Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.
And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done,
and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.
So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy,
because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.
God took a seat. That’s what Genesis 2:1–3 is saying here. On the seventh day God rested from “all his work that he had done.” God took a seat, he rested — not because he was tired, but because he was finished. That why the phrase “his work he had done” is repeated three times here. God finished his work. He was done with his creating work, and so, he rested. He stopped. God took a seat.
And this is something we need to know about God. The God of Genesis — the God of the Bible, the true God — is bigger than you and me, and he is a God of rest.
God Is Most Important
Now, what does it mean that he’s a God of rest and why does that matter? That’s what we’re going to look at today, and there are two specific things I want us to see, but really there’s just one point. This is a one-point sermon, and that one point is simply that: God is a God of rest.
And this has implications for us, but just know that those implications are only secondary. The main thing here — the most important thing — is the truth in this passage about God. And before we get started, let me just give you a couple reasons why I think that’s true — Why is the truth about God in this text most important?
God Is the Main Character
First it’s because if you read through Genesis 1 and 2, God is clearly the main character here. In fact, it’s all about him. He’s the one doing the creating and the talking and all the action, and we don’t hear from anybody else until the end of Chapter 2 when Adam sings a song — and the song he sings is a song about what God has done in creating Eve. So these two chapters are just God everywhere. Everything is about God and what God has done.
One way to say it is that God is not just in the air, but he is the air. He is so big and near and central that if we were back there on the ground in the Garden of Eden, we would be surrounded by the truth of God in such a way that we could never not be thinking about him. That’s the scene in these first two chapters. And so, the truth about God here is most important.
The Sabbath Command
And the second reason I think that’s the case is because of Exodus 20. The book of Exodus is the book that comes right after the book of Genesis, and by the time we get to Exodus chapter 20 we’ve skipped ahead several hundred years. And the context is that God has a people, (the people of Israel) and they’ve been slaves in Egypt for about 400 years, but then God sets them free. They leave Egypt in dramatic fashion, but they fail to obey God and so he gives them the law —they don’t know what it means to live in God’s presence and worship him, so God has to spell it out for them. And it’s here in Exodus 20 when we first read about the Ten Commandments.
And we’ve all heard about the Ten Commandments. These are foundational commandments that show us the moral will of God — if you want to know the main things for how God wants humans to live, the Ten Commandments show us. The first commandment is “Never worship other gods”; the second commandment is “Never bear God’s name in vain”; and then the third commandment, which is positive, is “Remember the Sabbath.”
Now the word “Sabbath” comes from the Hebrew word “to rest” or “cease” which is the word used back in Genesis 2 when we read that God’s rested on the seventh day. So the third commandment in Exodus 20 is telling Israel what to do with the truth of Genesis 2:1–3. Listen to how the command goes, Exodus 20:8.
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.”
That’s the command. And Moses is about to tell us what it means in the verses that follow, but notice the command is to “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” — not make it holy. [Who made the Sabbath day holy? Answer: God; When did he make it holy? Answer: A long time ago — the seventh day after creation]
So the command is to remember that. Remember what God did. Verse 9 explains more. Moses says:
Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For — [or because, here’s the reason why] — in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
The Sabbath command is not that we just stop our work; it’s that we remember that time God stopped his work. The whole purpose of our rest is to remember God’s rest. We’re supposed to take a break from our busyness to remember and consider and think about: What does it mean that we worship a God who rests? The Sabbath is meant for us to meditate on and enjoy and revel in the reality of Genesis 2:1–3 — that God is a God of rest. God took a seat. That’s what we’re supposed to remember — God is that kind of God.
Which means, I think, that the third commandment is really all about God — it’s for us, but it’s about God, and so I think Moses (who wrote all of this) would agree that the truth about God in Genesis 2:1–3 is most important. And that truth is that God is a God of rest.
That’s why it’s the main point of the sermon. And now, for the rest of our time, I want to just tell you two things that means.
1. God Is the Sovereign Starter and Stopper
This might be the most obvious thing in the text, but we can overlook it sometimes. Who is it that decided creation is finished after the sixth day? Who decided it was time to stop?
So the same one who decided to create the heavens and the earth in Genesis 1:1 is the same one who said in Genesis 2:2, “And I’m done creating. My work here is finished.” God, who decided to start creating, is also the one who decided to stop creating, and it all was his sovereign prerogative. Nothing outside of God told him to knock it off. He was led and compelled completely by himself. He created because wanted to, and said he was finished because we wanted to. And that might not seem like a big deal, but it is. It means that everything that exists, including you and me, is completely dependent upon God’s own will. We did not make ourselves be. We’re here because of God.
Pastor Joe mentioned this last week: We tend to assume creation and all the stuff around us — we think that’s what is just there — and then it’s God we need an explanation for. But the Bible flip-flops that. God is the one who is there, and the explanation is given for everything else. The biggest question is not “Where is God?” — but “Why are we here?”
