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God's Rest


As one reads the story of Creation in Genesis 1, there is an interesting repetition: “And there was evening, and there was morning” (Genesis 1:5 Heb). This summation is followed consecutively through the days of the first week to "day the sixth" (Genesis 1:31 Heb). In the second chapter of Genesis, the seventh day is noted, but it closes with no such notation. It states simply but emphatically that “God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it He had rested from all His work which God created and made” (2:3). It was God who had worked; it was God who rested.

On the sixth day God created the land animals and lastly, man in His own image (Genesis 1:24-27). Before Adam, all appeared and he named them (2:19-20). Not finding “an help meet” for Adam, God in the waning hours of the sixth day, brought forth Eve. Neither had lived a full day before they entered into rest with God. It was God’s rest. Since the formula which closed each day of creation is omitted for the day of God's rest, is there a suggestion that God's intent was for Adam and Eve to live in a perpetual Sabbath—a day that would not end?

The work assigned Adam as he was placed in the Garden of Eden was “to dress it and to keep it” (2:15). But what did that mean? This can be understood in part by noting what happened after sin became a way of life. In the curse, the vegetation was altered. “Thorns and thistles” would appear (3:18). Labor would be required - “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread” (3:19). Work would enter the picture, far different than merely dressing and keeping the garden.

From the contemplation of God as revealed in nature, man would face the meaning of sin day by day in work. Thus man would require rest from work. So that which was planned as an eternal experience, was made a weekly event. The record reads - “At the end of the days” Cain and Abel came to worship before God with their offerings (4:3, Heb, margin). God desired to bestow His rest upon them. For man to understand the redemptive meaning that God's rest was to be, the offering brought in worship was specified (4:3-5). The works of man’s labor were unacceptable; only a life offered as a substitute would be acknowledged.

From this first reference of worship by Cain and Abel “at the end of the days,” there is no further reference in the Scriptures of a "rest" until the confrontation between Moses and Pharaoh. When Moses returned to Egypt in answer to God’s call, he and Aaron introduced a period of rest for the children of Israel which incited the wrath of the Egyptian king (Exodus 5:4-5).

After the deliverance from Egypt, God provided sustenance for the children of Israel, but with it He specified certain regulations. He sent manna six days, but none on the seventh day (Exodus 16:27). He “rested.” Moses had told the people that the day was “the rest of the holy sabbath unto the Lord” (16:23). But some of the Israelites failed to heed the instruction to gather a double portion on the sixth day, and went out on the seventh day to get their food supply for the day. This brought a strong remonstrance from the Lord:

How long refuse ye to keep my commandments and my laws? See, for the Lord hath given you the sabbath, therefore He giveth you on the sixth day the bread for two days; abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place [to gather bread] on the seventh day. (Exodus 16:28-29)

Several important factors are stated and implied in God's reaction to the actions of the faithless Hebrews. In the giving of the manna, there was divine intervention. The same God who created the world in six days, gave food for all seven days, but the food for the Sabbath came in a double portion on the sixth day. The Lord who rested the first seventh day from creation, also “rested” in the giving of the manna to Israel each seventh day. This weekly routine was followed by God through all of the vicissitudes of Israel for forty years till they arrived safely in Canaan. (Joshua 5:12) This is saying something as to how God regards His day of rest. This same God declared of Himself, “I am the Lord, I change not” (Malachi 3:6).

This daily provision for food and its weekly lesson was given to Israel prior to the uttering of the Law from Sinai in which God incorporated into its very heart the command to observe His day. That command read:

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, not thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. (Exodus 20:8-11)

The Sabbath was declared the sabbath of the Lord God as the Creator of all. Man’s accountability is set in the framework of the six days of creation and the rest he lost because of sin limited to one day. It was proclaimed in a universal setting which stipulated what man's relationship to God, and to his fellow man was to be. Yet within forty days the Sabbath command was separated from the Law and given to Israel for a unique purpose. At the end of the forty days of communion with God in the mount during which time instruction was given to Moses for the building of the sanctuary and the establishment of its typical priestly ministry, the Lord’s final word was:

Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know I am the Lord that doth sanctify you. Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you:… Six days may work be done, but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to the Lord:… Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed. (Exodus 31:13-17)

The same basic elements are retained: It is God’s sabbath given to man to keep holy; its origin was following the six days of creation. However, a new element was added. It would be a sign of God's sanctifying power between Him and the people whom He had called to be His own “peculiar treasure … above all people” (Exodus 19:5). It was not involved in a statute of limitations; it was to be the evidence of a “perpetual covenant” and a sign “forever” between the Lord and “the children of Israel.”

