It’s by Design That We’ve Never Lived without the Sabbath

It’s by Design That We’ve Never Lived without the Sabbath

The Sabbath is a day that God has “made . . . holy”—it is set apart to him and to his worship. And it is precisely because the day is directed toward God that it carries blessing for human beings. It is a day that God has “blessed.” In light of the testimony of Genesis 1:1–2:3, that blessing carries potential for fruitfulness and fullness. Thus, as God meets with people who truly worship him on that day, they experience all of these gifts—spiritual blessing, fruitfulness, and fullness.

The Bible introduces the Sabbath at its beginning. We first meet the Sabbath in the account of God making heaven and earth (Gen. 1:1–2:3). Strikingly, it is God who, in a sense, observes the first Sabbath (Gen. 2:3).

In the creation account, God makes the world and everything in it in six days. A seventh day follows that is set apart from the previous six in some important ways. Genesis 2:1–3 reads,

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.

The Sabbath: God’s Ordinance for Human Beings

This observation raises the question, “What kind of worship is in view, and by whom?” The answer of Genesis is, “Humanity’s worship of the God who made them.” Human beings are unique within Genesis 1:1–2:3 as those said to be made after the “image” and “likeness” of God (Gen. 1:26), after God’s “own image, in the image of God” (Gen. 1:27). As such, people are uniquely capable among all the creatures mentioned in Genesis 1:1–2:3 of fellowship and communion with God.2 Thus, the worship for which God provides in Genesis 2:1–3 is given so that his image bearers may have fellowship with him. Strikingly then, “humanity . . . is not the culmination of creation, but rather humanity in Sabbath day communion with God.”3

Genesis 1:1–2:3, in fact, presents a twofold imitation of God on the part of his image bearers. First, God creates human beings to work (Gen. 1:28–30). In part, people express the image of God as they labor in their various callings. The God who exercises dominion over the works of his hands calls humanity to “have dominion” over the earth and all the animals in it (Gen. 1:26). The God who fills the world that he has made calls human beings to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28). Thus, humans will exercise dominion as they are faithful to marry and produce offspring (see Gen. 2:23–25). But it would be a mistake to say that Genesis 1:1–2:3 conceives no higher human imitation of God than labor. As human beings imitate God at work, so also are they to imitate God at rest. As God made the world and everything in it within the space of six days and rested on the seventh day, so are human beings to engage in six days of labor and one day of holy resting.

In sum, God intends for human beings to imitate his rest by taking the weekly Sabbath to rest from their labors and devote the whole day to his worship. The word translated “bless” (barak) in Genesis 2:3 “is normally restricted to living beings in the [Old Testament] and typically does not apply to something being blessed or sanctified only for God’s sake.”4 Thus, God does not bless the seventh day for his own sake but for humanity’s sake. He is setting apart this one day in seven to be a regular day of rest in the weekly cycle of human existence. He is, in effect, commanding human beings to observe the Sabbath.

Read More

Scroll to top