Today I would like to tackle, in sufficient detail as to give a solid answer if not an exhaustive one, one of the questions that I asked at the end of part one of this series: What cycles does the Bible specifically operate on when it comes to its view of time? In order to properly frame our investigation of biblical time and its patterns and cycles , let us examine the sorts of cycles of biblical time that exist within the Bible. This is, as will quickly become apparent, a much larger task than meets the eye. Once we understand the larger context of cycles in the Bible we can then ask more specific questions about the sort of cycles we might find of particular interest, especially those cycles that tend not to be emphasized as much as others do. What I wish to do here, therefore, is set the scene for what the Bible says about cycles.
It is little surprise that the first place we should find cycles of time is in the Creation account given the fundamental nature of these cycles to the biblical worldview. Genesis 1:14-19 gives several of the cycles as follows: “Then God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so. Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also. God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth, and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. So the evening and the morning were the fourth day.” In this one particular passage alone we several of the cycles of time. For one, we see the familiar cycle of alternating day and night cycles that make up the day from sunset to sunset. We also see the way that the sun, moon, and stars are set for the passage of time, which we see in the daily cycle, monthly cycle from new moon to new moon, and the annual procession of constellations across the night sky as the earth revolves around the sun. Here in this one passage alone, therefore, we see three of the cycles of time.
The other fundamental cycle of time revealed in the Creation account is, of course, the Sabbath, discussed in Genesis 2:1-3: “Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.” It should come as little surprise to those who read their Bibles that the Sabbath, even though it is not directly tied to the sun, moon, and stars, is itself tied to other festivals, like the Feast of Weeks (the only holy day not tied directly to the lunar-solar calendar) as well as the Sabbath and Jubilee years discussed in some detail in Leviticus 25. (As a note, as one astute reader pointed out, the Sabbath itself goes from sunset to sunset so in that way its length is determined by the sun.) It should also come as little surprise that when the Sabbath is spoken of in Exodus 20 as well as in Jesus’ claim in the Gospels to be the Lord of the Sabbath  in Matthew 12:1-8, Mark 2:23-28, and Luke 6:1-5 that the Sabbath is not connected only to the Jews but rather to all mankind due to the creation. Believers are told to remember the Sabbath day because God rested on it just as He commands mankind to, and we are also told that God made the Sabbath for mankind, and not only the Jews. We would do well to remember what the Bible says about such members, and to pay heed to it.
Leviticus 23 is another familiar recording of biblical cycles of time, namely the annual holy days. Unsurprisingly, this passage of scripture begins with a discussion of the Sabbath as part of the commanded assemblies of God and then mentions in order the Passover, Days of Unleavened Bread, Festival of Firstfruits, Feast of Weeks, Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles with the eighth day. These holy days provide a picture of God’s plan for mankind, and our reenacting them on an annual basis allows for reflection on the plan and purpose of God in human history as well as prophecy. Notably, most of these annual holy days take place on a specific day within a particular month. In order to properly keep the holy days of God, then, we need to have within our minds a framework of biblical time that includes an appreciation of the lunar month from new moon to new moon. We will return to this point in the future, but for now I would like you to keep the thought in mind.
Although many of the temporal cycles in the Bible relate to cycles of the sun, moon, and stars, not all do. Judges 2:11-19 gives the cycle of Israel’s disobedience-punishment-contrition-deliverance cycle during that part of history: “Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served the Baals; and they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt; and they followed other gods from among the gods of the people who were all around them, and they bowed down to them; and they provoked the Lord to anger. They forsook the Lord and served Baal and the Ashtoreths. And the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel. So He delivered them into the hands of plunderers who despoiled them; and He sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, so that they could no longer stand before their enemies. Wherever they went out, the hand of the Lord was against them for calamity, as the Lord had said, and as the Lord had sworn to them. And they were greatly distressed. Nevertheless, the Lord raised up judges who delivered them out of the hand of those who plundered them. Yet they would not listen to their judges, but they played the harlot with other gods, and bowed down to them. They turned quickly from the way in which their fathers walked, in obeying the commandments of the Lord; they did not do so. And when the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge; for the Lord was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who oppressed them and harassed them. And it came to pass, when the judge was dead, that they reverted and behaved more corruptly than their fathers, by following other gods, to serve them and bow down to them. They did not cease from their own doings nor from their stubborn way.” Here we see the pattern and cycle within the accounts given in the book of Judges, put in an abstract fashion first before the full cycles are revealed later in their specific details.
So we see that along with a linear understanding of time proceeding from Creation and moving to fulfillment there is an understanding of cycles, creating a three dimensional view of time that would include the concept of spirals like the death spiral of Israel’s disobedience during the book of Judges. To be sure, we are familiar with cycles in our own times–our own daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly cycles, as well as our own election year or news cycles that demonstrate the patterns of behavior that are easy enough for us to understand even if we may not always enjoy them in operation. How often do we think in biblical time, though? How often do we consider a new day at sunset, how often do we think of months through the lunar cycles, or govern our years by the biblical holy day cycle? Probably very rarely, for most of us, given our familiarity with the way the world works around us. It is to the question of what God expects of us in light of our knowledge about biblical cycles of time that we will now turn.
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