In the call of the prophets for reformation in Israel and Judah during the Old Testament period the Sabbath was a focal point. Isaiah challenged:

Thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in. If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord honorable; and shalt honor him, not doing thy own ways, nor finding thy own pleasure, nor speaking thy own words: then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord;... for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. (Isaiah 58:12-14)

Jeremiah was instructed by the Lord to stand in the royal gate of Jerusalem and warn the kings, princes, and people of Jerusalem to bring no burden in or out of the city on the Sabbath but to “hallow ye the sabbath day” as He had “commanded” their fathers (Jeremiah 17:19-22).

Ezekiel was commanded of the Lord to review for the Jewish elders who came to inquire of the Lord in behalf of the captives in Babylon, their history of rebellion. He reminded them of the sabbath given to them “to be a sign that they might know” that it was “the Lord that [sanctified] them” (Ezekiel 20:12). He recalled for them the words of the Lord:

I am the Lord your God; walk in my statutes, and keep my judgments, and do them; and hallow My sabbaths; and they shall be a sign between Me and you, that ye may know I am the Lord your God. (Ezekiel 20:19-20)

Then Jesus Came

The Word, who made all things “and without Him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:3) became flesh and “dwelt among us” (v. 14). He who worshipped with our first parents on the first Sabbath day, now made it His custom to worship with sinful men on the Sabbath day (Luke 4:16). During His ministry, there was constant confrontation between Jesus and the religious leaders of the Jews over the Sabbath. As one reads the gospel record, it would appear that Jesus invited confrontation over the Sabbath. He went into the synagogue as was his custom and seeing a man with a withered hand asked the man to stand up “in the midst” and then challenged “the scribes and Pharisees” present with the question, “Is it lawful on the sabbath days to do good?” He proceeded to heal the man. (Luke 6:6-10)

In another incident, Jesus was teaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath and spotted a woman who had been infirm for eighteen years and was bowed in such a way she could not walk upright. He stopped and loosed her from her infirmity to the indignation of the first elder. Jesus said to him, “Thou hypocrite, doth not each of you on the sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away for watering? And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day?” (Luke 13:10-16)

In the gospel of John, two of the three miracles of healing recorded are acts of restoration performed on the Sabbath day. (Chapters 5 & 9) Other miracles noted by John were the changing of water to wine (chapter 2) and the resurrection of Lazarus (chapter 11). Discussions which ensued because of the healing miracles centered on proper Sabbath observance; but not once in all of these confrontations was there any mention, not even a suggestion, that the Sabbath had changed, or would be changed to another day. It was God’s day, given to man, and Jesus as the Son of man claimed Lordship of that day (Mark 2:27-28).

As Lord of that day, Jesus sought to direct man’s attention to the true significance of the Sabbath. He invited the burdened of soul and body to come to Him and find once again the original rest. He called:

Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

This concept of “rest” in connection with the Sabbath is found in the book of Hebrews. Recalling the rebellion of the children of Israel in the wilderness, Paul noted God’s reaction to their unbelief in saying, “They shall not enter into my rest” (3:8-11). Then he challenged the Hebrew Christians:

Let us therefore fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into His rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. For unto us was the gospel preached as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. For we which have believed do enter into rest. (4:1-3)

Linguistically, there is a connection between the “rest” offered by Jesus, and the “rest” spoken of here in the book of Hebrews. In Matthew, the word used is anapausis, while in Hebrews it is katapausis. Both are built on the same verb, paus, meaning to cease, and thus, rest. However, there are two different words in Hebrews chapters three and four from which “rest” is translated, katapausis and sabbatismos (4:9, margin), meaning “keeping of a sabbath.” This sabbath rest is linked with the rest of God at creation as Paul quotes Genesis—“For He spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest (katepausen) the seventh day from all His works” (4:4). Thus the original intent for which the Sabbath was given is to be realized in the rest offered by Jesus. This “rest” which was a “sign” between Himself and those whom he chose to be His peculiar treasure, ever remains “to the people of God.” It is our heritage in Christ for “if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29).

