God Rested

Tom Groelsema, Speaker

Genesis 2:1-3 | June 4, 2023 - Sunday Evening,

Sunday Evening,
June 4, 2023
God Rested | Genesis 2:1-3
Tom Groelsema, Speaker

Let’s turn together in God’s Word tonight to the very first book of the Bible, to the book of Genesis. We’re going to be reading tonight the last verse of chapter 1 and the first three verses of chapter 2. So Genesis 1 verse 31 through chapter 2 verse 3.

While you’re turning there, let me just begin with a question tonight: How many of you have read one of John Piper’s books? Any of you read one of his books? Okay, many of you have. If you haven’t read his books, he’s written, of course, many, many popular books, books like Desiring God, Future Grace, Let the Nations Be Glad, a book about missions. But I want to share with you tonight my favorite Piper book, and my favorite of all his books is the book Don’t Waste Your Life. That’s a book I’ve read a number of times. It’s a book that I’ve come back to over and over again.

Piper’s thesis in that book, Don’t Waste Your Life, is this, that the way not to waste your life is to live with a single passion, I’m quoting from him now, with a single passion to joyfully display God’s supreme excellence in all spheres of life. So the way not to waste your life is to live with a single passion to joyfully display God’s supreme excellence in all spheres of life.

He goes on the book to say we’re to do that 9 to 5. In other words, he tells us how to do that in our work. We’re to do that in missions. We are to do that at times living with a sense of risk for the glory of God.

That thesis fits in wonderfully, of course, with what the Westminster Shorter Catechism says when it says what’s our chief end. To glorify God, to enjoy Him forever. That is our purpose, that is our aim. That should be our single passion.

Piper in the last page of the last chapter of that book asks a question that I’ve often come back to over and over again in my ministry. So Piper says that every year when he was pastoring Bethlehem Baptist Church there would be annually a missions conference and he said every year at that missions conference he would come back to ask himself this question. He said, “Will I be able to say to the Lord that I stayed at Bethlehem because I believed I could be most instrumental there in accomplishing God’s purpose to make a name for Himself among the nations?”

So Piper says every single year he’d ask himself, “Lord, is this where you can use me the most for Your glory?” Then he goes on to say, “When I can no longer say yes to that question, my leadership here will be finished.”

So that’s just one way that Piper applies the thesis of don’t waste your life.

Well, I want to remind you tonight that we’re starting a new series, a June evening series. It’s only for a month, p.m. services in the month of June. Here’s the title of our series. It’s not Don’t Waste Your Life, but it’s Don’t Waste Your Summer. Don’t waste your summer.

When I think about summer, it’s my favorite season of all. Probably because I lived in Michigan and of course it was the best weather of the whole year, right? In the summer.

But still, my favorite season, a time for rest, a time of breaking from familiar routines, school’s out, the evenings are long, we enjoy vacations, maybe we don’t have to set the alarm clock. We have the run of the neighborhood, summer camps. We hit a pool. All kinds of wonderful things that happen in the summer.

But I would like to ask you the question: How can we make sure we don’t waste our summer?

With reduced routines sometimes comes reduced habits of godliness. Right? So we miss out on prayer more often. We miss out on reading the Word more often. Maybe worship becomes more sporadic in our summers. But how do we make the most of our summer and continue to glorify God in it?

Here’s one answer. You’re going to get more over the next few weeks. One answer – to use God’s gift of the Sabbath to regulate our living.

To rest on the day that God rested. To work and play on the days that God worked. Then to find in Christ our true Sabbath rest.

That’s what we’re going to think about tonight.

So let’s go to God’s Word. Genesis 1, verse 31, through verse 3 of chapter 2.

“God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. 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.”

Three points tonight: God’s rest, our rest, and Christ’s rest.

First of all, God’s rest. It occurred as we just read on the seventh day. So for six days God worked, God created. He called into being light and sky and seas and dry land, the moon, and apple trees and magnolias, eagles and ostriches, rhinos and beavers, man and woman. He took a creation that was without form and void and He formed it. He filled it. He did all of this out of nothing, ex nihilo, God created all that was made.

