Read through the first chapter of Genesis, and an interesting pattern sets itself up, one that we notice but do not somehow recognize. One that we think is perhaps cute and antiquated, but no longer relevant and certainly not practical.
It is the pattern of time.
Which is interesting, really, because we are a people who are essentially slaves to time. We do everything by a set, specific schedule. We carry little schedules of time around with us, blocking out here and there when we have things to do that must be done at a particular time. We wear time on our wrists, emblazen it across our phones in giant print, lest we miss something or show up late to something or, perhaps, someone else so rudely show up late when we are waiting on them. We turn on our televisions at the appropriate time, set our DVRs for the prescribed time, even rely on our microwaves to tell us the time when they are not re-warming our food for us (and when they are, they count the time down for us). Everywhere we look, there is time.
And yet, when we read the very beginning of time, we think not much at all of it.
Here is what we're missing: God's time is, as it has always been, far different from our own perspective of time. In the beginning, God created, and on each day of creation, we are told, "There was evening, and there was morning, the (first, second, third...) day."
It raises an interesting question about when, exactly, each day begins.
We know that in Judaism, the day begins at sunset. For others, the day begins at dawn. For most of us, it technically starts at midnight. And there are philosophical reasons for any of these.
It makes complete sense for a people of faith that the day would begin at sunset, at just the time when men are winding down and taking their rest. This means that every day starts with the great wisdom of God and His creation doing what it does without our intervention. It is a reminder of Who is truly in control of all things and of how we are to honor creation with our lives, for it does not depend upon us but is a wonderful joy, a tremendous blessing.
It makes complete sense for others, who may also be of faith, that the day would begin at dawn. This is the moment when light first makes its reappearance, when all things seem to start to open up once more. It is a moment of hope and opportunity, the chance to live again and to experience something amazing. Who would not want their day to begin when hope arises each morning and sheds light on all the wonderful things that await?
It makes complete sense in a mechanistic society like ours that the day would begin when the clock determines that the day begins. Time exists outside of man's experience of it, philosophically, and so it does not matter whether men rest or hope or toil or sleep; time is what it is. We have made it this way, and then we have said that it simply is, of course, this way, and no one seems to argue with it.
There are two ways that we might take the Genesis account of time. Historically, it has often been taken the way that Judaism has taken it - that that day begins at evening, just as men are settling in for the night, and continues on through the morning to the next evening. This means that men only work in the latest part of the day, after creation has done for itself all that it knows to do by the wisdom woven into it.
Another way to look at it might be to say that the day begins just after the morning, and work is done first in the day. When we read these passages, we see God very busy creating. Then He stops, looks at His creation, deems it "good" (or "very good"), "and there was evening, and there was morning, the (first, second, third...) day." The emphasis here is not as much on when the day begins as when it ends:
The day ends when the sun rises and the light shines on what is, and it is still good. The day ends when darkness is over, light floods back over everything, and it is just as God intended it to be.
This is the story of God, isn't it? This is what we're all looking forward to in our "forever and ever, amen." Right? We expect that the world as we know it, the fallen creation, this life ends when God's light floods over everything and reveals once more His perfect creation and we see that it is, indeed, good. Very good.
How we relate to time says a lot about us. It's a deeply philosophical point, and even though we have convinced ourselves largely that time just is what it is, that's not the case. Time is, as it has always been, what we make of it. It has not always been a twelve-hour clock, nor even a twenty-four hour clock, and not every day has begun at midnight, as though time runs on its own schedule.
No, for much of the history of the world, time began either at sunset, reflecting the wisdom of the world and man's respect thereof, as well as his obedience in rest and trust in God's design, or at dawn, when a new days holds out all of its promise in a single breath as light spreads once more over a new opportunity, a new hope.
Or maybe it's never at all been about when time begins, but when it ends - when the sun rises and the glory of the Lord is seen in one piece and all is right with the world, just as He intended it. When the Son rises and the glory of the Lord is seen in one breath and all is right with the world....