Tag Archives: Hebrews 4

Noah’s Rest

 

The following is a modification of the post “The Gospel Hope of Lamech” in order to draw upon the recent theme of rest that we’ve looked at in the posts: God’s Rest, Adam’s Rest, and Broken Rest.

 

28 When Lamech had lived 182 years, he fathered a son 29 and called his name Noah, saying, “Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed, this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.” 30 Lamech lived after he fathered Noah 595 years and had other sons and daughters. 31 Thus all the days of Lamech were 777 years, and he died.

32 After Noah was 500 years old, Noah fathered Shem, Ham, and Japheth.” Genesis 5:28-32

 

The period between Adam and Noah is summarized in Scripture by 10 toledots, or generations, i.e. the “begots” in chapter 5 of Genesis.  Throughout this time man became increasingly wicked (Genesis 6:5) creating greater distance between God and man, and man and creation, specifically the continued fracture between man and the ground, initiated in the curse God levied against Adam.

In the passage above from Genesis 5, there is a noted expectation of relief, or rest, that comes by way of the prophetic words of Lamech, the father of Noah.  Recall that in the Old Testament there is usually significance given to the naming of children and this is especially true with Lamech naming his son Noah, which is similar in sound to the Hebrew word for “rest”.  Lamech’s expectation for his son is that he will bring a reversal to the curse levied against Adam, subsequently all mankind, and bring a fulfillment of the promised seed that would crush the head of the serpent, “Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed, this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.”

The word translated “relief” by the ESV is literally the word rest, which corresponds to Noah’s name and shed’s greater light on the expectation that he would be the one to deliver the people from the “painful toil of our hands.”  Again, we must feel the weight of the curse, specifically with the background that Adam was originally created for worship and placed in the garden that brought forth food effortlessly, at the command of God.  Let’s look again at the curse that was directly given to Adam

“cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Genesis 3:17-19

Notice here that the curse given to Adam is intimately related to the toil of the ground or land through the labor of his hands.  God would no longer provide ease and abundance of fruit from the land, but now it would require painful effort on the part of man to overcome the obstacles of thorns and thistles, and through sweat, i.e. hard work, the land would yield harvest.

When combining the progressive depravity of man at this time and the multiplying effects of sin upon the ground, we can begin to see the great expectation of Lamech was for deliverance from this curse, “Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed, this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.”  Clearly the words, and hope, expressed by Lamech are closely related to the words of the curse that God had levied against mankind.  A curse that was causing painful toil, hard work and labor, to bring forth food from a now cursed ground.

Lamech’s expectation is that out of the very ground that had been cursed one would come who would bring relief.  Like Eve before him, Lamech’s hope was in the fulfillment of God’s promise of a Redeemer who would crush the head of the serpent, though he specifically has an expectation of relief, literally rest, from the curse of the ground.  Further, he expects that this one from the ground will be his own child, Noah, who would bring about this rest.  Again, like Eve, we know that it was not through their immediate offspring that the fulfillment of God’s plan would come, but through the Promised One, Jesus Christ.

It’s certainly understandable in both the case of Eve and Noah that their hope in the promise of God would be fulfilled in their lifetime, but that was not God’s plan.  His plan for a Redeemer would unfold through the covenant promise given to Abraham, a kind of reminder of Genesis 3:15, and then through the people of Israel, culminating in the birth of Jesus Christ.

The expectation of Lamech highlights an additional point worthy of a brief discussion, namely that the ultimate Sabbath rest comes in Christ alone as detailed in Hebrews 3 & 4.  The Sabbath principle is far more than the 4th Commandment that has been a point of discussion and debate among theologians.  It’s a principle rooted and grounded in the character of God, revealed in the days of creation, longed for in the expectation of Noah, further developed in the Mosaic Law with Sabbaths and Jubilee, and ultimately finding its destination in the Lord Jesus Christ.

This passage from Hebrews is worthy of a separate study, but we may conclude a few things in relation to the expectation of Lamech.  From Lamech and the passage from Hebrews, we may observe the connection between the promised rest of God and the promised land of God.  We may conclude that it is only in Christ that believers may find their rest from not only the physical labors of their hands, but the spiritual labor against sin and attempts to earn salvation.  Through the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, to all believers, by way of Christ’s obedient fulfillment of God’s law, we may rest from all efforts to earn our justification.  Thereby we may now experience God’s Sabbath rest in Christ, even though, as in the days of Noah, we also look forward with eager expectation to the fulfillment of God’s promise to bring about our eternal, satisfying rest from all the toil of our hands in a cursed land, to a place of relief in the new heavens and new earth, that God Himself will prepare.

