Verses of Genesis 2
Genesis 2:2 Commentary - Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae (Old and New Testaments)
APPOINTMENT OF THE SABBATH
Gen 2:2-3. On the seventh day, God ended his work which he had made: and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it; because that in it he had rested from all his work, which God created and made.
THOUGH we know no reason on God’s part why he should proceed in the work of creation by slow and gradual advancement, instead of perfecting the whole at once; yet we may conceive a reason on the part of man, who is enabled thereby to take a more minute and deliberate survey of all its parts, and from every fresh discovery of the creation to derive fresh themes of praise to the Creator. This idea seems to be countenanced by the institution of αSabbath immediately after the completion of the sixth day’s work. At all events, this is the improvement which it becomes us to make of the Sabbath: in speaking of which we shall shew,
The reason of its appointment—
God, after finishing his work, “rested, and was refreshed [Note: Exo 31:17.].” Whether this expression be merely a figure taken from what is experienced by us after any laborious and successful exertion, or whether it intimate the complacency which God felt, as it were, on a review of his works, we cannot absolutely determine. But his sanctifying of the seventh day in consequence of that rest, shews, that he consulted,
His own glory—
[As “God made all things for himself,” so he instituted the Sabbath in order that his rational creatures might have stated opportunities of paying him their tribute of prayer and praise. If no period had been fixed by him for the solemnities of public worship, it would have been impossible to bring mankind to an agreement respecting the time when they should render unto him their united homage. They would all acknowledge the propriety of serving him in concert; but each would be ready to consult his own convenience; a difference of sentiment also would obtain respecting the portion of time that should be allotted to his service: and thus there would never be one hour when all should join together in celebrating their Creator’s praise. But by an authoritative separation of the seventh day, God has secured, that the whole creation shall acknowledge him, and that His goodness shall be had in everlasting remembrance. In this view, God himself, speaking of the Sabbath which he had instituted at the creation, and the observance of which he was, with some additional reasons, enforcing on the Jews, calls it “a sign” between him and them, that they might know that he is the Lord [Note: Exo 31:13; Exo 31:17.].]
His people’s good—
[Though men might have worshipped God in secret, yet the appointment of a certain day to be entirely devoted to His service, had a tendency to spiritualize their minds, and to make every one in some respect useful in furthering the welfare of the whole community. Sympathy is a powerful principle in the human breast: and the sight of others devoutly occupied in holy exercises, is calculated to quicken the drowsy soul. The very circumstance of multitudes meeting together with raised expectations and heavenly affections, must operate like an assemblage of burning coals, all of which are instrumental to the kindling of others, while they receive in themselves fresh ardour from the contact.
A further benefit from the appointment of the Sabbath is, that the attention of all must necessarily be directed to the eternal Sabbath, which awaits them at the expiration of their appointed week of labour. Each revolving Sabbath, freed from the distractions of worldly care, and attended, not merely with bodily rest, but with a rest of the soul in God, must be to them an earnest and foretaste of heaven itself. Well therefore does Nehemiah number the Sabbath among the richest benefits which God had conferred upon his chosen people [Note: Neh 9:14.].]
But as some have thought the Sabbath to be a mere Jewish institution, which, like the rest of the ceremonial law, is abrogated and annulled, we shall proceed to shew,
The continuance of its obligation—
That there was something ceremonial in the Jewish Sabbath, we readily acknowledge: but there was something moral also; and therefore, as to the moral part of it, it must, of necessity, be of perpetual obligation. To remove all doubt on this important subject, consider,
The time of its institution—
[Some have thought that the mention which is made of the Sabbath in the words before us, was merely by anticipation; and that the appointment never took place till the days of Moses. But if this were the case, how came Moses to specify the circumstance of God’s resting on the seventh day as the reason of that appointment [Note: Exo 20:11.] ? It would have been a good reason for our first parents and their immediate descendants to hallow the seventh day; but it could be no reason at all to those who lived almost five-and-twenty hundred years after the event; more especially when so obvious and cogent a reason as their deliverance out of Egypt was assigned at the very same time [Note: Deu 5:15.]. But if the command given to the Jews was a repetition of the injunction given to Adam, then there is an obvious propriety in assigning the reason that was obligatory upon all, as well as that which formed an additional obligation on the Jewish nation in particular.
