God’s Rest

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).

9 Responses to “God’s Rest”

  1.   Wesley Says:

    The sanctuary/temple idea is a major thesis within the new book by John Walton out of Wheaton. Although I’m not for sure about all the conclusions he makes. His book does lay out this understanding of creation.

  2.   Joseph Kelly Says:

    I, too, remain skeptical of some of Walton’s theses (bara is only, not primarily, functional?). However, I think he argues persuasively that Genesis 1 portrays God as constructing his temple and that Sabbath rest is God working, not ceasing from work. Fretheim’s God and World: A Relational Theology of Creation is indispensable on this point.

  3.   John Mark Hicks Says:

    I have not read Walton’s book as I have Fretheims. But it sounds like something I should read. 🙂

  4.   Craig Beard Says:

    Another book worth looking at in this regard is Greg Beale’s _The Temple and the Church’s Mission_. He “argues . . . that the Garden of Eden was the first temple. He explores Adam and Eve’s role as that of extending the Garden/temple throughout the whole earth.”

    •   John Mark Hicks Says:

      Yes, I would recommend that book as well–thanks for noting it. I tend to think the same way about the Garden…it was the sanctuary in the earth that was to expand and cover the whole earth. That is the eschatological goal–an earth fully inhabited filled with righteousness and peace where everything is holy to the Lord (as the prophets anticipated).

  5.   Janice Garrison Says:

    Excellent article!

    We, as God’s resting place should be humbled, honored and in awe. There is great comfort in these words and a great resposnibility on our part.

  6.   Keith Brenton Says:

    I continue to be taken aback by how seriously the Sabbath was taken/observed – later, /enforced! – in the old covenant.

    Your perception of the Sabbath as God resting in us illuminates that for me: By refusing to observe His rest in us, we reject His desire to spend a day of rest with us … reviewing what we did or might have or still could achieve/create together in six days.

    (Working away in a windowless office during those six days is definitely reinforcing that perception!)

  7.   K. Rex Butts Says:

    Again, we see the mystery and beauty of God and us as God’s creation. In some of the ancient creation myths, the gods seemed more like tyrants over creation rather than a “Father” who actually loves his creation and longs to be with them.

    In graduate school I wrote a paper on the purpose of the Genesis creation narrative. I came away from that paper thinking that if today’s Christian would understand the theology of the narrative rather than trying to mine it for a fight against modern science, it would change the way they read the rest of the Bible. For if we understand the creation narrative in Genesis, I think it becomes all the more clear why God engaged in a vigorous redemptive pursuit of his creation.

    Grace and peace,


  8.   rich constant Says:

    thanks Rex for those words.
    what’s nice to think about, is that the creation was created very good,perfect,and his rest was/is with his elect of all people’s throughout time that was and is to the praise of his glory,and as it
    fitting for our god to commune with Adam, in his garden created for eternal life, “praise god”,because his intent cannot be changed. science shows us the creators greatness and wisdom his loving kindness through the operation of faith/trust in scripture, even to day when science reveals the limits of itself and the finite minds in their endeavor to fathom the mystery of the act of creation and say to all “that as yet we do not know”,
    yes Rex to understand stand a little science is to understand one day through faith OUR FATHER WILL DO IT ALL AGAIN (“HE IS FATHFULTH TO HIS INTENT”)

    8:38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor heavenly rulers, nor things that are present, nor things to come, nor powers, 8:39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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