Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done.”
Genesis 1:31 appears to end the first creation story, with God seeing that all he had made was very good. The sixth day is over and so is the chapter. But, unexpectedly, the story continues into the second chapter of Genesis, where the first three verses actually wrap up the account begun in the first chapter.
Additional surprises come in the description of events on the seventh day. Verse 1 of Genesis 2 says that “the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude.” Yet the following verse adds, “And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done” (2:2). How can it be that God finished his work on the seventh day when, according to verse 1, when it was already finished? And what sense does it make to say that God finished his work by resting?
Verses 1 and 2 are not in fact contradictory. Indeed, the creation of the heavens and the earth was finished on the sixth day. But God’s act of creation continued into the seventh day as God rested. Resting was, in some sense, part of God’s creative effort, rather than some extra, disconnected activity. Though God made all the stuff of the universe in six days, creation was a seven-day affair because it included a day devoted to rest.
This integrated understanding of work and rest differs from the common perspective of Western culture. For us, work is one thing and rest is something else. Rest might give us the energy we need to work, but it isn’t usually thought of as somehow an essential part of our work. The biblical account of creation suggests something different. If God finished his work by resting on the seventh day, then perhaps we need to rethink our notions of work and rest. Moreover, perhaps we need to consider how our lives and, indeed, our work might be enriched with a more nuanced understanding of rest and its role in our lives.
We will reflect more on this in the days to come. For now, let me encourage you to think about the following questions.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
How do you understand the apparent paradox of Genesis 2:1-2, namely, that God finished his work by resting. Have you experienced anything like this in your life? What role does intentional rest play in your lifestyle?
Gracious God, today we begin to pay attention to the fact that you rested on the seventh day. Somehow, you finished your work by resting. This seems odd to us, even contrary to how we think about work. Teach us, Lord, to think of work and rest as you do. Help us to model our own lives after you, so that we might live fully and fruitfully. Amen.