Besides, there are traces of a Sabbath from the beginning of the world. For, if no Sabbath had ever been given, whence came the practice of measuring time by weeks? Yet that custom obtained both in the patriarchal [Note: Gen 29:27-28.] and antediluvian ages [Note: Gen 8:10; Gen 8:12.]: and therefore, since it accords so exactly with what was afterwards instituted by divine authority, we may well infer its original appointment by God himself. And if its obligation existed so many ages before the ceremonial law was given, then must it continue to exist after that law is abolished.]
The manner of its re-establishment—
[Notwithstanding the long continuance of the Jews in Egypt, the remembrance of the Sabbath was not effaced: for Moses, before the giving of the law, speaks of the Sabbath as an institution known and received among them [Note: Exo 16:23.]. And, without any express direction, they gathered on the sixth day a double portion of manna to serve them on the Sabbath; which they would not have done, if they had not thought the observance of the Sabbath to be of the first importance [Note: Exo 16:22. That they did this without any direction from Moses, is evident from the complaint which the Rulers made on the occasion; for which complaint there could have been no ground, if any direction had been given.].
Nevertheless, for the more effectual maintenance of its authority, God judged it necessary to publish it to them again, both upon the original grounds, and on other special grounds peculiar to that people. And how did he publish it? Did he deliver it to Moses in the same manner as he did the ceremonial law? No: he wrote it with his own finger in tables of stone, and embodied it with the moral law [Note: Deu 10:3-4.]. Surely this affords a very strong presumption that God himself considered its duties, not as ceremonial, limited, and transient, but as moral, universal, and permanent.]
The confirmation of it by the Prophets—
[That its obligations should be sanctioned by the prophets, we might well expect; because they lived under the authority of the Jewish law. The mere circumstance, therefore, of their insisting on the observation of the Sabbath would prove nothing. But their speaking of the Sabbath, as to be observed under the Christian dispensation, very strongly corroborates the perpetuity of its obligations. Now the prophet Isaiah does speak of the Sabbath in such a connexion, that we cannot doubt of its referring to the times of the Gospel: and he represents the “keeping of the Sabbath” as no less necessary to our happiness, than the laying hold of Christ’s righteousness and salvation [Note: Isa 56:1-2.]. We can scarcely think that the prophet would have so strongly marked the continuance of the Sabbath, if its obligations were to cease with the ceremonial law.]
The observation of it by the Apostles—
[The precise day on which the Jews kept their Sabbath, was indeed changed; and the first day of the week was substituted for the seventh. This was done in order to commemorate the resurrection of our blessed Lord; an event, the most interesting that ever occurred from the foundation of the world; an event which proved, beyond all doubt, the Messiahship of Jesus, and has served from that time as the corner-stone of all our hopes [Note: Act 4:10-12.]. When Israel was brought out of Egypt, God, in order to commemorate that deliverance, changed the commencement of the year from the Autumn to the Spring [Note: Exo 12:2.]: can we wonder then, that, in remembrance of an infinitely greater deliverance, he should alter the day on which the Sabbath had been observed? It was in the appropriation of a seventh part of our time to God, that the morality of the Sabbath consisted; and that is preserved under the Christian, as much as under the Jewish economy.
This change was sanctioned by our blessed Lord, who repeatedly selected that day for the more public exhibition of himself to his disciples [Note: Luk 24:13; Luk 24:33; Luk 24:36; Luk 24:40; Luk 24:45; Joh 20:19; Joh 20:26.] ; and on that day sent down the Holy Ghost upon them [Note: This is ascertained by calculators, as well as from its being the seventh Sabbath after his resurrection.] ; in order that the application, as well as the completion of his redemption, might give a further sanctity to the new-appointed day.
From that time the first day of the week was invariably observed for the public services of the church [Note: Act 20:7; 1Co 16:1-2.] ; and, to stamp peculiar honour upon it, it was distinguished by that endearing name, “The Lord’s day [Note: Rev 1:10.].”
Who that weighs all these arguments, can doubt the continued obligation of the Sabbath?]
