, a Biblically-oriented future. And it could not be weaned away from this unless they captured the Sabbath and geared it to their purposes. The Biblical Sabbath, thus, is future-oriented in terms of God and His plan.

R.J. Rushdoony: 09:51 Second, as we saw a few weeks ago the law, of the Sabbath requires providence, that is a provident people, a people that thinks of tomorrow, that plans for it, a thrifty people. The Biblical Law, which was a part of the Sabbath, required short term debts only. Six years as the maximum period for debt. Each century had sixteen full years of Sabbath, counting the two Jubilee years. And the man had to be able to produce well so that he could live without an income during those Sabbath years. This created a society totally different from the kind of society we have now. Our society today is debt-oriented. We may talk about large-scale planning, but all of the planning involves debt.

R.J. Rushdoony: 11:05 And so, it is that a very sizable percentage of the national budget is always given, not to the future, but to the past. We burn up the future, and we have to pay those past debts. And any examination of the national budget indicates that in spite of all the large-scale talk about planning the future, the budget is geared to paying past debts. But the law of the Sabbath requires providence. Instead of a consumption-oriented society, as we have today, that is continually burning up all that the people have produced. Burning up inherited wealth, burning up resources. Biblical society was production-centered and rest-conscious. Now, these are aspects that make a world of difference. The Sabbath made society geared to the future, geared to production, geared to rest. This makes an enormous difference in any culture.

R.J. Rushdoony: 12:39 Third, the law of the Sabbath created a society best oriented to give rest. A simple illustration will suffice. About a century and a half ago, the railroads came into being. Now, a good deal of our contemporary histories, as they deal with the rise of industrialism, are written by people who are out to make a case against capitalism. And as they deal with the mills, for example, in England, they falsify the picture. But one point, we must give them credit, the railroads do present an ugly picture. For some reason or another, railroading from the beginning was in the hands of men who were thoroughly reprobate. An examination of the American railroad history gives us an ugly picture of manipulation of the government by these huge railroad tycoons, their tremendous wealth, the savagery with which they dealt with people. California, of course, has a long history of this kind of thing with regard to the Central Valley and what the railroads did as they defrauded people of land, sold to them under uncertain titles.

R.J. Rushdoony: 14:17 Thus, it was that the railroads, from the beginning, began to set a working day that was twelve hours and seven days a week, without any days off from one end of the year to the other. These are the ugly facts of railroading in America. And this continued until not too many years ago, within the lifetime of some of us. And yet, here’s the interesting thing: These old railroaders, here in The United States, who worked twelve hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, had a greater capacity for rest then men today on a forty hour week.

R.J. Rushdoony: 15:21 And when we look back at some of the life stories of some of the very simple railroaders, working men, and we find that they could go home and indulge in activities, and keep up an active life in a way that today men cannot do, it causes us to marvel. They obviously had a capacity for rest. What was the answer? Even though they were working under a reprobate system, they still lived, and was surrounded by, a society that was Sabbath-oriented. Fifty years ago, and a hundred years ago, and 45 years ago when these conditions were still true of railroaders all around them, the rest of America was still Sabbath-conscious.

R.J. Rushdoony: 16:20 It was still a society that had a capacity for rest. And so, even these men who worked twelve hours a day had the ability to rest that is lacking today when stress-induced diseases, ulcers, heart conditions, and the like are skyrocketing, and among men who work short hours. In other words, a Sabbath-oriented society was able to convey something even to those who were oppressed. The older society had enough Christianity to give it order, rest and law. And when a man lives in an ordered society, in a law abiding society, he can work long hours and still have rest.

R.J. Rushdoony: 17:26 A fourth aspect of the Sabbath is this: Its relationship to law. All law has reference to the future. When we began our studies in Biblical law, we pointed out that all law is a plan for the future. When you pass a law you are passing a plan, you are saying you are going to legislate out of existence a certain class of people, murderers, thieves, and the like. You are going to try and suppress a particular form of social activity as illicit, and you are going to try and wipe out a certain class of people as socially undesirable. This is the whole function of law. Law is a plan for the future, and the Sabbath law is a plan for the world’s tomorrow, a capsule plan.

R.J. Rushdoony: 18:33 What does the Sabbath law tell us? It tells us very plainly, and the law spells it out, that it is to be the abolition of evil or the suppression thereof. That man is to have rest in society, every man in his own house and under his own tree, at peace, because evil has been suppressed, put down, kept under. So that a man can walk without fear, in security because God’s law order prevails. It is to be also, as the law stated and we read it on an earlier morning, a plan for the suppression of poverty.

R.J. Rushdoony: 19:36 The Sabbath laws requires, as we have seen earlier, providence. And God spells out the fact that if people walk in terms of my law and keep my Sabbath, there shall be no poor among you. And so, the Sabbath law declares that God’s plan for the future, through His law, is the abolition or suppression of evil, and the abolition of poverty, and also of debt. It is moreover to provide man, as we have seen, with rest, and finally, with a recreation of the whole creation. The Sabbath law, therefore, in capsule form, is a declaration of the direction of the whole law. It declares what the nature of that future is, toward which Biblical faith is working, and for which Biblical law has been given.

R.J. Rushdoony: 20:58 Thus, while Colossians 2:16-17 declares that the old formalisms of the Hebrew Sabbath are ended, the essence of the law is in force, and is basic to the whole of Biblical thinking.

