Part 1 - Creation: The Foundation of the Gospel
The Creation of Israel
The work of creating and establishing the nation of Israel was God's. Israel's part was to trust and rest in their Creator. To make this clear to His people, God used the creation of the world, God's subsequent rest, and the establishment of the Sabbath day as a model.
The establishment of the Sabbath Day
God worked for six days in creating the heavens and the earth, as detailed in the first chapter of Genesis. The account continues in Genesis 2:1-3: "Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made."
Of special note is that the work of God in creation is finished. Not only were the heavens and the earth finished, but also "all the host of them." God worked for six days, and now the seventh day came. On this new day, "God ended His work" and rested. The work of creation stopped, which is emphasized by God resting.
Also of note is that this rest is tied to the creation account. The day is called the seventh day. This only makes sense in the context of the six days of work in the creation account. God worked six days and rested on the seventh day, establishing the week as a group of seven days. As the seventh day, a day of completion and wholeness, God's day of rest is part of the creation account.
An important item to note also is that this is not the Sabbath day. The Sabbath day is a day for the Israelites to rest. The seventh day of creation is a day in which God, not mankind, rested. Here the day is called the "seventh day," not the "Sabbath day." It was God who worked and thus it is God who rested. This day of God's rest will become the basis for the Sabbath day, a day in which the people of God rest. As the writer to the Hebrews showed, God said of the unbelieving, " 'So I swore in My wrath, "They shall not enter My rest," ' although the works were finished from the foundation of the world" (Heb. 4:3). There is a rest that God calls "My rest," and it is connected to His work of creation. The day of God's rest was the seventh day of creation. The day for Israel to rest, the Sabbath day, was every seventh day in honor of the day in which God rested.
A day set apart
"Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made" (Gen. 2:3). God "blessed" and "sanctified" His seventh day of rest. God attaches a special significance to the completion of His work. To sanctify the day is to set it apart as being special and having a purpose. By blessing it and setting it apart, God is showing the value and significance that He places on the work as being finished. It is the value that He places on His rest, the designation of it as being holy, which forms the basis for the day to be a model in which to teach Israel something about their relationship to Him.
God's commandment about the Sabbath day for Israel is told in Exodus 31:12-17: "And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 'Speak also to the children of Israel, saying: "Surely My Sabbaths you shall keep, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the Lord who sanctifies you. You shall keep the Sabbath, therefore, for it is holy to you. Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his people. Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh is the Sabbath of rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. Therefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed." ' "
Here, the Sabbath day is tied to the creation account. It is tied to the seventh day of the creation week, the day of God's rest, for "it is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever; for . . . on the seventh day He (Yahweh) rested and was refreshed." The Sabbath day is linked to the seventh day of creation, which in turn is linked to the actual work of creation. Therefore God says in giving the Sabbath command, "for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth." The study of the Sabbath day is directly tied to creationism.
Just as God "blessed" and "sanctified" His day of rest, so He says that the Sabbath day shall be "holy" to Israel. It is to be so holy that "everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death." By using such terms, God is showing that this is a matter of extreme importance to Him. The Sabbath is given that Israel might reflect on the rest that God had in finishing His creation work. It is the reflection on God's finished work and rest by Israel that is important to God.
Twice in the passage on the Sabbath, God calls it a sign. "It is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations" (Verse 13). "It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever" (Verse 17). As a sign, the Sabbath day is symbolic. There is a reality that the day is pointing to, and the cessation of work on Israel's part is not the end purpose of the Sabbath. It was a tool in which to convey to Israel an all-important concept. When seen as such, the severity of the death penalty is understood, for the reality that the Sabbath rest points to is a life and death matter.
Yahweh explains what the sign of the Sabbath is about in verse 13: "for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the Lord who sanctifies you." It is a sign "that you may know." The Sabbath day is a teaching tool. It is given "that you may know that I am the Lord who sanctifies you." This is the end purpose of the Sabbath day for Israel. The reason that it is "holy" for them, that they are not to "profane" it, is that they would know that it is God who sanctifies them.
