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‘Tis Evening

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David reports that in a moment of great distress and difficulties he cries out to God “and the LORD saves me. Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress to God and he hears my voice” (Ps. 55: 16-17).1 Although most of us usually think of evening as a happy time when the work day is over and we can direct our attention to our own desires, some face difficulties. David, however, considered each full day as a time when he counted on God, even while undergoing a period of strife; and so he could, for God is ever available, “evening, morning and noon” (v. 17). Evening is also used to designate an unhappy time of day. Thus David cries out to the Lord:

But you, O Sovereign LORD,
deal with me for your names sake;
out of the goodness of your love, deliver me.

For I am poor and needy,
and my heart is wounded within me.

I fade away like an evening shadow;
I am shaken off like a locust. (Ps. 109:21-23)

In another psalm, the psalmist continues the thought of evening being an unhappy time by comparing evening to “the sleep of death”:

You sweep men away in the sleep of death;
they are like the new grass of the morning –

though in the morning it springs up new,
by evening it is dry and withered. (Ps. 90:5-6)

Similarly, another psalmist also uses the figure of evening in complaining that, “My days are like the evening shadow; I wither away like grass. (Ps. 102:11)

In another of his psalms, David uses the figure of evening to refer to the actions of ungodly people. Having pled with the Lord to “rouse yourself to punish the nations” (Ps. 59:5), he goes on to say, “They return at evening, snarling like dogs, and prowl about the city” (v. 6; cf. vv. 14-15).

Evening was also used to designate the end of a day’s labor: “Man goes out to his work, to his labor until evening” (Ps. 104:23).2 In accordance with that information of man’s work schedule, we note that David in another Psalm speaks of God’s creative activity (Ps. 65:5-7) and remarks:

Those living far away fear your wonders;
where morning dawns and evening fades
you call forth songs of joy. (Ps. 65:8)

As Van Gemeren remarks, “Great and majestic are God’s “wonders” in nature and in history. Regardless of how far away people may live, they must recognize God’s power and respond in “fear” (cf. 67:7). His rule extends from east “where morning dawns”; (cf. 19:5-6) to west (“evening fades”).3

It is of interest to note that in contrast to normal Israelite custom, where evening marked the beginning of a period of rest, the author of Ecclesiastes remarks:

Sow your seed in the morning,
and at evening let not your hands be idle,

For you do not know which will succeed,
whether this or that,
or whether both will do equally well. (Ecc. 11:6)

As Walter Kaiser, Jr. remarks “Let the result – be it success or failure – rest in the hand of God. But do not just sit there waiting for secure guarantees for life. Do something now, right where you are.”4

If we are to emulate God’s activity, we should realize that we are to live a righteous life daily. Since in Hebrew thinking the evening was not only the time of the end of a day’s work, it was also a time when special religious activity was practiced:

O LORD, I call to you; come quickly to me.
Hear my voice when I call to you.

May my prayer be set before you like incense;
may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice. (Ps. 141:1-2)

Let us also remember that in a particular sense evening can symbolize the approach of life’s end. Therefore as we advance in years, let us be all the more eager to live a holy and blameless life before God and man.

Abide with me -- fast falls the even tide!
The darkness deepens, -- Lord with me abide;
When others helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me!5


1 All scripture references are from the NIV.

2 See further, Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, “Twilight,” eds. Leland Ryken, James C. Wilhoit, and Tremper Longman III, (Downers Grove, Il: Intervarsity Press, 1998), 901.

3 Williem A. Van Gemeren, “Psalms”, in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, eds. Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008), 5, 499.

4 Walter C. Kaiser Jr., Ecclesiastes: Total Life, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1979), 115.

5 Henry F. Lyte, “Abide With Me”.

Related Topics: Christian Life, Devotionals

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