IBL04: Fourth Commandment (Craig Press)

Sign of Freedom


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

R.J. Rushdoony: 00:01 Deuteronomy 5:12-15, The sign of freedom. Deuteronomy 5:12-15, the fourth commandment. “Keep the Sabbath day and sanctify it. As the Lord thy God hath commanded thee. Six days thou shall labor and do all thy work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God. In it, thou shalt not do any work. Thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thine cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates. That thy manservant and thy maidservant may rest as well as thou. Remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt and that the Lord thy God brought thee out hence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm. Therefore the Lord thy God commanded thee to keep the Sabbath day.”

R.J. Rushdoony: 01:21 The fourth commandment has a rather strange history. Among the Jews, it lead to all kinds of absurdities at the time of our Lord’s birth, to intense and peculiar legal interpretations as to what constituted labor on the Sabbath. It reached the point where many of the Jews, not only refused to go no more than a certain feet on a Sabbath day, but some of them scrupled over eating an egg, because obviously that egg had been labored over by a hen on Sun Sabbath and it would be a violation of the Sabbath to partake of something that had been a result of labor on the Sabbath. Similar absurdities have been apparent sometimes in various Christian churches. I can think right now of one very prominent body of Christians, the denomination that take a great many of other things lightly, including a good deal of the Bible, but you dare not transgress their Sabbath requirements. You can be a socialist in the corporate, in fact you’re better off if you are, but they still boast of being conservative because of their observed Sabbath regulations. And so it is, this commandment is sometimes distasteful because of what people have done with it. The absurdities to which they obstruct it.

R.J. Rushdoony: 03:27 On the other hand, this commandment concerning the Sabbath has been a target of attack from the opposition. Revolutionary movements have again and again sought to overthrow the entire concept of the day of rest. The French Revolution attempted to do it. The Russian Revolution abolished it for a time, but found that it was impossible, really, to do away with it, and it continues to be a target in red China, of course, it has been abolished. Even within the churches now, on the plight of the left wingers, there are revolutionary plans afoot to destroy the entire concept of a day of rest.

R.J. Rushdoony: 04:22 This morning we can do no more but to begin a survey of the subject. A very important one, because the Sabbath law is important for it’s prophetic significance, as well as it’s legal aspects. At this point too, the two declarations of the ten commandments differ from one another. As the ten commandments are given to us in Exodus, we are not told to keep the Sabbath day to sanctify it, but to remember the Sabbath day to sanctify it. A minor difference, but it’s the one point of variation, this commandment, between the two. Then it goes on to say that, “For in six days the Lord created the heaven and the earth and on the seventh day, He rested.” But in Deuteronomy, if you read it, it has no reference to the creation saga. So we see a point of difference here in the two. The one declares that the pattern for the Sabbath day, which they ought to remember or keep, is the creation saga.

R.J. Rushdoony: 05:48 There had been no Sabbath observance until Sinai, until the first Passover, which was established as the pattern at Sinai. We are to keep it now, why? Because God delivered them. “Therefore, the Lord thy God, commanded thee to keep the Sabbath day.” Thus, clearly Sabbath represents redemption. It is the day of redemption for Israel. The first Passover and each Sabbath commemorates it. The pattern is the seventh day of creation, the week of creation, but it commemorates the deliverance from Egypt. There is no evidence for a Sabbath prior to the Exodus.

R.J. Rushdoony: 06:51 There is no evidence anywhere in history, of any kind of day of rest in all history, outside of the Bible. Occasionally, in some cultures, such as in Rome or in Persia and one or two other places, a king’s birthday would be declared a holiday, or if the king were getting married, he would declare that it would be a holiday or there would be two or three days of holidays for the entire people, but there was no regular day of rest. This then is unique. It is limited to the Bible. No day of rest in any other cultures. Wherever you do find it out of Christendom, you find it because it has been taken from the Bible. The Muslim observance of Friday is taken from the Bible. Mohammed wanted to establish something similar, but he did not want the Jewish Sabbath or the Christian first day of the week. So he chose Friday. Where it is observed in Asia and in Africa today, it is observed because Christians going there established the custom.

