'And God blessed the Sabbath day, and sanctified
it, because that in it He had rested from all the work which God created and made.' -- Gen. ii.3.
In Genesis we have the Book of Beginnings. To its first three chapters we are specially indebted for a Divine light shining on the many questions to which human wisdom never could find an answer. In our search after Holiness, we are led thither too. In the whole book of Genesis the word Holy occurs but once. But that once in such a connection as to open to us the secret spring whence flows all that the Bible has to teach or to give us of this heavenly blessing. The full meaning of the precious word we want to master, of the priceless blessing we want to get possession of, 'Sanctified in Christ,' takes its rise in what is here written of that wondrous act of God, by which He closed His creation work, and revealed how wonderfully it would be continued and perfected. When God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it, He lifted it above the other days, and set it apart to a work and a revelation of Himself, excelling in glory all that had preceded. In this simple expression, Scripture reveals to us the character of God as the Holy One, who makes holy; the way in which He makes holy, by entering in and resting; and the power of blessing with which God's making holy is ever accompanied. These three lessons we shall find it of the deepest importance to study well, as containing the root-principles of all the Scripture will have to teach us in our pursuit of Holiness.
1. God sanctified the Sabbath day. Of the previous six days the keyword was, from the first calling into existence of the heaven and the earth, down to the making of man: God created. All at once a new word and a new work of God, is introduced: God sanctified. Something higher than creation, that for which creation is to exist, is now to be revealed; God Almighty is now to be known as God Most Holy. And just as the work of creation shows His Power, without that Power being mentioned, so His making holy the seventh day reveals His character as the Holy One. As Omnipotence is the chief of His natural, so Holiness is the first of His moral attributes. And just as He alone is Creator, so He alone is Sanctifier; to make holy is His work as truly and exclusively as to create. Blessed is the child of God who truly and fully believes this!
God sanctified the Sabbath day. The word can teach us what the nature is of the work God does when He makes holy. Sanctification in Paradise cannot be essentially different from Sanctification in Redemption. God had pronounced all His works, and man the chief of them, very good. And yet they were not holy. The six days' work had nought of defilement or sin, and yet it was not holy. The seventh day needed to be specially made holy, for the great work of making holy man, who was already very good. In Exodus, God says distinctly that He sanctified the Sabbath day, with a view to man's sanctification. 'That ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you.' Goodness, innocence, purity, freedom from sin, is not Holiness. Goodness is the work of omnipotence, an attribute of nature, as God creates it: holiness is something infinitely higher. We speak of the holiness of God as His infinite moral perfection; man's moral perfection could only come in the use of his will, consenting freely to and abiding in the will of God. Thus alone could he become holy. The seventh day was made holy by God as a pledge that He would make man holy. In the ages that preceded the seventh day, the Creation period, God's Power, Wisdom, and Goodness had been displayed. The age to come, in the seventh day period, is to be the dispensation of holiness: God made holy the seventh day.
2. God sanctified the Sabbath day, because in it He rested from all His work. This rest was something real. In Creation, God had, as it were, gone out of Himself to bring forth something new: in resting He now returns from His creating work into Himself, to rejoice in His love over the man He has created, and communicate Himself to him. This opens up to us the way in which God makes holy. The connection between the resting and making holy was no arbitrary one; the making holy was no after-thought; in the very nature of things it could not be otherwise: He sanctified because He rested in it; He sanctified by resting. As He regards His finished work, more especially man, rejoices in it, and, as we have it in Exodus, 'is refreshed,' this time of His Divine rest is the time in which He will carry on unto perfection what He has begun, and make man, created in His image, in very deed partaker of His highest glory, His Holiness.
Where God rests in complacency and love, He makes holy. The Presence of God revealing itself, entering in, and taking possession, is what constitutes true Holiness. As we go down the ages, studying the progressive unfolding of what Holiness is, this truth will continually meet us. In God's indwelling in heaven, in His temple on earth, in His beloved Son, in the person of the believer through the Holy Spirit, we shall everywhere find that Holiness is not something that man is or does, but that it always comes where God comes. In the deepest meaning of the words: where God enters to rest, there He sanctifies. And when we come to study the New Testament revelation of the way in which we are to be holy, we shall find in this one of our earliest and deepest lessons. It is as we enter into the rest of God that we become partakers of His Holiness. 'We which have believed do enter into that rest;' 'He that hath entered into his rest hath himself also rested from his works, as God did from His.' It is as the soul ceases from its own efforts, and rests in Him who has finished all for us, and will finish all in us, as the soul yields itself in the quiet confidence of true faith to rest in God, that it will know what true Holiness is. Where the soul enters into the Sabbath stillness of perfect trust, God comes to keep His Sabbath holy; and the soul where He rests He sanctifies. Whether we speak of His own day, 'He sanctified it,' or His own people 'sanctified in Christ,' the secret of Holiness is ever the same: 'He sanctified because he rested.'
