“Worship & Rest”
Genesis 2:1-15, 3:23-24
Babylon Bee article: “After 12 Years Of Quarterly Church Attendance, Parents Shocked By Daughter’s Lack Of Faith”
Goes on to describe parents who are mystified and shocked about spiritual apathy in their family, after a lifetime of apathy towards Church and only making worship a priority when it’s convenient and there’s nothing else better going on – and of course that is not actually making it a priority at all.
And, now some people might hear this and think – no, that’s just the problem – that people think worship is about just 1 day, and then the other 6 days they live however they want – worship is all of life! – and that is a problem – to reduce worship to 1 day, and that attitude often reduces it to a mere formality; a thing you check off the box; and a divergence from how you the rest of your week rather than a continuity with how you live the rest of life and flowing into and informing and energizing the rest of life.
But it’s just also a problem to deny that there is something special about the 1 day – the Lord’s Day, the day set apart to God for Worship & Rest.
Creation Ordinances; work (6 days); Worship & Rest (1 day); 4th commandment.
“There is not one commandment that is more neglected in modern society than the 4th commandment”. Not sure I agree with that, but, it is true that the 4th commandment is, out of all the 10 commandments, the one that the church – not just society but the church – seems to consider, for some reason, optional. But, if the sabbath principle is a creation ordinance – those commands to humanity which are built into the structure of God’s world and so perpetual so long as we live as God’s image in God’s world; and if, in fact, the sabbath principle is the creation ordinance which is most explicit and emphatic in Genesis 1 & 2; and if the sabbath principle is then explicitly reinforced in the 10 commandments; then, though certainly it’s transformed a bit for new covenant believers, but what reason do we have for neglecting it, dismissing it, ignoring it, minimizing it – as opposed to upholding it along with all the other 10 commandments?
Perhaps because of Jesus’ words, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” – but that doesn’t abolish the Sabbath principle, only orients it properly against the Pharisees’ misapplication of it in Jesus’ day.
Or, perhaps because technically Christians haven’t treated Saturday – the Jewish Sabbath – as their holy day but rather Sunday – however, that I believe is due to the transformation of the day in light of Christ’s resurrection – which happened on Sunday, the first day of the week – and in light of Christ’s recorded resurrection appearances to the apostles and first disciples – which all happened on Sundays. And so, the Christian Sabbath is the Lord’s Day – the holy day which God’s people set apart and consecrate in order to rest from their ordinary labors and to gather as the people of God to worship God.
Now, the NT I believe does abolish the Sabbath feasts and years which were part of the specific application of the Sabbath to the Israelites living under the Old Covenant in the promised land (2 weeks ago), so while the Sabbath doesn’t apply the same way to believers under the New Covenant, nevertheless the original Sabbath principle is still relevant to us.
The Sabbath is as old as creation; and it is built into the structure of creation. Genesis 2:2-3:
“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 Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.”
2 activities: Rest; Worship:
You see here the repetition of the idea of God resting from his work of creation because he had finished all his work of creation; and you see the idea of worship implicit in the fact that this day is made holy – it is set apart and consecrated to God as His day – in fact it is the 1st thing in scripture which is “hallowed” – and so in humanity’s keeping of the Sabbath they too rest form their work, and they treat the day as holy – set it apart to him to worship.
Worship, though it may be the least explicit of the creation ordinances, it’s certainly not the least important and actually it permeates the whole creation account of Genesis 1 & 2 – we see it in 3 ways: God’s power/sovereignty, his authority, and his presence.
We saw in Gen 1 God’s power in creating all things out of nothing by the word of his power -simply by speaking, he brings all things into existence – and because of his power he is praise-worthy.
If he alone is eternal; if he can speak all things into existence; then certainly he has no rivals – there are no other gods; he is sovereign over all and worthy of the exclusive praise of all. “Let all things that have breath praise the Lord.”
We saw in Genesis 1 God’s authority – since he is the creator of all things, he owns all things and therefore is the king of all things: so he’s not just powerful, he doesn’t just have “might”; but he has right ; the right to command his creation and require obedience from his creatures.
