Archive for August 13th, 2011
And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had made; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He has made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it; because that in it He had rested from all his work which God created and made. Genesis 2:2-3 Hebrew World translation
Rested – Who rests and who works? If you grew up in Babylon, you were taught that the gods created men so that they could rest while men did the work. The duty of Man was to serve the gods in order that the gods would not have to do the work of taking care of creation. There was no rest for the wicked, and that included everyone born of a woman.
But Israel was different. Israel was commanded to participate in God’s rest. Israel was not to work when God rested. Why? For the answer, we need to reconsider the framework of the creation story.
Hebrew creation is about order. It is not about the victory of good over evil or the battle between rival divinities. It is about the safety and security provided by one sovereign Lord of all creation. It is about His arrangement of the universe so that everything works together as it should. The creation story is about control and nothing epitomizes control more than the ability to stop maintaining it all. In other words, rest is the clearest and strongest metaphor for the fact that what God did is working perfectly. No more tinkering is needed.
Israel is commanded to acknowledge and honor God’s ultimate perfection in creation by resting with Him. Two important distinctions emerge from this Hebraic point of view. First, of course, men do not work for God. God does not need the ministrations of men in order to find rest. He creates all that is necessary for a perfect world. Unlike other ancient views about the gods, men are not required to benefit YHWH. In Israel, men work for their own prosperity and provision. Secondly, men are not commanded to actively engage in God’s rest – to do something that will facilitate His rest. Instead, they are commanded to share in God’s rest; to rest themselves in honor of His perfect creation and His absolute control. God stops because nothing more needs to be done. We stop because we honor a God who has finished all of it. If He rests, so can we. His control guarantees that the world will not fly apart if we take a day off. In other words, by ceasing to work on the Sabbath, I acknowledge my trust in His control. It is more than a mental construct. It is a behavioral, practical, visible sign that I trust Him.
Walton points out that there is no other civilization in human history that has such a provision. There is nothing like the Sabbath to be found anywhere else than in Israel. Shabbat is a day unique to the God of the Bible, a day unlike any other, a day of literal trust in His order.
If our frenzied activity cannot be set aside for this sanctified day, what does that say about our trust in the one we claim to worship? Does it mean that we still subtly need to take charge? Does it mean that we dishonor Him when we think we are so important that we cannot rest? And what does it say about a religious culture that ignores this visible sign of trust in God? What does it say to the pagan world when we cannot let go for fear that something won’t get done? Whose world is that kind of world?
Topical Index: Sabbath, shabbat, rest, Genesis 2:2-3, control, trust