For me one question, (out of the many that emerge from this week's lesson), especially clamors for an answer, and that question is this--what, (in the context of God's creative activity), is the significance of the idea of completion? Genesis 2: 1-2
That there is a marked significance is certain for that completion was given a commemorative sign, one which we as Adventist have championed. But is it possible that we have championed the Sabbath sign without plumbing the full significance of its meaning, a good portion of which, as I will argue, lies within the completion that it signifies?
This question, if it is to be fruitfully entertained demands that the idea of completion be clarified. I propose to do this not by philosophical reflection on the word itself, but rather by paying close attention to the larger biblical passage in which that word occurs. We will proceed first by exploring what completion did not mean and then seeking to make clear what it in fact did mean.
What Completion Did not Mean
I remember a friend during my Academy/High School years, who in the first rumblings of teen rebellion proclaimed that he would not want to live in heaven because perfection would be boring. What goes for heaven would have gone for this newly created world as well. But did my friend have a true picture of perfection? Did he understand correctly what completeness meant in the works of God?
The world which God made was perfect though that was not the word which Moses used to describe it. Rather it was good, seven times good. And in the last good of the series Moses strains the syllable seams of his native tongue to the utmost in an attempt to express the inexpressible goodness.
But this perfection, this goodness, was anything but boring, for it had nothing in it of the Greek idea of perfection, that impassive state where all has become motionless, high and removed from the earthiness and exigencies of living things. No, this completeness of God's world was full of movement, knowing both need (notice I said need and not want), and the fulfillment of need; knowing desire and the fulfillment of desire. No, this completeness was a beginning not an end, a phenomena that can only be known in God. The powers of man and beast were to be put to the stretch in an ever expansive goodness. There was dominion to be exercised, (Gen. 1:26) and the swelling of a fruitfulness that would fill all the globe. (1:28) There was to be cultivation of all the good and best things, the satisfaction of an ever outpouring river of life (1:29, 30 and 2:15). In other words the completeness was pregnant with yet further development.
This completeness, however, as we know all too well, more than we would like to know, was conditional. Which brings us to our second point, the actual meaning of this Sabbath marked completeness.
What Completeness Did Mean
The meaning of completeness in the creation account is found in the direct connection of that completeness with God's sevenfold affirmation of goodness. On the heels of the seventh affirmation of comes the declaration of completeness and the inauguration of Sabbath rest. (Gen. 1:31-2:1,2) It seems to me that God seals by the Sabbath the goodness and the completeness of what He has done. It is as if He is saying to Adam and to Eve and thus to all of their descendants as well, “What I have done for you and given to you cannot be bettered. It cannot be improved upon. I have given you the very best that can be given.”
Two things must be kept in mind in the light of this affirmation. The first is that the completeness of creation was not only physical, but moral and spiritual as well. It was not just materia that was created, it was a moral and spiritual pattern. They were given a pattern to follow in that they were made in the image of God. Furthermore this image was to be worked out in the context of rooted polarities: command and obedience, rule and submission. They were both to be ruled and to rule, to submit and to be submitted unto. And in the acceptance of this given structure they would thrive and know an abundance of life—the ending that was a beginning, the completion that was pregnant.
Put more succinctly, the marking of completeness in the Sabbath sign marked the boundaries between Creator and creature. It was only by truly entering the God completed order, by not overreaching the proper limits of creaturely existence, that mankind would know life; that is, know rest.
This brings us directly to the second thing which must be kept in mind—the universe in which the world and man were created had already known this transgression of creaturely limits. And the temptation to transgress the God created completeness would soon break in upon this world as well.
I leave you with several suggestions, not extensively developed perhaps, but fodder for further discussion.
(1) Is it possible that the very first attack of Satan in the newly made context of this world was an attack upon the Sabbath, that is an attack upon the proper limits of creature before the Creator as signified by the Sabbath? After all was not Satan suggesting in his temptation of Eve that the world and life as received from God was not truly complete, but by their independent action they could bring it to completion? And if so does this not suggest that Adventism has not been far from the mark when it suggests that the Sabbath lies at the very heart of the controversy that has embroiled our planet? For no other commandment strikes so close to the foundation of creaturely rebellion against our proper limits.
(2) Likewise, is it not possible that the Sabbath was given to man at the very beginning as a defense against Satanic machinations, which God in his foreknowledge knew they would face?
(3) And finally, does this not all suggest that the lesson of vital importance for us all is the lesson of submission to the divine word, that “man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God,” and that if we are not learning this lesson do we not turn the Sabbath into a travesty?
Oh yes, as Luther remarked towards the end of his life, “We are beggars” or just as truly said, bumblers, still working on the most elementary lesson of all, the meaning of being creatures. No room for claims to sophistication here, no room for intellectual pomp or pride. We haven't, even yet, learned how to spell. Oh, but for those who do, the completion of God will once again prove pregnant. “Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall through following the same example of disobedience.” Hebrews 4:11
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/5021