Then as we read here in the text came the seventh day. Verse 1 of chapter 2 gives us a conclusion to the creation. We read there, “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished and all the host of them.” It’s a bookend to God’s creative work. God began everything. Chapter 1 verse 1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” In chapter 2 verse 1, you see, as it were, a reverse of what God began. In the beginning He created heavens and earth, but in chapter 2 verse 1, thus the heavens and the earth were finished. We have a beginning in chapter 1 verse 1, we have a conclusion in chapter 2 verse 1. Not just a conclusion, but a climax.

Sometimes when we think about God’s creative work and we make our way through the days, one, two, three, four, five, and six, we think about day 6 as being the climax of creation. There God makes man and woman. That’s the peak, but I would contend with you tonight that the seventh day really is the climax. It is the peak, it is the crescendo. We know that because it is the day that stands apart from all of the other days in which God did His creative work.

It stands apart for a few reasons. First of all, it tells us that it was on this day that God rested. So on the other six days God creates, but on the seventh day God rested.

Our text reminds us of that three times. Verse 1 of chapter 2, the heavens and the earth were finished and all the host of them. Verse 2, and on the seventh day God finished his work that He had done and He rested on the seventh day. Then verse 3, 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.

Rest, rest, rest. Three times. God’s rest doesn’t mean that He was worn out and needed a weekend. Remember who He is. He is the omnipotent God. He is our all-powerful God. Isaiah 40 reminds us that He does not grow faint or weary. It contrasts that for us, doesn’t it? Even youths grow tired and weary and young men stumble and fall, but Isaiah 40 says not God.

He doesn’t get tired. He doesn’t get weary. He doesn’t need a break. God doesn’t need a mental health day every once in a while to recover. That’s not why God rested. Rest here simply means cease. God stopped working and He delighted in the creation that He had made.

That’s why we read verse 31. At the very end of God’s creative work, God looked at all that He had made, all that He had created, and you remember that He declared it very good. God had put final touches, the finishing touches on His creation, and He rested. He took deep pleasure, delight, in all that He had created, in all that He had made.

That’s sort of the difference between saying at the end of a long day, a hard work day, and we come home from work and maybe we sit down to have a meal or maybe later on in the evening after all of our errands and tasks are done and we’re sitting down in the chair, it’s the difference between saying, “Phew. It’s all done. Finally. It’s all finished. Now I can sit down and relax,” or saying, “Ah, how wonderful it’s been.”

The difference between exhaustion and enjoyment.

God is not exhausted. But God fully enjoyed as He rested all that He had created.

You might remember that throughout the Bible the number seven is a number of completion, a number of perfection. We find these series of sevens often in the Scriptures, the last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation. Of course, we have the seven churches, seven real churches but seven churches that are also representative of the entire Church. Right? Throughout the ages.

This number seven, this number of completion or perfection, is that just something that we’ve made up? Something that we’ve kind of invented that’s sort of neat? That fits the number seven.

Of course it’s not something that we just made up. But it comes right here out of God’s creative work and His rest. This seventh day, a day of completion, a day of perfection, a day of enjoyment, a day of delight, God ceased from all the work that He had done and He celebrated a creation that was very good.

But what makes this day different is not just that God rested, but you see in verse 3 that God took the seventh day and He also blessed it and He made it holy. Take these things in reverse with me. First of all, God made this seventh day holy, consecrated it. He sanctified it. God set it apart from all the other days.

Think about the rhythms that are part of our life that are kind of built into the creation that God designed, that God made. All the other rhythms in creation, aside from a week, operate by heavenly beings and a heavenly order. So our year, it’s our rotation once around the sun. Sometimes you’ll see people wish others a happy birthday and they say, “You made it another trip around the sun. A full year has passed.”

Month, the rotation of the moon around the earth. A day, the rotation of the earth on its axis. The week, established directly by God. It is God that formed it. It is God that shaped it. It doesn’t get its direction from how the earth moves, how the moon relates to the sun, or relates to the earth. The week, a divine order, established by God.

The seventh day made holy, consecrated, sanctified, set apart, belonging to the Lord. His day of all the days, His day ordered by God Himself, and then blessed by God. Designed to be spiritually and physically fruitful for us.

You might remember, back a number of months now, a couple of years even as Kevin preached his way through the book of Genesis, reminding us of blessings so often being connected with fruitfulness. Blessing leading to fruitfulness, leading to prosperity.

Here God blesses the seventh day. You see this blessing even in the creation account, the fruitfulness that comes from blessing, to the living creatures, God blessed them and says be fruitful and multiply, Genesis 1:22.

