A Day for Rest and Worship
January 28, 2024

A Day for Rest and Worship

Preacher:
Passage: Genesis 2:1-3

Introduction

So far, as we’ve worked through Genesis 1, we’ve seen that God alone is eternal and self-existent, that he has Supreme Power to create and to govern his creatures, and that he delights in order and goodness. We’ve also seen from the Scriptures that we as a human race are a distinct part of his creation. Since we’re part of God’s creation, that of course means that people are fundamentally distinct from God. We ourselves are not all-wise, all-powerful, or all-sufficient like God is. But the Bible also teaches that humanity is distinct from the rest of the created world. Mankind has been made in God’s image. God has uniquely made us to reflect his likeness in what we think, what we love, what we do, and what we say. Humanity is the crown jewel of God’s created universe – he made us in the sixth and final day of creation, to be fruitful and to exercise authority over God’s good earth.

Today, though, we’ll be turning our attention to the seventh day of creation week – to Genesis 2, verses 1-3. So if you have your Bibles with you, please turn with me to Genesis 2. Before I read our text, please pray with me:

[PRAYER / READING OF TEXT]

I’d like to quickly point out four characteristics of this seventh day that we just read about in our text. Then, in our remaining time, I want to unpack what significance a passage like this has for our understanding of who God is and how we relate to him.

A Day of Blessedness

So first, let’s walk through four characteristics of this seventh day described in Genesis 2. Look with me at verse 3 in particular. We see here that God blessed the seventh day. So the first characteristic of this day is that it’s a day of blessedness. God doesn’t set aside this day to be a day of grief or affliction or burdensomeness. God marks it as an honorable day – a praiseworthy day. God bestows his special favor on this seventh day – that’s what it means for God to bless the day.

This doesn’t mean that the earlier six days were somehow defective or dirty. Each of those days of creation were pleasing in God’s eyes. He reaches the end of the sixth day and affirms that everything he’s made is very good. Yet God doesn’t bless each of those days equally. Instead, he gives a special blessing to this seventh day.

A Day of Holiness

But this seventh day isn’t only a day of blessedness. It is also a day of holiness. Verse 3 says that “God blessed the seventh day, and made it holy.” You might wonder – what does this mean, for a day to be holy? Well, it means that the day is set apart as sacred. It’s a day for the special purposes of God.

Again, I want to emphasize here – this doesn’t mean that the other six days were anti-holy. Those first six days weren’t unclean or ungodly – they were just as pure as the seventh day. But God sets aside this seventh day as something that isn’t just good, but as something that is sacred. The day is uniquely marked out for reverence and worshipfulness – it’s a day for God.

A Day of Rest

Thirdly, this seventh day of Genesis 2 is also marked out as a day of rest. “God blessed the seventh day and made it holy” – why? This is the reason – “because God rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.” So we see here that there’s a reason for why this day is blessed and set apart as holy. This is a blessed, holy day because on this day, we are told, God has finished His work – specifically here the work of creation. And you and I should also notice – God himself observes this day a particular way. He observes the day by resting.

I want to quickly point here – when we talk about rest, we often associate it with tiredness and weakness. But God here isn’t resting as in napping on the couch. Rather, when the text says God rested, it means that he ceased from his work of creating. And the reason he ceased wasn’t because he didn’t have the strength to continue. He ceased because his work of creating was done. He fully accomplished the creation work he set out to do. So when God rests on the seventh day, it actually highlights that his work is potent. It’s effective. God, unlike us, has the ability to complete whatever he sets out to do. But God also intentionally makes his blessed, holy day the day of his completed work – not the day of his labor, but the day of his ceasing – the day of his rest. God himself, at the dawn of time, has associated rest with His day of blessed delight and holy worship.

The Lord’s Day

Fourth and finally, I want to simply point out that the seventh day is a day structured and appointed by God. It is God’s Day – the LORD’s Day. God is the master over it. God is the one who directs our attention to it. And as it turns out, he draws our attention to it here for a reason. This seventh day isn’t just an irrelevant, one-and-done event from the earliest chapters of world history. Instead, God is setting up a long-lasting pattern here for his people to benefit from.

We see this explicitly stated in the Ten Commandments, which are first articulated in Exodus 20. You can turn there if you’d like – Exodus 20, starting at verse 8. The people of Israel are told, “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 to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates.” WHY? – what does God ground this command in? He grounds in in Genesis 2: “For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore, the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

So Moses points back to Genesis 2 as the basis for the commandment. The seventh day of creation is a real, historical event. And that real, historical event ends up having a real impact on the calendar of God’s people.