R.J. Rushdoony: 21:21 Now, as we turn away from the Biblical Sabbath to non-Christian thinking, we find that non-Christian thinking, too, tries to gear itself to the future. But when non-Christian thinking tries to deal with the future, it carries a double penalty.

R.J. Rushdoony: 21:49 First of all it is past-bound, past-bound. Perhaps nothing states this more clearly than the Civil Rights revolution. The Civil Rights revolution supposedly gives us a program for the future of our society. But listen, sometime, to the Civil Rights revolutionist, apart from a plan to destroy, what do they offer? All they talk about, basically, is what they have suffered in the past. Their basic thrust is with real or imagined evils in the past. I read a number of the books written by the Civil Rights agitators. And they are so past bound that what they may have suffered, real or imagined, last year and ten years ago, and twenty years ago, is not enough. They dredge up everything that they imagine their ancestors have suffered for the past few hundred years. And for some of them this is not enough. They dig into the Bible and go back ages to pre-Christian times, to the Mosaic law, and try to find fancied evils against the blacks there.

R.J. Rushdoony: 23:26 They’re past-bound. All they can think about is the past. And having this past-bound characteristic, they turn on the present with hatred and their only plan is to destroy it. They have no real plan for the future except to level, and then supposedly paradise will appear.

R.J. Rushdoony: 23:55 This is true, also, for many labor men. I cited earlier the twelve hour days of the railroaders. Now, you can talk to some union men who have had only good wages and good hours all their lives, and yet, they will dredge up things like this that have no relationship to the present scene. Certainly it was terrible that the railroaders worked that way, but certainly it is terrible the way railroaders work now, is it not? The vast amount of featherbedding, the fact that some of them can put into two or three hours and collect a day’s wages, or the bricklayers who can, when they work normally, put up a couple of thousand bricks without trouble in an eight hour day, but in some areas have limited by law the amount of bricks they can lay to six hundred, so they don’t have to carry a lunch with them when they go to work. If they lay more than that it’s overtime. And yet, to talk to any labor organizer, all you get is the story of ancient evils. They’re past-bound. Therefore they cannot cope realistically with the present.

R.J. Rushdoony: 25:28 When I was among the American Indians for eight and half years, this was the same thing you found among Indian agitators. All they could think about was all the evils they had suffered at the hands of the white man. How, once, they owned the whole land and now they only had a reservation, and so on, and so forth. And I’ve seen them time and again, with their eyes flashing, go on by the hour in this vein.

R.J. Rushdoony: 26:07 I recall once when one of our Christian Indians spoke up and said “I remember that rich grandfather of yours who owned all of America. He ran around all winter shivering with nothing but a loin cloth on, and very glad if he caught a rabbit to feed himself and the whole family”. But it didn’t make any difference. That Indian who was ranting about the past was standing there in good, warm clothing and he had a car parked at the curb. But he couldn’t live in the present because he was past-bound. And this is the way of the non-Christian, he talks about planning for the future, but he is so past-bound that, as he faces the present and the future, his program is only destruction.

R.J. Rushdoony: 27:16 Second as the non-Christian face the future, his thinking is utopian. He builds a dream world. He cannot face reality. Lewis Mumford, who cannot be accused of being either a Christian or a Conservative, in his book The Story of Utopias declares, and I quote, “Each utopia is a closed society for the prevention of human growth” unquote. And he goes on to say that every plan and program man has devised, the utopian program for tomorrow, reduces man to an economic animal and feeds man in terms of external only. It forgets that he has a soul spirit. It makes him a cog in some kind of machine which is your future utopia. And as a result, the non-Christian, because his thinking about the future is utopian, when he is able to try to bring his future about, only creates chaos and destruction. He tries to force man into an impossible mold and the result is catastrophe.

R.J. Rushdoony: 29:05 But for us there remaineth therefore a rest, a Sabbath, for to the people of God. God’s law provides a program, a plan for the future, in terms of which today we can rest, knowing that He shall bring it to pass. That the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and there shall be, at the end of time, a new creation. Let us pray.

R.J. Rushdoony: 29:53 Almighty God, our heavenly Father we thank Thee for the glory of Thy word, and we thank Thee that today we can rest in Thy Sabbath, in Thy plan, knowing that we have an assured future in Jesus Christ, a glorious rest, a glorious law order. We thank Thee, our Father, that Thou hast called us to be citizens of our kingdom, and we pray that day by day we may move in this glorious certainty and in victorious faith. In Jesus name, Amen.

Rev. R.J. Rushdoony (1916–2001), was a leading theologian, church/state expert, and author of numerous works on the application of Biblical law to society. He started the Chalcedon Foundation in 1965.  His Institutes of Biblical Law (1973) began the contemporary theonomy movement which posits the validity of Biblical law as God’s standard of obedience for all. He therefore saw God’s law as the basis of the modern Christian response to the cultural decline, one he attributed to the church’s false view of God’s law being opposed to His grace. This broad Christian response he described as “Christian Reconstruction.”  He is credited with igniting the modern Christian school and homeschooling movements in the mid to late 20th century. He also traveled extensively lecturing and serving as an expert witness in numerous court cases regarding religious liberty. Many ministry and educational efforts that continue today, took their philosophical and Biblical roots from his lectures and books.

Learn more about R.J. Rushdoony by visiting: https://chalcedon.edu/founder