Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Genesis 2:2-3's the 7th Day (part 1)

Genesis 2:2-3 describes the "seventh day". Interestingly, the term “Sabbath” is not used until Ex 20:11 (Neh 9:13-14, Ex 31:13-17). Of course, here, there is no need for the Law.

Let’s start by considering that God could have created the world in an instant (vs. seven “days”)! So, why did He do it that way?

First, it turns into an example to us of the Sabbath, and more figuratively, the rest available to us in Christ (Heb 4).

Second, it establishes the number 7 as symbolic. (Why seven? It connects to the importance and inter-working of the numbers 3 [fig. for complete] and 4 [the number for man and earth]. Note also that 3*4 = 12 is an important number, biblically.)

Third, it encourages us to consider His wisdom and power more carefully—as if the Creation required more effort. Likewise, it makes each day seem more special—and it separates us out as a special act of creation.

Fourth, it underlines the importance of work in God’s economy.

Fifth, although an instantaneous might communicate more power; seven days reflects more sovereignty—as the Creation “week” unfolds.

Finally, it implies the importance of order, process, rhythm—in a Biblical worldview. J.B. Phillips: "The revelation of God in Nature and the Bible is that He is never in a hurry. Long preparation, careful planning and slow growth, would seem to be leading characteristics of spiritual life...It is refreshing to study the poise and quietness of Christ. His task and responsibility might well have driven a man out of his mind. But He was never in a hurry, never impressed by numbers, never a slave of the clock."

For us, life is a marathon, not a 100-yard dash. Life should be filled with spiritual disciplines—and more importantly, a spiritually-disciplined life—rather than a compendium of moments of instant gratification.

As Eugene Peterson puts it: God is not in a hurry but does not procrastinate (he gets it done by the end of day 6). Both of these errors have potential application for us.

Back to the passage…The first thing to note is that the ordinal listing, “seventh” has moved from the end to the beginning of the discussion. Second, notice that the term “seventh day” is repeated three times—again, unique.

Peterson observes that this continues the 3’s of creation: there are two sets of 3 work days—the first 3 largely giving form (vs. 1:2’s chaos—tohu) and the second set filling the emptiness (vs. 1:2’s bohu). Then, we have these 3 mentions of 7 here.

Peterson focuses on the rhythm of the passage before concluding: “Genesis 1 is structured in time, a seven-day sequence of God’s speaking creation into being. The formative effect is rhythmic, using metrical and repeated phrases to pull our distracted, anxious and sometimes lethargic lives into the steady, sure, unhurried pace of God as he speaks his reliable and effective word across a sequence of six days. These rhythms are then resolved in an all-embracing seventh-day Sabbath…”

Three other points…

First, Gen 2:3b’s “made it holy” continues the pattern of separating and sanctifying.

Second, Gen 2:3a’s “blessed [it]” is the third of 3 times in this Creation account (Gen 1:22a for fish/fowl; 1:28a for man’s life/calling). Kass runs with observations about this combo: the three represent a.) life, rule, holiness; b.) natural, political, sacred; and c.) animal, man, God.

Third, Gen 2:2b,3c’s says God "rested" (or "ceased") from “all his work”. Of course, it goes without saying that He did not rest because He was tired! Rest represents perfect creation—sanctified and at rest. Creation didn't need to be revised or repaired. Rest is for the purpose of commemoration, reveals satisfaction, implies a change of pace, a time of reflection and enjoyment.

Here's part 2 of my comments on the 7th Day...


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