This is the longest commandment by far. In our pew Bibles it covers 4 verses and contains 99 words. And unusually, it contains detail as to what the commandment means and the reason why keeping is makes sense.
The answer to that last question takes us back to Creation. In 6 days God made the world, and then he rested from his labours. That day was blessed by God, setting it apart for a special purpose, a holy purpose, that of rest.
Rest is a gift of God’s grace. In many cultures, past and present, there is no day of rest, especially for the working classes. But as the good news of Jesus spread, so did this command for a day of rest, a day blessed by God, a day made for people (as Jesus says), to bring joy and refreshment. In previous decades Sundays may have been dull and boring, but today we’ve thrown off restraint and done away with rest altogether. We are poorer for it. A day of rest is vital for our mental and physical health, and vital for our spiritual health. Away from work we can concentrate on God and find refreshment for our souls.
And it is a day for everyone and everything. Adults, children, men and women, slave and free, locals and foreigners, even working animals are to be given a day of rest, free from work, and free to focus on God and his good gifts to us. A day of joy, rest, prayer, praise, fellowship and peace. Our 24-7 business culture has made taking that day as Sunday impossible for some people. But where we are able, we benefit greatly from taking a day to rest physically from our labours, to rest mentally from the concerns of the week, and to rest spiritually by taking time with God and his people.
Of course, one day isn’t nearly enough. But it does point us forward to the eternal Sabbath Rest that God has prepared for all those who love him.