Why does God need to rest? Is he fatigued? It must have been exhausting work for God to create the cosmos, the earth and everything in it, right? NOT!
So, why did God rest?
In some of the ancient creation myths the gods built their own heavenly sanctuary when they finished their creative work (or battles) and sat down on their heavenly thrones to rule the new cosmos. Yahweh is a bit different. Yahweh does not construct a heavenly sanctuary or temple, but the earth and sky are his sanctuary.
Architectural construction is one of the more common metaphors for creation in the Hebrew Scriptures. For example, when Yahweh questioned Job about creation his questions are framed in architectural language: “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations?…Who marked off the dimensions?…Who stretched a measuring line across it?…who laid its cornerstone?…set its doors and bars in place…” (Job 38:4-10).
When God created, he was constructing his temple, a sanctuary, in which God would live with his people. The Psalmist parallels the creation of the earth with the construction of the Tabernacle. “He built his sanctuary like the heights, like th earth that he established forever” (Psalm 78:69). The Tabernacle was a poor substitute for the earth, but it was the beginning of a renewal of God’s redemptive presence among his people. God would come to the Tabernacle (Exodus 40), and then he would come to the Temple (2 Chronicles 6:40-7:3). When the first couple was excluded from the Garden of God’s Temple, God did not forget them but pursued humanity through the calling of Abraham and his presence in the Temple.
God would then come in Jesus as the incarnate presence of God in the flesh. The flesh became God’s temple, his dwelling place (John 1:14). When Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father, God poured out the Spirit upon his people and the Spirit of God rested upon them and dwelt in them. Now we are the temple of the living God (1 Corinthians 6:18-20; 2 Corinthians 6:14-16). In the new heaven and new earth there is no temple except that the whole of the new creation has become the temple of God because the Father and the Lamb are there (Revelation 21).
But the story began with creation. It began with the construction of God’s temple in which God would dwell with his people. The whole of creation is God’s temple or at least would become his temple with the sanctuary located in the beginning within Eden. “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool,” Yahweh declares. “Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be? Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?” (Isaiah 66:1-2a).
When God finished his temple, the creation, he “rested” in it. He came to dwell in it, to love his people, walk with them in the Garden and enjoy the shalom he created. When God finished creating, he declared it “good,” that is, pleasing, beautiful, and delightful. God rejoiced in his works (Psalm 104:31) and rested in them.
God’s rest is his delight and joy in his creation; he enjoys what he created and blesses it through his presence within it.
God created the cosmos as his dwelling place–a place where he can dwell with humanity and the rest of creation, a place of communion, delight, righteousness and peace. The earth is his sanctuary and we are his people. God invites us into his rest that we might enjoy him (Hebrews 4:1-11).