God's Rest as Prescriptive
- Friday, May 16, 2014
by Jon English Lee
Last time I looked at evidences for the Sabbath rest rooted in creation. But does the fact that God rested mean that Adam, and all humanity, should keep the Sabbath? Not all think so. Frame offers four compelling arguments, of increasing persuasiveness, for man to imitate God by resting on the Sabbath: (1) man as God’s image, (2) the work/rest pattern, (3) Mosaic authorship of Genesis, and (4) the fourth commandment itself.
God creating man in His own image means that man should usually imitate his Maker. There are times when this is obviously not the case (e.g., killing the firstborn of Egypt), but “there does not seem to be any metaphysical, ethical, or historical reason why we should not imitate God’s cycle of work or rest.”
Secondly, the cycle of 6 days of work followed by 1 day of rest would be difficult to understand if God had not made it for the benefit of his creatures. Because God never needs rest Himself, why would God take a day off if not to set a pattern for His people? Third, Frame points out that Moses was the primary author of Genesis. The Jews were already out of Egypt and under the Covenant. “A Jewish reader of Genesis during the wilderness period would see Genesis 2:2-3 as the beginning of the Sabbath observance, the background of the fourth commandment…. The Jewish reader would see that, as in the fourth commandment, God in Genesis 2 institutes a day of rest, which he blesses and makes holy.”
And finally, the most compelling argument for the Sabbath as a creation ordinance is the fourth commandment itself: Israel should keep the Sabbath because, “in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath and made it holy” (Ex 20:11). God rested,
"From his creative labors and rested on the seventh day, which he hallowed and blessed, he also hallowed and blessed a human Sabbath, a Sabbath for man (Mark 2:27). In other words, when God blessed his own Sabbath rest in Genesis 2:3, he blessed it as a model for human imitation. So Israel is to keep the Sabbath, because…God hallowed and blessed man’s Sabbath as well as his own."
Would not the claim of our Lord, that “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath,” be applicable to Adam preeminently? He was the only man present when the Sabbath was made! The Sabbath was a gift given to man at the end of the creative week. This gift, a gift that sinners like to forsake, was meant to be a perpetual reminder of God’s masterful work in creation. Because man is made in God’s image and should therefore imitate Him, because of the pattern of 6 work days and 1 day of rest, because of Mosaic authorship, and because of the fourth commandment itself, the Sabbath is established as a prescriptive creation ordinance along with work and marriage.
Additionally, Chantry argues that because Exodus grounds the command primarily in creation, the Sabbath is not then “rooted in anything unique to the Jewish experience.” Rather, Sabbath is a creation reality (See Ex. 20:11; 31:17; Heb. 4:4, 10). Furthermore, if the Sabbath is not a particularly Jewish reality, it is not then limited to the Jewish Covenant (Old Covenant). In this sense then, the Sabbath command is ‘above’ Mosaic Covenant because it was set in place prior to Sinai, even though it was part of the Mosaic commands.
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