R.J. Rushdoony: 08:31 Another one of the fallacies concerning the Sabbath is that it is seen very often as an infringement of man’s liberty. Most people regard it as in terms of the old fashions blue laws. We will deal with the significance of them on another day. So they see it as some kind of limitation on their activities, but the Sabbath, in principle, is the liberation of man. The third chapter of Hebrews makes this clear. The Sabbath represents the promised land, as it were, but the promised land Canaan did not typify fully, that promised land. Jesus Christ and the new creation set forth the fulfillment of the Sabbath for the rest of man. Sabbath means rest. The purpose of the Sabbath therefore, is to assert the principle of freedom under God and liberty under law, God’s law. The purpose is to free man from his work and from himself and to establish him in the work of God. In God’s finished work in Jesus Christ.

R.J. Rushdoony: 10:01 Now, the Sabbath is disliked by humanism, because humanism believes in the plenary ability of man. That is in the total capacity of man. Man is able, by his own efforts, to remake himself, to guide his own evolution, we are told, to control the weather, to create paradise on earth. Therefore, the idea of a Sabbath, God’s work, God’s fulfillment, God’s deliverance of man into this paradise, is an anathema. Man is going to do it himself. So, the response of humanism to the Sabbath, is to emphasize the worker and work. To proletarianize the calendar.

R.J. Rushdoony: 10:58 Now what is the proletariat? Marx based his entire appeal to the proletariat. Proletarians are workers of the world, depending on what translation you use. Unite, this is his message. You have nothing to lose, but your chain. But the chains sound strangely like the Bible and the Sabbath and God. The freedom sounds very much like total work. The proletarianization of man has been defined as fettering man to work. The proletarian is the man who is fettered, chained, to the processes of work. The leaders of revolution want to chain man to work, because they say, if you get in and work, if you dedicate yourself to this five year or ten year or twenty year plan, that the end result will be your deliverance into paradise. So, first we free you from God and from the Sabbath, we chain you to work, and the result of that chaining will be your deliverance.

R.J. Rushdoony: 12:22 So their first target of attack is precisely God and the Sabbath. God and His love. Stalin declared, “If God exists, he must have ordained slavery, feudalism, and capitalism. He must want humanity to suffer. Then there would be no hope for the toiling masses to free themselves from their oppressors. When I learned that there is no God, I knew that humanity could fight it’s way to freedom.”, so said Stalin. Fight it’s way to freedom. What he meant, of course in application as he went on to develop his thesis, was that the masses could work their way to freedom. So the idea of working eight hours a day, five days a week, this was a capitalistic snare for the workers to Stalin. They had to work and work and work. Not by the hour, but by piece. They had to produce so much. They had to be driven to paradise.

R.J. Rushdoony: 13:37 What was going to happen when they got there, Stalin said, “Each man will be developed under Socialism, to a point where he and all his fellows will surpass the giants of the pre-Socialist past, such as Michelangelo and Goethe. By chaining man to labor, we will enable man to create such a paradise, that every coal miner and every ditch digger will then be a Michelangelo. He can go home and knock off an hour or two and whip out another work that will surpass Michelangelo. Or write a drama that will surpass Goethe’s Faust. This was the dream. This was not limited to Stalin, in fact, he borrowed this statement from Kratzke and Kratzke borrowed it, of course, from Lenin and Karl Marx. This was their goal. Every man would be, they said, equal to Paganini, the world’s greatest violinist, or equal to Michelangelo or Leonardo Da Vinci. Take your choice. Once you overthrow the chains of capitalism, once you become a proletarian chained to the processes of work, you’re gonna come out of the coal pits the all time genius. Of course what Stalin did was actually two things. He enslaved more men than any other single man in the history of the world and he killed more men than any other tyrant in all of history. All of this to deliver man to the true Sabbath rest, to the true paradise.

R.J. Rushdoony: 15:32 Now as we examine the various Sabbath laws, a little more specifically, but still somewhat generally, the first thing we have to note with regard to the Sabbath legislation is this. The Sabbath literally means rest or day of rest, not a day of worship. This is an important point. Now, we as Christians, have been enjoying not forsaking the assembly of ourselves together. That is, the new testament makes clear in the book of Hebrews, the tenth chapter, that worship is a duty for us. Now, thus, the Sabbath law does not require worship. It requires rest, under Christ, worship is now a duty rather than a law. There is a difference. Now over in the Old Testament, there was no weekly worship. The seventh day was the day of rest within the family. Yes there was family prayer, there was family worship, but this was daily in the home. Daily in the home, though, was a recital of various passages of scripture and of the Psalms.

