Ceased not Rested
Genesis 2 (ESV)
1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 2 And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. 3 So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.
The Hebrew שָׁבַת means rest or cease. Since the heavens and the earth were completed it is possible to understand what takes place next as saying God ceased His work. This paints one of two pictures. Either God created and then was uninvolved in what takes place after, or God finished the work of creating and began a different work after the Seventh Day. Obviously the Bible describes God's work after the Seventh Day; so the picture of an uninvolved God is wrong.
Yet, the work God is described as doing after the Seventh Day is different from that of the first six days. After reading the entire Bible we can place God's work in two categories: creation and redemption. Creation was finished by the Seventh Day and God ceased that work, and began a different work.
After the Seventh Day, the work of redemption began and has continued uninterrupted:
16 So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him. 17 In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.”
Jesus explains explicitly what Judaism understood implicitly: God is always working. Man is able to enjoy a day of rest every six days. God, on the other hand, remains at work every day after He ceased His work of creating on the Seventh Day.
Consider the Context
The passage in question is introduced with a statement about the LORD at work:
12 Then the LORD said to Moses, 13 “Say to the Israelites, ‘You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the LORD, who makes you holy.
What is understood implicitly about divine work after the Seventh Day is stated explicitly: the LORD is the one who makes the Israelites holy. Therefore, He was and is at work. This work is uninterrupted. It does not stop on the Sabbath; in fact, it would not be wrong to say it continues because of the Sabbath.
Consider the Command
8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
Man's rest comes after and before work. It is a one-day interruption of continuous work. The command is given in terms of a seven day period: six days will you work but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. There is no explicit mention of what takes place after the Sabbath because man's continued existence, or simply the continuous nature of time is inherent to the command to rest. One must stop working for one-day before work resumes.
The command is justified on the basis of God's work of creation: For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. It is possible to use the justification for the command to (mis)understand God's work. That is, just as man takes a one-day Sabbatical from continuous work, God does likewise.
However, our English obscures what the LORD said about Himself. He נוּחַ, settled. He did not שָׁבַת, cease. This means the comparison to the pattern of work is different from how the Seventh Day was described. Man's one-day interruption of work is necessary because the LORD נוּחַ, settled on the Seventh Day, and in doing so blessed the Sabbath Day(s) and made them holy.
"Take a Deep Breath"
The Sabbaths which follow the Seventh Day were blessed and made holy because of what the LORD did on the Seventh Day:
It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.
And was refreshed in Biblical Hebrew is וינפש. The word is נפש, which, if pronounced נֶפֶשׁ, neh'-fesh, means living being, or the breathing being. Pronouncing the word as נָפַשׁ, naw-fash' (refreshed) is not necessarily wrong, it simply fails to capture the best sense of what happened on the Seventh Day. The LORD was not refreshed because He was tired. The LORD breathed and began His work of redemption.
One could say after ceasing the work of creation the LORD breathed to began His work of redemption and it is that breath which sustains creation. Or one might say the LORD took a deep breath knowing the sacrifice which redemption would one day require.