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God the completer-finisher

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning — the sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. (Genesis 1:31-2:3)

It is more than likely (though it cannot be proved) that the near-universal pattern of a seven-day week derives ultimately from this passage in Genesis. The names of the days of our weeks (Wednesday, Thursday etc) come from pagan mythology, but the pattern of seven days is from the Bible. It reflects the days God took (and they are perhaps His days, not ours!) over His work of creation.

Now this seventh day is a day of rest. But what does this mean? The normal approach to this is to rush into practical questions about sabbath observance: is it binding on us? Is it Saturday or Sunday?

But in fact the main purpose of the first chapter of Genesis is to introduce us to God: who He is and what He’s like. So it must be more fruitful to start by asking what this “rest” on the seventh day tells us about Him.

And this passage tells us that God is a finisher of His work. There is a very strong sense of this here: not only are we told the heavens and earth were completed, but the word rested also means ceased. He rests / ceases, just as you or I would when we have finished some great task.

This has significance for you and me. If we are Christians today, we are relying on God’s promises about the future: of a life of the world to come and that, finally, His great plan to save the world through Jesus will reach its fulfilment. How do we know God will keep those promises? Here is part of the answer: it is in His nature, as mighty Creator, to finish what He has begun.

Hold on to that! If you are a Christian, you have pinned your life on God’s promises about the life of the world to come. As we look around us, there is much to make us weary, and wonder if it will ever come. Will we really meet the multitude of Christ’s people that no one can number? Will Jesus really wipe away every tear? Can it be true that one day, death shall be no more?  

Consider the seventh day, and the God we meet there. He is the one who finishes his work. 

But we are still left wondering: what about observance of the Sabbath? That’s our topic at student lunch this Sunday, 23 November. And our 20s-30s group, HUB, is also reading Genesis this term.

(This was adapted from The First Chapters of Everything, Chapter 7, available on the church bookstall.)

Alasdair Paine


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