September 11, 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.
According to Genesis 2:1-3, on the seventh day of creation, God rested. Genesis doesn’t tell us exactly why God rested. But the fact that God also blessed and hallowed the seventh day strongly suggests that God rested for our benefit. God wanted us to know just how important rest is for our lives.
Series: Unwrapping God’s Gift of Rest
Sometimes the Bible is very clear about God’s motivations. If you were to wonder, for example, why God gave his Son to the world, you would need only to read John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son . . . .” There is the reason for God’s giving of his Son: God loved the world.
But often Scripture describes God’s actions without explaining God’s motivations. This is the case when it comes to God’s resting on the seventh day. Genesis 2:1-3 says that God “finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day” (2:2). But we’re not told why God did this.
We may get a hint from what comes in the next verse, however. There we learn that God “blessed the seventh day and hallowed it.” Now, of course, God could bless and hallow something (set it apart from ordinary things) for God’s own pleasure. But Scripture repeatedly shows that when God does bless and hallows, God is acting for our benefit. For example, in Genesis 12 when God promises to bless Abram, this is for Abram’s benefit, to be sure, but also for the sake of the whole world. “In you,” God says, “all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (12:3).
But the blessing of a day seems odd. In the Bible, God’s blessing usually falls upon living beings (humans, animals) and implies their receiving good gifts from the Lord. The blessing of a day is unusual. Perhaps God blessed the seventh day so it could become a channel of blessing for those who imitate God by resting on the seventh day (including animals! see Exod 20:10).
Similarly, when God sanctifies something, setting it apart from ordinary use for special use, God does this not only for God’s glory but also for human benefit. For example, when God set apart Israel to be a “priestly kingdom and a holy nation” (Exod 19:6), this was for the good of Israel and, indeed, all peoples on earth.
So, it’s reasonable to assume that God blessed and hallowed the seventh day for our benefit. We are encouraged to rest by God’s example of resting. God’s blessing and hallowing of the seventh day amplifies this encouragement. It tells us that God has good gifts to give us through the seventh day if we recognize it as a special day for rest.
The phrase “special day” makes me smile. When I was three years old, my parents adopted my brother, Gary. The day we got him, March 8, 1961, was an incredibly special day for me. Gary was only 3 months old at the time, so I doubt that particular day meant a lot to him. But when Gary was a bit older, our family celebrated on March 8 what we called his “special day.” Yes, it was for his benefit, a celebration of his life. In a way, Gary had two birthdays. But, Gary’s “special day” is also for the benefit of the whole family. We’d do something special as a family, something just right for a “special day.”
Why did my parents invent the “special day” celebration for my brother? I’m sure it was a joy for them to remember the day of Gary’s adoption. But we all celebrated this day for the good of our whole family. Yes, it was Gary’s “special day.” But it was also our “special day,” a time to celebrate who we were as a family. (These days, I’m rarely with my brother on his special day, but my sisters and I always text him, sharing our gladness and gratitude that he is part of our family. I will always regard March 8 as a truly special day.)
In future devotions, we’ll investigate further how the sabbath might be a special day for us, a day set apart for our benefit and blessing. For now, I’d encourage you to think about how the gift of rest makes a difference in your life. Are you experiencing in some way the blessing of the Sabbath?
That last sentence is your first question for reflection: Are you experiencing in some way the blessing of the sabbath?
Are there “special days” in your life that make a difference to you? And, perhaps, also to those you love? What are those days? What makes them special? What do you do on those days?
Can you think of a time in your life when a day of rest had particular meaning? Maybe you just finished a major project, or . . . ? What was that day like for you?
Set aside some time in the next few days for rest. During your resting, reflect on how rest is important in your life.
Gracious God, again we thank you for resting on the seventh day. We also thank you for blessing and hallowing the seventh day. In these actions, we sense your care for us. You were setting apart the seventh day for rest. In so doing you help us to see how much rest matters, not just to you, but also to us.
Help me, I pray, to receive the blessings you want to give me through the blessed seventh day. By resting, may I be open to all the gifts you have for me. Amen.
Banner image by Nick Page 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.