The Genesis of the Sabbath

Sabbath Study, Part 8

Now we will begin our trek through Scripture, starting at Genesis and ending at Revelation. Our first Sabbath-related passage is found in Genesis chapter 2, which, as we will see, is referenced in the Ten Commandments. So, let’s just start at the very beginning—a very good place to start. Here we see how the pattern for man’s workweek was set at the very beginning of history.

Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made. (Genesis 2:1-3)

On the seventh day.
The concept of the week itself is unique. All other measurements of time (days, months, years) are based on the trajectory and rotation of the stars and planets, but there is no celestial basis for the week. The reason man lives in seven-day increments is because God established the pattern Himself.

God blessed the seventh day.
To commemorate His finished work, God pronounced a blessing on the seventh day. This blessing of the Sabbath day was for the benefit of mankind (see Mr. 2:27).

Sanctified it.
This seventh day was made both special and sacred; it was made for the good of man and the glory of God.

He rested.
God does not grow weary, so how could He possibly “rest”? Timothy Keller provides an excellent answer in his sermon, Work and Rest, where he also shows what implications the answer has for our own Sabbath rest. Here is a paraphrase of a portion of the sermon (taken from my notes while listening to the sermon online):

God commented on each day, “It is good.” On the seventh day He said, “It is very good”…and He rested. God “rested” not by recovering, but by being utterly satisfied with what was done. The only way you put your doing down is by being absolutely satisfied by the doing: you’re able to look at your work and life the way God looks at His. Through Christ, you can look at your life and say, “It is absolutely satisfying. It is good. All the work I need to do is finished.”

….Religious people say, if I do good works, God will bless me. Secular people set certain standards, and their happiness depends on achieving those standards. It is this goal-setting that is the problem…because it’s never going to be enough. We can never say what God says: “It is finished.” Through Jesus, and only through Jesus, we who are labored and heavy-laden are called to take up an easy burden and a light yoke….

When God looks at you [who rest on Christ’s finished work, and are accepted because of Christ], He imputes your sin to Christ and His righteousness to you. And He says, “It is good. Everything necessary to do is finished.” The only One whose opinion should matter to us says to you (because of Christ), “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

The Sabbath rest, set in motion during creation, is a weekly opportunity to look back on what has been done and enjoy the good, perfect, and finished work of Christ on our behalf. Obviously, this reason is not given for the Sabbath in the Old Testament, but in the fullness of the gospel dispensation we can see more clearly what real rest points to—a separation from the presence and power of sin.