And so the whole universe was completed. By the seventh day God finished what he had been doing and stopped working. He blessed the seventh day and set it apart as a special day, because by that day he had completed his creation and stopped working. And that is how the universe was created. (v 1-4)
We cannot comprehend the size of the universe, scientists have sent up probes and researched planets thousands, even millions of miles from us, and yet they have not reached the end. They cannot establish the number of planets and stars. The NIV version of the Bible describes the heavens and earth as a “vast array”
By the seventh day, God’s work was complete. He rested not because he was weary, but to sit back and enjoy; delight in what he had created. Zephaniah 3 v 17 tells us that God takes great delight in us, we quiets us with his love and rejoices over us with singing. I imagine that while God was “resting” he was also rejoicing, singing over his creation, proudly calling the angels to have a look at what he had done.
There was nothing more he needed to do, there was nothing left that was formless or empty, it was perfect and beautiful even though he modestly describes his creation as “very good”.
He blessed this seventh day and made it holy, although this is not named “Sabbath” at this point it derives from the Hebrew verb used for “rested” or “ceased” and at this point substitutes “seventh” indicating a link between the two. Note also that the number 7 in biblical terms is regarded as representing perfection.
We do not see any references to an obligatory Sabbath observance until Exodus 16 where the people of Israel in the wilderness were instructed to collect only enough manna and quail for each day’s needs, but double on the sixth day in order to rest on the seventh. It is then included in the 10 commandments in Exodus 20 v 8 – 11. It is high up the list, the fourth commandment, following the 3 commandments to honour God and worship him only.
In Nehemiah 10 v 31, the people promised to not to trade with the nations around them on the seventh day, and to allow the land to rest on the seventh year. The Romans later perceived this to be due to laziness rather than obedience to God and trusting his provision for the seventh year.
Nehemiah regards those who were working on the Sabbath, treading wine, bringing grain etc into Jerusalem as desecrating it in Nehemiah 13 v 14 to 22, and reminded the people to keep it holy, the gates of the city were to be shut to stop the traders from coming in.
So what does this mean to us in today’s world where everything goes 24/7. If you are involve in any form of Christan ministry then Sundays (actually the first day of the week) are certainly not a day of rest as we prepare to lead services sometime several times in the day, set out equipment or do whatever tasks are needed to serve the people that come into a meeting. (Somebody has to make the teas and coffees and clean up afterwards).
In Romans 14 v 5 Paul speaks of considering one day more important or sacred than others, while another considers every day alike. This could mean that they do not consider any day holy or that they give thanks gratefully for each day and endeavor to be holy before the Lord each day. We see that the apostles met together on what they called “the Lords day” but appeared to no longer strictly adhere to all the rules and regulations imposed over the years by the Rabbis for Sabbath day observance, they were often traveling on the Sabbath to reach the next place in preparation for meeting together.
So this is somewhere I think we have to follow our own conscience on, we need to rest and take time aside to worship God. Our shops are open now on Sundays and sometimes I will use them, sometimes we want to go out for Sunday lunch. Our hospitals and many other services rely on people working on Sundays too, so I think where we have a choice, we should avoid working on Sundays. Some people like to do their gardening on a Sunday, they regard it as recreation rather than “work” so I don’t think we are able to have a hard and fast rule on what is “work” and what it “rest” but seek to be obedient to what God requires of each of us in what he has called us to do.
All quotes from The Good News Bible