God and time

November 25, 2015 admin

time-is-gold-1215479But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day (2 Peter 3:8).

How would you define time?

We all know what it is to run out of it, to be late according to it, to have character-shaping memories that by it are measured from very, very long ago.

All of us have had the experience of wondering with Dr. Seuss, “how did it get so late so soon?”

Time is the continuum of before and after; of existence and events that are past, present and future. It’s sometimes measured with great precision, and sometimes as epochs. It waits for no man.

And, it’s the one valuable resource we all have in equal amounts.

But with God, it is so very different.

In the only Psalm known to be penned by him, Moses declares, A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night (Psalm 90:4).

So I wonder, did time exist before God created the cosmos?

The Genesis account records, And there was evening, and there was morning – the first day (Genesis 1:5). However, our basic measurement of time is calibrated on the revolving earth as it circles the sun – cosmic entities created not until days 3 and 4 of the Genesis 1 narrative.

The Psalmist’s declarative statement on the “how” of changing days: He made the moon to mark the seasons, and the sun knows when to go down (Psalm 104:19).

When speaking of God’s intervention in human history, Solomon broadens the discussion of time to a metaphysical dimension: He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

Some have conceived that God exists – and has always lived – in a tenseless ordering of events; that to Him, all past, present and future is equally real, equally certain, equally understood and perceived (the so-called “B theory” of time).

I’ve been recently pondering this as I read Isaiah 53.

Writing 700 years before Christ, Isaiah records what some have seen as suggesting an eyewitness account of the suffering and death of the Saviour.

It is not an easy read: pain, torture, disfigurement, rejection, injustice pervade the text from the final verses of the previous chapter.

From the Jewish perspective, Jesus of Nazareth was justly punished by God for false messianic claims: yet we considered Him punished by God, stricken by Him, and afflicted (Isaiah 53:4).

But from God, the eternal drama of redemption was playing out in the fullness of the time exactly as scripted before the foundations of the world were laid: But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53:5).

Here’s the connection to time – the verbs in this text are decidedly “past tense”:

  • He had no beauty or majesty
  • He was despised and rejected
  • He took up our infirmities
  • He was pierced…He was crushed
  • He was led like a lamb to the slaughter
  • He was cut off from the land of the living
  • For the transgression of my people He was stricken
  • He was assigned a grave with the wicked

Why, writing centuries before the event, would Isaiah record with past-tense language?

Some have reconciled as evidence of creative Hebrew poetic structure.

But I think that when we consider the nature of our God, the One who is not bound or restricted by time, we have a much better answer.

Under the influence of Holy Spirit inspiration, the Prophet recorded the tragic events and meaning of the central event in redemptive history as if it had already happened, even though the future arrival of the Suffering Servant remained hundreds of years away!

Because this was within the promised control of Almighty God, the death of Christ – and His resurrection – were as certain in Isaiah’s day as if it had already happened!

Takeaway: The times in which we live have caused many to grieve at the wrong-headedness, the misplaced values and ethics, the tragic uncertainty that pervades the headlines in our era. But God has not relinquished His role as ultimate Sovereign – not even for one second!

He is in control. Everything has occurred according to His master clock – He either causes it or permits its occurrence – and everything will continue to ultimately unfold as He determines. Just like it always has.

As Paul reminds us about the Incarnation: But when the proper time came God sent His Son, born of a human mother and born under the jurisdiction of the Law, that He might redeem those who were under the authority of the Law and lead us into becoming, by adoption, true sons of God (Galatians 4:4, Phillips translation).

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