The fourth day – The Concept of Time

October 30, 2016 - Bible Series, Genesis

And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so. And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the fourth day. – Genesis 1:14-19

On the fourth day, there is a very interesting thing created: the celestial bodies. These lights are different from the light revealed in Genesis 1:3, suggesting that there is a light from God and a light from the sun. I believe the former is more spiritual, and this latter light is purely physical. These new lights were primarily to provide physical signs and seasons—in essence, to introduce the concept of time. But why do we need time? Why can we not have one very long day? It would certainly be a much more pleasant place if there was no night. How about the winter season? Scandinavians could certainly do with no more long dark snowy winters. So why do we need time and seasons?

Signs for Eternity

The purpose of a sign is to draw attention to things that would otherwise go unnoticed. We put a signpost outside a city showing how to get there. We put a neon sign outside a store to advertise to passers-by. We do not install it to be visible only on the inside since we already know where we are.

So for what purpose did God put up the lights as a sign for the earth? What does He want us to notice? I believe one of the reasons for a sign is to show us that there is more to life than ‘our world’. There is a risk of getting caught up in our own thing to the point where we spare no time and thought for others. Our earth is just a fraction of creation, and God was installing safeguards to make sure we do not forget it. The stars have nothing to do with the horoscope, but rather to help us get in line with God’s grand scheme of events. Through them, we can understand that life is more than eating, drinking, being merry, and then waiting for our death as the world would have us believe.

The lights divide our existence into days and nights, introducing the concept of time and, by so doing, introduce eternity to us. When we see the stars rise and fall, we understand mortality and imagine the immortal. Most importantly, however, by visualizing a world we have no control over, man would have an unconscious awareness of a power greater than his (God has placed eternity in man’s hearts, Ecclesiastes 3:11, and so He will forever be searching). A man may have the power to manipulate nations and people. Through science, he may manipulate the seas, the earth, and the atmosphere. He will never be able to manipulate the stars or the distant galaxies, hard as he may try. That awareness will keep us humble and make us to know that we can only achieve so much. There is knowledge that we will never acquire, secrets that belong only to God. We have been given dominion over earth, but heaven belongs to God. We can only know and hope for so much, but there is a God in heaven that puts a veil beyond which we cannot pass. The earth has been given to us as an inheritance, but heaven is not. It is God’s domain.

The celestial bodies are signs that tell us that we are mortal, that there is One greater than us Whose wisdom and power is beyond our grasp. The Bible mentions those who tried to cross the barrier. Lucifer tried to climb up to usurp the Most High, but failed (Isa 14:12-15). Man tried at Babel and failed (Genesis 11:3-9). If Lucifer and all of mankind failed at it, we are definitely guaranteed to fail should we attempt to cross the barrier. The stars are for us to wonder at the awesomeness of God, not an object for us to aspire to climb above.

Restoration Needs Time

For any living thing to be perfect, it must have the ability to multiply itself; otherwise it would become extinct should it die. Like every other creature made by God, we were made to be eternal, but God knew we would sin and die. He therefore made a provision for the effects of death such as tiredness and the curse on the ground. He knew that because of sin, the earth would cease to yield its strength (Genesis 4:12). Thus it would need periods of rest and refreshing. An annual seasonal cycle ensured that the ground would be left to regain some strength before being cultivated anew. I believe it is a reason we have winter in some places, to allow the earth to recover while God irrigates it with the snow. It is a time for the land to recover from the burden of the curse. Where there are no winters, farmers often employ a shifting cultivation farming approach, a technique that periodically leaves the land fallow (uncultivated) allowing it to recover its nutrients. In other places, heavy use of chemical fertilizers is deployed to supplement soil nutrients.

As men, God expects us to rest from our labors and burdens, a very big reason for the Sabbath. The Bible also encourages us to occasionally separate ourselves to God and to rest our alimentary system, hence the need for retreats and fasts. So many promises abound in the Bible for those who wait on the Lord. Among theses, Isaiah 40:31 is among the most popular with the promise of renewal.

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. – Isaiah 40:31

This passage promises a renewal and unfailing strength to those who set apart time to wait on God. When we honor Him, He will honor us. When we follow His command, He will enable us to go even further.

The physical seasons are meant to be a pointer to the unseen spiritual ones, to warn us of the need to set aside time for various purposes. Ecclesiastes 3 enumerates a time for various purposes under the sun. There is always a time for action and a time for none. Being hyperactive is not synonymous with being smart. It may just be attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and an inability to focus. The really smart folks are the ones who take time out to rest and wait on God. They are the ones who honor the Sabbath and participate in the solemn assemblies.

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