You see the same thing in Genesis 1:28 to Adam and Eve, God blessed them. What happens? He says to them be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, subdue it, blessing leading to fruitfulness. The same is true here on the seventh day – God blesses the seventh day.

What does that mean? It means that God’s intent for that day, for the seventh day, the sabbath day, is that it would be spiritually and physically fruitful for us. A blessing that would bring a certain kind of prosperity to us, life-giving to us. Not a hardship, not a burden, not a day that we end up dreading, but a day that we look forward to because we understand that God has blessing in it for us that is meant to be beneficial.

Kent Hughes put it this way. He said it is a day of rest that has the power to stimulate, animate, enrich, and give fullness to life.

Does that describe your Sabbath? Your experience of the Sabbath? Your enjoyment of the Sabbath? That it stimulates you, it animates you, enriches you, gives fullness to your life in a way that the other days of the week do not give to you?

God’s rest.

Well, secondly, we see our rest. Because not only did God cease His labors on the Sabbath, but the Sabbath is also to be a pattern for our living. We understand that because keeping the Sabbath day holy became, of course, part of the commands that God gave to His people, fourth commandment.

In the two different places that we see the 10 commandments in the Old Testament, and see the fourth commandment about keeping the Sabbath day holy, Deuteronomy chapter 5 and Exodus 20, we see some slightly different emphases that God gives us for reason for why this day ought to be set apart, the Sabbath day ought to be kept holy.

In Deuteronomy 5, the Sabbath is salvation celebrated. So God reminds Israel in giving the 10 commandments there, remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt and the Lord brought you out and therefore you’re to keep the Sabbath day holy. Remember that you were slaves in the land of Egypt and the Lord brought you out.

So God says to His people set apart the seventh day because God redeemed you and saved you. Remember back, remember how in Egypt you were making bricks and Pharaoh kept saying to you, “More bricks, more bricks. Keep making more” and took your straw away and demanded more from you. Remember how you were making bricks in Egypt but God delivered you and He gave you rest. He saved you from that hard toil and He’s given you rest.

So use the Sabbath, God says, to celebrate that, to celebrate your deliverance, to celebrate the salvation that God has given you. Set it apart in worship to God.

One of the things, of course, that we do on the Sabbath. Right? Heart of the Sabbath to worship the Lord for His salvation work.

When you go to Exodus 20 that we read tonight earlier, the focus there isn’t so much salvation celebrated but creation remembered. The focus there in Exodus 20 is God says it is to keep the Sabbath day holy, not do any work on that day, for in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, but He rested on the seventh day and He made it holy, therefore you set it apart.

Remember God’s pattern. Remember God worked six days and then rested, therefore you’re to set this day apart. So use the Sabbath not only to celebrate salvation and set it apart in worship to God, but use the Sabbath day to rest since God rested. As His image-bearers, those who reflect God, God worked six days and rested, you work six days and rest.

Sinclair Ferguson says the gift of the Sabbath provided a wonderful way of regulating the whole of life. It provides an in-built weekly time and motion study to help us life well. A wonderful way of regulating the whole of life that we might be fruitful.

People of God, isn’t it interesting that as God creates and then rests on the seventh day, that man’s first full day of life was not going off to work. Created on the sixth day, the seventh day comes along, this is a day of rest. Man’s first day is not to go off and do labor, to go off to his job. There would be time for that. Nothing wrong with work, work is good. Adam and Eve, given the mandate to cultivate the creation, to take care of the garden. But his first full day is a day of rest.

In other words, His creation, the life of man, our life, oriented first around a day of rest. The seventh day comes first for him and then the six days of work follow, as if God were saying rest first and the six days of labor will fall into place. Orient the six days of work around the Sabbath, not the Sabbath around the six days of work.

Let me say that again – orient the six days of work, your six days of work, around the Sabbath, not the Sabbath around the other six days.

I repeat that because that this something that is so easy for us to get backwards. To fill six days of work and piano lessons and soccer practices and grocery shopping and car repairs and bill paying and on and on we could go, to get so consumed with everything that we have to do in six days and then get around to thinking about the Sabbath as an afterthought. Some of us might need some reorientation in our living, one that prioritizes the seventh day as God did.

