I’m reading in Genesis now, as I often do at the beginning of the year, once again on a one-year journey through the greatest, most influential book ever published in human history. I’m in my fiftieth year, and having spent my entire adult life reading and studying the Bible, I feel like I may be in about the third grade in mastery. That’s probably giving myself too much credit.
This Book enlightens and confounds, humbles and encourages me. It has more wisdom in it than can possibly be mined in a lifetime. It speaks to me in the things that it explicitly says, and also in what it doesn’t say. This January, Genesis is speaking to me of the work of God in the unremarkable years — all the years spanning between God’s recorded historical in-breakings.
The Unremarkable Years of Genesis
Genesis covers an incredible span of time. The most conservative Evangelical scholars estimate the time between Adam and Abraham at between 2,000 and 6,000 years (possible gaps in the genealogies being the variable). Which means at minimum, Genesis alone covers approximately the same amount of historical time as the rest of the books of the Bible combined, and possibly much more.
And what do we know about those millennia? Remarkably little when you think about it. After the creation of Adam and Eve (Genesis 1:26–2:25), we learn about the fall (Genesis 3), we learn about Cain’s murder of Abel (Genesis 4), and then we are provided only genealogies with a few historical remarks tossed in until we get to Noah. How many years passed between between Adam and Noah (Genesis chapters 2–5)? A minimum of about 1,600 years, possibly much more.
Between Noah and Abraham (chapters 6–11) there are centuries (about 350 years minimum, possibly much more). And besides the flood account, the only things the Bible tells us about these years are a few events regarding Noah and his sons, more genealogies, and the story of the tower of Babel.
Then with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the patriarchs (chapters 12–50), Genesis begins to give us a lot more information. Although, considering that these 39 chapters span about 360 years, most of those years also go without saying.
God Does Not Waste Time or People
Now, just for the sake of contemplation, let’s assume about 2,000 years between Adam and Abraham, and let’s assume solar years (365 days). That would be approximately 730,000 days that passed with only a handful of them containing events that God decided to record.
What was God doing during all those unremarkable years — all those years we know nothing about and all those people who were “eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage . . . [and] buying and selling, planting and building” (Luke 17:27–28)? All those years of wonders and horrors, some of which we’ve unearthed in archeological tells? Were they throwaway years and disposable people?
No. Every single one of those 730,000 days was a unique, priceless, irreplaceable creation of God (Psalm 118:24). And every single person was a unique, priceless, irreplaceable creation of God, each bearing God’s image (Genesis 1:27), however marred and distorted, each a unique story, each playing a role in the Story whether for good or ill (Romans 9:21), and each having meaning to God, though they lived and died anonymous to us. The destiny of each, whether resulting in mercy or judgment, we entrust to the Judge of all the earth who only does what is just (Genesis 18:25). Many wasted their lives, but God did not waste theirs.
God was not wasting time or people during these unrecorded days. He was holding all things together by the word of his power every moment (Colossians 1:17; Hebrews 1:3) and he was working in every detail of history and human experience (John 5:17; Acts 17:26–28) so that in the fullness of time he might enter history and human experience as the second Adam and complete his plan to redeem what had fallen on that horrible, remarkable day in the garden (Galatians 4:4–5; Romans 5:17). God was not absent or deistically distant (Acts 17:27–28), neither was he silent (Romans 1:20).
God Does Not Waste Your Time or You
Let the unremarkable years of Genesis speak to you. A few days of your life are remarkable, containing events and experiences where you see God’s providence with startling clarity and when your faith and life course are indelibly and memorably shaped. But the vast majority of your days — likely a day like today — will pass into obscurity unrecorded and irretrievable to your memory. But though today may be unremarkable, it is not unimportant. It is unique, priceless, and irreplaceable.
Today God is at work in you both to will and to work for his good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). Today God is at work in you to advance toward completion the good work that he began in you (Philippians 1:6). Today, though unseen and unfelt by you, God is at work in every detail of your history and experience and the history and experience of possibly thousands of others, to bring about answers to your long-requested prayers, to open the door that seems impossibly closed to you, to turn the prodigal homeward, to save your hard-hearted loved-one, to deliver you from the affliction, or to make you an unexpected, remarkable means of grace to someone else.
Today is a day that the Lord has specially made (Psalm 118:24). He has planned it for you. It has a purpose. No matter what it holds, give thanks for it (1 Thessalonians 5:18). For God does not waste a day and he will not waste you. And if you love and trust him, you will one day discover that today, unremarkable as it now seems, will do you remarkable good (Romans 8:28).