What does this mean? “We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.”
Previously, we’ve seen how the 1st and 2nd Commandments are deeply connected with the 3rd Commandment. Where do we receive the gift of God Himself and His name? In His Church, on the Sabbath. “There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His” (Hebrews 4:9-10).
What does it mean to rest? We often equate it with sleeping in and doing nothing, perhaps even lounging on the couch binge watching a show on a streaming service. Perhaps even skipping church to watch the big game. Or even if you do manage to go to church, leaving right away after you take the Lord’s Supper to go home and watch the game, therefore worshipping your true god (and violating the 1st Commandment as well).
Entire books have been written about what it means to rest, especially vis-à-vis the Sabbath rest. So, just what does it mean to rest in the Lord? It is nothing more than simply the receiving of God’s Word, for since Jesus invites us to find rest in Him (Matthew 11:28-30), who is the Word made flesh, how can it be anything other than receiving His Word in our hearts, minds, and lips? In a culture where we are constantly inundated with endless propaganda and anti-Christian (= Antichrist) dogma, this is of critical importance. For this reason, Luther exhorts all Christians:
Let me tell you this. Even though you know the Word perfectly and have already mastered everything, you are daily under the dominion of the devil [Colossians 1:13-14], and he does not rest day or night in seeking to take you unawares and to kindle in your heart unbelief and wicked thoughts against these three and all the other commandments. Therefore, you must constantly keep God’s Word in your heart, on your lips, and in your ears. For where the heart stands idle and the Word is not heard, the devil breaks in and does his damage before we realise it [Matthew 13:24-30]. On the other hand, when we seriously ponder the Word, hear it, and put it to use, such is its power that it never departs without fruit [Isaiah 55:11; Mark 4:20]. It always awakens new understanding, pleasure, and devotion, and it constantly creates clean hearts and minds. For this Word is not idle or dead, but effective and living [Hebrews 4:12]. Even if no other benefit or need drove us to the Word, yet everyone should be motivated by the realisation that through the Word the devil is cast out and put to flight [Matthew 4:1-11; James 4:7], this commandment is fulfilled, and God is more pleased than by any hypocrisy, no matter how brilliant.LC I, 100-102
Thus, put away all excuses not to attend church on the Sabbath, even “but there are hypocrites in the church,” because of course there are! The difference is they acknowledge their sinful hypocrisy before their heavenly Father and one another and receive His forgiveness. The biggest hypocrite is the one who thinks he’s too good to find rest in his Lord with all the other hypocrites. It is a vain effort to justify one’s aversion for the Sabbath and therefore violation of the 3rd Commandment. Such thinking would be routed out if one were honest enough to recognise their need for the Word and to receive it on the Sabbath, the blessed day the Lord has set aside for His children to receive the gift of Himself and His name in His Word preached and His Sacraments administered. People are desperate to find God, not realising God comes to them through simple means of His Word and Sacraments on the day of Sabbath rest.