For the regulation of our conduct on the Sabbath, we should inquire into,
The nature of its requirements—
The same kind of strictness is not required of us as was enjoined under the law—
[We have before said, that there was something of a ceremonial nature in the Jewish Sabbath. The Jews in the wilderness were not permitted to leave their habitations on the Sabbath-day [Note: Exo 16:29.], except to assemble for divine worship; and the portion of manna which they gathered on the preceding day for the consumption of that day, was, for the space of forty years, kept fit for their use upon the Sabbath by a constant miracle, on purpose that they might have no excuse for transgressing the divine command [Note: Exo 16:24.]. They were forbidden even to kindle a fire on the Sabbath-day [Note: Exo 35:3], or to do any species of servile work. But all this rigour is not necessary now: it was suited to the burthensome dispensation of the law; but not to the more liberal dispensation under which we live. Indeed, our blessed Lord has shewn us clearly that works of necessity [Note: Mat 12:1-8.], or of mercy [Note: Mat 12:10-13.], may be performed on that as well as any other day. Being himself “the Lord of the Sabbathday,” he dispensed with those rites which were merely temporary, and requires of us such services only as a spiritual mind will most delight in.]
Our sanctification of the Sabbath should consist rather in mental than in bodily exercises—
[What are the proper employments for our minds, the prophet Isaiah has plainly told us: “We should account the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and should honour him, not doing our own ways, nor finding our own pleasure, nor speaking our own words [Note: Isa 58:13.].” We should endeavour to have our thoughts abstracted from the world, and to fix them with intenseness and delight on heavenly objects. On every day we should present to God our sacrifices of prayer and praise: but as, under the law, the accustomed sacrifices, both of the morning and evening, were doubled upon the Sabbath [Note: Num 28:9-10.], so, under the Gospel, we should have our minds doubly occupied in the service of our God.]
The subject before us suggests ample matter,
[Many, very many there are who hate the duties of the Sabbath; and, breaking through all the restraints of conscience, follow without remorse their usual occupations. Others, complying with the established forms, cry, “What a weariness is it [Note: Mal 1:13.] !” When shall the Sabbath be over, that I may prosecute more pleasing or more profitable employments [Note: Amo 8:5.] ? When they come up to the house of God, they find no pleasure in his service, but are rather, like Doeg, “detained before the Lord [Note: 1Sa 21:7.].” Some, indeed, conceiving that they are doing somewhat meritorious, spend without reluctance the time allotted for public service; but, though they draw nigh to God with their lips, their hearts are far from him [Note: Mat 15:8.]. It is not such worshippers that God seeks or approves; nor is such the sanctification of the Sabbath that he requires. On the contrary, he is indignant against all such profaneness or hypocrisy; and declares that such persons “worship him in vain. [Note: Mat 15:9.] ” Whatever such persons may imagine, they indeed profane the Sabbath. And what the consequence will be, they may form some judgment, from the punishment inflicted on the man who gathered sticks upon the Sabbath-day. By God’s express command, he was stoned to death [Note: Num 15:32-36.]. If, then, so heavy a sentence was executed upon him by the direction of the Most High, can we suppose that God is more indifferent about the conduct of his creatures now? or that he has loaded them with mercies for no other end than to give them a greater license to sin? Let us well consider this: for “if they, who despised Moses’ law, died without mercy,” surely a far sorer punishment awaits us, if, with our additional obligations, we disregard the wonders of redeeming love [Note: Heb 10:28-29.].]
[Not only personal, but even national judgments may be expected for the violation of the Sabbath [Note: Jer 17:27.]. But, on the other hand, every blessing may be expected, both by individuals [Note: Isa 56:4-7.] and the community [Note: Jer 17:24-26.], if the Sabbath be habitually and conscientiously improved. Indeed, it seems almost impossible that any one who sets himself in earnest to improve the Sabbath-day, should ever perish. God would bless to such an one the ordinances of his grace; and rather send him instruction in some extraordinary way, than suffer him to use the means in vain [Note: Act 8:27-35; Act 10:1-21.]. We can appeal to all who have ever laboured to sanctify the Sabbath, whether they have not found their labour well repaid? Surely “God has never said to any, ‘Seek ye my face in vain’: “and the more diligently we keep his Sabbaths below, the more shall we be fitted for our eternal rest.]
Verses of Genesis 2
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Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae (Old and New Testaments)
Charles Simeon (1759 - 1836) was an English evangelical Anglican cleric.
Horae Homileticae reflects the rich source of Biblical understanding of Simeon, a towering figure in the history of evangelical theology.