In our current series we’ve been going through an old list of questions and answers contained in the Westminster Larger Catechism published in 1648. Previously we’ve been looking at God’s providence, particularly to humans in the beginning. Thus we saw that God initially provided humans with paradise, dominion over creation, marriage and even God himself. Today I want to look at how God also provided humans with rest.
After God finished making the world he’rested’: ‘By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done’ (Genesis 2:2-3). What does that mean? That God was worn out from all the creating work? No, God is effortless in his creating work – he speaks and it happens. Nor does it mean that God stopped working in his creation. Jesus says ‘My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working’ (John 5:17). Without God continuing to work we would cease to exist. No, what is being shown by God’s rest on the seventh day is that his creating work is over. It is all ‘very good’.
Now what is the significance of God’s rest for us humans? God was saying that man too needs to rest from his labour on a regular basis. God’s rest became the foundation for the fourth commandment: ‘Remember the Sabbath day by keeping 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, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy’ (Exodus 20:8-11). God knows the needs of our bodies and so graciously provides rest for us – so much so that God commands his people to take time off.
But many struggle to accept God’s command to rest and burn themselves out in slavery to their work or other idols. This is why we look forward to entering a heavenly rest where we will accept God’s providential rest as we should. And we do not even have to work for that heavenly rest – God did the work for us through Jesus Christ at the cross if we will simply trust him. So do you trust in Jesus and take God’s rest now and yet look forward to that future heavenly rest?