‘Sermon Snippets’ is an occasional series, taking bitesize chunks from our Sunday sermons. The following excerpt is adapted from a sermon on Hebrews 4:1-13, preached by Nathan Burley last Sunday. You can listen to the whole sermon here.
God stopped working (Heb 4:3) “from the foundation of the world.” God made the world and then clocked off. He punched his timecard and has been resting ever since. Yes, He’s active in sustaining the world and engaged with the people in it. But in a very real sense, His creating job was finished a long time ago, and it’s been a long weekend ever since.
God made the world on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, then on Saturday, “God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” So what did God do on day 8? Well He didn’t go back to work did He?! Build another universe. No, the job was finished. Day seven onwards, God rested.
I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed this as you’ve read the first couple of chapters of Genesis, but a pattern emerges. God makes stuff, says it’s good, there’s evening, there’s morning, that’s it. But when you get to day 7 it changes. Not only is there no making stuff, but there’s no mention at the end of, “And there was evening, and there was morning, the seventh day.” It’s almost like the seventh day doesn’t have an end. Now I’m not saying it didn’t, but for God this day of rest didn’t finish with a mug of Horlicks before bed time. And neither was it a lovely day off, shame there’s work in the morning. God rested on the seventh day and has been resting ever since.
Rest is the goal of creation.
In our busy culture, rest can end up just being fuel for work. “Have some sleep, you’ve got a busy day ahead of you.” We rest to work. But biblically we should work to rest, cos that’s what God did. Work is good thing in and of itself, but it’s also there in order to provide for rest. Why grow crops? To enjoy eating them! You don’t eat them just so you’ve got the energy to grow more! Resting is the goal of creation. It’s more than just inactivity, it’s celebrating and enjoying the fruit of our labours. Like God did, making things, stepping back to see that it’s good, and then moving on from making them into enjoying them with us.
Resting is the goal of creation. It’s what God has been doing for centuries. After all in v5 he said, “They shall not enter my rest.” Not their rest, but my rest. It’s not that the Israelites were naughty so they weren’t allowed to go on their holidays, but they cut off their relationship with God so He wouldn’t let them join Him on His holiday.
I know I’m making a big thing of this. Why? It changes how we think about God. He isn’t a frantic ‘work, work, work’ kind of God. He isn’t rushed off His feet. Or constantly in the office keeping on top of things. God is a resting God. He’s ruling over the universe, but that is a joyful thing.
The Bible talks a lot about heaven and the new creation, and how wonderful it will be. And this bit of the Bible tells us that this wonderful future will be our opportunity to finally enjoy the rest which God is enjoying right now.
That tells us something about God doesn’t it! He delights in the finished world that He’s made. He isn’t anxious or stressed or over-worked or tired, despite having a LOT more responsibilities than any of us! He rests. And He invites us to join Him. Isn’t that wonderful! God the Father, Son and Spirit, eternally enjoying one another, making a world for us to live in and then calling us to enjoy it with Him…
If we’re Christians, we know something of this rest already. Jesus said, “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest.” People who trust in Jesus can rest from the non-stop treadmill of trying to earn our way into God’s favour. But the complete rest is in the future… God promises real, never-ending rest. We should look forward to this! It will be everything we’ve ever dreamed of.