With regard to Noah and his father’s expectation, he did bring rest and relief from the land, but not in an ultimate, final sense as Christ will.  Upon the recedence of the flood waters of judgment, God makes a covenant with Noah,

20 Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21 And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. 22 While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”

Noah’s first action upon reaching dry land was to offering a sacrafice to God, with the clean animals that God had directed him to include on the ark.  Serving as priest in this “new creation” or even “new garden” if you will, Noah makes an atoning sacrifice to God, which is accepted and pleasing to God.  This term for pleasing, as the ESV Study Bible notes, “conveys the idea of tranquility and rest” and is “related to the Noah” which certainly ties back to the prophecy and expectation of his father Lamech, mentioned earlier in Genesis 5.

Additionally, in the midst of these covenant promises, we see God highlighting the progressive nature of sin in man, “evil from his youth” but also a restraint that God places upon the progressive curse on the ground, “I will never again curse the ground.”  In doing so, God promises stability.  Yes the original curse still remained on the ground, yes man still had to labor for food, as did Noah (Genesis 9:20).  However, God promised stability and consistency of seasons, a divine grace, to allow man the conditions necessary to bring forth food from the ground, “seedtime and harvest”.

Noah was afforded a fresh opportunity in a new garden, much like his great-grandfather Adam.  He was also given the same divine commands to assert dominion over creation and to be fruitful and multiply.  However, because of the indwelling presence of sin that the flood could not wash away, and despite these opportunities and commands, Noah also fell into sin after just a short time.  This in turn lead to the sin of his son and the pronouncement of a curse upon him and the people that would play a significant role in yet another opportunity for rest, the Canaanites.

Adam’s Rest

 

In a recent post we looked in depth at God’s rest, which occurs at the conclusion of His creation on the seventh day (see Genesis 2:1-3).  Among several of the observations and summary conclusions that we reached was that God’s rest may be viewed in terms of an enthronement, rather than a physical rest and that the arrangement and relationship of Creation-Eden-Garden appears to resemble the tabernacle/temple arrangement of Outer Court-Holy Place -Holy of Holies.

With this passage on God’s rest firmly established in our minds, Genesis 2 shifts the focus back to creation, more specifically to man.

“These are the generations
of the heavens and the earth when they were created,
in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.” 

When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground— then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed.  And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Genesis 2:4-9

In verses 5 and 6 we are brought, back in time as it were, to the period between Day 5 & 6, just prior to the creation of man.  Here we find more details concerning God’s creation of Adam.  On this day we read of God creating him from the dust of the ground, God planting of a garden in Eden (perhaps East of Eden), God placing Adam in that garden, then God causing trees to spring up, including the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

Additionally, it is in this narrative that we find our description of a pattern similar to the tabernacle layout: earth (vs. 5), Eden (vs. 8), and garden (vs. 8).  This geographic distinction is obvious and noteworthy.

Also it should be pointed out that the earth (vs. 5 – ground) had no one yet to “work” the land, which will be a significant point developed below.

As the passage moves to a description of the land and surrounding area, verse 15 brings us back to God and his purpose for Adam

15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. 

On the surface, verse 15 sounds like a simple restatement of verse 8 from above where God “put” Adam in the garden.  This verse is often used as a proof text for Adam’s purpose, namely to work.  Following this interpretation is usually a discussion on the doctrine of vocation, concluding that man was created for the purpose of work, God’s design for him prior to the fall, therefore we should embrace our toil and labors in our individual vocations.  That sounds good and I don’t disagree with the destination, but I do disagree with the starting point.

First, verses 5 and 15 are not referring to the same piece of ground.  Verse 5 clearly speaks of the earth in general while verse 15 specifically refers to Eden, more specifically the garden that the Lord created East of Eden.

From the vocation view highlighted earlier, it is commonly taught that Adam was placed in the garden in order to til the land and reap produce or vegetation of some kind, concluding that he was the first gardener or farmer.  Perhaps he set the pattern for a farming lifestyle, right?

Not so fast.

