In The Lost World of Genesis One, John Walton says that Day 7 of creation is the climax of that fundamental story. Interesting, because it seems like Day 7 should be the end, more than the peak. But here’s part of Walton’s reasoning:
…in the ancient world, rest is what results when a crisis has been resolved or when stability has been achieved–when things have ‘settled down’. Consequently, normal routines can be established and enjoyed. For deity, this means that the normal operations of the cosmos can be undertaken. This is more a matter of engagement without obstacles than disengagement without responsibilities. (Lost World, p. 73)
The last line here catches me. With it, I’m hearing Walton lay out God’s approach to Sabbath–that ‘seventh day’ we hear more about elsewhere in Scripture. It’s as though having created–that is, having done the work God set out to accomplish–God then, on this seventh day, takes a break to enjoy the fruit of that labor. Now, Walton has in mind more than this by talking about the ‘day of rest’ (he will, for instance, link this rest with the temple where God seeks to dwell), but I think there is a lesson for Sabbath-keeping here, too.
What if Sabbath is not a time for dealing with problems so much as living with what is here, now? We can focus on ‘obstacles’ (to use Walton’s word) for six days, but on the seventh? Not so much.
As a kid, I was brought up to think of Sabbath as involving a change of pace: we didn’t mow grass, wash cars, or do other stuff that typically happened during the week; instead, we went to church, we played a little more. These days, as an adult, I look forward to a Sabbath and that change of pace. Sometimes, though, I get a bit confused about the content of Sabbath: is there a list of what I should/should not do?
Walton offers a lens that helps me focus–first on the ‘work week’, which is full of ‘obstacles’ (problems to solve, responsibilities to fulfill, water to push uphill), and then on the Sabbath. He reminds me that Jesus seems to say this seventh day is a gift (see Mark 2:27)–and with it, offers the opportunity to step back and enjoy what the work has accomplished.