3. And then we read, 'He blessed and sanctified it.' As used in the first chapter and throughout the book of Genesis, the word 'God blessed' is one of great significance. 'Be fruitful and multiply' was, as to Adam, so later to Noah and Abraham, the Divine exposition of its meaning. The blessing with which God blessed Adam and Noah and Abraham was that of fruitfulness and increase, the power to reproduce and multiply. When God blessed the seventh day, He filled it so with the living power of His Holiness, that in it that Holiness might increase and reproduce itself in those who, like Him, seek to enter into its rest and sanctify it. The seventh day is that in which we are still living. Of each of the creation days it is written, up to the last, 'There was evening, and there was morning, the sixth day.' Of the seventh the record has not yet been made; we are living in it now, God's own day of rest and holiness and blessing. Entering into it in a very special manner, and taking possession of it, as the time for His rejoicing in His creature, and manifesting the fulness of His love in sanctifying him, He has made the dispensation we now live in one of Divine and mighty blessing. And He has at the same time taught us what the blessing is. Holiness is blessedness. Fellowship with God in His holy rest is blessedness. And as all God's blessings in Christ have but one fountain, God's Holiness, so they all have but one aim, making us partakers of that Holiness. God created, and blessed; with the creation blessing. God sanctified, and blessed; with the Sabbath blessing of His rest. The Creation blessing, of goodness and fruitfulness and dominion, is to be crowned by the Sabbath blessing of rest in God and holiness in fellowship with Him.
God's finished work of Creation was marred by sin, and our fellowship with Him in the blessing of His holy rest cut off. The finished work of redemption opened for us a truer rest and a surer entrance into the Holiness of God. As He rested in His holy day, so He now rests in His Holy Son. In Him we now can enter fully into the rest of God. 'Made holy in Christ,' let us rest in Him. Let us rest, because we see that as wonderfully as God by His mighty power finished His work of Creation, will He complete and perfect His work of sanctification. Let us yield ourselves to God in Christ, to rest where He rested, to be made holy with His own holiness, and to be blessed with God's own blessing. God the Sanctifier is the name now inscribed upon the throne of God the Creator. At the threshold of the history of the human race there shines this word of infinite promise and hope: 'God blessed and sanctified the seventh day because in it He rested.'
BE YE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.
Blessed Lord God! I bow before Thee in lowly worship. I adore Thee as God the Creator, and God the Sanctifier. Thou hast revealed Thyself as God Almighty and God Most Holy. I beseech Thee, teach me to know and to trust Thee as such.
I humbly ask Thee for grace to learn and hold fast the deep spiritual truths Thou hast revealed in making holy the Sabbath day. Thy purpose in man's creation is to show forth Thy Holiness, and make him partaker of it. Oh, teach me to believe in Thee as God my Creator and Sanctifier, to believe with my whole heart that the same Almighty power which gave the sixth-day blessing of creation, secures to us the seventh-day blessing of sanctification. Thy will is our sanctification.
And teach me, Lord, to understand better how this blessing comes. It is where Thou enterest to rest, to refresh and reveal Thyself, that Thou makest holy. O my God! may my heart be Thy resting-place. I would, in the stillness and confidence of a restful faith, rest in Thee, believing that Thou doest all in me. Let such fellowship with Thee, and Thy love, and Thy will be to me the secret of a life of holiness. I ask it in the name of our Lord Jesus, in whom Thou hast sanctified us. Amen.
1. God the Creator is God the Sanctifier. The Omnipotence that did the first work does the second too. I can trust God Almighty to make me holy. God is holy: if God is everything to me, His presence will be my holiness.
2. Rest is ceasing from work, not to work no more, but to begin a new work. God rests and begins at once to make holy that in which He rests. He created by the word of His power; He rests in His love. Creation was the building of the temple; sanctification is the entering in and taking possession. Oh, that wonderful entering into human nature!
3. God rests only in what is restful, wholly at His disposal. It is in the restfulness of faith that we must look to God the Sanctifier; He will come in and keep His holy Sabbath in the restful soul. We rest in God's rest; God rests in our rest.
4. The God that rests in man whom He made, and in resting sanctifies, and in sanctifying blesses: this is our God; praise and worship Him. And trust Him to do His work.
5. Rest! what a simple word. The Rest of God! what an inconceivable fulness of Life and Love in that word. Let us meditate on it and worship before Him, until it overshadow us and we enter into it -- the Rest of God. Rest belongeth unto God: He alone can give it, by making us share His own.