Our culture basks in busyness, wearing stress and lack of sleep like a badge of honor. Many Americans don’t use their allotted vacation days and they are likely to bring their work home with them. Work provides our identity with busyness assuring our status. Stimulants like caffeine and sugar provided the means to get moving in the morning while sleeping pill, alcohol, and herbal remedies enable us to forcibly shut down our bodies and minds to get fitful sleep before starting it all over again because, as the motto says, You can sleep when your dead.”
But is this what God intended when He created man in His image in the garden? What does it mean that God worked for six days and then rested on the seventh? In the Bible, rest is more than the absence of work. Rest demonstrates where we place our trust for provision, identity, purpose, and Importance. Rest is both a regular rhythm to our day and our week as well as a promise with fuller future fulfillment, “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 asGod did from His.” -Hebrews 4:9-10-
What Does It Mean To Rest In The Lord?
The word that is used of God resting on the seventh day in Genesis 2:2 is sabbath, the same word that will be used later calling Israel to crease from their normal activities. In the creation account, God established a rhythm for us to follow, both in our work and in our rest, to maintain our effectiveness and purpose as created in His image. God established a rhythm to the days of creation that the Jewish people continue to follow which demonstrates a contrast to an American perspective on work. As God’s creative work is described in the Genesis account, the pattern to end each day states “And there was evening and there was morning.” This rhythm is reversed from how we perceive our day.
From our agricultural roots to the industrial area and now to modern technology, the day begins at sunrise. We start our days in the morning and ends at night, expending energy throughout the day to collapse when work is done. What is the implication, then of practicing your day in reverse? In an agrarian society, as was the case in Genesis and through much of human his, evening meant to rest and sleep because it was dark, and you couldn’t work at night. God’s creation order suggests that we start our day I. Rest, filing our buckets in preparation to pour then out in work the following day. By putting evening first, God established a priority in our identity and value. Work is not a result of the fall and sin it is instead a blessing in that we find purpose and productivity in joining God in His creative work by subduing the earth and exercising dominion over it. -Genesis 1:28-
Ordering, organizing, naming, and subduing God’s good creation establish man’s role as God’s representative within His creation, ruling the earth. Work, though good, must be kept in balance with rest so that our pursuit of productivity doesn’t come to represent the entirety of our purpose and identity. God did not rest on the seventh day because the six days of creation wore Him out. God rested to establish a pattern for us to follow in enjoying the goodness of our created being without the need for being productive. One day in seven set apart for rest and reflection on the work we have completed requires us to acknowledge our dependence on God for His provision and freedom from finding our identity in our work. In establishing the sabbath as the fourth commandment in Exodus 20, God is also demonstrating a contrast for the Israelites from their rules as slaves. Egypt in which work was mandated hardship to demonstrate His love and provision as His people.
Why wouldn’t this be true for all people anywhere.
We can’t do it all. We can’t get it all done, even with 24 hours a day and seven days a week. We must relinquish our attempts at earning an identity through our work and rest in the identity God provides as love by Him and free to rest in His provision and care. This desire for autonomy through self-definition forms the basis for the fall and continues to plague our functioning in relationship to God and others today.
The serpents temptation to Eve exposed the challenge of dependence with the consideration of whether we rest in God’s wisdom or whether we want to be like God and make the choice of good and evil for ourselves. -Genesis 3:5-
In choosing to take the fruit, Adam and Eve chose independent over dependence on God and we continued to struggle with this choice every day. God’s call to rest, both in the order of our day and in the rhythm of our week, hangs on whether we can rely on God to take care of us while we cease from work. This theme of the pull between dependence on God and independence for God and the rest He provides is a critical thread of the Gospel throughout Scripture. Sabbath rest requires our acknowledgment that God is in control and we are not our observance of Sabbath rest than becomes a reflection and celebration of this provision and not just a cessation of work.
This shift in the underlying of rest as dependence on God and consideration of His provision, love, and care in contrast to our pursuit of independence, identity, and purpose through work has important physical implications, as we have noted, but has ultimate critical spiritual implications as well.