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Jan 05

Happy New Years! Happy New Years! Happy New Years!

Have you ever noticed yourself saying something over and over again? It might be that same New Year’s resolution from the last five years that I’m making again. Maybe it’s just because I’m a parent of young kids that I feel that way. I’m regularly telling the kids to pick up their toys, stop fighting with your siblings, stop burping at the table, and so on and so forth. Yes, my 3-year-old has learned to burp at will and is proud to share his new skill with anyone who will listen. But it’s not always negative comments that I’m telling them. I’m also regularly telling my kids that I love them, and how much they mean to me. It seems that the repetition is just part of life right now, but I’ll keep it up because it helps communicate important aspects of life that they need to know.

I cannot overstate the importance of repetition. In many areas of life, it makes the different between mediocre work and a masterpiece. Playing an instrument or sports training requires enormous amounts of repetition to increase skill levels. All areas of education use repetition to solidify learning. But it is also used in communication and literature to highlight points the author is trying to make. For instance, in Genesis chapter 1, the phrase, “and there was evening, and there was morning— the ____ day” is regularly repeated. This chapter in Genesis is very poetic, and this phrase is one of the many literary features contained within the passage. The phrase’s repetitiveness makes it stand out as a concrete divider between the days of creation for the reader. God is clearly at work doing notable acts of creation on each day, and the literary style found in the passage helps us see the parallel between the realm created and the rulers of that realm (i.e. day 1 & day 4).

There is more to this phrase, the first thing that stands out to me is that it starts with evening, then morning. Or said another way, the day starts out with night then followed by morning. Just to be clear with the term “morning,” it doesn’t mean that the day is only from sunset till lunch. Morning seems to be more generally used to refer to the whole daylight period that starts in the morning. Just like “evening” is representative of the entire period of the night. In the creation account of day one we see that there was first darkness, then light. This seems to be the best explanation for the author’s use of the pattern. Traditionally the Jews saw sunset as the start of the next day. For instance, the Sabbath begins on Sunset of Friday and goes till Sunset on Saturday (See Lev 23:32). We are not immune from this pattern either. We think of our day starting with the morning and ending at night, but even our day technically last from midnight to midnight.

The phrase has significance in other ways, such as when the author did not use it. It is only repeated six times, even though there are seven days of creation. Genesis chapter two records the seventh day where God rest and makes the Sabbath holy. Creation is the standard for our seven-day week, but Genesis never recorded the end of the seventh day. Which in one sense means that God is still taking a Sabbath rest. A fact that the writer of Hebrews picks up on in chapter 4 and uses as an illustration of the concept that God is resting now, and through Christ, we can enter His rest as well. This doesn’t mean that God is not working in the world, Jesus made this clear “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working” (John 5:17). Without getting off on a rabbit trail, the point is that this phrase carried significance well beyond the standard division of days that we see.

The repetition of God working each day of creation shows us that there is something we can learn from the pattern of work and rest. God created this pattern for us. As we go about our day, week, and month, there are repeated aspects of our life that show what’s significance to us. It might be as simple as brushing your teeth mid afternoon every day, to working out at the gym three days a week, doing a monthly budget, or setting aside a day of rest. These things that we do regularly have formed habits in our lives and they carry significance well beyond the simple act. As we head into the new year, it is a convenient time to reevaluate our actions to see if adjustment is needed. It’s the monotony of everyday life that builds habits that will last a lifetime, not a once a year commitment.

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