And the short answer is that God wanted us to be. As the Creator, he’s the sovereign starter and stopper. But, that doesn’t mean that he’s hand-off now going forward. He starts the work of creation and he stops the work of creation, but creation is not a clock that he just winds and then sits over there. Just because he finished his work of creation, it doesn’t mean he’s detached from it.
God is very much involved in what goes on here — and I know that this is hard for a lot of us to believe. And it’s hard to believe because a lot of times it can feel like God is distant. Or as the Psalm 74 describes it, sometimes it can feel like God’s got his hands in his pockets with his back turned on us. It can feel like you’re stuck here on your own, and God’s just standing off somewhere whistling to himself. Sometimes it can feel that way, but that’s not what the Bible tells us. Check out Psalm 104. It’s about God’s ongoing relationship with his finished work of creation.
The whole psalm is good, but let’s start at verse 19.
Ps 104:19 [God] made the moon to mark the seasons;
the sun knows its time for setting.
Ps 104:20 You make darkness, and it is night,
when all the beasts of the forest creep about.
Ps 104:21 The young lions roar for their prey,
seeking their food from God.
The lions are seeking their food from God. Have you ever seen one of those YouTube videos of a lion hunting a hippo or zebra? I was just going to check a couple of them out last week and spent an hour watching them. It’s amazing to watch a lion take down a hippo. Or to watch how they crouch down in tall blades of grass to sneak up on the prey they know can run fast — and Psalm 104 is saying that when the lions do that, they’re looking to God.
Ps 104:22 When the sun rises, they steal away
and lie down in their dens.
Ps 104:23 Man goes out to his work
and to his labor until the evening.
Ps 104:24 O Lord, how manifold are your works!
In wisdom have you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
Ps 104:25 Here is the sea, great and wide,
which teems with creatures innumerable,
living things both small and great.
Ps 104:26 There go the ships,
and Leviathan, which you formed to play in it.
Ps 104:27 These all look to you,
to give them their food in due season.
Ps 104:28 When you give it to them, they gather it up;
when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.
Ps 104:29 When you hide your face, they are dismayed;
when you take away their breath, they die
and return to their dust.
o Psalm 104 is saying that if you are part of creation — and you are — God is in your details, whether you want him to be or not. And he’s in your details because he cares for you, because he’s just that sovereign. He started the work of creation, and he stopped the work of creation, and he even has that kind of starting and stopping power over life itself. That’s what Psalm 104 says.
God has that kind of authority. He is in that much control. That’s why he rested on the seventh day. He took at seat because he could. That’s a good thing to know about him. He’s sovereign like that.
And the second thing to know about God’s rest is that, second point . . .
2. God Is Self-Sufficient
To be self-sufficient means that you have enough in yourself that you don’t need anyone else. And God’s rest tells us that about him — it tells us that he doesn’t need anything. And I think we see this best when the truth of God’s rest is put in contrast to other gods. This really makes more sense of the commandment to remember the Sabbath which we find in the Old Testament books of Exodus and Deuteronomy. The Ten Commandments are in both of these books, and one quick thing to point out: in the book of Exodus (which we’ve looked at briefly) God says that when Israel remembers the Sabbath they are supposed to remember that God rested on the seventh day; but in the book of Deuteronomy, God says that when Israel remembers the Sabbath they should remember that God rescued them from their slavery in Egypt.
Which one should it be, then? Is the Sabbath for remembering God’s rest at creation or for remembering God’s rescue from Egypt?
Well, I think it’s both — and I think that when Israel remembered their slavery in Egypt they also remembered how stunning it is that the God they worship is a God of rest — because the gods of Egypt were not like that at all.
See, the whole system of Egypt, the whole economy, was built around relentless work. It was always about more bricks and more productivity — it was all work, all day. That’s what Pharaoh said to Moses the first time Moses told him to let Israel go. Moses came to Pharaoh and told him that God said to let Israel go so that they could worship God and have a feast. And Pharaoh said, “Why do you take the people away their work? Get back to your burdens” (Exod. 5:4). The people were so busy with work they weren’t given any time for worship. They didn’t even have time for a decent family meal. It was all work — that was the system of Egypt, and that was the system because the gods of Egypt depended upon it.
See, the way it worked with the gods of the other nations back then is that however well off the nation was, it said something about their gods. The glory of the gods depended upon the glory of the nation that worshiped them. And so in order for the gods of Egypt to look good, Egypt itself had to be successful, and that meant unending work. One scholar describes Egypt as “a society of 24/7 multitasking in order to achieve, accomplish, perform, and possess.” Back in ancient Egypt there was endless heaving and grinding and toiling to be bigger, better, and more respectable, in order to be able to buy and earn and trade for bigger, better, more respectable things. It was a commodity-centered culture, and the whole thing was a rat race of complete anxiety, because that’s what happens when the god you serve is dependent upon your work. You never get a break, because your god can’t afford for you to get a break. That’s the world that Israel labored in for 400 years until God rescued them out and said “Stop.”
