Genesis 2:1-3 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 2 And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. 3 So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.
Let me ask you a question: If you were to write the ending to the creation week, how would you have ended it? I think my ending would probably be God presenting himself to Adam and Eve like Gandalf in The Two Towers. He’d be coming over a ridge with the sunrise at his back and an army of angels flanking him. He would introduce himself in power and declare his authority over and love for the world he’d made. There’d be majesty and glory, kindness and kingliness, holiness and honor. In fact, if I were to write 100 conclusions to creation week, none of them would have ended with God resting. And yet, as you can see, that’s exactly what happened.
While it isn’t what I would have thought up, it’s infinitely better. It’s what God did and what God does is always best. What we have here is a truly remarkable passage; a truly remarkable end to the creation week. As we work through the text we’ll see three awesome aspects of this seventh day: (1) God finished making new kinds of things, having done so (2) God rested from his work, and (3) God blessed the seventh day of the week and made it holy. In the end, I mean to offer a handful of implications and applications for us to take home. Ultimately, my charge to you all from this text is to learn spend your days working in the strength of Jesus for the glory of Jesus and then to come to Jesus for the rest your body and soul need. Let’s pray then that we’d understand and apply this passage for God’s glory and the good of the whole world.
Day seven: Rested and Blessed
As you can easily see, the seventh day of creation has a very different feel than the first six. It breaks from the six-day pattern of wording, creating, and judging. The point of this dramatic change in style and content is undoubtedly to signal something significant. I hope to help you see that over the next few minutes, beginning with God’s announcement of completion.
The first words of Genesis 2 grab our attention. Vs.1 and 2 tell us that after working for six days to bring the heavens and earth into existence—illuminating, forming, and filling them according to his design—God was finished with that work.
1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 2 And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done…
But what does it mean that God finished the work that he had done? It certainly does not mean that God would add nothing to the world from that point on. It did not even mark the end of God’s creative work in the world. Every new leaf and sunset and flower and kitten and moment are the result of the continual creative work of God. Even though God blessed mankind with the ability to reproduce, for instance, every baby is a newly created person intended to glorify God (Psalm 102:18). Even more important is the fact that God’s creative work continues in the world with every new Christian, “… if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17). God’s creative work is certainly continuing on even to today.
If not these things, then what does it mean that God finished his work? It means that God had finished his initial creative work in such a way that it had everything it needed to continue on in God’s blessing. It means that he had finished creating new kinds of things such that the objects of his blessing would continue on through procreation.
It means that God had finished the work of illuminating and forming the heavens and earth, and then filling them both with “all the host of them” (that is, with everything God meant to occupy heaven and earth—stars and moons and angels and fish and birds and vegetation and land animals and people). In this sense, “Thus the heavens and earth were finished,” is like saying that a builder finished building a house. And, “and all the host of them,” is like saying that it was filled with furniture and pictures and appliances and provisions.
God worked until everything was complete for mankind to live and thrive in the world He made. To understand this is to be stirred with awe and wonder; it is to be filled with humility and gratitude. Would you pray that God would stir and fill you with these things?
And He Rested
After finishing his work God did not show up on a sunlit ridgeline (like Gandalf). Instead, even if surprisingly, he rested.
2 … and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. 3 …on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.
But what does it mean that God rested? Clearly, Grace, it did not mark the end of God’s involvement in the world—even for a moment. From the time God spoke the heavens and earth into existence God has continued to work. Jesus made this clear in a discussion on the Sabbath in John 5:17, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” Indeed, God has never stopped working to sustain and govern the world he made. Truly, “In him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).
Likewise, it did not mean that God was tired and needed a break. God is omnipotent and never grows weary. “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary…” (Isaiah 40:28).
And God did not rest because had depleted his resources such that he needed a day of replenishment. God is perfectly self-sufficient and has no needs outside of himself. “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:24-25).
If not these things, then what does it mean that God rested? Ultimately, it means two things. First, it means that, having “finished” creating the heavens and earth, God enjoyed his accomplishment and celebrated its completion (Ross, CB, 114). In other words, “rest,” in this sense includes the idea of pausing from a certain kind of work to delight in its fruit. There’s a second meaning behind God’s rest as well. It also means, as we find out later in the books of Moses, God, in “resting,” leaves his people with a promise and an example. It is a promise that God himself will be our source of rest and peace. And it is an example in that while God didn’t need rest, he “rested” on this seventh day in order to build a rhythm into his creation for his people who do (need rest).
Again, Grace, to understand this is to marvel at God’s creativity and goodness, and it is to be filled with eagerness to order our lives according to His example. Would you pray that God would fill you with these things?
