The Slowness of God

Culture says, “Live in the moment.”

Scripture says, “The moment counts for eternity.”

slowness

“Genesis is a myth, a story of origins like other stories,” began the college professor.  During my tenure as a Christian school teacher I would have my students compare Genesis 1-3 with non-historical explanations of earth’s origins.  After completing a paper pointing out the similarities and differences between Genesis and fictional accounts of our beginnings, I would ask a local professor to teach my students his point of view: Genesis is no different than comparable fables.

Joseph Campbell, encouraged by journalists like Bill Moyers, fostered the fraud of Genesis equality with ancient fabrications for the 80’s generation.  Impact from false teaching about Genesis’ historicity has devastated The Church.  Born of poor doctrinal church instruction, college students are turned from biblical truth by college educators questioning the first pages of Scripture.  More and more so-called “evangelicals” have subscribed to the current craze that personal belief trumps absolute truth.  Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code has cemented cultural confusion that God’s Word can be amended.

Stripping Genesis of its one-of-a-kind authenticity knocks out the foundation of true Truth claims for every arena of life.  The twin lies of consumerism and statism (government can solve our problems) are born of Genesis-rejection.  Earth-rape and earth-worship are sins against The Personal Creator.  Both individual perception and tyrannical interpretation short circuit Genesis law in literature, the arts, judicial oversight, and every personal relationship.  The lords of career and pleasure start from opposite ends of the spectrum, coming to the same conclusion: the only origins that matter are my own.

Like other sins, allowing work to dominate life without rest, or rest to eliminate work, is to strike a match to Genesis 1 and 2.  Israel’s neighbors believed humans were created to do the gods’ work.  Some cultural teaching—residue from the industrial revolution—created a servile class to meet their needs.  Others who believe there is no One or nothing above us make work their end all.  Wrong views of work and rest feed off each other.  Pleasure seeking, thank-goodness-it’s-Friday, live-for-the-weekend views dominate materially wealthy countries.  Forced laborers without adequate protection from any authority, bodies bent with pain, grind out their existence with little or no rest.

The so-called “Protestant work ethic” is either praised or vilified for its product.  Those who denigrate Puritan resolve for hard work bypass both work’s benefit and the appropriate stoppage of labor for adequate renewal.  Yet Leland Ryken contends that the Puritans failed to give us a cohesive, Heaven-sent story of rest simply because they tried to make leisure “useful.”[1] But Israel’s Exodus narrative celebrated freedom from work.[2] Jewish scholar Abraham Heschel says the Sabbath celebration is “not a date but an atmosphere . . . a taste of eternity—the world to come.”[3]

Rest is both the beginning and end of The Story Book.  The pinnacle event of creation is Sabbath.  Jesus being Lord of the Sabbath will return the world to its original intention.  Egyptian, Babylonian, Assyrian, Canaanite, Persian, Greek, Roman, English, French, German, and American stories all end.  And herein is the most basic difference between other cultures’ non-historical myths and Genesis—

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent His Son . . . He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for your sake . . . I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end“.[4]

God acted in the exact, opportune moment.  God’s plan in time was set in eternity.  God started what He will finish.  God takes His time.  God’s work is slow.  God is not bound to our timetable.  God’s snail like pace is set against our day-timers, calendars, appointments, schedules, and routines.  God’s story is His story, not history.  God’s culmination of His intention at creation will “end” with rest.  But “cleverly devised myths . . . will say ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.’”[5]

Ancient and modern mythologies see time as a gerbil on the wheel, going round and round and round.  Time has no end so culture tells us to live for the moment.  We work so we can rest and our rest motivates our work.  The problem with human myths is that they focus on us.  The slowness of God in human events is born of Genesis 2 Sabbath.

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.  The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you. . . . But according to His promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth.[6]

“Are there any questions?”  The professor’s query was wrapped in a smug, pompous tone.  What did these high school students know of Genesis and mythology?  The arrogant attitude was immediately met with 40 raised hands.  His face registered the look of befuddlement.  By the end of the Q & A the self-important college elite stormed out of his own classroom, unable to answer the incisive questions of my students.  To this day, the full retelling of the event sends shivers down my spine.  Eighteen-year-olds had correlated the ancient writings and found that only one told the whole, true story. 

Other stories are fabrications.  The Story—beginning and ending with rest—is the fabric of the world.

To this day, the story retold here still sends chills up and down my spine.  Without a doubt, the pinnacle of education is to watch one’s students overcome the gates of Hell (Matthew 16:18).  The chills continue at Capital Seminary & Graduate School. The essay, first written in 2009, is now contained in Mark’s book I Just Need Time to Think: Reflective Study as Christian Practice.


[1] This is the best, most readable, solidly biblical volume on both subjects, period.  Buy it!  Leland Ryken. 1987. Work & Leisure in Christian Perspective. (Multnomah): 87-115.  Leisure, like anything else, can be twisted for wrong.  Latin and French origins indicate the word meant “permission” later becoming illicit, licentious, giving way to license and laziness.

[2] Deuteronomy 5:12-15

[3] Abraham J. Heschel. 1951. The Sabbath: Its Meaning for Modern Man. (Farrar, Straus, & Co.): 21, 31-32.

[4] Galatians 4:4; 1 Peter 1:20; Revelation 22:13.

[5] 2 Peter 1:16; 3:4 ESV.

[6] 2 Peter 3:8-9, 14-15 ESV.

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