About Jesus - Steve Sweetman
Meaning Of Biblical Rest
There is much more
to the process of creation than what we read in Genesis 1 and 2.
The first two chapters of our Bible were never penned to provide us
with a twenty first century detailed scientific explanation of the origin
of the material universe. To
be a good student of the Bible we must first attempt to understand Genesis
in the way its original Jewish readers were meant to understand it.
That takes some serious study that goes far beyond an
oversimplified Sunday school explanation of creation.
In light of this, Genesis 2:2 states that "by the seventh day
God had finished the work He had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested
from all his work." Here
is the question. Was God so
wiped out and tired from the work of creation that He needed a nap?
I was raised in
conservative Evangelical Christianity in the 1950's and 1960's.
Following God's example, or so we thought, Sunday was all about an
afternoon nap sandwiched in between two church meetings and two meals.
As a child I could not watch television or go outside to play.
In my boredom with rest I would wonder if God ever got bored on His
day of rest.
Be assured, God
does not get tired, wiped out, or bored, unless He gets bored with our
stupidity, and that would be understandable.
Based on some measure of contextual, linguistic, and ancient Near
Eastern culture in which Genesis was written, resting for God meant ending
the process of creation in order to begin the process by which He would
function in and with what He had created.
Rest for God was more about doing something and less about doing
John 1:2 states
that all things were created by Jesus and without Him nothing was created.
Since Jesus was the agent of creation He should know what the
seventh day rest of Genesis
was all about. I believe He
alludes to this in Matthew 11:28 and 29.
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will
give you rest."
Was this an invitation for us to spend our lives in relaxation?
According to what Jesus said next, I don't think so.
my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls."
The word "yoke," as it would apply to an ox at work in
those days, suggests work, not relaxation.
Besides, the rest Jesus spoke of was the rest of the soul, not rest
of the body. Rest in this
instance was more about how we do something than not doing anything at
all, which I believe reflects the way God rested on the seventh day.
The writer of the
book of Hebrews picks up on the theme of rest in Hebrews 4:1 through 11.
"Since the promise of entering His rest still stands, let us
be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it ... Now we
who have believed enter that rest ... And yet His works have been finished
since the creation of the world. For
somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: 'On the
seventh day God rested from all his works' ... Therefore since it still
remains for some to enter that rest, and since those who formerly had the
good news proclaimed to them did not go in because of their disobedience,
God again set a certain day, calling it 'Today.'
This He did when a long time later He spoke through David, as in
the passage already quoted: 'Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden
your hearts ... There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God;
anyone who enters Godís rest also rests from their works, just as God
did from His. Let us,
therefore, make every effort to enter that rest."
Like many Bible
passages, Hebrews 4:1 through 11 takes time and effort to think through.
Among many things we learn here is that there is a present rest for
those who obey and trust their lives with God.
This rest, according to the text, is rooted in God's rest in
Genesis 2:2. There, God
completed or rested from His work of creation so He could function
alongside of His creation in enacting His purpose in the universe.
Hebrews 4 tells us to follow God's example by ceasing from our
humanistic efforts to enact His will.
Rest is about the divine ability for us to function alongside of
God in accomplishing His will in creation.
The Apostle Paul
spoke to this issue in Ephesians 2:10.
"For we are Godís handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do
good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."
God's plan for us has always involved productive work.
While being raised
in Christian Evangelicalism we attempted to follow God's example and do as
little as possible on a Sunday. If
we really wanted to follow God's example we would have paid attention to
what Jesus said in John 5:17. "My
Father is always at His work to this very
day, and I too am working." That's
From Genesis 2:2,
Matthew 11:28 and 29, and Hebrews 4:1 through 11 we learn that entering
God's rest has nothing to do with bodily relaxation, sleeping
every Sunday afternoon, or doing nothing.
Biblical rest is all about how we work and less about doing little
to nothing. It is the process
by which we share in God's divine ability to function alongside of Him to
accomplish His will in His creation.