Devotion: Sabbath Observance as a Mark of Christian Nations

“Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work” (Exodus 20:9-10).

God intended the Sabbath as an occasion for our souls to find rest and delight in Him. As creation week drew to a close, God designated the last day of the week as a “holy day” that would be set apart for the purpose of worship, fellowship, and rest (Gen 2:2-3). This pattern continued until the early church started celebrating the Sabbath on the first day of the week, Sunday, to commemorate the resurrection of Christ.

Significantly, God has commanded all of mankind to remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Early Americans, desirous to recognize and obey the will of God, also understood that widespread Sabbath observance improved the moral and physical welfare of a community. For these reasons, maintaining the sanctity of the Sabbath was a matter of public concern.

As a result, colonial and state legislatures in early America passed “Sunday closing laws” (also called “blue laws”) prohibiting unnecessary labor and commerce on the Sabbath day. Unsurprisingly, these laws withstood numerous constitutional challenges from those who claimed they violated religious freedom.

In one such case, the Supreme Court of South Carolina appealed to biblical teaching in vindicating the blue laws of that state: “On that day, we rest, and to us it is the Sabbath of the Lord – its decent observance, in a Christian community, is that which ought to be expected.” For hundreds of years, court after court acknowledged that Sunday closing laws were an essential element of Christian society and that such laws were rightly considered the prerogative and obligation of state and local governments.

And yet sadly, our culture is no longer characterized by its love for God, his Church, and the Lord’s Day. Blue laws have fallen off the lawbooks in most states, even as Sundays have become increasingly associated with shopping sprees and sporting events. Church attendance is declining, and many people report feeling frantic and anxious in their personal and professional lives. Ironically, in failing to devote ourselves to God through the joyful and reverent observance of his Sabbath day, we have forfeited the rest and the peace that we so dearly desire.

 

PRAYER. Dear Lord, forgive us for profaning the Sabbath day by pursuing unnecessary labor and amusements. Give us a vision for what it means to honor the Sabbath and keep it holy. As you renew our minds and sanctify us so that we may delight in you, remind us of the finished work of Christ, and help us trust in your providence. May we find our Sabbath rest and peace in you. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

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