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The design of a day

If you’re paying attention and especially if you have the idea already in your mind, it’s hard not to come to the conclusion that what we refer to as a “day” was specially designed by God for man. In the translation I’m using (NIV), we’re only 66 words into Genesis before we come across this word being used to describe the portion of the day when it is light outside. If we continue just a little further to the 84th word we find it again—this time being used in its normative sense to refer to the twenty-four hour unit consisting of both darkness and light. (In response to creation, the Hebrews recognized their day as beginning at sundown rather than midnight as we do). All told, "day" occurs 11 times in Genesis 1.

With this, we are introduced to an overlooked but intriguing truth: God chose to create the universe in six days. He could have accomplished what He did over any amount of time or over no amount of time but He quite purposely did it over six days. Though our attention is usually drawn to all of the marvelous things God made when reading the creation account (and rightfully so), we rarely consider that He also had in mind how He wanted to bring everything into being.

As we read the account of creation in Genesis 1, one of the things that stands out is the peaceful, purposeful rhythm of the narrative. You don’t get the sense that there is any hurry or worry in God’s creative work. It was a peaceful as it was powerful—we hear of evenings and mornings and goodness as regularly as if they were water lapping up on the shoreline. There’s no anxious wringing of hands because there’s so much more that needs to be done. God was quite content with His work of each day. The day was filled with creating and when it was done it was done.

Why did God choose to do things this way? Why did He create the entity we know as a day? I can think of a couple of texts that are helpful. One is Exodus 20:8-11 where Israel is told to “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” The passage goes on to say that just as God worked for six days in creating everything and then “rested” on the seventh (i.e., ceased from creating), the Israelites should work for six days and rest on the seventh day. While initially this looks like more of a reason for resting (and working), I think there’s more to it than that. I think it’s suggesting that in doing His creative work and “resting,” God was modeling how man was to image Him. And the fact that He chose to do it in units of time He created called days tells us that He made days with man in mind. He not only provided the model for our work but the basic measurement for our lives as well.

Still on the subject of the Sabbath, if we move forward to Jesus’ statement that “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:29), we learn more. We are specifically told that not just the principle of rest, but the 24 hour period of rest is what God made for man--just as He made the other six days for man to work. This furthers the idea that a day is not something that arbitrarily pops up in the creation account--it was purposed by God with man in mind.

This has all kinds of implications as we think about how we should approach life (Matthew 6:11, 34 and other texts). 

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