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Living Between the Tick and the Tock

God enables you to live with a sense of his presence and guidance between the tick and the tock.


Before Tik Tok was a social media phenom, Tick Tock was the way old clocks sounded. Mechanical, wind up clocks sounded a TICK and then after a moment between sounded a TOCK. If you do not know what that is like, you can find listen to the sound on YouTube.

Ezra, tucked away in the Old Testament between 2 Chronicles and Nehemiah, by analogy reminds us what our lives are like when we live between the tick and the tock. We always live between what was and will be, but sometimes that is even more acute, more compelling, on everybody’s mind. Such is our time. Ezra tells the story of God’s people in the tick of Exile and waiting for the tock of Restoration.

God enables you to live with a sense of his presence and guidance between the tick and the tock.

God’s Own People May Find Themselves in Exile

What God had started with Abraham, continued with Moses, and led through various kings ended with an exile. God’s own people were carried away for 70 years from Jerusalem to Iraq. They lost their accustomed lives and had to live an alien life in an unexpected place. Some deserved it; many did not.

We have lived through an unexpected exile in our times. In January 2020 it would have taken a prophet to predict what would happen. It is a global macrohistory and an individual microhistory. It is the story of a planet and of every individual shut behind closed doors. We have all seen the pictures of old folks holding their hands up to windows wanting to touch a child and nurses holding the hands of folks dying alone.

God May Intervene in a Sudden Strange Way to Release His People from Exile (Ezra 1)

Like lightning on a moonless, cloudless night, God used Cyrus, the Iranian, to free his people from exile and help them get home. An unlikely, sudden edict from a pagan ruler empowered God’s people to go home.

Through the efforts of nameless and faceless people in biochemical labs a planet in exile is headed home. Nothing has ever happened like it. Behind the secondary causes of medical intervention is the primary cause of a merciful heavenly Father: “Every good and perfect gift comes down from above” (James 1:17).

We may not see the forest for the trees. We should not be so entitled that we take for granted what has happened. God has worked in our times to let us go back. He has worked in a mediated way through smart people, but it was his work as are all good things.

God Cares for Individuals amid Multitudes (Ezra 2)

Ezra 2 is a long list of unpronounceable Hebrew names. God takes a census. Individuals mattered to him. That long list of names suggests a care for everyone as an individual. Forever in the Word of God are all these names of those God cared and brought back.

God cares for each of us in these days between the tick and the tock, between exile and getting back to the life that is ours. The print of an opposing thumb is different for every individual. So is every individual a stunning reality to God. We see crowds. He sees persons.

God’s First Purpose for Return Is a Renewal of Worship (Ezra 3)

The first thing his people did when they came back was to renew worship as a daily activity and lay the foundations for a new life with God. There were many things they could have done to start over, but a renewed relationship with God was first.

We all want to get back to the office, classrooms, church buildings, golf courses, ball games, and family reunions—and rightfully so. But we must pause between the tick and tock and make our priority in the new world we face a conscious and deliberate worship of God.


We all live between the tick and the tock in another way. We need to start now what we will do forever. There is a real sense that we are in the words of Peter “aliens and exiles” (1 Pet. 2:11) in this world age, in it but not of it. In a larger sense we are living between the tick of time and tock of eternity, when the clock as we know it will sound no more. There the priority forever will be the worship of God. We just as well get into practice.

Dr. Joel C. Gregory is Director of the Kyle Lake Center for Effective Preaching, holder of the George W. Truett Endowed Chair of Preaching and Evangelism at Baylor's Truett Seminary, and the founder of Joel Gregory Ministries.

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