Monday, September 02, 2013

Journey through Genesis

i) It's natural for us to think of days as units of time. And that's true as far as it goes. But in biblical usage, days have more than one function or connotation. Before the age of cars, trains, planes, and ocean liners, a day was a unit of space as well as time. Travelers measured distance, not in miles or kilometers, but by how far they could walk in a day. To take some examples from the Pentateuch: 
And he set a distance of three days' journey between himself and Jacob, and Jacob pastured the rest of Laban's flock (Gen 30:36). 
He took his kinsmen with him and pursued him for seven days and followed close after him into the hill country of Gilead (Gen 31:23). 
And they will listen to your voice, and you and the elders of Israel shall go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us; and now, please let us go a three days' journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God’ (Exod 3:18). 
 So they set out from the mount of the Lord three days' journey. And the ark of the covenant of the Lord went before them three days' journey, to seek out a resting place for them (Num 10:33). 
Then a wind from the Lord sprang up, and it brought quail from the sea and let them fall beside the camp, about a day's journey on this side and a day's journey on the other side, around the camp, and about two cubits above the ground (Num 11:31). 
And they set out from before Hahiroth and passed through the midst of the sea into the wilderness, and they went a three days' journey in the wilderness of Etham and camped at Marah (Num 33:8).
ii) Days were units of distance because they were units of light: daylight. To travel, you needed enough light to see by. To see where you were going. At most, a day's journey was from first light until a little after dusk. 
iii) We normally think about the creation account in Gen 1 in terms of temporal sequence, but suppose we think about it in terms of spatial sequence. A seven-day journey. A journey through space. A journey from creation to consummation. A journey from God to God. Each day is a day's journey. It takes a week to arrive at the destination from the starting-point. 
In Gen 1-2, the Sabbath is God's Sabbath. Yet that lays the foundation for the human analogue (Exod 20:8-11). 
iv) The Sabbath has many functions in Scripture:
a) A day of rest and recreation.
b) There's more to life than work.
c) Time belongs to God. Our time is on loan from God.
v) But Scripture also develops the Sabbath as an eschatological ideal or expectation. A spiritual journey. 
We see this in Ps 95:7-11. "Today" is a perennial day for each succeeding generation. "Today" is both an invitation and an admonition. An opportunity to either be seized or missed. 
Every generation recapitulates the wilderness wandering. Every generation is summoned to enter God's rest. God's rest both antedates the Conquest and postdates the Conquest. Entering the promised land is already a type of something greater to come.  
vi) In Heb 3-4, the Sabbath is the "better country" (11:10,16), and the "new Jerusalem" (12:22-24). The final destination of the Christian pilgrimage. Something we enter, either at death or the Parousia–whichever comes first. We are getting there. We are on the way. The walk of faith. But we haven't arrived, until we die in faith, or Christ returns. 

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