To "sanctify" is to "set apart." It is to separate someone or something from that which is common, and dedicate or consecrate such to a special purpose. It is not only a separating from, but also a separating to. To "sanctify" means to both "separate" and "dedicate." God wanted the children of Israel to know that it is He who sets them apart to a special end. Especially important is that it is Yahweh, not themselves, who sanctifies them. This reason for the Sabbath day is repeated in Ezekiel 20:12, "Moreover I also gave them My Sabbaths, to be a sign between them and Me, that they might know that I am the Lord who sanctifies them."
When God brought Israel out of Egypt and into the wilderness, He spoke to them about their being set apart to His purpose. Exodus 19:3-6 recounts: "And Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, 'Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel: You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to Myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.' "
The two parts of sanctification are seen here: separation and consecration. God took them out of Egypt. They were separated from Egypt. They were also separated unto God. "I ... brought you to Myself." They were consecrated to be "a special treasure to Me above all people," and a "kingdom of priests and a holy nation." As a "holy" nation, they were Yahweh's people. They were set apart for Him and His purposes. This work of sanctification is attributed to God: "I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to Myself." Their creation as a special nation is the work of God. Beginning with the Passover, passing through the Red Sea, journeying through the wilderness, and entering into the promised land, God's hand was with Moses and the children of Israel. It was His power and hand that kept and preserved them. As the writer to the Hebrews recalled about this, "they saw My works forty years." In giving the Sabbath day to Israel, God wanted them to know that "I am the Lord who sanctifies them."
The creation model: a type
That the creation account is a type of the creation of Israel is seen in the Ten Commandments. There are two listings of the Ten Commandments in the Bible, one in the book of Exodus and one in the book of Deuteronomy. They are essentially identical except for one glaring discrepancy: the reason for the Sabbath day commandment. The first listing occurs shortly after Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt. He was called by God to go up on Mount Sinai where God gave him the Ten Commandments on tablets of stone. Here, the fourth commandment is as follows: "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it" (Ex. 20:8-11). At the beginning of the Exodus, the reason given for the Sabbath is that God did the work of creation and then rested.
The next listing of the Commandments is in Deuteronomy. At that point, forty years had passed since the giving of the Ten Commandments to Moses. God had led them through the wilderness, an unbelieving generation had died, and now Joshua was ready to lead a new generation of Israelites into the promised land. They were at the border, and Moses was giving a summary of their journey and a final exhortation to the people. He recounted the Ten Commandments, but for the Sabbath he did not use this original reason: "For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it." Instead Moses said: "And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day" (Deut. 5:15). Before God delivered them "by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm," the model for Israel's deliverance was used, God's work in creation. But now this type is fulfilled, and it is no longer the type but the fulfillment of the type that is given as the reason for the Sabbath. They "saw My works forty years" and it is this reason why they were to rest on the Sabbath day.
Yahweh had said in Exodus 31:13, "Surely My Sabbaths you shall keep, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the Lord who sanctifies you." This sign had been represented by the model of creation. God worked and then God rested. Now the work that the sign pointed to had been done. God "by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm" separated them from Egypt and made them a special people for Himself. God demonstrated for forty years that He could sustain, protect, provide for, and give purpose to them as His own special people. They were to rest in Him as not only the creator of heaven and earth, but as the creator of themselves as a special people. They were to know Him as "the Lord who sanctifies you," and rest by faith in Him.
The fulfillment is itself a model
The writer to the Hebrews points
out that there is a Sabbath rest beyond the nation of Israel inheriting a land and finding rest
from their enemies. The writer says, "... as it has been said: 'Today, if you will hear His
voice, Do not harden your hearts.' For if Joshua had given them rest, then
He would not afterward have spoken of another day. There remains therefore a
rest for the people of God" (Heb. 4:7-9). Israel's
redemption is in itself a model that points to a rest that can be found "today." It is
a rest that can be found in Jesus Christ.