Today marks one month since the beginning of our new sermon series in the book of Genesis and it speaks to the glory of this book that we still find ourselves working our way through the creation week. What a God we’ve seen in this wondrous work of creation! So many realities and foundational truth to build our lives on. And we’re only one chapter in! There’s 49 more to go. What a wealth of abundance lies before us.
Let’s pray together…
Genesis 2:1-3 is before us this morning. And with this text before us, day 7 of the creation week is now in view, and Church, what a day it is! Remember the pattern we’ve seen so far in the creation week. In Gen. 1:2 we see the state of creation is without form and void. Then in days 1-3 we see God form the earth, and in days 4-6 we see God fill the earth. The first six days show us how God has remedied the state of creation in v2. What was once without form is now formed, and what was once empty and void is now filled. Who did all this work? God (!), who is Himself the theme and main subject of day 7 as we see Him reign as King over all creation.
Many believe day 6 is the pinnacle of the creation week as man is made. I disagree. While it is true that man is the pinnacle of all created beings, only man male and female is made in the image of God, man is by no means the pinnacle of the creation week, no. I think day 7 is the pinnacle, because now we see the King satisfied and content with His labor, we see that creation is no longer an empty theater, but full, overflowing, and bursting on all sides with the wonderful works of God.
God Rests (2:1-3)
“Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 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. 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.”
Notice right away, the awkward numbering of the chapter and verse division here. It is helpful to occasionally remind ourselves that the numbers and headings in our Bibles were not there in the original. They were added later on to help with locating passages quickly and to aid memorization. Most of the time the choices about where to place these numbers are good and we can see why those decisions were made. But that’s not true here. See that day 6 ends in chapter 1, while day 7 begins chapter 2 in our Bibles. Why? You might have no issue at all with this, but to me, I can’t understand why the decision was made to make chapter 2 begin here with day 7. I think chapter 2 should’ve begun in 2:4 rather than 2:1, that way the whole creation week would be held together in a unity rather than divided.
Rant over…let’s actually talk about this passage.
Simply put, in v1 we see the concluding statement that the heavens and the earth are finished. In v2 we see the result of God finishing this work in God resting. And in v3 we see God bless the 7th day by making it holy. That’s the general gist of what’s going here, but we can press further. To what extent did God finish His work? Is He finished with everything? What does it mean for God to rest? Why does He rest? What does Him resting mean for His people? Why did God bless the 7th day by making it holy and what does that mean? And to sum it all up, are all of these questions somehow intertwined into a grand point for us to see that will extend all the way forward to the New Heavens and New Earth? Much to get after here.
As we draw near these three verses it’s almost immediately recognizable that day 7 is different from the rest. There are no opening words “Then God said” as we see on the other days. There are no concluding words about it being “evening and morning.” This is the only day to be blessed and made holy. The word “seventh” is repeated three times here while the other days usually only mention the number of the day once. And day 7 has no corresponding day to it like the others do. Remember…day 1 and 4 go together, as do day 2 and 5, and day 3 and 6. So here is day 7, standing forth in a category by itself.
The language of v1 reminds us of Gen. 1:1, see that? Genesis began with “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Now as chapter 2 begins we read, “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.” The point to see here is that God has now finished the work He began. Not work as in everything He was planning to do, is doing, or will ever do, no. Rather it is the specific work of creation in view. Which means creation is no longer in the process of being created. It is finished. Entirely. This is told to us directly in v2, that on this 7th day God finished the work that He had done, and that’s when it adds, that God rested on the seventh day from the work He had done. It seems to be the case that God’s resting comes as a result of the work of creating being finished.
But what about this rest? Don’t be silly here. Here at SonRise we are a pro-nap people. Few things can be as refreshing as a power nap. But, God resting here on day 7 doesn’t mean God took a nap, or closed His eyes and went to sleep, no. That God is omnipotent and almighty means He needs no rest, ever. It means nothing depletes Him, as if He needed to be refilled or needed a break or a breather. That God rests on the seventh day also does not mean God all of the sudden became aloof, distant, or indifferent about what was going on in creation, no. All of this rest language in v1-3 is about God finishing and completing His work of creating everything that is. After finishing this great work He still rules and reigns in His providence, wisdom, and governance over all things.
That God finished this grand work is most likely the reason God blessed it. And by blessing this day God made this day holy. He consecrated it, sanctified it, set it apart, and separated it from the other days. What does this mean? It could just mean what we’ve already said, that in setting this day aside from the rest by making it holy God is showing us how different this day is than the others. That would be true. But that doesn’t seem to say enough, does it? That God called all the others days good, even very good on day 6, and that He calls this seventh day holy, seems to mean this seventh day has a higher purpose. See it in v3. “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.” The reason God marked out this seventh day as a holy is because He rested on it from all the work He had done. So built into the creation week, on the seventh day, there is an intimate connection between holiness and rest. God worked six days in creating all creation, then God rested. And by marking the seventh day out as holy God was creating a distinction between not just work days and rest days, but between ordinary days and holy days.
This leads us to our next heading…
This day 7 rest God enters into shown to us in Gen 2:1-3, in time, would then become a pattern for the people of Israel in the fourth commandment. Exodus 20:8-11 says, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 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. 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.”
In this fourth commandment we see the sabbath is a call to rest. And this rest is as old as creation itself, and in marking out the seventh day as holy, Israel would be imitating God’s own example from creation in working six days and resting on the seventh. This repeating pattern was to be cemented in the lives of God’s people. So much so, that if the sabbath was regularly honored by them and set aside by them as a holy day of worship, celebration, and rest it would serve to make them holy as well.
