LEADER TIMES WEEKEND RELIGION ARTICLE FOR
September 10, 2016 by William H. Scarle, Jr. 813-835-0129
A Time For Everything
As I write it is the day after Labor Day and the last day of my time with my daughter in Belmar, New Jersey. Tomorrow I board the plane and fly back to Tampa and get to work. I know I am supposed to be retired, but my class in Tampa passed on the message that if I am not at my teaching post tomorrow night they will send out the posse to haul me in. Thankfully I am prepared. I will be teaching Ruth and Esther this fall.
The Hebrew calendar starts in the fall of the year which is appropriate in Israel since the harvest of fruit completes the growing season and the land can be tilled for a new year. On Sunday I preached in my daughter’s congregation on the creation and included some thoughts on the fourth day in the Genesis account. Since the first verse of Genesis tells of the creation of the heavens and the earth, the fourth day does not refer to the creation of the heavenly bodies but rather their function, especially for Israel. The text reads, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years (1:14).
Hebrew thought marks the beginning of the day with the setting of the sun. Sabbath begins in the evening at the precise time the light of the sun is gone and the first stars appear. Dinner has to be prepared before that moment since no work can be done on Sabbath. Dinner is always on time, at least on Sabbath. It is because of this way of marking time that the text of Genesis always reads “The evening and the morning.”
The moon also functions as a time marker. The Hebrew calendar consists of twelve lunar months, each beginning and ending with the new moon. The important sacred times fall on the full moon such as Passover and Tabernacles. This coming year, which is the year 5777, Rosh Hashanah, or the “Head of the Year,” falls on October 2. This is the first day of the first month which is Tishrei. The tenth day of Tishrei is Day of Atonement and Tabernacles falls on the fifteenth day of Tishrei which is October 17 and the full moon.
This understanding of the forth day of creation ties together the rational functioning of the universe with the religious life of Israel. The heavens declare the glory of God and mark the days of celebrating his mighty works. There is no philosophical division between the natural world and the sacred world. Both are connected to the Creator of the heavens and the earth.
In our own uniquely American culture we change our holidays to suit the convenience of the populace, or at least that is what our leaders tell us. My own feeling is that it suits the convenience of the leaders. The Fourth of July has barely escaped the trap. Israel can not change their holy days. They are tied to the function of the universe. They are marked by the integrity of the heavens. Genesis is not a scientific document. It is, however, a logical presentation of the foundations of what we know as science. It tells us that the world is structured rationally and that because we are created in the image of God we can study it and utilize it for good or ill. That structure is both material and moral. It is also religious. For Israel it marked the sacred times of the year. Just as the laws of nature cannot be changed and the laws of morality cannot be changed so the holy days cannot be changed. They are marked by the heavens.
When we understand the fourth day of creation we get some insight into Ecclesiastes 3:1. “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” I really enjoy the Bible. It makes so much sense. It explains the universe. Columbus Day does not really fall on a Monday. At the same time it is necessary that I leave the Jersey Shore and get back to work. “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.”
(Bill Scarle can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org). END-whs