And he told them to stop because he didn’t need their work. See, the God who created the heavens and earth is not like the gods of Egypt because he is the God of rest. He doesn’t need anyone.
And you might know that, but do you rest like you know that? Do you stop your work like you know that?
Our Compulsive Mobility
America today can be a lot like ancient Israel. America is, at least on the surface, the richest and most successful nation in the world, and that has come at a cost. One way I’ve heard it described is that we live in the land of “compulsive mobility.” It’s that we always have to be on the move; we always have to be doing something, going somewhere — and that’s especially true in cities like ours. We don’t rest because we can’t. We can’t imagine stopping. If we do, there’s this fear that we’ll get behind; that we’ll lose our place; that we’ll make the gods unhappy.
Because there are little gods here, too. And when we live under their system, you don’t get to stop. And when you don’t stop, eventually it will crush you. And that’s because we were made by and for a God who built rest into the fabric of creation. The God who created everything rested because he could, and he wants us to rest in order to remember that. Rest is a good thing; it’s good for you.
And just to be clear here, the main reason you should rest is not because it’s the way you get to live a healthier, happier, more productive life — I hope you do — but the main reason for rest is that you remember that the God who made you does not need you. And what a gift that is!
The vision here is that we live in a world where the bigness and nearness and centrality of God is so thick in the air that when we breathe that air in we know we are breathing in the air of a God who does not need us in order for him to be who he is. And because he does not need us in order for him to be who he is, we are freed to enjoy him and the things he has made. That is the rest of God.
That is why in the Gospel of Mark, in the New Testament, chapter 2, Jesus corrects the Pharisees when he tells them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). The rest of God is a gift for us. It’s not about us, it’s about God, and it’s a gift for us. It is a gift for us that God is a God of rest.
It is a gift that we read in Genesis 2:1–3 that on the seventh day God rested. He took a seat and enjoyed the fruit of his work.
Enter God’s Rest
And notice something about the seventh day that is different from the other six days. In each of the other days we read that “there was evening and there was morning, the third day”, or the fourth, or fifth, or sixth. Each of the days had closure. Each day gave way to the next day. But we don’t see that at all with seventh day. From God’s perspective, the seventh day never ends. God didn’t start back the work week after the seventh day of rest. He’s still in the seventh day of rest, and always will be.
And Adam and Eve lived in that rest until sin ruined everything in Chapter 3 (that’s next week’s sermon). Humans were created to live in God’s rest. Now it still means we work and we have something to do — God told Adam to cultivate and keep the Garden, but it’s work from the foundation of rest. It’s work under a God who we have a relationship with and who we know is self-sufficient.
That’s one thing sin has confused for us. Sin messes everything up, and it has really messed up how we think about work and rest. It has removed us so far away from what God intended. And that’s why the Bible says that to hear the gospel and to trust in God is to enter back into God’s rest. That’s the way Hebrews Chapter 4 (in the New Testament) talks about it. Hebrews 4:9 says, “There remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God.”
God’s rest on the seventh day is still open, and we can live in that rest by faith in Jesus Christ. See, there is a true and better Garden of Eden yet to come, and we can get in on that now. We can enter God’s rest now. That’s because the death and resurrection of Jesus that has made the way for us. The book of Hebrews (in the New Testament) talks about that too.
Our situation was that (is that) our sin separates us from God, and in order for our relationship with God to be restored, sin has to be dealt with. The penalty of our sin has to be paid. And so that’s what Jesus did. By his absolute grace, Jesus came to this earth and went to the cross to suffer the penalty of sin that we deserved. He offered himself as the sacrifice for our sins. He took our penalty in our place. That’s why he died, and then, three days later, he was raised from the dead, and his redemptive work was finished. That’s why Sunday now, not Saturday, is the day of rest. We don’t need to work our way back to God. Jesus doesn’t have to keep offering sacrifices. Hebrews 10:12 tells us that, “When Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.”
Jesus took a seat, and he did it so that we could enter God’s rest. That’s the invitation to us all. Enter his rest. Trust in Jesus and enter God’s rest.
So I’m going to pray here in a second, and then we’re going to all head over to the soccer field for the baptism and then communion and then lunch, but before I pray, I want to talk straightforward here for a minute. I know that not all of us here live in God’s rest, and if that’s you, I want you to know that you can enter God’s rest today. In fact, that’s exactly what the Bible says. “Today” you can enter God’s rest by putting your faith in Jesus Christ. So I want to invite you to do that now — trust in Jesus now, enter God’s rest — or if you want to talk more about it, I’d love to talk with you.