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God Is Still Resting

by Tim O'Hearn

My idea of the ideal job is the one Li'l Abner Yokum had—professional mattress tester. Another ideal would be a job where you worked for a week, and then retired. I only know of one such job, however, and it's already taken. What is the job? Creator of the Universe. Of course, God already has that one all sewed up.

And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made. (Gen 2:2-3)

The interesting thing about this passage is that the scriptures never say that God went back to work. His job as creator lasted six days; he rested on the seventh, and is still in retirement. Like some of us who have retired from one job, God still works. He just doesn't work at that job anymore. How could he? He had worked himself out of a job. There was nothing left to create, so he rested from creation.

We are different from God, in a way. There is something about us that makes us feel that we can't continue to rest. We must always be making things, or fixing things, or buying things. When we get a day or two off from work, we do all those things that we "didn't have time" to do the rest of the week. In the United States some have taken it to an extreme. They brag about working eighty hours a week, even if they don't get paid any more than if they had worked only forty. People fill every waking hour with doing something, and even rob the hours they should be sleeping to be doing even more.

Maybe we should learn from God. He spent six days in creative work. Then he rested. Then he told his people, the Jews, that they must rest at least one day out of every seven. On that seventh day, that Sabbath, they were to do no creative work. If God could rest from creation after six days, so could his people. The difference was that God is still in his seventh day, but man starts a new week in a regular cycle. The passage says that God made a day of rest holy because He had rested. One might even say that a day of rest is included in the mandate, "be ye holy for I am holy." (Lev 11:44, 45; 1 Pet 1:16)

Lest I be misunderstood, I am not saying that the Sabbath is binding on gentile Christians. Even though the passage quoted is from Genesis 1, God did not mandate the Sabbath until the Exodus. Even then, it was only required of the Jews. Never has God required a Sabbath of anyone except those who followed the Law of Moses. Sunday is not "the Christian Sabbath." To call it that is to minimize the Sabbath of the Jews, the Sabbath God did decree.

Even to the Jews the Sabbath was not a day of laying around the house listening to the radio, napping all day. What was forbidden was "creative work," anything that would be involved in making something. After all, that was what God rested from. He didn't shut down completely, and is not asleep. "He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber. Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep." (Ps 121:3-4) He is awake and maintaining the world, protecting his people. He is just no longer creating anything. So even the Jews had responsibilities on the Sabbath, primarily the responsibility of renewing family relationships.

The Sabbath may not be binding on most Christians, but that doesn't mean it wouldn't be beneficial. If God felt the need to rest from creation, shouldn't we as well. After all, we are certainly not God. Maybe we don't have a mandated day of rest. On the other hand, in going beyond law to grace we should be doing it without a mandate. Even if it is just a few hours, or minutes, rather than a whole day, maybe we should listen as God says, "be ye rested, for I am rested."