In the reading I have done on Sabbath, I frequently came across an idea I had never considered. Several authors and Bible scholars made this same point. The idea is that creation points to the 7th day, the Sabbath. God wasn’t just making the heavens and the earth on a whim. God wasn’t in his eternal glory, bored, and he thought, “I know! I’ll create a universe.” There was more purpose to it, so the idea goes. Sabbath is a key.
Consider the movement in the creation account: day one, separate light from darkness. Day two, God created the sky (the “dome”). Day three, God makes dry land and plant life. Day four, the sun and moon were created. Day five, it was sea creatures and birds.
Now up to this point, God reflects on each act of creation. God saw that it was “good.” But, there is more to it on day five. On day five, God has direct interaction with the living beings He has made. “21 God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarmed after their kind, and every winged bird after its kind; and God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth”(Genesis 1:21-22). God spoke to his creation and gave them responsibility. The animals (sea animals and birds) were to be fruitful and multiple.
Things changed even more dramatically on the fifth day. God made land animals; then God’s masterpiece. 26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the [ak]sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the [al]sky and over every living thing that [am]moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:26-28).
God may have related to some animals through instruction, “be fruitful and multiply,” but it went much deeper with these he made in his image. Humans were also to be fruitful and multiply, which means procreation, and humans were to manage as God’s stewards. God blessed humans. That essentially communicates that God created conditions so that it would go well with human beings if they did things God’s way. Blessing is a component of covenant. Blessing means life is good.
Blessing also comes with responsibility. Humans were to fill and subdue the earth in a way that recognized the goodness of God’s creation and the wonder of God’s glory. When God saw all that was done and humans had the blessing and the commands God had given, God saw that it was better than good. It was “very good” (1:31).
Thus it appears that creation reaches its climax when men and women are made and given their divine marching orders to manage the earth. But this is only the sixth day and there are seven days. Creation is driven to the seventh day, the one day God “hallowed” (NRSV), or “made holy” (Genesis 2:3). When all the conditions were ready, by God’s creation, and God saw that the world was as He thought it should be, then God felt confident in rest. He could stop creating. He could leave humans in charge. He could rest and enjoy what He had made.
Sabbath is what God had in mind when God created. Creation leads to Sabbath. The first day of life, once created, for Humans was the seventh day, the Sabbath. Life for human beings began with Sabbath rest. In our keeping of Sabbath, can we recreate those Eden conditions where all we need is provided in fruit trees planted by God and streams that run as God directs them and there is no danger and nothing to fear? No!
Life in our time is full of pitfalls, some in nature, more in civilization. The fall of Adam and Eve and every human that has ever sinned has drawn away from God’s Sabbath intention. So what good today is Sabbath-keeping, if it simply amounts to a dim reminder of what was lost?
Sabbath-keeping remembers Eden, the perfection God created. Sabbath-keeping reminds us that God is good and God wants good for us. And Sabbath-keeping, when focused on Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit calls us forward. Our life (our human origins) did not simply begin with Sabbath rest. We have ahead of us an eternity in God’s new heaven and new earth. When we set time apart as Sabbath time, time for worship, community, and rest, we anticipate the eternal joy we will have in the unending presence of God. That eternity will be filled with love, togetherness, worship, feasting, and peace. What was at the beginning, the goal of creation, Sabbath, will be forever. So, in Sabbath-keeping, we remember, we look ahead, and we celebrate God.