“…and God saw that it was good.”
Efficiency is something for which we strive in almost every task. The achievement of our various goals with maximum speed and minimal effort is the purpose behind nearly all of our technological advances. The assumption behind our growing efficiency is that it should only be limited by our ability. In other words, we should be as efficient as we can be.
Given this fact, one element of the creation account may seem puzzling. God has absolute ability and therefore the potential for perfect efficiency, yet He takes six days to accomplish what He could do in an instant. Of course, if one views the six day creation account as a literary construct the event itself could have been instantaneous, and the demand for efficiency is met. I am among those who think that Genesis 1 is a simple, historical narrative and best read in its plain sense. If this is our perspective the question remains: why such divine inefficiency? Of course the pattern and proportion of work and rest was being set for our sake, as the fourth commandment indicates, but was there another, more God-centered reason?
I think there was, based on the refrain “…and God saw that it was good.” As each element of our world was brought into being, God took pleasure in the process of accomplishing His will and creating what was good in His sight. The good work of creation was something to delight in rather than simply conclude with utmost efficiency. Psalm 104, in many ways a commentary on creation, says “May the Lord rejoice in His works” (vs. 31). So the Scriptures give us a view of God’s own pleasure in the process of creation, which may well explain why He made it a process in the first place. He delighted in His work as each part of our world was called into being, and seeing the goodness of each part, He took pleasure in the process.
With this revelation of God’s character in the beginning, it’s not hard to see how He also takes pleasure in the process of redemption. His purpose to save a people unfolds over the long span of history, through centuries of prophecy and expectation, until Christ came in due time. Efficiency is not the divine characteristic meant to be displayed. Instead, like creation, the work of redemption has its own glorious process, each part of which is good.
It’s good to think of this in terms of your own salvation as well. God could efficiently translate you into glory like Enoch or Elijah, but His usual way of working is to bring His people home only after a pilgrimage. From our perspective, we have the experience of the effects of sin, the gospel call, coming to faith, walking with Christ through joys and challenges, struggling to be sanctified and persevering to the end. It’s not about efficiency. It is a process in which God takes pleasure in His own good work. Phil. 1:6 says, “…He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” In those words there is more than a hint of Genesis 1. It is a good work of God, with a beginning and an end, with a process in between.
If God takes such pleasure in the process, so should we. Our walk with Christ should be savored from day to day. And, the priority set at creation should become our priority as well; I mean the priority of doing and enjoying what is good over the bare efficiency of getting things done.