Posted by Nathan Warner on

“By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done” (Genesis 2:2).

What is the Biblical view of “rest”?  Well, it can be a very controversial topic, specifically as it relates to the sabbatical rests of Israel. 

Before we dive into the fray, we ought to first acknowledge that when it comes to Believers, any “rest” from work is an exception to the rule, for “we are [God’s] workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). 

And we see this exception in the Creation—namely that God worked six days and then rested from His work on the seventh.  Not only did God cease from His labors for a day at the end of them, but “God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made” (Gen. 2:2-3). 

It is unclear who this sanctified day of rest was for.  We know that God needs no rest, for “The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired” (Is. 40:28b).  And Jesus stated that He worked on the Sabbath because “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working” (John 5:17).  Clearly, God didn’t establish it for Himself.  We also do not see any recorded evidence that Adam or Eve or any of the animals or plants observed a day of rest.  And God delivers no recorded commandment to Adam regarding this. 

Even in the broader context of rest—as in sleep—it is unclear from Genesis if rest was even a trait for animals or mankind before the Fall—the only instance that we see of it is when Adam is “put to sleep” so God can make woman, and that seemed singular and unusual. 

After the Fall, however, Scripture shows us people need sleep and rest.  It is crucial to our healthy function — consider that 50% of our time is spent unconscious while our bodies refresh from the day’s expenditure of energy!  All so that we will be able to do more work.  That is a lot of rest!  And yet, we see later on in the Law of Moses that God mandated that this was not enough, due most likely to the effects of the Fall.

We see no Scriptural evidence for a sabbatical rest from the creation till Moses explains to Israel that it was a pattern God included in creation that was now (for the first time) a Law for Israel to observe—mainly for the benefit of those under authority and compulsion to work (at least that is the bulk of those affected by it):  “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the 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” (Ex. 20:9-10).  This Law was serious and death came to anyone violating it.  Why? 

Well, let’s consider—man was no longer in Eden—after the Fall of man into sin, the curse that entered the world as a result greatly increased the toils and pain in all human labor with futility and decay.  From this point on, most people were serving under the rule of a small echelon of powerful people with often sinful and greedy appetites and there was no “weekend” or “time off” from labor.  Now, more than ever, man needed a proscribed rest for very practical reasons and we can see the emphasis was for those under compulsion to work: “Six days you are to do your work, but on the seventh day you shall cease from labor so that your ox and your donkey may rest, and the son of your female slave, as well as your stranger, may refresh themselves” (Ex. 23:12). 

God has a lot to say about “rest”, so let’s continue our study next time.  Amen.

Tags: jesus, adam, god, christ, work, sleep, slaves, rest, sabbath, weekend, refreshing


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