In this passage, we are informed that God is the One who brought forth the vegetation in the garden, “And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”   This statement is prior to Adam’s placement in the garden.  Adam was placed into a garden that was already lush with vegetation, which God had provided for food (see also Genesis 1:29).  It seems clear from this passage that food was not dependent upon Adam’s labor, but instead was a blessing from the hand of God.

Which brings us to the meaning of the following, “Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden”.  Prior to the declaration of man’s purpose in the garden, to work it and keep it, we have the straightforward statement that God took him and put him in the garden of Eden.  The word translated as “put” actually has the following outline of biblical usage:

  1. to rest
  2. (Qal)
    1. to rest, settle down and remain
      to repose, have rest, be quiet
  3. (Hiphil)
    1. to cause to rest, give rest to, make quiet
    2. to cause to rest, cause to alight, set down
    3. to lay or set down, deposit, let lie, place
    4. to let remain, leave
    5. to leave, depart from
    6. to abandon
    7. to permit
  4. (Hophal)
    1. to obtain rest, be granted rest
    2. to be left, be placed
    3. open space (subst)

With this in mind, perhaps a better translation would be that the Lord God “rested” Adam in the garden of Eden.  This translation would seem to be at odds with the remaining portion of the verse, “to work it and keep it” that has so often been used as the basis for man’s purpose of work.  It simply wouldn’t make sense to say that God rested Adam in the garden to work it and keep it

Unless of course work it and keep it mean something else.

The idea behind the Hebrew word translated as “work” conveys the idea of serving or tending while the Hebrew for the translated word “keep” conveys the idea of guarding or obeying commands.  Collectively when these two verbs are used together they are often found in the context of a priestly service in the tabernacle.  Note their usage in the passage below

They shall keep guard over him and over the whole congregation before the tent of meeting, as they minister at the tabernacle. They shall guard all the furnishings of the tent of meeting, and keep guard over the people of Israel as they minister at the tabernacle. ” Numbers 3:7-8

Let’s summarize what we’ve seen so far.  Adam was “rested” in the garden to be in the service of God functioning as a priest for God to both minister in and guard the garden, His earthly tabernacle.  Adam’s purpose was not to be a gardener or landscape architect in the garden of God.  His purpose was to worship and commune with God as he fulfilled the duties of a priest that God had assigned.   This included obeying several commands as well: the command to be fruitful and multiply, to have dominion over creation, to eat of every tree, avoiding the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

As we know, Adam failed his probationary test.  He failed to guard the garden and he failed to guard his wife.  He failed to guard the garden and he failed to obey the word of God. Ultimately his disobedience led to his being placed outside the garden, where the curse of labor was given.

Humans have the responsibility now, post-fall, to work.  However, our original design was to worship and commune with our Creator.  The connection between God’s rest and God resting Adam in the Garden cannot be overlooked.  This perfect communion with our Creator, resting in Him, is what we were made for.  Sin disrupted this union and broke this rest, yet through our Lord Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection, this is the end towards which believers will one day return.  At the moment of repentance and faith this communion is restored and we experience the rest from our efforts of trying to earn salvation, but communion and rest will not reach its fullness until the return of Christ, the establishment of His kingdom on earth, and the inauguration of eternity.  We have already been restored to this communion with the Creator, but it is not yet what it will be.

May He come quickly!

God’s Rest

 

The Creation account in the opening chapters of Genesis is probably familiar to most people who have at any point come into contact with the Scriptures.  Genesis, or origins, is foundational for understanding how and why we were created and gives purpose to life these thousands of years later.  While Adam and Eve often garner the majority of the focus in these opening chapters, it’s clear that Scripture places the primary attention upon God from the very opening words, “In the beginning God”.  From there, it’s not man who is the main actor, but God.  We are introduced to the God who sovereignly creates, orders, and sustains, not merely an accumulation of particles that randomly formed the universe, but a purposeful creation by a detail oriented God intent on creating man in His image for His own glory.

After the introduction of creation in chapter 1, and before providing a more detailed focus upon the creation of man in chapter 2, we are given the following description of this all-powerful, creating God

“Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.”

At the outset, this might generate a few questions concerning the nature of the God who was just introduced to us in chapter 1 of Genesis, namely, if He is all-powerful and certainly the Creator, why is it that He needs to rest?  Did the 6-day creative process tire Him out?  Or perhaps is He a father-time figure that wound creation up and now must minimize energy by simply observing His work from a high or distant perch?

