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. [i]
When Moses penned this book, he did not include chapter and verse numbers. The first bible to contain the chapter and verse numbers with which we are familiar did not appear until Robert Estienne (Robertus Stephanus) published the entire bible in French. In 1555, he published a Latin version with the same numbering system. And it’s used in all bible versions since.[ii] We note that to remind ourselves the chapters and verse numbers of our bible are not inspired nor inerrant. Genesis 2:1 provides us a good example of that fact.
Genesis 2:1 is the echo and close of the creation story Moses began in 1:1. The first verse reads, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”[iii]The final verse of this section echoes, “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.” [iv]An echo of a previous verse is called and inclusio, a literary form that marks the opening and closing a section. Matthew was particularly fond of the inclusio as means of arranging his gospel account (cf. Mat. 19:30; 20:16). Moses uses an inclusio in 1:1 and 2:1 to frame the opening of his book. He’s not done writing about creation. In 2:4 he will give the toledoth, or account, of creation with the focus being upon God’s covenant with Adam and Eve. So, a perfectly-versified version of Genesis would have verse one of chapter 2 marked as verse 32 of chapter one.
Chapter 2, verse one is important because Moses wants us to understand that God has finished shaping the earth and skies and filling it with everything that he considered good. With human beings as his crowning achievement of creation, he pronounces all his work very good(1:31). Silence and stillness once again enter the scene. “There is no activity, no noise, no speaking. All that God has willed and designed for his canvas of the universe is now in its place.”[v]It is in place with a host, a great company or great abundance of completed creations.[vi]
All that God had made was worthy of praise, and as such he gave it his highest commendation: “it was very good.” The earth spun perfectly in its orbit around the sun in majestic twenty-four-hour rotation. The well-ordered planet swarmed with life under the joyous watch of the first couple.”[vii]
Then, Moses writes, “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.”[viii]
What does Moses mean when he writes that God rested on the seventh day? Did God stay in his pajamas all day, kick back on the couch and take a lot of nice long naps? Did he put on his craziest Tommy Bahama shirt, swim trunks, flip flops and hit the beach with a cooler full of Corona Lights? It does not mean that God rested in the sense that he became indifferent to what the man and woman were doing. We know God was not indifferent because when Adam and Eve sinned, he was immediately there in the garden calling them to an accounting. He pronounced judgment and held out hope of a Redeemer to come. [ix]
This seventh day was clearly different from the previous six days. There was no creation formula (And God said) because his creative word was not required. The seventh day did not have the usual closing refrain (and there was evening and there was morning) to indicate the day’s end. The seventh day was the only day to be “blessed” and “made . . . holy” by God. The seventh day stood outside the paired days of creation because there was no corresponding day to it in the preceding six. And unlike the six creative days, the number of the day (the seventh day) is repeated three times. [x]
Moses gives God’s rest on the seventh day dramatic attention in the way he writes verses 2 and 3. These verses are written in 4 lines, the first three of which have seven words each. The middle of each of the first three lines is the phrase the seventh day. Moses’ literary artistry points to a deep theological significance in this seventh day andin God’s resting. From the beginning of creation, the seventh day was central not only to creation, but also to the final destiny of God’s people. Verses 2 and 3 both say, God rested from all his work that he had done.[xi]That brings us back to the question: What did Moses mean when he wrote that God rested? It can’t mean that God needed a day off to nap or hang out at the beach because he was worn down. God is omnipotent (all powerful). Regardless of the amount of power he expends, his power is never depleted. It’s not run down. He has an infinite supply of power.
Calvin, in his commentary on Genesis, wrote:
For it is certain that inasmuch as God sustains the world by his power, governs it by his providence, cherishes and even propagates all creatures, he is constantly at work. Therefore, that saying of Christ is true, that the Father and he himself had worked from the beginning [up to now], because, if God should but withdraw his hand a little, all things would immediately perish and dissolve into nothing….[xii]
REST AND BLESSED
Actually, the word “rest” means “ceased from.” God stopped his creating activity. In fact, though God ceased his creating activity, he still worked. Jesus said exactly that, as Calvin noted, when he healed a crippled man on the Sabbath: “My Father is working until now, and I am working” (John 5: 17). God rested from creating, but he continued to work in sustaining and ruling over his creation. In fact, if he stopped working, everything would dissolve into nothing.
