Wednesday, August 22, 2012

God Revealed in creation – Part 7

With the establishment of mankind as the crowning accomplishment of creation and his appointment as the custodian of this earthly domain the act of creation is concluded but God has one for creation day to share that will complete His creation week.

Genesis 2

1 Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. 2 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. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.

Each phase of creation ensured that what God has made is sustainable. He does not have to keep creating for creation had been equipped with all it needed to persist for a long time, it is a quality product that does not need a do over. This reminds of the lesson of Jesus' atoning sacrifice; it was so effective that He laid down his life once for sinners and the quality of the sacrifice still satisfies the price of all sin. So God does not need to keep creating to keep life on the earth so His work can be finished. This self-sustaining and adaptable force God endowed to His creation is often mistaken as a creative force itself, but we have shown at each phase of creation how that nature cannot produce itself it needs God to act.

Verse 1 tell us the heavens (sun, moon, and stars), the earth, and all that is contained therein was finished. Everyone can exhale at once because the heavy lifting is done. On the 7th day God rested not to say the he was tired, but that his work was done. So in this context if your Bible translation says "rest" understand that to be ended or stopped.

Now for most of us if we had six work days with all kinds of creative work we probably wouldn't say much about the day when we didn't make anything. But God has a special purpose in mind for the 7th day a special blessing for us to slow down from the struggles of daily work and reflect on the grace of God and all that he provides. Now this isn't completely revealed at this stage of creation but we can draw from other scriptures to more fully explore the idea.

The truth is most of us get pretty busy at work, and it's easy to get so involved in our own work we really forget to look around and notice all the things around us that are not provided by our work but by God. To me that's what the 7th day is really about, reflection and appreciation. Our culture has gotten so filled with events; many of us have lost the art of rest.

The idea of a Sabbath rest for man is introduced in Exodus Chapter 16 when God feeds the children of Israel with manna in the wilderness. God wants them to learn to trust Him and His daily provision so he had commanded that you could only gather as much manna as you needed for a day. When this started some did not believe and gather too much saving some for the next day but overnight it rotted so in the morning was worm filled and stinking. So Moses reminds them to only gather for one day at a time, trusting that God will provide each day; but on the sixth day they could gather enough for two days and would not spoil .

22 And so it was, on the sixth day, that they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for each one. And all the rulers of the congregation came and told Moses. 23 Then he said to them, "This is what the Lord has said: 'Tomorrow is a Sabbath rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord. Bake what you will bake today, and boil what you will boil; and lay up for yourselves all that remains, to be kept until morning.'" 24 So they laid it up till morning, as Moses commanded; and it did not stink, nor were there any worms in it. 25 Then Moses said, "Eat that today, for today is a Sabbath to the Lord; today you will not find it in the field. 26 Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will be none."

27 Now it happened that some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather, but they found none. 28 And the Lord said to Moses, "How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My laws? 29 See! For the Lord has given you the Sabbath; therefore He gives you on the sixth day bread for two days. Let every man remain in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day." 30 So the people rested on the seventh day.

So you see how some people struggled with trusting God, Moses tells them God has given you the Sabbath, it is a gift for mankind, and should not be regarded as a burden.

It was funny to me as we were studying the different ideas for the length of creation days that some argued that they had to be 24 hour days because the law of the Sabbath told us to work six days not thousands or millions before we get a day off; and this was from Gentiles who do not keep the Law.

The Law of the Sabbath was codified in Exodus 20 as the 4th of the 10 commandments:

8 "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.

Now I didn't have many Jewish friends growing up in Everman but I had a neighbor that attended the Church of God that like the 7th day Adventist observed some of the Old Testament Law including the Law of the Sabbath. I knew what the Sabbath meant to Jews but for my neighbor it mostly meant he could never go to our High School football games because he had to be in the house by sundown on Friday nights. To him the Law of the Sabbath was burdensome, and I'm not sure how "don't work on the Sabbath" became don't go anywhere on the Sabbath. For the Jews I know the Talmud has you counting every physical activity to make sure it doesn't cross the line, into work, but that kind of legalism seems to miss the point of rest, worship, and reflection.

The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke each record Jesus challenging a legalistic view of the Sabbath, first when His disciples were condemned for picking grain to eat as they were hungry, and Jesus was condemned for healing on the Sabbath; leading Jesus to conclude this in Mark 2:27 And He said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. 28 Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath."

It should be obvious that we don't achieve rest by worrying about the number of steps we take or the weight of the water poured into your coffee pot. The real point was that much like the tithe; you are trusting God, that you will not perish because you worked six days instead of seven.

But there was more to the Sabbath than a day off each week. Look at Exodus 23:
10 "Six years you shall sow your land and gather in its produce, 11 but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave, the beasts of the field may eat. In like manner you shall do with your vineyard and your olive grove.

Beyond taking a day off each week, there was a Sabbath year when the farmers did not harvest nor plant, and anything that grew on its own was for the poor and the animals. To those who say creation days must be 24 hours each or there is no Sabbath, I have to ask is the Sabbath year, less of a Sabbath, than the Sabbath day?

And there are other Sabbaths: In Exodus 21 a Hebrew bond servant that was sold to pay a debt would serve for only 6 years before going out free in the 7th year.

And finally in Leviticus 25 after restating the Sabbath years, we are introduced to the Jubilee: Seven Sabbaths of 7 years followed by the Jubilee year. The significance of the Jubilee was to declare that it is God who owns the Promised Land, and each possession of land that is sold is returned to its rightful family in the year of Jubilee, even a Jew who was sold to a stranger would be released in the year of Jubilee.

What does this mean to Gentiles like us who generally worship on Sunday instead of Saturday the seventh day? Take a day off from your usual commerce, rest, worship; meditate on the grace of God and all he provides, not by our own labor, but just out of His mercy and goodness. Realize that God can bless six days of work to provide all that you need, better than you can do with seven days on your own. The 7th day of creation "yo·vm ha·she·vi·'i" gives us a pattern of work and rest.

Unlike our work week, God's did not start another creation week after He rested. If you look at Genesis 2:3 what is missing from the story are the book marks of the first 6 creation days that each concluded with "the evening and the morning". These were there to mark a definite period of God creating. There was nothing new to see on the 7th day but just a quiet appreciation of what we already had been given. The lesson for us is that God's Sabbath day has not ended and we can still enter into his rest when we receive what he has graciously provided.

Remember when Israel first approached the Promised Land but would not enter because of fear? Psalm 95 gives the curse of their faithlessness in not receiving what God has provided:

8 "Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion,

As in the day of trial in the wilderness,

9 When your fathers tested Me;

They tried Me, though they saw My work.

10 For forty years I was grieved with that generation,

And said, 'It is a people who go astray in their hearts,

And they do not know My ways.'

11 So I swore in My wrath,

'They shall not enter My rest.'"


For us God's provision is not only the endowment of the natural world, but the forgiveness of sins for all who trust Him and receive the gift of God, eternal life, through Jesus Christ, the Lord of the Sabbath. Matthew 11:28 Jesus said "Come unto me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest".



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