So He Blessed
I mentioned in the introduction that I wanted to help you see three awesome aspects of this passage on the seventh day of creation. First we saw that God finished his creation work. Second we saw that having done so, God rested. And now, third, we’ll see that God blessed and sanctified this day of completion and rest.
3 So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.
What does it mean that God blessed the seventh day and made it holy? It does not mean that it has more power than the rest. It does not mean that it is more special. It does not mean that God likes this day better than the rest. And it does not mean that the seventh day can have babies (as was the case when God blessed the living creatures of the earth—including man).
If not these things, then what does it mean that God blessed the seventh day and made it holy? It means that God blessed the seventh day by making it holy. But what does that mean? It means that God blessed it by setting it apart for a specific purpose. But what was that purpose? The answer to that question was only gradually revealed to the descendents of Adam and Eve…beginning with the institution of the Sabbath Day.
In Exodus 20 Moses gave the Ten Commandments of God to the Israelites. The fourth commandment is this:
Exodus 20:8-11 Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
On the seventh day God finished creating new kinds of things, he rested, and he blessed the day by making it holy. Eventually, as we see in Exodus 20, God would call the Israelites to live this out in a particular way…by refraining from work, according to His example, one day of seven. In an agrarian society like theirs, this was a challenge and a gift. It was a challenge because there was always more work to do and their livelihood (in one sense) depended on it. It was a gift in that in it was permission to rest without guilt. Ultimately, however, it was a call to place their hope in God. He is the one who makes rain fall and crops grow and bounty of harvest. God promised to provide for his people. Therefore, remembering the Sabbath and keeping it holy was really an expression of the Israelites’ trust in and allegiance to God. In this way, God blessed the seventh and made it holy by making it a placeholder for the Sabbath Day, a day that would serve the Israelites by granting them rest and revealing to them the true source of their trust.
But that’s not all that God’s blessing of sanctifying the seventh day meant; it meant much more still. In fact, in the New Testament we find out that Jesus Christ is the true Sabbath; for in him alone is true rest found.
Mark 2:23-28 One Sabbath [Jesus] was going through the grainfields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. 24 And the Pharisees were saying to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” … 27 And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”
A little later on in his ministry Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Jesus will give rest to all who come to him in faith. Apart from him there is no real rest—only illusions and imposters; for in Jesus alone is found forgiveness of sins, reconciliation with God, perseverance in faith, and everlasting fellowship with God. It wasn’t until many years after the seventh day of creation and many more years after Moses delivered the Ten Commandments to the people of God that the fuller revelation of God’s purpose of rest on the seventh was given—rest in the form of salvation to eternal life through faith in the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus; rest in the person of Jesus.
But there’s one more thing we must see if we are to truly understand God’s blessing and sanctifying of the seventh day: We will not finally experience fullness of rest in Jesus until we are in the new heavens and earth. A significant and sufficient measure of rest is available to us in Jesus today, but the fullness of this blessing will not be ours until the fullness of time. If you have time today I encourage you to read Hebrews 4:1-11 where this is made plain.
Hebrews 4:1-11 Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it… 3 For we who have believed enter that rest… although [God’s] works were finished from the foundation of the world. 4 For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” …
9 So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10 for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. 11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest…
On the seventh day God finished his creative work, rested, and blessed the day by making it holy. Sometime after that he would call his people to honor that day in a particular way through the fourth commandment. Centuries later still God would reveal the path of rest in the Person of rest—the Lord Jesus Christ. Ultimately, however, God would reveal to his people the simple fact that fullness of rest is the heart of the new heavens and earth (at the heart of salvation) when we come back to the garden that Adam and Eve were cast out of.
Thus, today is the day of salvation in Jesus for all who will receive him. Today is the beginning of knowing the rest of God in Jesus for all who will trust in him alone. But the fullness of the rest promised—the full meaning of the seventh day—is for the day of Jesus’ return. For then all who have repented and believed in Jesus will be invited back to the garden-temple in its redeemed and remade state for everlasting rest and peace. This life will be hard. In this life we will know difficulty and fatigue. For those who will place their faith in Jesus we can know real rest today and fullness of rest in heaven.
Kids, who made the seventh day and who made the week? Who, then is king of the seventh day and of the weeks? Let this gradual unfolding of God’s plan and goodness amaze you. Let his limitless wisdom humble you. Let his kindness toward you in this cause you to sing and submit.
Day seven: Implications and applications
I want to close, then, by offering two summary principles that lead to a small handful of implications and applications from this text.
God made us for work. By God’s design we are to spend our lives joining God in his work. Though part of God’s curse for sin is that work will be harder than it otherwise would have been, work itself is not the result of the fall; it is good. This will become clearer once we get to 2:15, but we’ve already caught a glimpse of it in 1:28, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” God made us for work.
