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. (Genesis 2:1-3)

The creation account from Genesis is one of the most familiar – and foundational – in all of Scripture. In six days, God created the universe and everything in it, and then rested on the seventh.

This Sabbath rest of God following his creative activity is a key truth echoed throughout the Bible. In the Old Testament, it became an identifying mark for the nation of Israel, who were to rest from their own work on the seventh day because their God had rested from his. In the New Testament, it remains a picture of the spiritual rest enjoyed by all of God’s people, who have ceased from their own efforts to earn God’s favour and have trusted in Christ alone for salvation.

Why did God need to rest on the seventh day?

For thoughtful believers, though, it does raise some questions: Why did God need to rest at the end of creation week, and what precisely was the nature of that rest?

A hasty answer might be that he was simply tired. Creating the universe is a big job, after all. Even for God – one might dare assume – there would be need for some down time afterwards, to refresh and recharge his energies, as it were.

But God’s energies are infinite, as are all of his faculties. He is self-sufficient, needing nothing outside of himself, like sleep or rest or resources to work with. He simply spoke everything into being out of nothing, and it was so. Clearly he didn’t need to take a break after his creative efforts.

Nor can we imagine that God took a day off, allowing the universe to run by itself while he took some sort of a deistic weekend vacation. At no point has he ever ceded his sovereign care over his cosmos, even for a moment. In addition, the effects of that first Sabbath rest go beyond just a single day, rippling down through history and on into eternity.

It might be easier to think that God’s rest was primarily for the benefit of humanity. Perhaps it was of a symbolic or spiritual nature, intended as a model to emulate.

But this answer won’t do, either. All of God’s activity is first and foremost for his own sake, rather than for ours. True, we also benefit from it, as he intends. Nevertheless, his ultimate purpose in everything he does is for his own glory. He didn’t make the universe because he was bored or lonely or needed something to do. He made it for his own good pleasure.

God finished His creative work by delighting in it

And therein lies the secret behind the rest of God. After creating a universe teeming with wonders – time and space, light and dark, angels and powers, stars and galaxies, earth and sea, plants and animals, and finally, men and women in his own image – he declared that it was all very good. It was only fitting that he should step back to view it, and to delight in the work of his hands.

This enjoyment was no mere luxury or act of self-indulgence. Rather, it was God’s perfect response to his own perfect creativity. Indeed, it was an intrinsic part, an essential capstone to the creative act itself. The Scripture says that God actually finished his work on that seventh day of rest.

Conversely, the lack of such a response would have been wrong. It would have cheapened the creation and violated the character of God.

We echo our creator by delighting in our own creativity

For beings made in his image, this truth has profound implications regarding our own work. Unlike God, we don’t create ex nihilo by the word of our power. But we do exercise dominion over the natural world according to his divine mandate. We bring order out of chaos. We make things for benefit and for beauty. We express ourselves as individuals and as cultures. We design and build, arrange and nurture, write and paint, sing and dance.

In all of this, we echo the nature of the one whose likeness we bear. As such, it’s fitting that we, too, rest from our works when we finish them. We do so not only to recoup our strength but also to reflect on the works themselves – humbly, dependently and with satisfied joy. Any less would devalue our efforts and dishonour the creator in whose image we’re made.

© 2019 Focus on the Family (Canada) Association. All rights reserved.

If you liked this article and would like to go deeper, we have some helpful resources below.

Our recommended resources

Free advice on marriage, parenting and Christian living delivered straight to your inbox

View comments ()