Yesterday we talked about “The Cosmic Temple of Creation: A Dwelling…”, in that heaven and earth were made to be a dwelling place for God to rest. But what exactly does this means.
The Cosmic Temple of Creation: …For Resting (which is Productive)
If a temple is a place for a god’s dwelling and ruling, then this is what we need to understand by a god resting in a temple. “Rest” is not a cessation of work, but a sitting down from all the preparatory work to engage in the real work of ruling. Let me explain.
Rest from enemies
“Rest” in many texts indicate God giving Israel deliverance from their enemies. When they come into the land they will have “rest” when their enemies have been defeated, and they no long have to worry about them. The “enemies” were making the kingdom disorder and unproductive
Joshua 21:44 (also Josh. 23:1)
And the Lord gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their ancestors; not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the Lord had given all their enemies into their hands.
When you cross over the Jordan and live in the land that the Lord your God is allotting to you, and when he gives you rest from your enemies all around so that you live in safety, then you shall bring everything that I command you to the place that the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his name: your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and your donations, and all your choice votive gifts that you vow to the Lord.
This second one is notable because after “rest” is achieved then they are to go to the place “God will choose as a dwelling” and worship there. So we have “rest from enemies” linked with God’s “dwelling” in the land. Interesting.
Also, let us turn to a key passage in 2 Samuel 7:1-17. There we hear that after God had given David “rest” from all his enemies, and David was settles in his house (a palace), David thought about building God a house (a temple). This is important because it shows us what “rest” from enemies means. In David’s “rest” (in his house) he didn’t do NOTHING. Rather he was active in the “rest” of his kingdom in a productive manner (desiring to build God a house). Now that David’s kingdom was secure from external threats he was able to move toward more productive activities. In a sense, David was now ruling his kingdom rather than just securing it.
God’s Resting Place
What does this mean, then, for Genesis 2:1-2 where it talks about God resting? We usually think this means God finished his work. But is this the case? Could it be that God was not read to start his work, the work of ruling the cosmos?
Before we get to this let’s look at Psalm 132: 7-8, 13-14.
7 “Let us go to his dwelling place,
let us worship at his footstool, saying,
8 ‘Arise, Lord, and come to your resting place,
you and the ark of your might.
13 For the Lord has chosen Zion,
he has desired it for his dwelling, saying,
14 “This is my resting place for ever and ever;
here I will sit enthroned, for I have desired it.
John Walton (The Lost World of Genesis One, 73) breaks it down this way:
“Here the ‘dwelling place’ of God translates a term that describes the tabernacle and temple, and this is where his footstool (the ark) is located. This also shows that the text is referring to his dwelling place as this throne roon and the place of his rule (because of the footstool). I verse 8 the “footstool” is paralleled by the ark, and the temple (“dwelling place”) is paralleled with “resting place” (menuha). This demonstrates that the tmple is the place where he rests. In verse 13 the text again refers to his dwelling in Zion, thus referring to the temple. Then verse 14 uses “resting place” (menuha) again identifying it as the place where he is enthroned. Thus, this Psalm pulls together the ideas of diving rest, temple and enthronement. God’s “ceasing” (sabat) on the seventh day in Genesis 2:2 leads to his “rest” (nuha), associated with the seventh day in Exodus 20:11. His “rest” is located in his “resting place” (menuha) in Psalm 132, which also identifies it as the temple from which he rules. After creation, God takes up his rest and rules from his residence.”
There you have it. God takes up his rest (the rest from a disorganized and unproductive state of the world in Gen. 1:2) inside the cosmic temple of creation so that God can now rule in his residence (which, again, is the temple—cosmos).
As Walton notes, “This is not new theology for the ancient world—this is what all peoples understood about their gods and their temples.”
So, to sum up.
1) Creation in Genesis 1 and 2 is best thought of as God’s cosmic-temple in which God dwells and rules. In this temple heaven and earth are united because God’s presence is there.
2) “Resting” on the seventh day is not so much the ceasing of work but rather the ability to productively rule and reign.
So, God rested on the seventh day of creation not because he was tired, or ran out of things to do, nor as an example for us overworked people, but because he had finished organizing and giving purpose to a disorganized and unproductive world (in a sense he defeated the enemy). And when God rested from this work it was so that God would enter into the productive work of ruling (enjoying) his creation.
So, to close this off, what does this mean for our own understanding of Sabbath Rest? How does this change your ideas of what “rest” is? How can your life be ordered for “rest” and what enemies to you need defeated so you can enter your “rest”?
Add your thoughts in the comments.