God made us finite. God made us with limits and it is foolish to try to rebel against them. We do so only to our frustration and peril. Unlike God, who alone has unlimited resources, we cannot work without ceasing. God could have made us with less of a need to rest, but he didn’t. Likewise, he could have made the world in such a way that it needed less tending, but he didn’t. And he could have made the days or weeks longer, but he didn’t. God made us finite and therein unable to ever do all the good that might be done.
To rebel against either of these creation-rooted principles is to invite futility and hardship. To ignore them is pride. But how do we rightly apply them? Let me suggest a small handful of ways.
Implications and Applications
When we combine these two equally biblical principles, then, we’re left with a number of implications and applications:
- Work Hard. To obey God in his command to exercise dominion over the earth (and the rest of his commands) is to work hard. So work hard…in the home, in ministry, in whatever your vocation is. Don’t be lazy. Expect to be tired at the end of the day. Think of retirement as a means to work differently, not to stop working. Your work is never to be your identity, but it is always to be your activity.
- Find joy in the knowledge that your work—insofar as it is contributing to the ordering of the world God made and you are doing it for the glory of God—is right and good and pleasing to God. The first work was hands-in-the-dirt farming and animal husbandry. Don’t fall into the lie of believing that only certain types of work have significance in the kingdom of God. Where you work as unto the Lord, your work is truly good.
- In your finitude rest without guilt. Go to bed at night in peace and set aside a day of rest each week with a clean conscience. In the creation week God gave us both a daily and weekly example and rhythm to follow. As I mentioned above, it is foolish, futile, and frustrating to avoid daily sleep or a day of weekly rest.
- (1) Not working and (2) resting in Jesus are not the same thing. Our weekly day of rest is not meant to be filled with godless things. Rather, it is to be filled with a lack of physical productivity in order to enhance both our physical and spiritual productivity. One commentator said it this way, “Israel was to set apart one day in seven to worship and serve the Lord—not simply to engage in common relaxation and entertainment” (Ross, CB, 114). Calvin said it even better, “God did not command men simply to keep holiday every seventh day, as if he delighted in their indolence [laziness]; but rather that they, being released from all other business, might the more readily apply their minds to the Creator of the world. [The seventh day] is a sacred rest, which withdraws men from the impediments of the world, that it may dedicate them entirely to God” (Calvin, COG, 63). In your rest look to Jesus. Pray, worship, sing, read your bibles more. Engage your family on spiritual matters. All in the knowledge that Jesus will give you what you most need as you offer yourself to him.
- We must rest for work, not from work. We rest so we are better able to work. Let that sink in and ask God to help you live in light of it.
- Regular rest is an act of trust in God. Resting for a day is not intuitive. We probably wouldn’t think of doing so on our own. In fact, in many ways it is counterintuitive. There’s always more to do in ministry, family, and work. Taking a day off just makes the pile larger. And yet, with full knowledge of that fact, God gave us this rhythm for a reason and we join in it, like the Israelites, as an expression of our trust in the wisdom and goodness of God. If you don’t work hard during the week, then you are failing to trust in God’s plan for working out his will in the world. And if you don’t rest week during the week, then you are failing to trust in God as your true provider. Six days of work rebukes the lazy and one day of rest rebukes the proud.
- Because we are New Covenant people, keeping a Sabbath day on a particular day of the week, is no longer a command for us to follow in the same way as it was for the people of the Old Covenant. Nevertheless, God built our need for rest and the six-and-one rhythm it into his creation. On a practical level this means that although Christians have tended to rest on Sundays, we are not bound to a particular day, just to a particular rhythm. Find that rhythm and live in it for God’s glory and your good.
Have you ever considered the fact that a day is based on the earth’s rotation on its axis, a month on the moon’s cycle, and a year on the time it takes the earth to rotate around the sun, but a week has no fixed point of measurement. We have weeks simply because God told us to do so in our passage for this morning. The rhythm of days, months, and years is tied to something objective in creation. The rhythm of weeks is tied to solely to God’s word. And the rhythm of a week, as we have clearly seen in God’s example in Genesis 1, is six days of work and one day of rest.
God worked to create the heavens and earth in six days. Once he finished this work, God rested on the seventh day. As an expression of his enjoyment in his creation and as an example for his people to follow, God blessed and sanctified that day. As his people would gradually come to understand, we are to join God in all of this. That is, we are to work and rest as well; we are to rest in Jesus, according to the rhythm of creation, and ultimately in the new heavens and earth. What a gift! What a blessing! What a reminder of the fact that the good news of the gospel is greater than we’ll ever know! What a reminder of how much grace was truly in the incarnation! What fuel to power our Christmas celebrations! Amen.