And this was not only built into their weekly rhythms by the fourth commandment, it was literally where they were heading as a people. God had promised them that He go with them into this land and give them rest (Ex.33:14), but due to the unbelief of that generation, they were cursed to wander in the wilderness for 40 years, until eventually, God would bring them into this land Himself and give them rest. So not only was the weekly pattern of rest to continue for them as a people, but this reality of rest ultimately came to be tied up with entering the promise land.
And enter it they did. But rest remained out of their reach. God commanded Israel to clean house throughout the land of Canaan in order to have rest, and they did not. So rest, again, remained aloof. Continue down through the Old Testament we see Israel ebb and flow in their life with God, truly enjoying a taste of rest under a good king, while sadly experiencing restlessness under a bad king, while prophet after prophet called the people back to the Law of Moses and the Sabbath pattern. Yet, sin would reign in them, exile would come to them, and off they went into Babylon. Even years later after they came back into land under Ezra’s leadership, a restlessness seemed to cling close to them as they awaited to arrival of the Messiah.
The Church Rests
The Messiah would come, but He was not what Israel expected. Jesus continually challenged the religious people and religious leaders of His day that true obedience to God was not just external conformity or doing the right thing. He pointed deeper, He pointed inward, down to the very level of the heart, especially concerning their superficial obedience on the sabbath. Perhaps the most famous remark from Jesus on this is Mark 2:27 when He said, “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.” So much to the chagrin of the Pharisees Jesus’ disciples broke all kinds of external rules, especially on the sabbath.
On He would live, on He would teach, saying He would give any and all who came to Him rest from their heavy burdens. But, eventually they would get so enraged with Him they would kill Him. And when He died, He said “It is finished” echoing God’s own statement in Gen. 2:1-3, and teaching us that He can now rest from the great labors He came to do.
Of course He would rise, send the Spirit to fill His Church and He sent them out to spread His message. Would the pattern of weekly rest continue in God’s new people? Many people would tell you yes, that Christians are now to keep the sabbath, but that we do it on Sunday, or the Lord’s Day, because of the resurrection. But I would disagree. Of course we meet for worship on Sunday’s. And of course it’s because of the resurrection. But now the sabbath principle no longer remains, because of Christ!
Listen to Paul in Colossians 2:16-17, “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.” See that? Rather than clinging to the shadows various festivals or sabbaths, we should cling to Christ! Meaning, He Himself is the substance of the rest our souls require.
Hebrews 4 also makes a longer but very similar argument saying there truly is still a sabbath rest to enter into for the people of God, but the way we enter into it is in Christ. Hebrews 4:8-11 says, “For if Joshua had given them rest (think, in the promise land), God would not have spoken of another day later on (when rest would truly come). So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from His. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest…” How Church, do we enter into this rest? By trusting in Christ, banking on Christ, and looking to Christ for all our souls need.
What do we learn from these passages about how Christians should treat this sabbath principle? I would say we treat it the way it’s treated in the New Covenant, we treat it as a spiritual reality now. I would say the rules and regulations of the Old Covenant were the shadows, and we should no longer live in those shadows, but live in the substance they were always pointing to. So I would say for the Christian now, there is no mandated day of rest. When do we rest if we don’t mark out a specific day as holy? Christians are now free to treat every day as holy. Meaning, we’re to rest everyday as Christians! We’re to rest everyday from our own works. And we’re to rest everyday in Christ’s work on our behalf. Or as Charles Spurgeon so wonderfully put it, “Holiness is the best sabbath dress — but it is equally suitable for everyday wear.”
But see lastly, where all of this leads to…
Eternal Rest (Conclusion):
Earlier I asked the question, are all of these sabbath principles somehow intertwined into a grand point for us to see that will extend all the way forward to the New Heavens and New Earth? Gloriously, the answer is yes. Listen to Revelation 14:13, “And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!” Church, rest is nearing, when all our toil will be over, when all our work will be done. What a day that will be! The great hymn On Jordan’s Stormy Banks I Stand says it well, “When shall I reach that happy place, and be forever blessed? When shall I see my Father’s face, and in His bosom rest?” Theirs is a reason there’s no “evening and morning” verbiage on day 7. It’s because day 7 never ends, but will one day envelop the whole world in the end.
Church, here’s the call today. It’s not a kind of rule keeping, or ritualistic ceremony observance. The call is to come to Christ, and to rest in Him. We first see this rest as God finishes the work of creation, we see it in the mandates given to Israel, we see it the land promised Israel, we see it in the finished work of Christ on the cross for us, we see it’s reality each and every day we turn our restless hearts to find rest in Christ, and we’ll see it forever as we fully enter into His rest in the end.
St. Augustine said, “You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”
“Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
Everyone rests in something. What are you resting in?
 Victor P. Hamilton, Genesis 1-17, NICOT (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1990), 143.
 John Calvin, Sermons on Genesis 1-11 (Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Banner of Truth, 2009), 126–127.
 Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1-15, WBC (Waco, Texas: Word Books, 1987), 34.
 Kenneth A. Matthews, Genesis 1-11:26, NAC (Nashville, Tennessee: B&H, 1996), 176.
 Hamilton, Genesis 1-17, 142.
 R. Kent Hughes, Genesis, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2004), 42.
 James Montgomery Boice, Genesis 1-11 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1982), 100.
 Hamilton, Genesis 1-17, 143.
 Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 36.
 Bruce K. Waltke, Genesis (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Academic, 2001), 71.
 Matthews, Genesis 1-11:26, 181.