No Need to Choke on Our Own Words (Exodus 31)

Whereas many are comfortable saying God “rested” on the Sabbath, I think more would squirm to say He was “refreshed” in Sabbath (Exodus 31:17). Of course we understand all this to be anthropomorphic language. We understand this, because, if it wasn’t, we couldn’t understand it. Follow?

Some people make a fuss when Scripture speaks of the strong arm of Yahweh, arguing that all man-talk of God is meaningless. This has several problems. First, man-talk is the language we know best. Second, man talk is the best creaturely language that there is to speak about God as man is made in the image of God. In theology, Spanish trumps dolphin beeps every time. Finally, such talk about man-talk being inadequate to communicate truth about God puts the greatest limits not on man, but on God. It may sound humble to say that human language can’t convey truth about the divine, but it is just the opposite. It is arrogant to think that God cannot speak in such a way as to reveal who He is to us. God knows our language better than we. He knows our ears too. There is a problem, but it’s not that God has a speech impediment, rather, our ears are morally clogged with filth.

What then is God meaning to say with the word “refreshed”? We realize that “rest” simply means that God stopped His special work of creation ex nihilo. But what of “refreshed”? The word seems more problematic; too tied to man’s weakness. Indeed, creation didn’t exhaust or deplete God in any way. God didn’t need a nap. So some venture that such anthropomorphisms are merely meant to teach us about our stance to the Sabbath. No, the reason “rest” and “refreshed,” teach us anything about our stance to the Sabbath is because of what they first say about our Creator in whose image we were made.

If a job is done poorly or partly and then rest is attempted by anyone with a modicum of character, their time off is likely to cause more anxiety than refreshment. Have you ever been ready to take a vacation only to have a fresh load of work dumped on you last minute, knowing it will be waiting for you when you return? Or, say you botch up the last job before a trip that you know has to be redone, what will your mind be on? On the seventh day God looked at His completed work and saw that it was good. God’s refreshment derived from the completion and quality of His work. “Refreshed,” should not be take to mean that creation drained God, but rather just the opposite. He had joy in it. It was done. It was very good.

The Sabbath was good news to the Jew, not simply because they abstained from their work, but because God was inviting them to enjoy His rest. He invites us into this rest in Jesus Christ. The work is done. The work was perfect. The rest is therefore refreshing.

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