And God’s authority extends over all of life – If God is the creator of all things and of us and of everything about us and around; and if he then owning all is the giver of every gift of this life; if we are made in his image; then all our lives are to be radically oriented towards him, in thankfulness, in service, in obedience, in worship.
everything – not just what we would think of as the narrowly religious part of life, but all of life, is under God’s authority and reign; And, so, all of life is done to the glory of God, & according to the Word of God.
Christians do not live for God only 1 day a week. As I’ve already suggested, there is something special about 1 day of the week – this is worship in the “narrow” sense, where we gather with God’s people on the day set apart;
but we can’t misunderstand that to think that “God only asks for one day”; as if, “it’s such a small & reasonable request he just wants a little bit of attention and focus so we should pity our poor creator of the universe and give him just one day.”
NO! God asks for every breath! Every day, every moment, every thought, every action, “every square inch” of your life belongs to him, is a gift from him, and he wants you to lay it down before him as a sacrifice to him – which Paul calls, “your spiritual act of worship”.
this is worship in the “broad” sense. That in every thing we do – even the little things of life – whether we eat or drink we do it all to the Glory of God, out of gratefulness to him in obedience & service to him.
There’s not parts of life that belong to him and parts that don’t; there’s not areas of life which we obey him and other areas which we don’t. There’s no part of life off limits to God. He sees and knows all of it; he is king over all of it; and he wants all of it brought into subjection to him, and done for his glory.
Here in ch 2: we see this idea of worship reflected in God’s presence is with his people.
Worship involves the acknowledgment of, and the enjoyment of, the presence of God: worship is fellowship with God.
And see this in Genesis 2, because the Garden of Eden is the place where God lives with his people in fellowship with them.
It was the place where God dwelt with his people – before sin entered the picture and interrupted; Get 3:8 portrays God as walking around the garden – his presence was with them and they enjoyed it unhindered in the paradise of the garden – 2:25 – “they were naked and not ashamed” – total openness – nothing hindered their fellowship and intimacy with God – no guilt, no shame, but joy and freedom.
In fact, Eden, is portrayed as God’s temple – The tabernacle/temple were both places where God’s presence was especially present – it was literally God’s house in the midst of his people, where he met with them and where he lived among them.
And, you see this portrayal of Eden as a temple, through 4 images: Garden; River; Precious Stones; Cherubim
Garden: v8 – “Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed.”
“garden” describes an enclosed area which was lush and fertile and filled with trees and fruit and flowers.
It’s no coincidence, then, that the tabernacle and temple both had garden-y things carved all over them: palm trees, lilies, flowers, almond blossoms, gourds, pomegranates.
And, so, when people would walk into the tabernacle and temple, God wanted them to have a “deja vu” experience, to say “I’ve been here before”.
He wanted it to be just like you were walking into the garden of Eden – the place where humanity once had perfect fellowship with God, which in the tabernacle and temple God was restoring once again through his gracious plan of redemption so that humanity could worship him rightly again.
And just like in this first garden was a tree of life; so in the new heavens and the new earth when fellowship between God and man is fully and perfectly restored – when the promise will be perfectly fulfilled that he will be with us as our God and we will be his people – there are trees of life which bring healing to the nations and bear fruit – not just during one season of the year but all year long.
In fact, these trees of life grow on the banks of the river of life:
River: In vv10-14, a river beginning in Eden flows into the garden and flowing through it, waters the garden, and then flows out of the garden and splits into 4 branches and spreads throughout the ends of the earth.
The blessing of God’s presence, just as in the promise to Abraham, brings blessing to all nations.
The actual temple didn’t have a river; but Ezekiel 47 and Revelation 21 both present an image of a river which flows out of the future temple of God and this river is unlike any earthly river:
-it is abundant: never dries up; never runs out but inexhaustible ability to satisfy and bring life.
-and it brings cleansing – it makes the waters of the dead sea, which are toxic and can’t support life – it makes them clean, and able to support life such that swarms of living creatures would be there where it was once desolate to life.
And the reason: is because the water flows from the temple – the presence of God.
This river is a symbol of the life and abundance and satisfaction and cleansing which come from fellowship with God – from being in the presence of God.
