The Purpose of Creation
Have you ever had one of those meals that's 3 courses or more and get a gorgeous starter? Maybe it's a hotel, maybe it's at a wedding and you get some of those canapes to start with or maybe you've gone to a friend's house and they've laid on this lovely meal for you and you have this starter and the starter is so nice you think, "Wow. I wonder what main course is going to be like." I wonder if you've ever had that experience. Sometimes the starter is a bit of a foretaste of what's to come and we see a bit of that in our passage today. We get a foretaste of what's to come. And it's a very nice foretaste indeed. So please do turn with in our Bible to Genesis Ch. 2.
In some of our morning services we've begun studying the book of Genesis. And we've seen in Ch. 1 in the first three days of creation God forms the world and then in days 3-6 God fills the world – he creates plants and animals and he creates mankind male and female equal but different to rule his world together under his authority and he has blessed and provided for all that he has made. Throughout this creation we see a sort of symbolic sequence with repeated words and phrases. And if we read Hebrew we'd see further repetitions and sequences with the numbers 7 and 3 and multiples of 7 and 3. But we don't need to go into that for our purposes today.
And each time God creates something he assesses and sees that it is good. And when he's finished everything, including man, he assess and sees that it is very good. Ch1 31 says "God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning-the sixth day."
And today's section is a conclusion to ch1. Ch. 1 started with (verse 1) "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." and here we see in Genesis 2:1 "Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array."
Creation is completed! Finished. Done fully; with no need of adjustment or tweaking or tradesmen coming back to redo bits to our satisfaction. It was completed; done properly and actually finished; not like so many of our home DIY projects that end up as unfinished good intentions. God is a finisher and a good one at that. Creation was completed in its vast array. What an amazing job it was. The vast array of incredible stars and galaxies and grains of dust and molecules of water in the sea and living creatures on this planet. He made it all! Incredible.
Imagine the job satisfaction. Have you have done a job or completed a task or project that you were really happy with? It might be as simple as tidying up the kitchen, or your bedroom or major home improvement or some vitally responsible project at work. Imagine the job satisfaction from creating the world and the universe and everything in it along with living and breathing creatures and living and breathing creatures that you can relate to that are made in your image that are going to rule this world with you and that you can share your beautiful creation with. And it's perfect and they're perfect. No wonder he calls it 'very good'. And it's completed. Job done. Job well done!
And then God rested! And does he rest because he's tired? Was he worn out? Did he need to re-cooperate? Was he weary from his work? No. Was his work tiring? No. All he had to do was speak and things came into existence. He had just spoken and it happened. Can you imagine working or exercising and no matter how much effort you put in or how much energy you expended you never had less left? God doesn't need a rest after work like you and I do. We're finite. He's infinite.
So what is this rest all about? Rest actually means "cease from". What did God cease from? What did the stop doing? V2-3 "2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3 And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done." God stopped his work of creating. He created the universe and he has stopped creating. Some argue for an ever expanding universe. That just means a universe that is ever-spreading not one where more matter is being created out of nothing as it was by God in the beginning. God stopped creating but he hasn't stopped working. God is still working today; John 5v17. Some would say that the fact that there is no 'evening' and there was no 'morning'; no 'the next day' points to the fact that God is still working. We see elsewhere in the Bible that God is not like a watchmaker who makes a watch and winds it up (or installs a battery) and then leaves it to tick away on its own. No. He is the creator but he's also the sustainer of the world. He keeps this world going. Right now he is currently active in keeping every molecule in its place. He is also working in other ways; saving people like you and me for instance.
So what is this rest for? Well we saw previously how God made the world and all the creatures and that he made the world for us to rule under him. We saw that mankind was the pinnacle of God's creation but here we see more of the purpose of God's creation. Here we see the ultimate destiny of mankind. We see what man is made for. God created this world for us and to share with us, but did God just make this world to house us and-the-rest-of-his-creatures - a bit like we might build a kennel for a dog or a hutch for a rabbit or a goldfish bowl as a suitable habitat? Did he make this world just as a home for us? No. He is far more involved than that. He is far closer than that. He doesn't make the world and stand back - standing far off and watching from a distance. No. He wants to be with us. He loves us. Do you remember God with his people Israel in a tabernacle; a tent, a portable temple? And then Joshua led them into the Promised Land and eventually they had a more permanent building for a temple; and what did those temples signify? God with his people. So many times the Bible refers to God dwelling with his people. And then Jesus came; God incarnate. Emmanuel. God with us. And today God lives with us by his Spirit. The heavens and the Earth are made for God to be with us. After the six days we see the creation of mankind as the pinnacle of creation. Here on the seventh day we see the purpose of creation; God wants to rest with us, to spend time with us.
And into his order of creation he has built-in a day of rest - one day out of seven and this rest is a blessed rest: "3 And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy," This is a special day. He made it holy. The rest of creation isn't described as holy. Holy means 'set apart'. The seventh day is more special than the other days.
The numbers 7 and 3 are special numbers in Hebrews and throughout the creation story we see the use of 7s and 3s building to the culmination of this 7th day. In v2-3 we see a little pattern. In the Hebrew the word 'seventh' is in the middle of a sentence and repeated three times with each sentence containing 7 words. In our English version it reads:
"v2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing;
so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.
3 And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy,"
If God rested from his creative work on the seventh day so should his creatures who have been made in his image. If all the other things that God created were made for mankind then so was the seventh day. Mankind – you and I should be taking one day off in seven.
We should Rest. We should Rest.
Other cultures have tried to change to number of days in a week but it just hasn't worked. Take France for example they changed it to a 10 day week during the Revolution but it didn't work. They went back to a seven day week. And other people have tried it other cultures but it just doesn't work.
