It’s easy to forget how drastically the invention of the clock changed the course of human history. Before the advent of the clock, human beings simply worked all day and looked forward to the eventual arrival of night. We endured time and tracked the passing of the day with shadows. But after the hands of the clock began to sweep across the face of history, we began to measure time. Today many Americans aspire to “fifteen minutes of fame,” and most of us suffer from a three minute attention span. Some sporting events are timed in thousandths of a second! We live in a hectic, clock-driven world.
We’re told that time is more valuable to Americans than money: Americans will spend money to save time. We know what money is because you or I can hold a $100 bill in our hands. But what is time? Time, oxygen and electricity are all invisible. But I can flip a switch and stop the flow of electricity. And I can create a vacuum by sucking all the oxygen out of a room. But time is very different from other resources. You can’t hold it in your hand, or stop it, or remove it from a room. It cannot be stored in a cell like energy or detected in the air like radiation. Time is not a thing.
In fact, time is actually a measure based on the rotation of the Earth and its revolutions around the sun. An hour is 1/24 of a rotation of our planet, and a month is only 1/12 of one full revolution of the Earth around the sun. Human beings began to make progress when we discovered how to synchronize our lives with something bigger and more stable than a human life on the Planet Earth. By adjusting our lives according to the larger standards of the solar system, we imported new order and unity into our lives as inviduals and communities.
So what does this have to do with faith and theology? Well, one of the first things we all learn about God is also one of the qualities that make it so difficult to understand our heavenly father. The Bible clearly and consistently teaches that he is eternal. Genesis opens the Bible with the universe being set in place by a God already in existence. A few chapters later, Abram plants a grove in Beersheba and “begins to call on the name of the Lord, the everlasting God.” Moses assures us in Deuteronomy 33:27, “The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” Psalm 106 describes him as “everlasting unto everlasting.” In 1 Timothy 6:16, Paul refers to Jesus Christ, “Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen.”
God is not clock-driven because Eternity is timeless and limitless. He is above time because he created the Earth and the sun, set them in their places, and rules over them. He is not influenced by their movements. Rather, the revolutions and rotations of all the bodies in all the galaxies are ordained by him; choreographed to the rhythm of his principles.
He is not influenced by the latest fads or trendy attitudes which are, by nature, the products of a moment in time. One generation is offended by the idea of resurrection. A thousand years later, the arbiters of fashion are disgusted by the authority of moral absolutes or the inequity of elevating heterosexual love. Yet the Earth spins on its axis and another revolution around the sun is completed, and the arbiters and antagonists fade into history. The eternal God continues to rule and his Truth remains completely intact.
C.S. Lewis once pointed out that we should never confuse divine truth with our opinions. The fact is, our opinions will not always mesh neatly with every eternal edict and ideal of the Almighty God. Part of living faith is the struggle that comes in conforming my earthbound heart to the unchanging and undying Word of God. But in the contest to allow God’s mastery of my stubborn will, I once again discover how to sync my life with something vastly larger and infinitely more stable than my impulses and desires. And as I adjust my movements to the larger standards of the Creator of the Cosmos, I import new order and meaning into my life and my community. His eternal splendor is my hope of glory.
Lift up the cross!