Psalm 90:4 – A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night. (NIV)
This past Christmas, my family gave me a beautiful grandfather clock. It stands tall in the foyer and is the first piece of furniture that guests notice when they enter our home. The hourly chimes are delicate; they gently remind me throughout the day of a mysterious thing that we call time.
Interestingly, the word clock is derived from a Celtic word, clocca, meaning bell. The first mechanical clocks were invented in the thirteenth century and were associated with the canonical hours of prayer in the medieval church — the first, third, sixth, and ninth hours of the day, counting from 6 a.m. This custom was believed to be passed down through the apostles, who prayed during the same hours, and also at midnight, as recorded in various passages of the New Testament.
But just how specifically were "hours" determined in Jesus' day? We know that there was a general sense of the sun's position, and sundials were then in use. Moreover, the Scriptures speak of the night watches. For instance, in Matthew's gospel, it was in "the fourth watch of the night" when Jesus walked on water to join His disciples (Matthew 14:25). During this particular watch, one would have heard the rooster crow as dawn was approaching.
Still, time in the ancient world was less precise than it is today. Meetings would have had to be scheduled in terms of early morning, mid-afternoon, etc. From a Hebrew perspective, time was related to actual events; they did not speak of having or not having enough time; and they did not have any verb forms for past, present, or future.
Imagine living in a world where there were no clocks, a world where time was not governed by the chimes of a grandfather clock or the sound of a cuckoo bird announcing every hour. How would that change our lives? Perhaps it would teach us to live in the moment.
Consider these words from the psalmist:
Psalm 74:16 – The day is yours, and yours also the night; you established the sun and moon. (NIV)
With these thoughts in mind, let us remember that we serve a living God Who transcends time, and yet is here every moment and forever with us.
Prayer: Eternal God, without You, there would be no past, present, or future. Enable us to experience time, not by seconds, minutes, or hours, but by the quality of our relationship with You and those we love. In Jesus' precious name, we pray. Amen.
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