I don't think we should be shopping on a Sunday unless it's an emergency. Did you know that business leaders have said that the Sunday trading hasn't increased trade? It hasn't increased profits. It has simply spread out the shopping over seven days rather than six. And so if we're going to help change our culture of shopping on a Sunday I don't think we should be putting other people under the pressure to work on a Sunday. I'm very grateful that there are certain things we can buy on a Sunday. I had to fix a toilet one Sunday morning and I was very grateful that I could get the part, but it's not something that we should habitually do. Sunday's are special. You and I should be taking one day off in seven and so should everyone else in our society. And is this because we're physically tired and need to rest? Well partly but it's more than that. It's more spiritual than just the physical. Remember that this one day of in seven was designed by God before the fall. Remember that toil came because of the fall. Work wasn't toilsome, it wasn't hard, before the fall. This rest was built-in before work became hard. This has a more spiritual purpose. It is so we can be with God.
So you and I should be taking one day off in seven. And what should we be doing on that day? Firstly we should rest. Secondly we should rest with purpose; to be with God. We should Rest with God. We should rest with God. Our day off points to what we are supposed to enjoy. And we can see this as the idea of God's Sabbath rest is revealed more and more as we read through the Bible. In Exodus when Moses gives the people the Ten Commandments he repeats the creation reason we have read here today:
Exodus 20 "8 "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labour and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. 11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy." And as we read earlier in Deuteronomy when Moses gives the people the ten commandments for the second time he includes a further reason to keep one day in 7 special. Deut 5: "15 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day." He points to us being saved. One day off in seven points to our creation and that we were made, that we were designed that way, but it also points to our salvation; that one day we will be saved from this fallen world and our fallen state and be with God forever if we trust in Christ. That what Christ died on the cross for; to bring us to be with him in eternity; together. Our Sabbath is to point to that ultimate rest – us entering Christ's rest. The promise is ultimately for the day Christ returns but we can and should have glimpse - a foretaste of that rest now. So we should rest now as a foretaste of our eternal rest with God
We should Rest as a foretaste of Christ's eternal rest.
Let's have a look together at Hebrews 3v14-4v11 page 849 to see what that has to say about it.
"14 We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. 15 As has just been said: "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion." 16 Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? 17 And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the desert?
18 And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? 19 So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief. 4:1 Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. 2 For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith. 3 Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said, "So I declared on oath in my anger, 'They shall never enter my rest.'" And yet his work has been finished since the creation of the world. 4 For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: "And on the seventh day God rested from all his work." 5 And again in the passage above he says, "They shall never enter my rest." 6 It still remains that some will enter that rest, and those who formerly had the gospel preached to them did not go in, because of their disobedience. 7 Therefore God again set a certain day, calling it Today, when a long time later he spoke through David, as was said before: "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts." 8 For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. 9 There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; 10 for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. 11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no-one will fall by following their example of disobedience."
So God made the world and he made a seven day week and is that the end of things? No. Creation is heading somewhere. The creation of the world and the 7 day pattern points to something. Even here – at the beginning even in creation - God points to salvation. It points to the Sabbath rest we will have with God when he will be with us in a new heavens and new earth.
So what are you and I to do? Parents: You have to make your children sit down – to be still and know that God is God – no homework – a pattern that will do them well for the rest of their lives. Every Sun lunch do you ask what the kids have learnt in church that morning? Do you pray together as a family on a Sunday? Have you taught them that Sunday's are special and point to God's grace in Jesus and the New Creation that awaits us? If we don't we're just teaching them that this world is all there is and to live for what they can see around them. Husbands and wives; are you telling your "achievement driven" spouses to stop? Do you encourage them to pray with you, to read God's word together on a Sunday?
Yes there are one offs and there are going to be occasions when we can't do what we want to be able to do on a Sunday. And I find it sad for those of you who work shifts. Are you getting one day off in seven? And when you can't meet with God's people on a Sunday are you using your other day off to spend time with the Lord? I'm not promoting being strict Sabbatarians who can't do anything on a Sabbath. Jesus did good things on the Sabbath and besides the early church changed the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday because Jesus rose from the dead on a Sunday. And in Mark 2:27 we read that "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath." We are not here to serve a day of the week - that day is here to serve us but I do want to challenge us, you and me; how are our Sundays pointing to the future Sabbath rest which God has waiting for us? Do our Sundays Look forward to the eternal rest we have in Christ?
Our Sundays should not be like those described in Isaiah 58
"13 "If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the LORD's holy day honourable, and if you honour it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, 14 then you will find your joy in the LORD, and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob." The mouth of the LORD has spoken."
Are we living to please ourselves on a Sunday? Are we living for leisure on a Sunday? Are we habitually shopping on Sundays? Are you kidding ourselves that sport isn't taking over the purpose of Sundays? Are we being proactive in worshiping God and being thankful for Christ on a Sunday?
As we finish just have a think about the book of Genesis and exodus and this part of Genesis in particular; what a great introduction to the books that follow and the whole Bible. This is the God who made people and who loves them and commands them and who saves them. As we look at the families of Abraham Isaac and Jacob this is the God who chose them. As you look at your family over Sunday lunch today, as you look at the family that you had or imagine the family you may one day have, as you look at your church family they are the family that this God has chosen to be with. Please choose Sundays to spend with them and with him.Please rest. Please rest with God. Please rest as a foretaste of Christ's eternal rest.
To end our time together we're going to sing a song which reminds us that one day he will come and take us to be with him. One day he will lead us home.