“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.’ So God created man, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:26-27). Mere chance could not direct Creation toward such heights, nor was such a possibility seriously proposed until recently. For God’s personhood lies at the heart of this account. A person is at work. An impersonal power would not free to terminate the process. Therefore the impact of the seventh day stands out more by the fact that God completed God’s work than by what was begun. While God’s power certainly is the implied premise of Creation, the rest of the seventh day serves as an expression of God’s personhood more than of God’s infinite power.
The text says that God Sabbathed. Most English versions state that God “rested” (Genesis 2:2). However, “Resting” conveys an aura of passivity. This “Resting” seems anticlimactic in the context of what has happened throughout Creation.
Moreover, it is a word that does not precisely capture the original idea. Repeatedly it has been shown the word “desisted” or “ceased” is a better fit, and either of these words has a richer connotation. A closer look at the original language leads one to believe that the seventh day brought quiet after what had been a hectic week of establishing order out of chaos, bringing forth out of nothing, all that there now was. Not to say that Creation was done haphazardly or chaotically. It was anything but those things, for Creation was done with purpose and intent. A master plan was involved for God-created forms and borders. He filled the forms and placed within these forms borders or limits upon which they could not move beyond. He separated the water from the water and created dry land to keep the water within its boundaries.
Think of it this way. A river needs to be crossed so people, goods, and services can flow from one side of the river to the other. Workers begin to build the bridge. They plan. They work to execute that plan. They establish the resources necessary to create the bridge. Finally, the bridge is finished or completed. Their work ceases, but the result of their work remains. On both sides of the river, the people and the builders can now enjoy what was created for their benefit. So it was at Creation. God planned, purposed, brought together the resources for making the earth, and then Created humanity. Then on the seventh day, he ceased from the work which he had done. Now on the seventh day, with all creative work completed, all Creation, humanity, and God enjoyed what he had created.
In addition to the transition from activity to quietude, one person’s expectancy is longing to see the other. The relational implication of the seventh day is often overlooked, dwarfed by the tendency to prioritize God’s power, sovereignty, and majesty as more representative features of Creation. Power and sovereignty are attributes of God, but from God’s side, it is not power that is projected most forcefully in the institution of the seventh day. When God ceases creating, hallowing the seventh day, we see God coming into an enduring relationship with Creation. By resting on the seventh day, God is thereby shown to have entered into the time of the created order. In this scenario, intimacy threatens to eclipse majesty. At the very least, we are led to see God’s desire for intimacy in the seventh day. To the point that God’s awesome power and majesty are veiled and held in the background to not intimidate as humans approach. But get this. After the fall in Genesis chapter 3, we see God coming down to review with humans as to what happened. If God was willing to come after the fall to comfort His Creation, think what it was like on the first seventh day. The day when He ceased His work to establish an intimate relationship with humanity.
There is a need to take this insight further because theological tradition has so one-sidedly stressed divine majesty that the relational element is rarely seen. Perceiving the seventh day as a relational marker enriches the theology of Creation, promising to rectify the distortion in which the emphasis on sovereignty implies detachment. The God who rests in His Creation does not dominate the world on this day: He feels the world, and He allows himself to be affected, touched by each of His creatures. He adopts the community of Creation as His own environment. Humility does not negate majesty, and the self-emptying intimation in the seventh day does not reduce divine sovereignty to nothing. But humility and self-emptying are the bigger surprises, most unexpected, and the most neglected features baked into the seventh day in the Creation account. The creating God is the acting God and the reacting God, the God who responds to what has been created. The seventh day has an interactive character and intent to incarnate God in human beings’ ongoing experience.