We received a mandate from God at creation. This was a fivefold mandate that consisted of being fruitful, multiplying, filling the earth, subduing it and having dominion over all of creation. We not only had authority, but also responsibility over creation. We had to steward creation through this fivefold process.
Man therefore had much to accomplish. Many have an idealised perspective of what Adam and Eve were doing in the Garden of Eden. We assume that “they were sitting under trees, doing nothing.” Hence, conversely, our concept of work is drudgery and pain. The fault lines in our understanding of work and rest, run deep. This flawed perception needs urgent rectification.
Man and woman had a large canvas for work and rest. They were to steward creation through the fivefold process. Contained within the larger creation stewardship mandate, man also had the specific task of tending and keeping the garden. The task of tending and keeping the garden was not a standalone one, but was within the fivefold stewardship mandate over all of creation.
Here were man and woman tending and keeping the garden; and as they did so they were completing the fivefold creation stewardship mandate. They were aligning themselves to the large canvas for creation by handling the specific task assigned to them. Work therefore was a joy. There was much to accomplish in tending the garden since this specific task lay within the larger fivefold creation stewardship mandate.
The way this worked was that as they tended the garden, they constantly did their everyday work in terms of the five fold creation mandate. They were being fruitful in all that they did, they ensured that all their efforts were multiplied, they executed their work in terms of filling the earth, they subdued the resources of creation and had overall dominion. Each aspect of the creation mandate gave them a large width for active service.
So, they were exploring all dimensions of creation through the fivefold mandate. Simultaneously they had a specific responsibility over the garden, which they had to tend and keep. We can see what a magnificent job profile they had. There was no room for laziness, boredom or stress. For the application of every facet of the creation mandate would only bring joy and a worshipful response to the Creator for giving them such a large canvas for their human creativity to be investigated, studied and practised, under God.
They fulfilled this task in an atmosphere of intimacy with God. This was the ‘rest’ aspect of life.
Rest is not sitting under trees doing nothing, but rest is intimacy with God through which man and woman leaned on God to fulfil their task. Work and Rest were therefore never intended to be two separate experiences, but were always intended to be an ongoing continuum. We were to be rested in God while we worked and as we worked we drew out of our restedness in God.
Work and rest in God was our worshipful response to our loving Creator.