Today confusion is compounded by the “new look” Romanism is seeking to project. In the Apostolic Letter of Pope John Paul II released May 31, 1998 entitled, Dies Domini, sections 13-15 were captioned with Genesis 2:3—“God blessed the seventh day and made it holy.” Section 14, par. 1 reads:

In the first place, therefore Sunday is the day of rest because it is the day blessed by God and made holy by Him, set apart from the other days to be, among all of them, the Lord’s Day. (The pope Speaks, Vol. 43, #6, pp. 344, 345)

Sunday is not the seventh day, neither is its origin as a day of worship, by the act or blessing of the Creator God. Dr. Edward T. Hiscox, author of “The Baptist Manual,” in a paper read in 1893 before a Baptist Minister’s Meeting in Saratoga, New York, carefully analyzed the question. He stated:

It will however be readily said, and with some show of triumph that the Sabbath was transferred from the Seventh to the First day of the week, with all its duties, privileges and sanctions. Earnestly desiring information of this subject, which I have studied for many years, I ask, where can the record of such a transaction be found? Not in the New Testament,— absolutely not. There is no scriptural evidence of the change of the Sabbath institution from the Seventh to the First day of the week. I wish to say that this Sabbath question, in this aspect of it, is in my judgment the gravest and most perplexing question connected with Christian institutions which at present claims attention from Christian people. And the only reason why it is not a more disturbing element in Christian thought, and in religious discussions, is because the Christian world has settled down content on the conviction that somehow, a transference did take place at the beginning of Christian history, and with a comfortable apathy, the matter stands, as of insufficient importance to cause any special concern, save indeed on the part of a small company of “Sabbatarian Cranks,” of whom I am one only in so far as my views expressed in this paper agree with theirs …

I do not assert that it was not the divine intention that the Christian holy day, should be the first day of the week, but there is no evidence of such intention in these [NT] instances cited. I do not assert that Christians should not commemorate the resurrection on Sunday; but as no one knows when the resurrection took place, and as there is no strong evidence against Christ's having risen on the first day of the week, it seems somewhat needless to press claims for the sanctity of that day on that ground. To me it seems unaccountable that Jesus during three years’ intercourse with His disciples, giving the disciples instruction as to His kingdom, constantly coming in contact with the Sabbath question, often discussing it in some its aspects, freeing it from its false glosses, and teaching its true nature and purpose, never alluded to any transference of the day. Also that during the forty days of His resurrection life, no such thing was intimated. Nor so far as we know, did the Spirit, which was given to bring all things to their remembrance, whatsoever he said unto them, deal with this question. Nor yet the inspired Apostles in preaching the Gospel, founding Churches, counselling and instructing those founded, discuss or approach this subject. Of course I quite well know that Sunday did come into use in early Christian history as a religious day, as we learn from the Christian fathers and other sources. But what a pity that it comes branded with the mark of Paganism, and Christened with the name of the Sun-god. Then adopted and sanctified by the Papal apostasy, and bequeathed as a sacred legacy to Protestanism, and the Christian world, just as Easter, which the Churches hankering after ritualism are now lovingly pressing to their hearts, comes bearing the sign Manual of a heathen divinity, instead of—something purely Christian could not be had—at least bearing the sign and designation of the pascha of the old dispensation. But in the early ages, when Christian ritualism largely received its form, the mould in which it was cast was rather Pagan than Jewish, as preferred by a carnal and secularized Church establishment.

The question faces us squarely, where do we perceive our “roots” to be? Is our heritage as Christians, pagan; or as being Christ’s, we are Abraham’s seed? If the latter, then God’s rest is the same sign He gave to a people He wished to be His peculiar treasure— “There remaineth a keeping of a Sabbath to the people of God” (Hebrews 4:9 margin).

“The Sabbath is a time
when the spent spirit may catch it’s breath,
and man may look into the face of God
and be refreshed.”

Wm. H. Mason


A notarized copy of the “Hiscox” document may be had upon request
by sending a stamped self-addressed #10 envelope to

Document “Hiscox”
P. O. Box 69
Ozone, AR 72854

Reprinted from WWN, Ozone, Arkansas, USA


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