In the NC – believers become God’s temple, and the Holy Spirit flows out of them, and brings life to them and to those around them through their witness to the living God.
Jesus, John 7: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”
There is gold and precious stones in the garden.
And as there is gold in garden of God in the original creation, so the tabernacle and temple had lots of gold in them – gold covering and lining the furnishings of the temple; and, the priests wore onyx stones set in gold on their priestly garments;
and, in vision of the new heavens and new earth, there are precious stones everywhere – and even the streets are made of gold.
Imagine if your neighbor paved his driveway with gold – how much extravagant wealth would someone need – and now, of course this gold here isn’t a symbol of earthly riches, but of spiritual abundance.
There will be no lack, but only abundance of life, because we will be in the presence of God.
Cherubim: When Adam and Eve are expelled from the garden, then it is guarded by Chrerubim – vv23-24 – and cherubim were also present in the tabernacle and temple, where God’s presence was.
In fact, Adam is portrayed as a Priest (words used to describe his working in the garden are the same words later used to describe priestly work in temple) –
He is a priest who serves God in this temple-garden and is to protect it from unholy intruders; but he fails and then he himself is unholy and the garden then must be protected from him.
Humanity started out in a garden – a garden of abundant life – living in the presence of God with the pure worship of God central to life and sustaining life;
And the whole rest of the bible is about God bringing humanity back to that garden – restoring that broken fellowship with God and returning to his presence and worship – except not going backward to the same garden that was lost, but going forward to an even greater Garden.
And, in order for us to return to the garden of God’s presence, Jesus had to go the garden of suffering.
Before the cross, Jesus sought the presence of his father in the garden of gethsemane, where he wrestled with the prospect of the cross but where he left resolute to drink the cup his father had given him – the cup of God’s wrath for our sin – he becoming what we were, so that we could have the resurrection life that he had.
After the cross, the resurrected Jesus was mistaken by Mary as a gardener – And as we are united to him we are united to him in his resurrection life then we experience the garden of his exaltation – the abundant, eternal life which he gives – in which he restores us to fellowship with God and we find life – abundant life, eternal life, in him.
And when we rest from our toilsome labors 1 day a week, we look back to the rest christ accomplished for us; but more-so we look forward to that eternal rest where fellowship with God is fully and perfectly restored and will never again be broken. primarily throughout bible rest is symbol of glorification – future salvation – the eternal rest of heaven.
In the 2 givings of the 10 commandments, there are 2 reasons given for us to rest on the Sabbath.
Creation (Exodus 20) and Redemption (Deuteronomy 5).
1) Creation – because God rested during his creation week, we rest.
Just as God worked 6 days, so humanity is called to work 6 days; and just as God rested 1 day, so humanity is commanded to cease from their ordinary labors and to rest 1 day.
And, rest involves recognizing that he is our creator, and it involves recognizing that we are his creation: and so it involves entrusting our lives to him by allowing our work to cease and setting apart a day for him.
Of course, God, being eternal and infinite, doesn’t need rest – Ps 121 – he never slumbers or sleeps; but we – we aren’t eternal or infinite – and so, how much more do we, who are finite mortal and weak and creaturely and dependent – how much more do we need rest?
It is how God made us – and to try to deny or defy your need for rest is to fight against your design – it’s to deny your humanity and try to assert your divinity – it’s to be puffed up with pride and act as though you are a god; and will only be done to spiritual, emotional, mental, physical detriment.
But to embrace rest, brings spiritual, emotional, mental, physical refreshment & well-being.
Because God redeemed his people out of slavery in Egypt, they are to rest.
The whole story of redemption is about attaining rest: Israel – the old covenant people of God – move from slavery & captivity in Egypt; to wandering through the wilderness; and finally to rest in the promised land – where the repeated refrain is that there they will have rest on every side, in the land of abundance.
Now, that never is fulfilled perfectly; in fact, we see that it is very imperfect, and that it proves to be only temporal and provisional – only a fore-shadowing of the true heavenly rest – in NT, “promised land” isn’t a geographical earthly space but heavenly place – and so it points ahead to our future rest – our eternal rest where we rest from our labors – in the words of Revelation 14:13:
“Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors.”