God resting from his creation of the cosmos was an expression of his deep satisfaction and joy at the fruit of his labor. That satisfaction and joy extended to Adam and Eve in their state of innocence as they lived in the paradise of heaven and earth, man and Creator, joined together in perfect fellowship. That perfect rest was destroyed by Adam’s rebellion and will not be present again in all its fulness until Christ consummates all things to himself in the new earth and sky where heaven and earth, God and man, live together in perfect eternal fellowship.
Moses wrote, “God blessed the seventh day and made it holy.”[xiii]He was so pleased with the results of his creation, he set the seventh day apart (holy) as a spiritually fruitful (blessed) day. God had given two previous blessings in creation. First, he blessed the living creations (1:22), then Adam and Eve (1:28), giving them the ability to renew their species. His blessing of the seventh day means he makes it a day of renewal. God didn’t take a long nap or hit the beach on the seventh day, he took pleasure in himself and his creation. He gave Adam and Eve the gift of resting in the work of their Creator. Augustine wrote, “You move us to delight in praising You; for You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”[xiv]
Moses wrote that “God…made it holy. This is the first thing in scripture said to be made holy or set apart. It was elevated abovethe other six days and set apart by God for God. Notice Moses does not conclude it with the phrase, “there was evening and there was morning.” This day of rest and renewal has no end. It has existed since creation was completed and still exists for God’s people. And yet, so many fail to notice this offer of rest and renewal. Since Adam rebelled against God, we have inherited Adam’s contrary idea that we control our own lives for our own good and have the freedom to make our own rules for successful living (however we choose to define “successful”). This produces a vast amount of restlessness, discontent, and outright anger that only increases as new information and new choices become available every day in an ever-innovating world.
In an increasingly industrialized and digitalized world, we don’t have less choice but an ever-increasing amount of choices. Your choice of music is almost unlimited in the digital age. Your capacity to receive new information is only as limited as the ever-expanding number of available podcasts and digital books and websites. Even choosing movies or television shows for some relaxing entertainment can be thoroughly frustrating as you scroll through Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, and cable or satellite channels – so many choices to give you the illusion you have control over your own happiness. Searching for rest is a restless, exhausting activity. People cannot keep up with the choices they are compelled to make.
The underlying cause of our exhaustion is not the number of choices we have before us in our everyday lives. The underlying cause is Adam’s choice to reject God’s rest and accept the lie that he could be the master of his own fate and the captain of his own soul. Ever since that one decision, humans have suffered under the lie that we are our own chief morale officers. The underlying cause of our exhaustion and restlessness is sin – the failure to rest in the goodness of God. Isaiah sang (Isa. 57:20-21):
But the wicked are like the tossing sea;
for it cannot be quiet,
and its waters toss up mire and dirt.
There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.[xv]
Satan was the first to reject God’s good rest. In Greek he is often called Diabolos (devil), which means “the disrupter.” He is the one who throws out the first pitch in the miserable losing game of self-determination, the illogical contest that denies the absolute sovereignty of the Good Creator God who offers rest. If we were sinless, like Adam and Even before their rebellion, we would have peace.
Untold generations after the fall, the flood, the tower of Babel, the lives of the patriarchs, the captivity in Egypt, and the exodus – the seventh day was given preeminence in Israel when God gave Moses the fourth commandment:
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 on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.[xvi]
The Sabbath day was to be one of complete rest, cessation from life’s labors. Like God’s rest, it was “blessed,” and so its observation by God’s people was essential to their spiritual health and growth. Because it is a day without morning and evening, we are called to celebrate the eternal goodness of our Creator in offering eternal rest to those he created in his image.