It was a number of years ago, I was still pastoring in Michigan, talking to one of the other pastors in our town who had made a visit to New England and he went to visit a couple of churches in his denomination and was talking to one of the pastors of the churches and that pastor said to him, “We have no concept of weekend any longer in New England. We have no concept of weekend any longer in New England.” What he was saying was simply this in New England every day is the same, just cycle through a week, one week comes, another week goes. Monday is the same as Saturday, Saturday is the same as Sunday. No concept of weekend. No rhythm except just a constant merry-go-round of day after day after day after day after day after day.

My thought, just thinking to myself, I didn’t express this, but my thought was this – when that happens, I think you’ve reached, we’ve reached, a total secularization of the culture. Right? Because there’s no difference. Just every single day is the same, just doing the same thing day in, day out, and one week just leads into another.

Remember Jesus said this to Satan in the wilderness. He was being tempted. He said man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.

Jesus is saying, responding to Satan, there is more to life than bread, reminding us of that. There is more to life than bread. There is more to life than making bread.

We have six days to give to bread. Six days for making bread, six days for earning bread, but all the things that bread represents cannot give us life. There’s one thing that gives us life and that is the Word of God. We need what comes out of God’s mouth, the very thing that we get one day of the week, on the Sabbath day. That is the thing that can give us life. The other six days cannot give us life.

So to fall into a cycle where every single day is the same robs us of a very important spiritual truth that we need a day like today.

Friends, we find I think so little time for rest on the Sabbath because of our pace and practices the other six days. The million dollar question regarding the Sabbath is of course always this – Is it okay or not okay for me to do X on the Sabbath? Right? That’s what you would love to hear out of every one of your pastors, just tell me what I can do on the Sabbath. Tell me what I should not do on the Sabbath.

But I think a better question is this – Why would I be doing X, whatever it be, on the Sabbath? Or on Sundays?

A common answer is this – Because I don’t have time for it in the rest of the week. I’ve got so much going on that it just kind of dumps over, right onto the Sabbath.

Sometimes I fear that we’re living taking the six days of the week first and loading them up so full that when it comes to the Sabbath we have to do all the things that we could not get to the rest of the week. What we’ve done is we have oriented the Sabbath around the six days instead of orienting six days around the Sabbath.

You see, the Sabbath not only regulates our rest, but in Genesis 2 there the Sabbath also regulates our work. It doesn’t just regulate how we’re to rest; it regulates when we’re to work and what we’re to do with those days. It regulates all the days of the week.

Friends, what would happen if into our lives if the Sabbath came first? If we rested, we worshiped, we fellowshipped, we enjoyed the blessing and fruit that God intended for us on this day, spiritually and physically we prioritized that, regarded it? Wouldn’t that refresh us for all the rest of the days of the week that follow?

Might it not change how we live the rest of the days?

Following the resurrection of Christ, of course, the Sabbath shifts to the first day. But I think the Sabbath is something like a first fruits day. You remember the first fruits principle in the Bible? You’re out harvesting your crop, it’s the fall or whatever season it is when you harvest in Israel, and you’re out taking your crop in and you get that first wagon load of grain. What do you do with it? Do you bring it to the bank or do you bring it to the temple?

First fruits, you take it to the temple. Right? The first fruits, it’s the Lord’s. It’s an act of faith because by giving that first of your harvest to God, what you’re saying is, “God, I trust You that You will take care of the rest of my needs. There will be enough for me. I give to You first and there will be enough coming. I trust You that whatever I have need for, God, You will provide.”

I wonder if the Sabbath is kind of like that, a first fruits day. Lord, I’m giving You this day. I trust by giving You this day, I trust that You will give me whatever time I need the rest of the week to do all that I need to do, to work, to play, be at home, whatever it is, that I trust You will give me the rest of the week to do whatever needs to be done.

Friends, what does this have to do with wasting our summer? It’s easy to miss the blessing God has for us in the Sabbath if we treat it as last instead of first in the week. Not just in the summer, of course, but all year long. But maybe that’s even more critical in the summer because of the lack of structure that some of us enjoy. It’s good, right? We love it because of that.

One of our brothers from church just said to me three days ago, “You know, when I’m on vacation, my devotional life suffers.” He doesn’t intend that, but he’s on vacation and what he was saying to me was some days when I typically pray, because I’m on vacation, it kind of slips away, or my devotional reading in the Scriptures just doesn’t happen as regularly.

