While some people have difficulty understanding God’s “rest,” the Bible presents its deep implications. According to Genesis 2:2, the very next significant action was that on this day God “rested.” After the Lord finished His miraculous work of creation, “on the seventh day God … rested.” Genesis 2:2.* We read the same thing in verse 3–that “God rested” on “the seventh day.” Thus, the seventh day of the creation week is unique for being the day of God’s rest. The fourth commandment in Exodus 20:11–in God’s own words– says, “In six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day.” And in chapter 31:17, God told Moses to say to the people: “It is a sign forever between Me and the people of Israel that in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.” The same message is given in the following words: “He has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: ‘And God rested on the seventh day from all His works.’” Hebrews 4:4. Therefore, the characteristic of the seventh day, above every other day, is rest, God’s rest.
What does it mean that God “rested”?
Did He need to “rest”? Is He like men, who become tired? Is He not the Omnipotent One, who created the world with the word and breath of His mouth? Yes, He is. Psalm 33:6. The Scriptures confirm that He never grows faint or weary. “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; His understanding is unsearchable.” “Ah, Lord God! It is You who have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for You.” Isaiah 40:28; Jeremiah 32:17.
God created everything by His word without any physical stress, wear, or tear, such as humans go through when they work. We read, “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” “And God said, ‘Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.’ And it was so.” “God said, ‘Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth. And it was so.” “For He spoke, and it came to be; He commanded, and it stood firm.” Genesis 1:3, 9, 11; Psalm 33:9. Because of this, God’s “rest” cannot have the meaning of physical recovery or reinvigoration after becoming weary and exhausted. As many authors explain, when referring to God, the Biblical meaning of “rest” is completely different, denoting cessation of creation, satisfaction, being pleased, appreciation in completion, and joy in achievement.
Concerning such understanding, the scholar Frederic Godet stated: “‘To rest’ can only mean to cease creating, to contemplate the completed work.” –Frédéric Godet, as quoted by Paul Nouan, Le septième jour signe de Dieu pour l’homme d’aujourd’hui (The Seventh-day Sign of God for Man Today), Dammarie Les Lys, Editions SDT, 1979, p. 17.
Continuing in this line, Dietrich Bonhöffer wrote, “In the Bible, ‘rest’ really means more than ‘having rest.’ It means rest after the work is accomplished, it means completion, it means the perfection and peace in which the world rests.” –Dietrich Bonhöffer, Creation and Fall, A Theological Interpretation of Genesis 1-3, 1964, p. 40, as quoted in Samuele Bacchiocchi, Divine Rest for Human Restlessness, Rome, The Pontifical Gregorian University Press, 1980, p. 67; online edition, p. 84. Accessed October 7, 2018, http://www. friendsofsabbath.org/Further_Research/Bacchiocchis%20 Research/Divine%20Rest%20for%20Human%20Restlessness.pdf.
Some writers come to a similar conclusion, as seen in the following comments by Albert Barnes, John Gill, Norman R. Gulley, and others. “The resting of God arises not from weariness, but from the completion of His task. He is refreshed, not by the recruiting of His strength, but by the satisfaction of having before Him a finished good. Exodus 31:17.” –Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, comments on Genesis 2:2. https://biblehub.com/commentaries/genesis/2-2.htm.
“‘… God had ended,’ or ‘finished His work,” which He had done on the sixth day, then He rested on the seventh day from all His works which He had made: not as though weary of working, for the Creator of the ends of the earth fainteth not, nor is weary (Isaiah 40:28), but as having done all His work, and brought it to such perfection that He had no more to do….” –Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible, comments on Genesis 2:2). https://biblehub.com/commentaries/genesis/2-2.htm.
