Work to live or live to work? We know how we should answer that question. The testimony of our lives is probably another matter. But let’s ask the question of God – because I reckon our unspoken assumption is that, basically, God lives to work.
You see, for many people “Creator” is God’s most basic job description. If He aint fine-tuning the cosmological constants, or priming the charges for the big bang, or pulling the heavenly levers, or keeping the wheels of providence well-oiled, then, well, what are we paying our taxes for anyway?! If His role in life isn’t to keep the show on the road, what could it possibly be?’
I recently read a debate between Richard Dawkins and Ruth Gledhill regarding Stephen Hawking’s new book – a book that claims we don’t need a Creator. At one point Gledhill asked “could there be another role for a deity beyond creation?” Dawkins responded, “I can’t even imagine what that would mean.” (see here). I think that reflects a very common perception that God equals Creator without remainder.
But, as with every misconception we have about God, this says more about us than it does about Him. We project our own work-ethic into the sky and expect God to play by the rules. But He doesn’t. God rests. And we find that quite difficult to understand.
But think of our very first phrase from the KJB: “In the beginning“. There was a time (a very long time!) when God was not Creator. Originally God was not in manufacturing. He moved into it in later life.
We might get sucked into workaholism because we don’t know who we are if we aren’t performing. But God has no such identity crisis. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit have known each other in love before they knew each other in labours.
And as we enter chapter two of Genesis, we’re again reminded that “Creator” is not the fundamental truth about God. Here is a God who rests from His work. And this is not an abdication, it’s a consummation.
God’s activity reaches a goal, and rather than creation being a wheel that must be kept turning, Genesis reveals it to be a work that comes to completion. The seventh day (the Hebrew word is Sabbath) shows that there’s an ‘end’ to creation. And by ‘end’ we mean, most basically, a goal. There is not endless work. There is fulfilment. There is rest.
In the beginning John’s Gospel tells us that Jesus was “in the bosom of the Father.” (John 1:18). It’s a phrase that gets picked up at the end of John’s Gospel too. At the end of the Last Supper, after a good meal with good wine and good friends we’re told that John leant back, laying his head on Jesus’ bosom. John was enjoying Sabbath. Here is true rest.
Just as Jesus has eternally rested in the Father’s embrace. So His friends are invited into that very rest.
This was why He created a world, and this was why He entered it as man – to draw more and more to the Father’s embrace. Life is not about performing, producing and providing. Whatever work that God does, whatever work that we do is to this end – that billions would enjoy ‘rest’ in Jesus.
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