You see, when we lose routines, we can also lose rhythms that God has meant for us to enjoy, and by which He builds us up. So God wants us to rest on this day that He’s given us and to worship Him.

That leads us then, finally, to Christ’s rest. Because the Sabbath, of course, is also a foretaste of a heavenly rest that is yet to come for us. It’s why we read the text from Hebrews chapter 4. In Hebrews 4, verse 4, the writer of Hebrews quotes from Genesis 2, from the text that we read tonight, that God rested on the seventh day from all His works.

The point that the writer of Hebrews is making is not so much about following God’s pattern of work and rest, but rather entering God’s rest by resting in Christ’s finished work. You are to rest in Christ. Do not be like the Israelites. He’s making a contrast there, about how God’s people were traveling through the wilderness and they were on the doorstep of the land of rest, the land of promise, but some never entered that rest because they didn’t live by faith. He’s saying to us put your faith and your trust and your hope and your salvation in Christ Jesus, find your rest in Him, for there remains, as he says, a Sabbath rest for the people of God.

Friends, there remains a Sabbath rest for us. There is a fuller rest still coming for God’s people. In fact, you can even see that in the creation account itself. The seventh day, no morning and evening pattern as you have in the other six days. Right? It doesn’t end “there was morning and there was evening, the seventh day.” Because the Sabbath is unending. There is an eternal Sabbath rest that is awaiting us. We’re waiting the consummation of the Sabbath when Christ returns.

That’s why we still practice it. We might have this question running through our mind – well, hasn’t Christ fulfilled the Sabbath? Hasn’t He given us our rest, as I’ll point out here in just a moment, yes, He has. But we are not to the final Sabbath yet. That’s why this rhythm is so important for us, to keep reminding us of what Christ has done but also to keep us longing for what Christ is going to accomplish for us. We practice this day not in the same way that Israel did. We’re not receiving the law from the hand of Moses but we receive it from the hand of Christ and our rest is in Him.

Remember Jesus’ words, Matthew 11? Come into Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and I will give you.. What’s the word? Rest. Right? I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me for I am gentle and lowly in heart and you will find rest for your souls.

Rest in Christ.

Or at the cross. John 19:30. Jesus came to His last breath and He cries out, “It is finished.” All that the Father had given Him to do He accomplished. Atonement, forgiveness of our sins, finished.

Remember the next day as Jesus laid in the tomb He rested. Rested from all the work that He had accomplished and then on the third day rose again from the dead. Of course, that is why the Sabbath is no longer on the seventh day but the first. Christ rose on the first day of the week, our rest was secured that day. The seventh day, of course, is a day where you’re always looking ahead. Right? You spend your whole week looking to that last day that’s coming.

What a fitting picture in the Old Testament when you’re looking forward to the coming of Christ that’s out there and you have your eye set upon it. But here we are worshiping today on the first week [sic]. Why? Because we’re not looking forward any longer to what is to come at the end of the week. We get to look back at what has already been accomplished, through Christ’s death and His resurrection.

So I would ask you tonight are you resting in Christ for your salvation? Because you see that is the best way not only not to waste your summer, but of course not to waste your life. By finding your rest in Christ and then responding with joy and gladness on the day that He has given you to worship and to rest from your daily labors.

The Westminster Confession of Faith reminds us that saving faith is accepting, it’s receiving, and it’s resting on Christ alone for our justification, sanctification, and eternal life. St. Augustin, of course, put it so well. You’ve heard this probably before, his famous quote: “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee.”

We’re going to be restless until we find our rest in Christ and that’s why this day is such a great day for rest, because you can say, “I’m not restless anymore. I am resting in Jesus and resting from all that I have to do so I can focus upon Him.”

So how do we avoid wasting our summer? Well, one way, by keeping the Sabbath day holy. Recall God’s pattern for our worship and rest. Be restored spiritually and physically. And rejoice in the rest that you have in Christ.

Let’s pray together. God, we do thank You for the rest that we have in Jesus. We echo what one of the old hymns says that day of all the week the best, this one, this day, day of all the week the best, an emblem of our eternal rest. Thank You for the rest that we have in Christ, thank You for the rest that we can enjoy weekly in this pattern that You’ve established for us, a day for worship, a day for physically resting from all the other things that we have been given. We remember and we confess that we do not live by bread alone but on every word that proceeds from Your mouth. We praise You, Lord Jesus. In Your name we pray. Amen.