Is God Working or Resting?
“By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.”
However, according to John 5:17, God has continued to work.
“Jesus said to them, ‘My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.’”
And Psalm 107:15 exhorts us to
“Thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of men.”
It is clear that God is not the watchmaker God, who wound up the Creation and now passively watches his creatures without doing anything.
He is still at work. Our God is a 24/7 worker,
“indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:4).
So, on the seventh day, when God “rested from all his work,” it must have meant something other than God taking a Labor Day vacation.
It seems to me that after the initial Creation, God entered the “rest” of enjoying his handiwork. He entered into a time of dwelling in and with the work of his hands.
The cosmos that he created was done – but that did not mean that more work would not be needed. But at that moment, God could enjoy the fruit of his labor. The construction of the temple was finished – he could now enter it and enjoy it.
Created in the Image of God the Worker
On the sixth day, God created humanity in the image of the Triune God that works. God said,
“Let us make human beings in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
God places humanity in charge of his creation – now that is an amazing job description! That’s a lot of responsibility!
In Genesis 2, we read that when God initially created this earth, there were at first no shrubs and no plants. The reason?
In God’s mind, humanity has a purpose – and that is to work! Notice that this is before the Fall of humanity. Work is not a consequence of our sin and the curse of the Fall. Work has always been God’s intention for his image-bearers.
“for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground” (Genesis 2:5).
The job description is further defined in Genesis 2:15.
“The LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.” (Genesis 2:15, NASB).
Humanity is to “cultivate” – that is, to create culture out of the raw materials that God has created.
The first humans were to “rule over” the creation. In fact, the first thing on Adam’s “To Do List” was to name the animals.
“So the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.” (Genesis 2:19)
This is significant; God gave Adam true responsibility, “whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name,” no questions asked, no stipulations, no second-guessing.
Human beings, as the bearers of the divine image, reflect God in our work. A proper Christian theology of anthropology (what it means to be human) must start with the fact that work is intrinsic to what it means to be human!
This brings honor and dignity to all work, and gives the foundation for glorifying God in all that we do.
So we are created in the image of God the worker. But God did something from the very beginning for our benefit. He dialed into the very creation a rhythm of work and rest. God did not need to “rest,” but he did so for our sake.
Jesus told us,
“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27).
So put your feet up and rest. Enjoy the fruit of your labor. Go to work tomorrow refreshed and ready to glorify God.
And next Sunday, rest again.
TOMORROW at (re)integrate: Sabbath Rest for the Christian – What does it mean? How do we do it?