The Origin of the Sabbath: Part 1 of 2 (series: Lessons on Genesis)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

June, 14 2013

Book of Genesis
By: Tom Lowe

Lesson I.A.9: The Origin of the Sabbath

Gen. 2.1-3 (KJV)
1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.
2 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.
3 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.

Introduction to Chapter 2
Now we are given the details concerning the creation of man and woman and their place in God’s plan. The account does not contradict chapter 1; it complements it. Chapter 2 has the following features:
God Resting (1–3). God’s rest was the rest of completion, not the rest of exhaustion, because God never gets weary (Ps. 121:4). Adam must have rested also, fellowshipped with the Lord, and worshiped Him. The seventh day, the Sabbath, became a sign to Israel that they were God’s special people (Exod. 31:13–17). It is also a symbol of the eternal rest God’s people will have with Him (Heb. 4:9–11).
Other Details of Creation (4-7). A summary of the six days' work of creation, with additional details.

A Home Provided for Man (8-14). Work is not a curse. God gave Adam the task of guarding the Garden and tilling it. It was a fulfilling ministry for him. Man and God must work together to produce the harvest. St. Augustine said, “Pray as though everything depended on God and work as though everything depended on you.”

Man's Privilege and Duty in the Garden (15-17) Adam is placed in the garden, and he is given the command not to eat of the tree of knowledge on penalty of death. The Creator has the right to govern His creatures. Love sets limits for the good of man. God calls us to obey Him because we want to, not because we have to. He wants children, not machines.

The Process of Forming the Woman (18-25) Man’s naming the animals was a part of his “dominion” as the head of creation (1:26–28). He lost this dominion because of sin (Ps. 8), but we have regained it through Christ (Heb. 2:5). Adam also named his mate; he called her “Woman.” Later, he would call her “Eve.” God established marriage to meet man’s need for companionship (2:18) and to provide for the rearing of children (1:28). In addition, it served as a picture of Christ and His church (Eph. 5:25–32). Adam gave of himself for his bride, and Jesus gave of Himself for His bride (John 19:31–37).

1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.
God has made the creatures that reside both in heaven and on the earth, and there are hosts or armies of them, which indicates they were numerous, but organized, disciplined, and under command. There must have been a great number of them, even at the beginning. Nevertheless, everyone knows and keeps his place. God uses His heavenly hosts for the defense of His people and the destruction of His enemies; for he is the Lord of hosts—“And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?” (Dan 4:35; KJV). God’s kingdom and dominion is like himself, everlasting; there is no rebellion, in his kingdom. He lives and reigns forever, and of his government, there is no end. All the nations are like nothing before Him. He has no need of them. The greatest men are nothing when compared to Him. Those that think highly of God think very little of themselves. His kingdom is universal, and both the armies of heaven and the inhabitants of the earth are his subjects, and under His control. Both angels and men are used by him, and are accountable to Him. The highest angel is not above his command, and the lowest of men is not beneath His tender loving care. The angels of heaven are his armies, the inhabitants of the earth his tenants. His power is irresistible, and his sovereignty uncontrollable, because he does according to his will, according to his plan and purpose, according to his decree and counsel; He does whatever he pleases; and no one can resist his will, change his mind, or stay his hand, nor say unto him, What doest thou? Everything that God does

is well done. He has the power to humble the mightiest of his enemies.

God’s work in the heavens and on the earth is finished and it is so perfect that nothing can be added to it or taken from it—“I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him” (Eccl. 3:14; KJV). God’s work is complete; and since then, no permanent change has ever since been made in the course of the world, no new species of animals been formed, no law of nature repealed or added to. He could just as easily finished in a moment what He took six days to do, but the work of creation was gradual for the instruction of man.

2 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.

We should not think of God’s resting on the seventh day as Him giving into the sheer exhaustion of His six days of creative work. The word translated “rested” is the Hebrew word “Shabbat” which means to cease or to desist from work, in this case. “Shabbat” (The modern term is “Sabbath.”) is the name of the day that was later given to Israel as a time of cessation from normal activities (see Ex 16:29; 20:10–11; Deut 5:15; Jer 17:21; Amos 8:5).

To say that God rested is anthropomorphism, a description of God’s activity in terms conducive to man’s understanding. The omnipotent God who “… fainteth not, neither is weary …” did not cease from His labors on the seventh day because He needed to rest. “Do you not know or have you not heard? The LORD is the eternal God, creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint nor grow weary …” (Isa 40.28; NABWRNT). God finished all the creating He intended to do in six days, and rested on the seventh! He rested in order to give us an example that we could follow, that is, to labor six days, and rest the seventh from all manual activity. But God never stopped working, even though He stopped creating. The devil works seven days a week, so God does too. “But Jesus said to them, ‘My Father never stops working, and so I keep working, too’” (John 5.17; NCV). Although he rested from creating, he never ceased from preserving and governing that which he had formed: in this respect, he can keep no Sabbaths; because nothing can continue to exist, or serve the purpose for which it was created, without the continual energy of God. So I work—I am constantly employed in the same way, governing and supporting all things, comforting the wretched, and saving the lost; and to me, in this respect, there is no Sabbath.

Do not miss the importance of the Sabbath Day. What does it mean when it says that God rested from His work? Does it mean that God got tired, sat down to rest on the seventh day, and said that he had had a big week—that He had worked more than forty hours, and that He wanted to rest? If you look at it like that, it is perfect nonsense. Actually, God rested from His work, because it was completed in six days; He looked upon it and it was very good, and there was nothing else to do. I am retired now, but it used to be that every time I left my office for the day, I still had work all over my desk. I have never been able to sit down and say, “I’m through. I’ve finished it.” But God did. At the end of six days, He rested because His work was complete. This is one of the greatest spiritual truths there is. The Book of Hebrews tells us that as believers we enter into “rest”—that is, we enter into His Sabbath; we enter into His perfect redemption. He died on the Cross more than two thousand years ago for you and me, and He offers us a redemption that we can enter into. That is why Paul can write: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1). I do not even have to lift my little finger in order to be saved—Jesus did it all.

Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.
—Mrs. H. M. Hall

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