I am listening to the BEMA Podcast with Marty Solomon and Brent Billings as they work their way through Genesis applying a more Hebrew, eastern approach to understanding and interpreting scripture. I have talked about these things in previous articles, so I will not rehash.
One of the observations made in the story of creation is that God rested on day 7. The theme of God resting can be followed throughout scripture, especially in the law of the Sabbath rest.
The writer of Hebrews says that the nation of Israel would not enter His rest because they hardened their hearts “in the rebellion” in the wilderness when they “tested and tried” God; rather, they went astray in their hearts and did not know God’s way. (Heb. 3:7-11) From these statements, we understand that God withholds His rest to those who harden their hearts, test and try God, go their own ways and do not “know” God’s ways.
In Hebrew thinking, to know God’s ways is not just an intellectual thing. It’s an experiential thing. To know is to connect personally with and to experience. Knowing is not just intellectually grasping, but becoming personally intimate with something.
God promises us that we will enter into His rest if we do not harden our hearts, if we do not test and try Him and do not go astray, but know (experience, become intimate with) God’s ways. (Heb. 4:1-2) God desires for us to enter His rest.
One conclusion a person might draw from the story of creation is that God knew when to stop creating. He knew when to rest. He knew when enough was enough, and He invites us likewise to know when enough is enough: to rest.
God’s work has been finished since creation (Heb. 4:3), but that doesn’t mean His purposes are accomplished, yet. We know, for instance, that He subjected creation to futility (mataiotés – vanity, emptiness, unreality, purposelessness, ineffectiveness, instability, frailty….”) in hope. (Rom. 8:20)
If He subjected creation to futility in hope, He did it with the expectation and purpose that the hope would be fulfilled and accomplished. The hope is that “the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God”. (Rom. 8:21)
This suggests that God may have been done with His works when he rested, but His purposes were not yet accomplished. Gods rest prior to the ultimate accomplishment of all that He purposed is part of the story. There is more to the story then simply the creation.
The creation was intended for a purpose that is yet to be accomplished, and our freedom and glory is needed to accomplish that purpose and to liberate creation from its bondage to decay! But what is that yet unfulfilled purpose?
We get a clue in Genesis 2 of what that purpose is. We find the God created one kind of beings in His image. Those beings were Adam and Eve, human beings; male and female He created them; and together they were created in the image of God. (Gen. 1:27) Thus, humans are central to God’s purpose.
God’s instructions to Adam and Eve were to be fruitful and increase in number, to rule over the other creatures (Gen. 1:28), to live in the creation, and “to work it and take care of it” (Gen. 2:15 (NIV)). God also commanded man to eat from any tree in the Garden but do not eat the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Gen. 2:16-17)
Of course, they ate from the one tree God instructed them not to eat. They did not have the sense to know when enough was enough. They did not trust God’s intentions for them.
They were tempted by the thought that they could become like God if they ate the fruit and that God did not want them to become like Him. (Gen. 3:5) Perhaps, they failed to understand and appreciate that they were created in God’s very image. They, alone, were created in God’s image and placed at the center of God’s purpose.
They had access to everything in the garden, including the fruit of every tree. There was only one tree God told them they could not eat, and that is the tree they ate.
From that point forward, their existence in creation would be characterized by pain and toil. (Gen. 3:16-19) Childbirth would be painful. The earth would no longer yield up its fruits easily. Life would be painful. Work would be hard and frustrating.
God was certainly not threatened by the thought they would become like him. God set the tree in the garden He told them they could not eat. I assume He knew they would eat it (if He is eternal, transcendent, all-knowing, and all-seeing).
If God is God, we have to recognize that God drove Adam and Eve out of the garden and consigned them to pain and toil for a reason. God had a greater purpose, an ultimate plan.
In the story of the tower of Babel, the people sought to build a tower to make a name for themselves. Their efforts were contrary to God’s purposes, so God confused their languages and scattered them tp prevent them from going any further on that path.
It wasn’t that God was threatened by them building a tower. If God is God, He certainly knew they would do it. He scattered them as a step in accomplishing His ultimate purpose.
Adam and Eve and the Babylonians did not know when enough was enough. They plowed forward after their own ends, leaving God’s purposes aside. They sought to be like God on their own terms. The sought to make a name for themselves.
Instead of trusting in God and allowing God’s purpose to drive and motivate them, they turned to their own motivation and their own ends. The result was increased pain and toil, confusion, scattering, frustration, isolation and futility.
God subjected His creation to futility, but He did it in hope that it would eventually be freed from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. (Rom. 8:20) Notice the children of God in the ultimate result – human beings created in the image of God.
On the seventh day God rested. He was done with creation, but creation was not yet done. “[C]reation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.” (Rom. 8:19) The work that God started will not be finished until we enter into out role as His children.
God has rested. He waits for us now. He waits inevitably for us to enter His rest. (Heb. 4:3) To cease from our own striving after our ends – to know when enough is enough – and to rest in the purpose of God. To trust that God and His promise is enough.