Sabbath Rest for a Perfect Creation
THE SABBATH AS UNDERSTOOD BY GOD
“Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts. By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work, which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work, which God had created and made. This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made earth and heaven.” (Genesis 2:1-4)
God does not tire nor does he need rest, therefore the statement from Genesis 2 “God rested” does not mean that God rested because He was tired. God is communicating by the statement “God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work” that He was satisfied with all He created. On the seventh day the whole of creation was perfect, without flaw, defect, blemish, or sin. Furthermore, the first Sabbath was for God alone; He set aside a day to reflect upon His creation and to glory in all He had accomplished. The fact that God sanctified (set a day aside) and rested means that God was finished with His creation, so far as the creative act was concerned. There is no mention of the Sabbath being for man at this point in time. Let us refer to the words of John Calvin.
“And he rested on the seventh day.” The question may not improperly be put, what kind of rest this was. For it is certain that inasmuch as God sustains the world by his power, governs it by his providence, cherishes, and even propagates all creatures, he is constantly at work. Therefore that saying of Christ is true, that the Father and he himself had worked from the beginning hitherto, because, if God should but withdraw his hand a little, all things would immediately perish and dissolve into nothing, as is declared in Psalm 104:29 “You hide your face, they are troubled; You take away their breath, they die, and return to their dust.” And indeed God is rightly acknowledged as the Creator of heaven and earth only whilst their perpetual preservation is ascribed to him. The solution of the difficulty is well known, that God ceased from all his work, when he desisted from the creation of new kinds of things. But to make the sense clearer, understand that the last touch of God had been put, in order that nothing might be wanting to the perfection of the world. And this is the meaning of the words of Moses, from all his work which he had made ; for he points out the actual state of the work as God would have it to be, as if he had said, then was completed what God had proposed to himself. On the whole, this language is intended merely to express the perfection of the fabric of the world; and therefore we must not infer that God so ceased from his works as to desert them, since they only flourish and subsist in him. Besides, it is to be observed, that in the works of the six days, those things alone are comprehended which tend to the lawful and genuine adorning of the world. It is subsequently that we shall find God saying, Let the earth bring forth thorns and briers, by which he intimates that the appearance of the earth should be different from what it had been in the beginning. But the explanation is at hand; many things which are now seen in the world are rather corruptions of it than any part of its proper furniture. For ever since man declined from his high original, it became necessary that the world should gradually degenerate from its nature. We must come to this conclusion respecting the existence of fleas, caterpillars, and other noxious insects. In all these, I say, there is some deformity of the world, which ought by no means to be regarded as in the order of nature, since it proceeds rather from the sin of man than from the hand of God. Truly, these things were created by God, but by God as an avenger. In this place, however, Moses is not considering God as armed for the punishment of the sins of men; but as the Artificer, the Architect, and the bountiful Father of a family, who has omitted nothing essential to the perfection of his edifice. At the present time, when we look upon the world corrupted, and as if degenerated from its original creation, let that expression of Paul recur to our mind, that the creature is liable to vanity, not willingly, but through our fault, (Romans 8:20,) and thus let us mourn, being admonished of our just condemnation.”
It is clear from this analysis of the Bible by Calvin that the world was created perfect, and that all the disease, sickness, annoying creatures, and death came after because of the fall of man into sin. Furthermore, God worked to create all things, and ever since He has worked to sustain His creation, and if God were ever to stop working, even for a millisecond, all things would cease to be. All things hold together by the power of God and His rest is not the cessation of God’s labors but the setting aside of time to reflect on His accomplishments.
God could have taken billions of years to evolve all things from the smallest particle of inanimate matter to the most complex biological machine, however, at the end of that extensive period how could God say, everything is perfect from beginning to end? Were all things perfect in the day He began to create it, if the day includes millions of years of savagery, sickness, and death? If at the conclusion of millions of years the world was brought to perfection, would that discount the death and suffering for animals and a string of half monkey men because it had ended? It is not reasonable to say that God experienced peace and satisfaction in His creation if in fact it had taken millions of years of death and suffering to arrive at the point of perfection.
THE SABBATH AS UNDERSTOOD BY MAN
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. "Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of the LORD your God ; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. "For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the 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.” Exodus 20:8-11
There are two important elements regarding the Sabbath as it was given to Israel. The first element regarding the Sabbath rest meant no work one day in seven for the purpose of observing the work God had done, and the second meant six days of labor and toil, which pointed to perfection and paradise lost because of man’s sin. The matter of a literal seven-day week is explained very well by John MacArthur.
“There is no reason — and I pointed this out last time — there is no reason for men to count time in seven-day periods. There is no reason for that. There is no — it doesn’t make mathematical sense to divide 365 days or even 360 days in the Jewish calendar into sevens. It does not work. There is no compelling reason to do that. Tens would seem to fit much better. The only reason that we possibly could have arrived at a universal, worldwide designation of time in seven days is because that is testimony to a six-day creation, after which God rested and established that seventh day as a constant, ongoing, end-of-every-week memorial to his six-day creation. So that every time Saturday comes along, it gives us opportunity to be reminded of the fact that God created the universe in six days, and it was finished. And so when Saturday rolls by, we remember God, the creator. And when Sunday comes, we remember God, the Savior; because that is the day that Jesus rose from the dead, having accomplished our redemption.”
In the providence of God man must toil to survive, under the consequences of a cursed earth, man is left with the question, why is life so hard? Only modern scientific advances makes production more tolerable for some, and even at that life is filled with sickness and suffering. Paradise has been lost because of the fall of man into sin; sin has produced weeds, destructive insects, harsh climates, disease, sickness, war, and death. God created the world perfect, but it was turned into woe and suffering to educate man to the consequences of his sin, so that, he might flee the judgment and punishment to come, and repent of his sin and believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.