R.J. Rushdoony: 17:10 So there was no weekly day of worship in the Sabbath law. The weekly day of worship came during the captivity and developed, especially between the Old and New Testament period, in the synagogue. So that by the time of our Lord, many of the Israelites had become accustomed to a weekly day of worship in the synagogue, but the law itself does not require a day of worship, but a day of rest. Rest here means confidence in God’s finished work. So that we cease from our labors in the symbolic representation of our total confidence in God’s accomplishment. God has declared His victory. He will create all things new and man shall rejoice and rest therein. Man in advance of the event rests in the anticipation of the glorious new creation of God.

R.J. Rushdoony: 18:25 The second point, with regard to the Sabbath laws we must note, is very severe laws enforced the Sabbath rest. There was no work to be done. No beast of burden could be loaded or worked. There would be no traveling. No fire kindling, no sticks gathered on the Sabbath. Life could be saved on the Sabbath. War could be fought on the Sabbath, because the essence of the Sabbath is the victory of redemption rest and so the enemies could be defeated. There could be an alleviation of hunger and of illness on the Sabbath. Our Lord made that emphatic, but the law itself earlier had indicated that. But there could not be work. The penalty for violation was death. Now this clearly indicates the importance of the Sabbath law in the old covenant.

R.J. Rushdoony: 19:47 The third, we must make clear that there is not a trace of maintenance of the Sabbath penalties, after the resurrection. The church had a clear mandate to regard this law in another light. St. Paul declared in Galatians 2:16-17, “Let no man therefore judge you in meat or in drink or in respective and holy days, or the new moon, or of the Sabbath days, which are shadow of things to come, but the body is of Christ.” So clearly with Christ’s resurrection, something changed about the law. Certainly the penalties were gone, the death penalty. On the other hand, what we must take is this, anything that at one time had a death penalty attached to it, which is a capital offense, is obviously so important, has embedded in it a legal principle so important that we can only disregard it today at our peril.

R.J. Rushdoony: 21:03 Next Sunday we will devote the entire time to analysis of why there was a death penalty. What it involved, and here we get into legislation and Mosaic Law, it is never discussed in the corporate today, but which is basic to any understanding of God’s purpose for the world in every age. Thus what deserves a death penalty, involved a basic principle so that even though the death penalty is altered, the basic principle remains. Now of course we must then state further that the Sabbath was changed from the Hebrews Sabbath to the day of resurrection, the first day of the week. Therefore, to reject Sunday as the Christian day of rest, is to reject Christ’s redemption and to seek salvation by another end, an inadmissible way. This must be stressed. Deuteronomy makes clear that the day that was kept, was the day commemorating their deliverance from Egypt, the Passover. Now if our salvation is with Israel, then we celebrate the Passover, but if we feel that now there is none other name under heaven by which men may be saved, and that the Passover salve only prefigured Christ, and it is Christ’s resurrection which sets forth our salvation, our atonement from sin and from death, then it is the first day of the week we observe, for we are now of Christ.

R.J. Rushdoony: 23:10 Then fifth, we must say further that the Hebrew Sabbath and the modern Saturday can not be equated. Here, Mrs. White, the founder of The Seventh Day Adventists, is so far wrong that her position is a monstrosity. There is no connection between Saturday and the Hebrew Sabbath. There is a connection between Saturday and the Jewish Sabbath to date, but the Jews revised their calendar in the Christian era to conform with the Christian calendar. It made it easier for them to live in Christian Europe. So now they observe Saturday as their day of worship, but the modern Saturday has no relationship whatsoever to the Jewish Sabbath.

R.J. Rushdoony: 24:16 Why? Because according to the Biblical calendar, the Sabbath fell upon the date, not upon the day of the week. In other words, the first month of the Jewish calendar, or the Israelite calendar, was Av. The Sabbath fell every year, without fail, on the first, the eight, the fifteenth, the twenty-second, and the twenty-ninth of Av, without any exceptions. Now figure that out and you realize what happened. Your birthday falls, let us say on the fifteenth of January every year, but one year the fifteenth is on Sunday, and the next on Monday, the next on Tuesday, and so on, so that every seven years you’ve had a birthday from Sunday through Saturday, have you not. The date of your birthday remains constant. The day of the week on which it falls is variable. Now the Hebrew Sabbath fell, without exception, without variation, every year, every month, on the same days of the month. So in turn the calendar is from Sunday to Saturday, every seven years. So the idea of celebrating Saturday, and believing that you’re keeping the Biblical Sabbath, is an absurdity. It’s a monstrosity.

