The appearance of the Sabbath is a reminder that God is the Lord of time. He decides how long a week should be, and what should be done on each day. As long as his authority would be recognised, there would not be any problems for Adam and Eve. This feature of God’s sovereignty is revealed shortly after Adam and Eve had been given authority by God to govern the earth. Yet they had not been given unlimited authority, for God had kept some things for himself. The Sabbath was a reminder that they had a King.
The first Sabbath was blessed by God. The term ‘bless’ contains the idea of ‘speaking well about it’. When we bless God, we speak well of him. So when God blessed the seventh day he was stating that this was to be the best, most important day of the week. Calvin comments that this phrase indicates that God loved the day: ‘Thus we may be allowed to describe the day as blessed by him which he has embraced with love, to the end that the excellence and dignity of his works may therein be celebrated.’
This distinctiveness of the day is also seen in the other term that is used, that God sanctified the day, that is, he set it apart from the other days for a special purpose, which was, in one word, ‘rest’. It was set apart for God to rest and also for man to rest.
On the first Sabbath God rested from his work of creation. It was not the rest of inactivity, for he was still engaged in his works of providence; it was not the rest of indifference, as if he was not interested in his creation; it was not the rest of exhaustion, as if he had stretched his powers to the limits. We get some insight into what is meant by God’s rest in Exodus 31:17: ‘It [the Sabbath] is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.’
When we think of God resting we should note several details connected to it. First, his rest included rejoicing in the finished work of creation. God takes great pleasure in his actions because they are perfect. What is flawless pleases him.
Second, it was refreshment in the fellowship of his people. God did not wish to take part in the Sabbath rest without the presence of Adam and Eve. Only they were capable of appreciating the great works of God.