“The word Sabbath is derived from the Hebrew word sabbat, meaning to ‘cease’ or ‘desist’ from a previous activity–in this case, to desist from creating. God finished His work of creation during the six days. He didn’t cease because He was tired, but He ceased in order to celebrate with Adam and Eve what He had completed. So Sabbath is time to celebrate the finished work of Christ’s creation.” –Norman R. Gulley, Basic Issues between Science and Scripture: Theological Implications of Alternative Models and the Necessary Basis for the Sabbath in Genesis 1-2, p. 221. Accessed June 6, 2018, http://www.atsjats. org/publication_file.php?pub_ id=45&journal=1&type=pdf
“God’s rest then means His ceasing the work of creation in order to be free for the fellowship with man, the object of His love, for the rejoicing and celebration of His completed work together with His son on earth, the imago Dei, His festive partner.” –Hans K. LaRondelle, Perfection and Perfectionism, Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press, 1971, p. 72. Quoted by Á.M. Rodríguez in The Biblical Sabbath: The Adventist Perspective, p. 2. Accessed October 7, 2018, https://adventistbiblicalresearch.org/sites/default/files/pdf/SabbathCatholic_2002.pdf.
“From creation–preceding and superseding every human decision of obedience or disobedience–there remains (άπολείπεται [apoleipetaι]) for the people of God the Sabbath rest (σαββατισμός [sabbatismós]), the divinely willed and ordered fellowship, relationship and agreement between His own and human freedom as the goal and determination of the way to which this people continually have to be recalled….” –Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics Study Edition 13: The Doctrine of Creation, vol. III.1 § 40-42, London, T.T. Clark, 1958, p. 226 (brackets supplied).
“He was well pleased with the beauty and perfection of His creative work of making our world, both as a product of His power, wisdom and goodness, and as manifestation of His glory. The creation of the earth was a joyous occasion….” –Robert Leo Odom, Sabbath and Sunday in Early Christianity, Washington, DC, 1977, p. 14.
“The rest here, it is to be remembered, is God‘s rest. The refreshment is God‘s refreshment, which arises rather from the joy of achievement than from the relief of fatigue.” –Albert Barnes’ Notes on the whole Bible, comments on Genesis 2:3. Accessed June 3, 2018, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/genesis-2.html.
“God rested from His creative activity on the seventh day. This is not the rest that follows weariness but the rest of satisfaction and completion of a job well done.” –William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary, comments on Genesis 2:1-3, Nashville, Tennessee, Thomas Nelson Publishers Inc., 1995, p. 34. Accessed June 6, 2018, https:// books.google.it/books?id=qJF_24QKAfIC& printsec=frontcover&hl=it&source=gbs_ge_ summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false.
We can better understand the concept of “God’s rest” when we consider the sentence that the creative account repeats after the description of almost every day. For example, on the first day, after light was created, the inspired words state: “And God saw that the light was good.” Genesis 1:4. It is the same for the third day. After the creation of all kinds of vegetation, the observation is made: “And God saw that it was good.” Verse 12. Virtually the same phrase is repeated in verses 18, 21, and 25, up to the final observation about all of the creation in verse 31: ”And God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good.” In every phase of the creation there was observation, evaluation, and appreciation.
In the “rest” of Genesis 2:2, 3, as well as in Exodus 31:17, where it is said that “on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed,” the concept referred to is God’s “rest;” and the first implication is “cessation,” “stopping,” and “finalizing,” and then “appreciation,” “satisfaction,” “delight,” “enjoyment,” and “refreshment” because of the work that He had accomplished. He stood there, not as the potter described in Jeremiah, whose vessel of clay “was spoiled in the potter’s hand” (18:4) as he was working, but as one whose creation resulted in a masterpiece.
Having concluded His marvelous work, He looked at all the grandeur of creation, the wonders of the sidereal and natural world, and was delighted with it. He observed the plains full of vegetation and life, the different creatures, and especially the human beings reflecting His image of holiness and glory; and everything was “very good.” Genesis 1:31. At the end of the creation, God “rested” in satisfaction and great delight as He contemplated and appreciated the wonderful work that He had accomplished in the six days; and His wish was for man to be part of it. *All Bible verses are from the English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission.
By Antonino Di Franca
Source: Sabbath Watchman