Why God paced himself “in the beginning”

God set [the lights and stars] in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day. And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.” (Genesis 1:17-20)

God could have created everything in a single day. But instead, he paced himself, spreading the initial work of creation over six “days.”

Take today’s passage as an example. On the fourth day, God created the sun, moon, and stars. Could he have also created “living creatures” that same day? Of course! But he chose not to. After finishing the work of creating the heavenly lights, God called it a day. He rested. And then of course, on the seventh day, he did no work at all, establishing for the first time the idea of Sabbath (see Genesis 2:1-3).

God didn’t need to rest on the Sabbath. And he certainly had no need to pace himself as he worked those first six days. But he did. Why?

I don’t think it’s farfetched to conclude that because God created work to be good, life-giving, and worshipful (see Genesis 2:15) he knew we would be tempted to work nonstop. And even though he doesn’t need rest, he knew that we would. So like any good father, he did something he didn’t need to do in order to teach his children a lesson.

I think of this nearly every time I cross the road with my young kids. When I’m by myself, I can check for traffic in a split second by barely turning my head. But when my kids are watching, I dramatize the entire ritual. I slowly turn my head all the way to the left and say, “No cars this way,” and then do the same to my right. Of course, I don’t need to be this careful when crossing a street, but my kids do. So I model that behavior for their good.

I have a feeling that’s one of the reasons why God paces himself as he works. Our heavenly Father didn’t create us to work like machines that never shut down. So he models a rhythm of work and rest that we are called to mimic.

How can you imitate your Father’s pace this week? Maybe it’s scheduling a 15-minute walk in the middle of your workday. Or shutting down your laptop, leaving your unfinished work for tomorrow. Or accepting and enjoying the gift of Sabbath. Whatever it is, remember that you are created in the image of the God who paces himself. So pace yourself today.


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