These questions, while they may seem simplistic and perhaps even juvenile, are nonetheless legitimate given the sentence, And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.”

In answering these, we must first start with God as Creator and more specifically how God created, namely by divine fiat or decree.  God literally spoke creation into existence, from nothing, i.e. ex nihilo.  In Genesis 1, we encounter the statement, “God said”  ten times.  Seven of these were declarations bringing various creations into existence while the 8th was an intra-Trinitarian statement and the last two uses were commands to man.  Would God need to rest on the seventh day after “simply” speaking creation into existence?

Hardly.

We may conclude that God did not need to rest, as though He were exhausted from His creative work.  As God has progressively revealed Himself throughout the Scriptures, we are informed elsewhere that rest is not a necessity for God.  For example, Isaiah 40:28

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
    his understanding is unsearchable.

And Psalm 121:4

“Behold, he who keeps Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.”

The Second observation is that while man was created on Day 6 and rest occurred on Day 7, we are informed that it was God’s rest.  Similarly, we have no indication of which calendar day this rest may have occurred, because, well, calendars had not yet been developed.  We simply know at this point that it was the Seventh Day of creation.  This is a crucial point because frequently this passage concerning God’s rest in Genesis has been used as a proof text to argue for the existence of 1. A perpetual day of Sabbath rest (Saturday) or 2. The transference of the Sabbath day to the Lord’s Day (Sunday).  Despite these interpretive efforts, there is simply no indication nor command for man to observe a particular Sabbath day in this passage.  All we have thus far in God’s revelation is that He rested from His work on the seventh day.  While this occurrence in Genesis 2 certainly informs and provides a framework for the later institution of a Sabbath Day commandment given at Sinai, there is not one single passage that prescribes or describes any person from Adam to Exodus 16 commanded to set aside a particular day for rest.

Third, this rest came at the conclusion of creation.  In other words, God’s rest was the consummation of creation.  It’s at this point that the action of God as Creator becomes the action of God as Sustainer.  The preparation for this role is particularly evident in the creation accounts and in the passages that immediately follow Genesis 2:2.  For further biblical evidence, we may draw upon Colossians 1:16-17, John 1:3, and Hebrews 1:3.

Fourth, God blesses or sanctifies this Sabbath Day to make it holy, literally He sets it apart from the other days.  This function of sanctifying a particular day speaks to God’s authority and also towards a priestly role. Related, some have concluded that this rest of God speaks less of actual rest or ceasing from effort, as we concluded earlier, and more of a Sabbath-Enthronement.¹  Several passages throughout Scripture speak to God’s enthronement over His creation and the earth as His footstool, Isaiah 66:1; 2 Chronicles 6:18, 41; Acts 7:49.

Similarly, there is compelling evidence that the creation of the earth in general and the garden in particular as God’s place of habitation or dwelling, i.e. His temple.  In Genesis 3:8 we read, “And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day….”  Some commentators have pointed out that this same Hebrew verbal root stem occurs elsewhere in relation to God’s presence in the tabernacle, see Lev. 26:12, Deut. 23:14, 2 Samuel 7:6-7.² Further we may consider the geographic layout of this early scene from Genesis with the earth, Eden, and the garden as a parallel to the tabernacle layout of the Outer Court, Holy Place, and Holy of Holies.  This theme will be further drawn out when we consider Adam’s rest in a future post.

Fifth, while the other six days have the concluding statement, “and the evening and the morning were the ______ day”, the seventh day deviates from this pattern suggesting that it is open ended.  In other words, that it was, or perhaps even still is, on going.

The pinnacle of the creation narrative is not the creation of Adam and Eve, rather it is the rest of God.  Simply observing the structure of Genesis 1 and 2 and this becomes evident.  As we’ve seen, God did not require rest, rather it was pointing towards greater significance.  From our passage in Genesis 2, we may summarize the 3 specific actions words that serve as links in a chain.  God finished.  God rested.  God blessed.  As we will see in future posts, God’s rest is both anticipatory and archetypal of future fulfillment.

 

 

Notes:

  1. Kline, Meredith G. Kingdom Prologue.
  2. Alexander, Desmond T., From Paradise to the Promised Land. G.K. Beale, The Temple and the Church’s Mission.