There’s a question that rises here, though. The Sabbath observances on the seventh day are part of the Old Testament law. But now that Christ has come, we recognize that the ceremonies of the Mosaic law have been fulfilled. The feast days of the Old Testament pointed to the saving work of Jesus. The priesthood of Aaron pointed to the better priesthood of Jesus. The animal sacrifices pointed to the need for a once-and-for-all effective sacrifice for our sin, and that sacrifice was Jesus. And so we don’t repeat these Old Testament rites, because Jesus has fulfilled them.

So what about our observance of the Sabbath – of the seventh day? Is this also done away with?

The Lord's Day: a "Christian Sabbath"

The answer is both yes and no. Yes, the particular observance of the seventh-day Jewish Sabbath and its customs – in one sense those have been set aside. Colossians 2:16-17: “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival of a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.”

But if we were to claim by this that the church no longer has any obligation to observe one day in seven for gathered worship, we’d be mistaken. If you read through the book of Hebrews, you’ll see over and over again that Christ has fulfilled the Old Testament. He’s better than Moses. His new covenant surpasses the old covenant. His priesthood rises above the old priesthood. His sacrifice is the final sacrifice to end all sacrifices. Hebrews is all about teaching Christians to embrace Christ as the fulfillment of the Old Testament signs and shadows. And so if there’s any part of the Bible where we’d expect someone to tell us that God’s people no longer need to collectively observe a regular day of worship, it would be here.

But in Hebrews 10, as the author gives us implications of how we should live in light of all Christ that has fulfilled, we see no such thing. We are urged into worship – to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus. And we’re urged to do it together – we are told that we must not neglect to meet with one another. Jesus’s fulfillment of the Old Testament ceremonies doesn’t abolish our responsibility to have an ongoing pattern of corporate worship. Jesus’s work actually establishes our responsibility.

And this is precisely the pattern that the apostles and the early church have laid down for us. In the New Testament – in Acts 20:7 and 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 – and continuing on into early church history, we see that one day in seven is set apart for the corporate worship of the Church. That principle remains. But the day observed for worship is no longer the seventh day, which is the day of worship for the Jews, who deny the Lordship of Jesus. Instead, the apostles and the early church teach us, by their example, that the first day of the week – the day of Jesus’s resurrection – is the day for Christian worship. The Lord who ceased from his work of creation, and blessed the seventh day, has now ceased from his work of redemption, and has consecrated the first day of the week.

Weekly Worship and Rest

So what should this one day in seven look like for us? The foundational principles of Genesis 2 are helpful here in understanding the design God has established for us and our worship.

First, Sundays are a day of blessedness. Every week, on the first day of the week, we are urged to live in light of the realness of Jesus’s resurrection – in light of his finished work. Christ has borne the curse of death for His people. He has washed every stain of sin. In the eyes of God we stand forgiven, accepted, secure, at peace. Sunday hasn’t been given to us as a burden. God has given it to us as a blessing, for our delight – for our benefit.

So often it can seem like setting aside a day for the Lord is restrictive. But even if we’re compelled to say NO to other projects or activities on Sundays – it will only be because we’re saying YES to something which is sweeter, purer, and more beneficial for our everlasting happiness. The Lord’s Day isn’t a restriction. It’s a reward.

Second, Sundays are a day of holiness – a day set apart for what is sacred – a day set apart for worship. In Genesis 2, God established one day in seven as an appropriate pattern for unfallen mankind to worship him as Creator. How much more appropriate, then, is it for us to worship God one full day in seven, since we know God, not only as our Creator, but also as our Redeemer. If the people of God gathered for weekly worship when they lived under the signs and shadows of the Old Covenant, how much more should we be, now that Christ has come in his fullness?

Third, it should be a day of rest. Ceasing from our work one day each week is important because that’s how we make space for our souls to engage in unhurried, sincere worship. We all can tell that our bodies get tired – we know instinctively that we need physical rest and refreshment. But sometimes it can be harder for us to realize that our souls really need rest and refreshment, too. But God, in his kindness, has drawn attention to our spiritual neediness by giving us one day in seven for rest.

Finally, it is the Lord’s Day. He has instituted the seven-day week from the beginning of creation. And he calls us to embrace his design – six days of work, and a seventh for holy rest. But we’re called, not just to observe the day, or to legalistically abstain from certain activities, or to enjoy the experience of worship – but on the Lord’s day we’re called to encounter and enjoy the Lord. The Lord Jesus has laid himself down in love. He’s the one who gives us life. On this one day in seven, it is not ultimately the day that blesses and benefits you. But it’s the Lord of this Day. It’s Jesus himself.

Rest in Jesus

So as we gather on Sundays, let’s make sure we pay attention to the invitation of Christ, as he calls to us from Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and 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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Let’s pray.