This is a message from pastor and teacher Bill Serjak from the Genesis series “In Beginning”
Rest and Reflection
Sometimes I think I am like Merlin from the King Arthur tales. He lived his life backwards; he was born old and grew younger. I am definitely not growing younger, but sometimes I believe I think backwards. Some people have trouble believing what is in the first couple of chapters of Genesis because they don’t believe God could have made the universe in just six days. I also have trouble with the six days, I wonder why an infinite, eternal, all powerful God took so long to create the universe. I like the fact that God spoke the universe into being, but if I had been making up the Genesis story, I would have just had God speak, and, Bang!, the whole universe would have come into being. The light from stars millions of light years away would have suddenly been at the earth; everything would have come into being the moment He spoke.
However, God did not create that way; He took six days. He took one whole day just making light/no light. I don’t know why that took so long. Sometime when I have a slow week, I’m going think about why God began creation by first making light. Is light some sort of basic building block of the universe? Physicists wonder if light is energy or matter. It has some of the characteristics of both. I might able to learn something of our physical world by thinking about why God began creation by creating light and why it took Him a whole day.
Creation is not instantaneous. Even for God, it involves taking time and energy. People have asked me how long it takes to write a sermon. For me, that involves more than just finding the words to fill twenty minutes in the morning service. I hope to be somewhat creative in sermons, so I somewhat facetiously answer their question by saying, “All my life.” People who know me reasonable well know that when I am being facetious I am often quite serious; when I am being serious, I don’t really take what I say all that seriously. However, I am being truly serious when I say that all the time I have lived contributes to what is created in a sermon. God is not just writing a sermon but building a preacher and that takes a lot of time. When God took six days to create the heavens and the earth, He was teaching us that even for Him creation involves time and energy. It took Him a whole day to make light and not light.
It also takes us time to create. It takes time to write a sermon or build a marriage. Some complain that God has come into their marriage but He hasn’t fixed it because they still don’t get along very well. Why hasn’t God immediately created a good marriage? He doesn’t work that way. He takes time to create what is worthwhile. Creating a good marriage is harder than creating the universe. When some people want to say that something isn’t all that hard, they often say, “It’s not rocket science.” Actually, rocket science is pretty easy. It is just mathematics and physics and once you know the formulas and how to use them they work over and over again. Creating the universe is much like rocket science, but creating a good marriage is much more complicated. There is not a pat formula that always works. There are some guidelines but each marriage works differently because each involves different people. Each of us needs to learn how to work out his marriage with his unique partner. Some think there is a formula and get upset with his partner when she doesn’t fit into the formula. Instead of realizing that people don’t always fit into unique formulas and a great deal of creativity is needed to make a marriage, he thinks he must have married the wrong woman. That is not the case; it just takes time to work together to create a unique and special marriage. It took God a whole day to make light; it will take us a lifetime to make a good marriage.
It is the same way with raising children. They don’t fit into a formula either and that can be very frustrating. We may ask God to make our child respond correctly but though we can pray, the child will still be hard to deal with. We need to realize that it takes a long time to create a child of God. It does not happen instantaneously; time, work, and energy are always involved in creation. It is not rocket science; raising children is not that easy; there are not pat formulas for child rearing. Each child must be creatively nurtured in the way God has called him. Each will be different. God took all of those days to create the universe to show us that, even for Him, an infinite, all-powerful God, creation takes time. We should expect the same in our lives. It should not surprise us when it takes a great deal of time to create a good marriage or to raise a child of God. It took God time to create the universe; it will also take time for Him to work in our hearts to recreate us.
After creating all the universe, God did something that is unusual. We think that an all powerful God would work 24/7, 365 days a year. Such strength is a goal for some people today but the all-powerful God of the universe rested. God set aside that day and called it holy. He called the other things He had done, good; they worked, they functioned well. The seventh day, He called a holy day, or a day that is to be set apart. It is to be different from the rest of the days of the week. It is a time set apart to rest and reflect on the normal activities of the world. It is a time to be with God. It is a time to enjoy Him and what He has done.
For many of us, our relationship with God is based on pleasing Him. We may think that we haven’t pleased Him and need to be forgiven for that failure. That is not what the Bible says is the basis of our relationship with God. The first catechism question in the Shorter Catechism sums up how our relationship to God works; it says that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Our chief end is not to please God. If all we were doing was trying to please God, then we could keep working in that effort and would never need to take a Sabbath. Just as marriage may be more complicated than rocket science, so glorifying and enjoying God may be more complicated than just seeking to please Him. To glorify and enjoy God we need to take the time to stop, be with Him and reflect on what He has been doing and we have been doing.
The need to please probably comes from our relationship to our parents. I wanted to please my dad. Trying to please our parents can have a couple of results. One is that you can feel that you have pleased them and the other, obviously, is that you can feel that you have not pleased them. Those who don’t believe they have ever pleased their parents keep trying to do so all their lives and that skews the way they live their lives. In my life, I felt that I had succeeded in pleasing my parents, and that didn’t work out all that well either. I had earned my parents’ respect, but there can be a negative to that. I pleased them by working very hard to do what they wanted me to do. That caused me to grow up with a strong belief that everyone should always work hard and all will be right with the world.
Also, people who looked at our family were amazed at what I could do and not so much at what my parents had accomplished. That put too much attention on me and I became a pretty good human doing and not a very good human being. I was never very good at enjoying life or at glorifying my parents. I did not learn the things that are supposed to be the chief end of mankind. I was not that good at enjoying life or glorifying those in authority over me. I still have a fairly long way to go to learn that, especially the enjoying. I can get caught up in the idea of doing what God wants me to do, but just enjoying being with Him is something I am still trying to learn. My dad and I never did that many things that were fun and, as a result, I did not enjoy that relationship as much as I could have. I was more aimed at pleasing than at the glorifying and enjoying. God has been teaching me those things since I have come to know Him.
We glorify God when people can see what He is doing in our lives. When they see only what we are doing, it glorifies us. If people look at us, see all we do, see how well we obey the rules, they then think that we are great Christians, but we still haven’t fulfilled our purpose. It is when people look at us and see what a great God we serve that we have begun to fulfill what we are created to be. Part of enabling people to see that comes when we have obvious space for God in our lives. We are not supposed to do everything and get all the glory; we are to give people a chance to see God work in our lives and then give Him the glory.
If we were just aiming to please God, the Sabbath wouldn’t be necessary, but when we stop and spend time with God we learn to enjoy what God has done in our lives and in the world. That is what brings a real depth of joy. Sabbath is a very important part of God’s creation. Without it, I don’t think we can learn to glorify and enjoy Him.
If I were making up the story of these two chapters of Genesis, I would not have had God take so long to create the universe and I would never have had Him stop to rest and enjoy what He had created. Sabbath is a wonderful thing and we easily miss it. That day is to be holy and set aside for rest and reflection. We are to simply enjoy spending time with God for that gives meaning to what we do in life. David said in the sermonette that the Sabbath is so important that God said it again when he gave the Ten Commandments. Sabbath was a part of the creation from the beginning. When He gave it in the Ten Commandments, it was not as though He were giving a new law. He told us to remember the Sabbath. It was a part of what He had created and we need to continue to keep it. Sabbath is a vital part of the creation and needs to be kept as long as the creation exists.