Sometimes, something stares you in the face but you don’t see it till someone points it out to you. It never occurred to me that the Hebrew structuring of a day was night/day rather than day/night. But there it is in the creation account. Genesis 1:31 reads: “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning — the sixth day. (NIV)” The sixth day, like all the other days, starts with the evening and ends with the morning. Never saw it till I read Eugene H. Peterson’s Working the Angles.
You may ask what is the big deal if we sequence our days night/day or day/night? A lot. It is the difference between a God-centred life and a self-centred life. Eugene H. Peterson explains:
The Hebrew evening/morning sequence conditions us to the rhythms of grace. We go to sleep and God begins his work. As we sleep he develops his covenant. We wake and are called out to participate in God’s creative action. We respond in faith, in work. But always grace is previous. Grace is primary. We wake into a world we didn’t make, into a salvation we didn’t earn. Evening: God begins, without out help, his creative day. Morning: God calls us to enjoy and share and develop the work he initiated. Creation and covenant are sheer grace and there to greet us every morning. George MacDonald once wrote that sleep is God’s contrivance for giving us the help he cannot get into us when we are awake. (Working the Angles, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1987, 68-69)
If we structure our days as day and night, we begin the day with our work, we toil throughout the day and when night comes, we take the rest we deserve. Along the way we ask God to help us in our work. But a night-and-day sequence means we begin the day by going to sleep. While we sleep God does His work. When we awake the day is half over and God invites us to join Him in what He has initiated. We are called to significant work but we remember that it is God’s work and it is by His grace that we are allowed to co-labour with Him.
Some of us may be slackers but too many among us take our work, should I say take ourselves, too seriously. It seems we need to be reminded daily that the world rests on God’s shoulders, not on ours. We need to be reminded daily that God is the main mover in life and He does it out of sheer grace. He doesn’t really need our help, but as another expression of grace, He allows to participate in His work.
There is much that is wrong in the world. We want to see our churches renewed. We want to see our governments govern with justice and compassion. We want to see a lost humanity come to follow the Saviour who died for them. We want to see the end to wars and violence. We want to see the environment healthy and thriving. The question we need to ask is this: Is God concerned for these things?
We know the answer. Christ came announcing the Kingdom of God. With His death and resurrection and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, God has begun His programme of establishing His reign on earth. One day Christ will return to finish the job. In the meantime He is working out His purposes in history. He goes ahead. He calls us to follow.
What are some of the concerns that weigh heavily on your shoulders? A cry for fair elections? The salvation of loved ones? The renewal of your church? Do you believe God is concerned for these things? Do you believe He is working in these situations and that He goes ahead of you? If you do then your duty is to follow. Like Jesus, we work because we see the prior work of the Father (John 5:19). Our work is important but God’s work is critical. If we know that God is working in these situations and that in the end His purposes will triumph, we can do our part without being crushed by unrealistic expectations. If God goes ahead of us, we commit ourselves to be faithful, and day by day, night and day, night and day, night and day, we will get there.