So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy…
The entire creation account moves toward the seventh day. We are told that God rested. Of course this is not the rest of exhaustion for God never tires nor does he ever cease from upholding all that he has made. Rather, God’s rest is that of enjoyment. There is a holy revelry to God’s enjoyment of the good works of his hands. And God welcomes his people into his eternal joy. “What is the chief end of man?” the Shorter Catechism asks. “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” Those words are rooted in the Lord’s establishment of the seventh day.
We are told that “God blessed the seventh day and made it holy.” The Sabbath is a blessed thing and a holy thing. The seventh day is the first thing that the Lord set aside as holy. And since the Lord made the seventh day holy, it is our responsibility to treat it that way. As the day that is especially blessed, the Sabbath is something to receive with joy. It is for our good.
J.C. Ryle, the great 19th century Bishop of Liverpool wrote:
But the Sabbath is God’s merciful appointment for the common benefit of all mankind. It was “made for man” (Mark 2:27). It was given for the good of all classes, for the laity quite as much as for the clergy. It is not a yoke, but a blessing. It is not a burden, but a mercy. It is not a hard wearisome requirement, but a mighty public benefit. It is not an ordinance which man is bid to use in faith, without knowing why he uses it. It is one which carries with it its own reward. It is good for man’s body and mind. It is good for nations. Above all, it is good for souls.
God does not call his people to keep the Sabbath holy in order to diminish their joy. Quite the contrary. When we fail to keep the Sabbath we turn our backs on one of God’s great blessings to us. Again, from Bishop Ryle:
I am no admirer of a gloomy religion. Let no one suppose that I want Sunday to be a day of sadness and unhappiness. I want every Christian to be a happy man: I wish him to have “joy and peace in believing,” and to “rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” I want everyone to regard Sunday as the brightest, most cheerful day of all the seven; and I tell everyone who finds such a Sunday as I advocate a wearisome day, that there is something sadly wrong in the state of his heart. I tell him plainly that if he cannot enjoy a “holy” Sunday, the fault is not in the day, but in his own soul.