Yesterday we saw that Jesus appealed to the example of His heavenly Father to defend His actions on the Sabbath. Today we will look more carefully at the God who rests. We might find the statement that God “rested” surprising (Gen. 2:2). Elsewhere Scripture says that God never grows tired. He is the One who gives strength to the weary (Isa. 40:28–29). How should we understand God’s rest?
Unlike other creation stories in the ancient world, the Bible’s account of creation uniquely depicts the Creator as distinct from His creation. He does not depend on it for anything. As the apostle Paul said to the philosophers of the Areopagus: “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else” (Acts 17:24–25). God created out of desire, not need.
We need rest to restore our bodies, minds, and spirits. God’s rest, however, denotes His completed work of creation, not His need for a nap. This helps us understand how God can both be in a state of perpetual rest and “always at his work” (John 5:17). For God, to purpose is to do. The work God does in the present brings what He purposed in eternity past into the realm of our experience. As far as God’s purpose is concerned, this work is already finished. Viewed from the perspective of our experience, though, it is new or yet to be accomplished.
This makes God’s rest in Genesis the fountainhead of all rest and the starting point for all Christian practice. The things we do for God proceed from His purpose and work, things “which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph. 2:10).