September 10, 2023 • Life for Leaders
Scripture — Genesis 2:1-3 (NRSV)
Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.
After creating the universe in six days, God set aside a day for rest. God’s action on the seventh day—or, better yet, God’s decision to cease working—is foundational for our understanding and practice of rest. If God rested, then surely those of us created in God’s image should also rest. But God’s example creates a compelling case for the importance and even the necessity of rest.
Series: Unwrapping God’s Gift of Rest
The first chapter of the Bible introduces God to us. We see God as a worker who works in a unique and amazing way. God has the power and authority to speak creation into existence. When God says, “Let there be light,” light appears. And so it goes with the rest of God’s work in creation. From Genesis 1 we recognize that God is so much more than the gods of other nations. God is uniquely mighty and sovereign.
But then we come to the conclusion of the first creation story, which shows up in the first three verses of Genesis 2. After learning that “the heavens and the earth were finished and all their multitude,” we read that God “rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done” (2:2). Now, those of us who are familiar with this story might not be surprised by the fact that God rested. But if you were reading Genesis for the first time, it’s likely that you wouldn’t be expecting this turn of events. Surely a God who can speak creation into existence isn’t all tuckered out and in need of a breather?
Tomorrow I’ll offer some thoughts on why God rested. Today, I want to emphasize the simple fact that God rested. I don’t want us to take it for granted. Nor do I want us to overlook its significance for us.
The Hebrew verb translated as “rested” is shabat. It means to cease, to stop working, or to rest. The verb shabat is related to the Hebrew noun shabbat, which is rendered in English as sabbath. Genesis 2:2-3 makes it abundantly clear that God stopped creating the universe and everything in it on the seventh day. That’s the core meaning of “God rested.”
God’s action on the seventh day – or, better yet, God’s decision to cease acting – is foundational for our understanding and practice of rest. If God rested, then surely those of us created in God’s image should also rest. We may not yet know why. But God’s example creates a compelling case for the importance and even the necessity of rest.
As we continue in this series, Unwrapping the Gift of Sabbath, we’ll discover more about why God rested and how this informs our lives today. For now, however, I’d invite you to reflect on the following questions.
How does God’s choice to rest make a difference to you, if at all?
Why do you think God rested?
Does your experience of rest ever help you to sense God’s presence in a different way?
Set aside time during the week ahead for intentional rest. Don’t worry about the length or when it happens. Give yourself a reasonable amount of time in which you are not working but are choosing to rest. Pay attention to what this experience is like for you.
Gracious God, today we thank you for resting. What you did on the seventh day teaches and inspires us. It helps us to realize just how important rest must be.
As we continue to learn about the gift of sabbath, may our minds be open to learn and our hearts ready to act. Teach us to rest, Lord. Amen.
Banner image by Drew Coffman on Unsplash.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: God Limits His Work, Resting on the Seventh Day (Genesis 2:1-3).
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.