We have been redeemed out of captivity and slavery to sin; now – Hebrews 4 – important NT passage on Sabbath rest – portrays us as wandering in the wilderness of this life and walking by faith with the help of the Spirit of God; and we look forward to entering that rest that remains for the faithful people of God – the rest that Joshua in OT couldn’t deliver his people into, but that Jesus can & will deliver his people into.
And when we rest, we express our hope in being delivered into our eternal rest through Christ.
And, so, if you recognize that you are God’s creation; and if you recognize that you are an object of God’s gracious redemption; then 1 way you live out that recognition is by resting.
How do we apply the Sabbath Command?
Sunday has become an ordinary day in our society; and in fact, Sunday has become an ordinary day for many Christians; and so how do we live in a way that honors God rather than imitates the world around us?
- Rest from our ordinary labors. The Sabbath rest, as I’ve said, is part of God’s moral law; but I do think it is a tricky one, because it does include exceptions, and I believe it applies differently to different people. So what is rest for one person may not be rest for another person, depending on what kind of labor occupies the rest of their week. What constitutes “rest from ordinary labors” may look different for different people.
- Engage in “works of necessity”. Jesus’ disciples were criticized by the Pharisees for plucking some grain as they walked by the fields on the Sabbath, because they loaded the people down with burdensome regulations over every little thing that technically could have been considered work. But Jesus defended them; because nothing in the bible forbids preparing food to eat on the sabbath, since eating is necessary on the sabbath. So for example:
- Someone’s got to do some degree of cooking and cleaning on the day of rest.
- Many types of work can’t simply stop – I’m thankful that doctors and nurses and police-officers work on the sabbath. Israel was an agricultural society, and so it was certainly assumed that a minimal, but necessary degree of ordinary labor – milking and feeding animals for instance, would occur. And so in modern society there may be necessary labor required to keep life moving – although I think that Christians esp should attempt to keep that to a minimum.
- And, since providing for your family is a necessity, I believe then that it is not a violation of the Sabbath to work at a job on the Sabbath – even if that job isn’t what we would normally think of as a work of necessity; although I think Christians ought to do their best to not work every Sunday or if possible to work at a time that doesn’t conflict with worship.
- Engage in “works of mercy”. Jesus was criticized by the Pharisees for healing on the Sabbath, but Jesus affirmed that showing mercy to others was not a violation of the Sabbath – but a fulfillment of it.
- Serving others, is one way that we ourselves find spiritual refreshment. Proverbs 10:25 – “He who refreshes others, will be refreshed.” Sabbath is about rest, refreshment, and restoration, and so what better way to do that then to consider how we can serve others and provide rest and refreshment and restoration through works of mercy.
- In fact, Giving rest to others is explicitly commanded in the 4th commandment. Not only are we to rest ourselves, but we are to enable those around us to rest. Specifically – those who work for us; and so there is a more direct application to those who employ other people – that they ought to give a day of rest to them as much as is possible. But there’s a less direct application in our context, where in a free-market, demand is what employs people. And, so, Christians ought to consider how their habits of commerce require someone else to be work.
- Not necessarily wrong to go out to eat (preparation of food); but, it’s probably because of the church crowd that every diner employee can’t ever go to church.
- Make Worship a Priority. I believe that this is an area where Christians simply need more courage and conviction. The gathering of God’s people is the highpoint of the Lord’s Day, in fact, the highpoint of our whole week. And, so our commitment to it ought to reflect that priority. Do you believe that God is Lord of All? Do you believe that worshipping him is the most important activity of all of life? Do you believe that he is King and that he comes first, and that we sacrifice our lives for him, because he gave his life for us? Does God come first? The world doesn’t acknowledge God; the world doesn’t put him first; the world doesn’t hold him as supreme above all else; the world doesn’t call him King of all; but Christians do. Christians must.
Let me close with the encouragement of Hebrews 10:23-25 (could have been written to our own time/culture; except they were at least experiencing real threat of persecution for their worship, which was part of the reason they were neglecting it. I’m afraid we often have much less noble reasons:
 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,  not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.