Time “flows” differently for God (Ps. 90:4). Never forgetting that He is above time, we need to understand that when He interacts with it, He experiences it at a higher level than we do. Days and years are measures of time. But the measurement of time is no more time than the measurement of space is space. To say that the moon is 238,900 miles away from the earth tells us how much space exists between the two, but not what that space is. In the same way, a day can tell us how much time has passed but not what time is. Let me illustrate.
12 Then spake Joshua to the Lord in the day when the Lord delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon.
13 And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day.
Sundials were the first basic clocks. Hours historically were divisions of daylight. The rising of the sun marks the days, the phases of the moon the month. Each of these is a different measure of the passage of time. But neither is time itself. In the Joshua account above, the sun and moon stand still but time moves forward. Events continue to occur in a sequential order. One can see the same truth in the Hezekiah account. The shadow of the sundial moved backward, but time continued forward. Hezekiah’s disease healed in forward progression, it did not undo itself in regression.
If time is not an hour, a day, or a year, then what is it? In his Principia, Isaac Newton tried to pin it down in this manner:
“Absolute, true, and mathematical time, in and of itself and of its own nature, without reference to anything external, flows uniformly.”
Newton takes time as a real thing that exists in its own right. Einstein did as well; he simply perceived that it could not flow uniformly. His insight proved more accurate than Newton’s and has the added benefit of biblical testimony backing it. Newton says time flows uniformly, Einstein says it flows relatively. But both men state what we all sense to be true: time flows. Though days are not time itself, they are evidence of its presence just as miles to the moon are evidence of the space between us. Let us turn next to the time signatures of this creation.
The Evening and the Morning
4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
God spoke light into being in verse 3. We call the time when day breaks morning. God spends the day looking at the light and calls it good. He names it Day and separates it from the darkness, which He calls Night. Evening comes and when the morning breaks, the first day is done. Evening presupposes a period of daylight, thus the first day is from day break to day break.
“First day” in verse 5 is in the Hebrew yowm ‘echad, day one. The day is defined with the cardinal number one, not an ordinal number (first). Perhaps the most famous use of the word ‘echad is in the Sh’ma: Sh’ma Yisra’eil Adonai Eloheinu Adonai echad.
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord:
Though we may hold God as First in our lives, He is One—unique, distinct, and singular. This same cardinal character is imprinted on the day the light broke forth on the deep in the darkness. It was “Day One.” Nothing like it had existed before. Time as we know it came into existence then.
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 The same was in the beginning with God.
3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
The apostle John makes it clear that the gospel story is the subject of the Scriptures. “Let there be light” is the Bible’s grand theme, all else is the details of how Light defeated the darkness.