The word HOLY in the Hebrew is kodesh (Strong's Concordance #H6944). It means a sacred place or thing, something that is consecrated or dedicated to a sanctified purpose. In the Greek, the word translated as holy is hagios (Strong's Concordance #G40), which means pure or blameless. When God designates something as holy, he considers it pure and consecrated for service to fulfill his purpose.
The first thing in creation designated as holy is not an animal, or an altar, or a name, or anything we can taste, touch, smell or feel. It is a span of time, a twenty-four hour period we call a day. It was not just any day, however, that was declared special and which suited God's purpose.
"Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them . . . 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 on it He rested from all His work . . ." (Genesis 2:1 - 3, HBFV).
To sanctify something is to set it apart for a holy or righteous purpose. The first thing made or set apart in this manner was the seventh day of the week! How, however, did our Creator make this day so special?
A certain day
When the Eternal created the heavens and the earth - the entire universe - how did he make holy or set apart Saturday - the Biblical Sabbath day? He did it by RESTING, BLESSING and SANCTIFYING it!
The special attention God paid to Saturday leads us to draw OUR attention and interest to it. Our Creator did not rest on it because he needed to, or was tired from a hard work day. His rest was meant to set US an example of what his will is for all humans.
The Image of Deity
Man alone, amongst all of God's creation, is incredibly unique because he was made after God's very own image and likeness (Genesis 1:26). Humans have God's divine mark or blessing on them. The entire creation came into existence so that those who bear God's image - us - can eventually rule it under God the Father and Jesus Christ.
Since we have been specially created in God's image, it therefore follows we should direct our lives in such a way as to imitate him. Our focus should be to act like our Father in every possible way we can. We need to let his character become our character; his love the pattern for our love; his justice how we meet out justice; his judgment how we judge, and so on.
While on the earth Jesus actively engaged in being in the image of his Father (John 5:19 - 20). Christ was faithful to his Father to such an extent that his worship of him on the Holy Sabbath day was recorded as habitual by Luke the gospel writer (4:16). Jesus' imitation of what he saw and heard of the Father was perfect (John 12:49).
Jesus followed not only the letter of God's holy commandments but also their full spiritual intent and meaning. Jesus said in the book of John, the eighth chapter 'And He Who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone because I always do the things that please Him' (verse 29).
The seventh day or Saturday was made special and holy from all the other days by the divine action of resting. The Hebrew word used in Genesis 2:1 for 'rested' is shabath, Strong's Concordance #H7673. It is the original language word from which we get our word Sabbath. It got its name from what God did and did not do on the first one. God did not work or labor on shabath, but he did rest and place his presence in it. He rested from his work in order to have some peaceful fellowship with man and to celebrate his creation.
The holy Sabbath of Genesis is a pattern or template for God's kingdom and his great plan for all man. The Bible is silent regarding how long it took mankind's first couple to mess up their relationship with God but in all likelihood it occurred before creation's second Sabbath.
The creation of man and the Sabbath occurred very close to one another. According to our Savior, God's day of rest was made for humans (Mark 2:28). This means that mankind was created first and then the Sabbath later. God commands all humans to follow his example of rest and obey his holy commandments.
The Sabbath was the start of God's spiritual work to make man ultimately as holy as he is. On this special day we can enjoy the divine gift of freedom from work and have a close, personal relationship with him. The seventh day Sabbath is set apart by our Creator as a time to cease from our work and dedicate ourselves to communing with him. It is time for us to further imitate our God and do what he does on the day created holy for his purpose.