The Sabbath was also a day to remember and celebrate redemption. In Deuteronomy’s extended version of the Fourth Commandment, Moses adds, “You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore, the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day” (5: 15). In Egypt Israel had been cruelly overworked. And Pharaoh only let them go when God wrought his mighty deliverance at the Passover. With their redemption from Egypt came the rest that had not been theirs for hundreds of years. So, on the Sabbath, as they rested, they were to reflect on their miraculous redemption.[xvii]
The Sabbath and its ritual observance became the preeminent sign of God’s covenant of salvation from guilt and sin. After the tabernacle was built, the Sabbath was regarded as the sign of the covenant between God and his people: “And the LORD said to Moses, ‘You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, “Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you’” (Exodus 31: 12, 13).[xviii]
These verses in Genesis are discussed by the author of Hebrews. He begins in chapter 3, but it is really in chapter 4 that he talks about what he calls “Sabbath-rest” (v. 9). St Author calls attention to the fact that although God has created rest for his people, we are not at rest. He points out that when God led Israel out of Egypt into the wilderness in their days of wandering, his goal was to bring them into the Promised Land. It was to be a place where they would find rest from their wandering.
It was a symbol, a type, a picture of heaven joined with earth as in Eden. But the people rebelled, as we do, and God judged that generation. The author quotes Psalm 95:11 in which God says, “I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’”St Author asks how this can be. Here is God, who creates a day of rest and promises rest and yet swears that his people will never enter into that rest. He replies that we do not enter into rest because we will not come to God at that point at which rest may be found — in the Lord Jesus Christ.[xix]
St Author of Hebrews goes on to exhort his readers:
Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, 7 again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted,
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts.”
8 For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. 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.[xx]
Jesus makes the offer of God’s rest. The night before his crucifixion when he was with his disciples in the upper room, he recognized that they were bothered by what was happening. They had heard his prophecies of his death, and although they did not understand them fully, they sensed things were rapidly changing. They were troubled, but he said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me” (John 14:1). He went on to talk about heaven and the giving of the Holy Spirit and the privilege of prayer. And when he got to the end, he gave them something that can rightly be regarded as his legacy: peace. He said, “My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (v. 27).[xxi]
How do we take hold of that rest which Jesus offers? How do we assure ourselves of God’s eternal Sabbath rest? By trusting Christ who has done what we need. Sin is the basic cause of restlessness, and sin is the problem with which we must deal. We cannot handle it. We are the sinners. But the Lord Jesus Christ not only can, he does. He comes; he lives the life of perfect resting trust in God we cannot ever live. He dies; he pays the penalty for our sin. He opens the door into the presence of God for all who believe in him. Then God, on the basis of the perfect law-keeping life and sacrificial death of the risen and ascended Christ, pronounces the believing one justified. That one now stands before the presence of God clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. That person now has the ability to rest in God’s creative works.[xxii]
God rested from creating on the seventh day. But when Adam sinned and destroyed God’s perfect rest, God promised a new creation where the devil, who threw out the first pitch in the great rebellion, will be crushed under Christ’s foot. St. Author of Hebrews wrote:
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.[xxiii]
Jesus sat downbecause his work of redeeming a people for his peaceful new creation was complete. There is nothing more we need do but rest in him whom to know is eternal sabbath rest. So, he calls to us:
Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.[xxiv]
[i]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 2:1–3.
[iii]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 1:1.
[iv]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 2:1.
[vi]John Calvin, Genesis, electronic ed., Calvin’s Commentaries, 1998, Ge 2:1.
[vii]Hughes, 41-42. Kindle Edition.
[viii]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 2:2-3.
[ix]James Montgomery Boice, Genesis: An Expositional Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1998), 100.
[x]Hughes, 42. Kindle Edition.
[xi]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 2:2.
[xii]John Calvin, op. cit.
[xiii]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 2:3.
[xv]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Is 57:20–21.
[xvi]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ex 20:8–11.
[xvii]Hughes, 44. Kindle Edition.
[xviii]Id., 45. Kindle Edition.
[xx]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Heb 4:6–10.
[xxiii]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Heb 1:1–4.
[xxiv]Tyndale House Publishers, Holy Bible: New Living Translation (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2013), Mt 11:28–30.