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Understanding the Sabbath (Part 2): Sabbath for God

Understanding the Sabbath (Part 2)

Sabbath For God

As The JPS Torah Commentary on Genesis states, “the Creation account opened with a statement about God;” and “it will now close with a statement about God” (Sarna, The JPS Torah Commentary - Genesis, p. 14). Focus on God becomes imperative in relation to the Sabbath. The main focus on the creation account in Genesis normally revolves around God’s creation and blessing of mankind, but one must not ignore the fact that God created all things, and he did so all by himself, without any help (Sarna, The JPS Torah Commentary - Genesis, p. 14). Wiersbe commented in the Be Series that the first Sabbath did not occur because God was fatigued from His work, for as Isaiah 40:28 states, “He does not grow faint or weary.”

The Sabbath reveals that God did not spend the seventh day exhausted from all of the work with which he had done. God did not need rest. He rested to serve as a model for man to rest. His work was done as a gift, an invitation to join Him in a rest that could be considered peaceful and serene. This approach contrasts other gods of Babylon and shows that God is at peace and confident in His kingship over creation (Brueggemann, Interpretation – Genesis, p. 35).

Unfortunately, sin interrupted God’s rest in Genesis 3. But God’s rest did not mean that He abandoned his creation. His presence is made known in Genesis 3 and he ends up expelling Adam and Eve from the garden, but not before first making them clothing to cover their nakedness. This proves that God was not sitting “idly distant”, but remained within close proximity (Matthews, New American Commentary – Genesis 1-11:26, p. 180). Jesus made further reference to God working in the New Testament when he proclaimed, “My Father is working until now, and I am working” (John 5:17). Jesus used this statement as a defense against the Jews who persecuted him for working on the Sabbath.

Day 7: Set Apart

Wiersbe writes that, “God set apart the seventh day because His work of creation was finished and He was pleased and satisfied with what He had created” Wiersbe, Be Basic – Genesis 1-11, p. 40. God also blessed the seventh day and made it holy. There is no mention of God blessing any of the other days, therefore this action was unique to the seventh day and was mentioned by the author intentionally as a means of highlighting the importance of the seventh day.

The highlighting of the seventh day is further accented by the use of a popular Hebrew poetic device known as the X + 1 style (ie. Six, no seven days.) The utilization of the X + 1 pattern in addition to the ascending order of Creation builds to a climax through the seventh day (Sarna, The JPS Torah Commentary - Genesis, p. 14). All of this attention put on the seventh day by the author of Genesis proves that God set it apart for something important.

Upon examination of Genesis 1:31-2:3, it is worth noting that the author mentions God finishing His work four times in just these few verses. Of these four occurrences, three of them include that he finished all of His work (MacArthur, The MacArthur Bible Commentary, p. 12). This idea of God finishing creation implies that since creation has been completed, everything has been placed where it was intended to be forever. God completed his work, because there was no work left to accomplish. Samson Hirsch argues that this placement serves as an informative lesson to teach man to “consider himself and the world in their true position” (Hirsch, The Pentateuch Volume 1 – Genesis, p. 46).

Three times Genesis recounts that God did not work on the seventh day. As man has been made in the image of God, man too must rest on the seventh day. John Sailhamer comments, “if the purpose of pointing to the ‘likeness’ between humans and their Creator was to call on the readers to be more like God (Lev 11:45), then the seventh day stresses that very thing: they must ‘rest’ on the seventh day (cf. Ex 20:8-11; Ps 95:11; Heb 3:11)” (Sailhamer, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis ~ Leviticus, p. 71).

Trust In Him

Brueggemann identified the Sabbath as a “kerygmatic statement about the world.” Through the act of the Sabbath, man expresses confidence and faith in the Creator that He is in control and the world is in His hands. Observing the Sabbath and doing nothing shows the world the power of God that the world will not end based on our lack of effort. The observance of the Sabbath provides a break from man’s efforts to “make the world into our own image according to our purposes” and rely on the one who is in control (Brueggemann, Interpretation – Genesis, p. 35).

God was able to create the entire world in six days, and had time to stop and rest on the seventh day. This pattern set a precedence to be followed by His creation. Hirsch argues that only the “visible concrete world” was completed in this pattern and the institution of the seventh day was for the education of mankind to “truth and morality, that God, in truth, completed His work” (Hirsch, The Pentateuch Volume 1 – Genesis, p. 45). Only through this did God truly complete His work. Man’s understanding of his calling allows God to cease from all of His work. Therefore, the Sabbath was the last of God’s creation, designed to educate His creation with which He formed.

God created the Sabbath as an example to man with which man was later called to replicate as a way to respect and honor God while providing a method to exercise faith in the Creator that He will provide.

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