R.J. Rushdoony: 26:23 It was presented without any knowledge of the Bible, because when you go to the law, you find very clearly in Leviticus, in the various chapters that deal with the Sabbath, that it spells out the days of the month, beginning with Av. There can never be any variation and when it tells you that the fourteenth of Av was always to be a day of work, on the fifteenth always to be a day of rest, you know that it is not a day of the week that was the Jewish Sabbath or the Israelite Sabbath, but a date of the month without variation. Moreover, there were a number of extra Sabbaths, I might add, in the Hebrew calendar. Their months were thirty days long. Twelve months of thirty days gives you 360 days, does it not, so you have five extra days. Two days were added at the end of one six month period and the other three days were added at the other six month period, at the finish. They constituted one Sabbath. So you had a two day long Sabbath or a longer Sabbath. You could have, in fact, a two year Sabbath. We will deal with that next week.

R.J. Rushdoony: 28:17 Then sixth, we must say that the Sabbath, the day of rest, represented redemption and liberation and culminated in the jubilee. More on that next week. But the great jubilee proclamation, which was brought over to this country and written on the Liberty Bell, was this, “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land and unto all the inhabitants thereof.”, Leviticus 25:10. You shall understand next week, as we deal with the death penalties and with the jubilee, what this proclamation of liberty meant. Why it is so important to any society. Why it is so basic to life and violation of it is so closely tied to death. But the principle we must state now is liberty. The Sabbath represents liberty and the great Sabbath year of the jubilee, was the proclamation of liberty throughout all the land and unto all the inhabitants thereof, but the Bible also tells us there is a pseudo-liberty, a pseudo-Sabbath as it were, a pseudo-rest.

R.J. Rushdoony: 29:45 What is it? Slavery. Slavery. Slavery is created of great superiority, is it not. Slavery is the welfare economy carried to its logical conclusion. The slave has perfect social security. The Bible recognizes slavery as a legitimate system, a legitimate way of life. It says, quite frankly, by it’s legislation that a lot of people are, by nature, slaves. It provides for voluntary slavery and it says that the man who doesn’t feel he wants to risk freedom, can go and make himself a slave. There are certain guarantees for the welfare of the slaves. Slavery was in the Bible, voluntary, except where there was enslavement for theft and the man was incapable of making restitution, he then had to be a slave temporarily and work off the amount he owed, make restitution, but since slavery is a pseudo-Sabbath, a pseudo-rest, a pseudo-liberty, the Christian, St. Paul tells us, cannot voluntarily become a slave.

R.J. Rushdoony: 31:26 In I Corinthians 7:23 and Galatians 5:1, the believers is emphatically told he had been bought with a price. He has been set free at a great price by Jesus Christ. Therefore, be not again entangled with the yolk of bondage. Be not the servant or the slave of men. The pseudo-rest of socialism and welfarism is a violation, therefore, of the Sabbath principle. Our Sabbath rest is to be in terms of liberty in Jesus Christ. Not the pseudo-Sabbath of Socialism and slavery. The Christian Sabbath is not the slavery of Socialism. No minister who declares he believes in the ten commandments and in the fourth commandment, can be a Socialist or a believer in a welfare economy, without transgressing the Word of God. Let us pray.

R.J. Rushdoony: 32:48 Our Lord and our God, we thank Thee what Thou hast allowed by grace, through the blood of Jesus Christ. Delivered us in Your divine embrace, into thy liberty. We pray our Father, that Thou wouldst make us strong in Jesus Christ, that we may not again be entangled with the yolk of bondage. That we may not become the servants or the slaves of men. Enable us O Lord, by Thy grace, to walk in terms of Thou so great salvation and to proclaim the good news of liberty throughout all the land and unto all the inhabitants thereof. That they that might come under Thy Sabbath, might rejoice, and rest in Thy work. Bless us to this purpose see we seek to Thee, 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