We in the West tend to believe and act as if the day starts when we wake up in the morning. Our picture suggest that nothing has happened until we enter the day. Some of us even act as if the day hasn't started until we've had some coffee and wake up a bit. And then we seem to think that the day is over when our head hits the pillow. Night, or more accurately, the time when we're sleeping and getting some rest just doesn't count. But this is in no way the case!
In his book, Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity, Eugene Peterson looks at our pattern of day and night compared to the Hebrew view shaped by the biblical picture. At one point he says,
"The Hebrew evening/morning sequence conditions us to the rhythms of grace. We go to sleep, and God begins his work. As we sleep he develops his covenant. We wake and are called out to participate in God's creative action. We respond in faith, in word. But always grace is previous. Grace is primary. We wake into a world we didn't make, into a salvation we didn't earn. Evening: God begins, without our help, his creative day. Morning: God calls us to enjoy and share and develop the work he initiated. Creation and covenant are sheer grace and there to greet us every morning."The idea Peterson shows his readers is good: The day doesn't start when we wake up. In fact, we enter the day sleeping, resting, unaware of what God is doing has he starts the day. We are given the opportunity to wake to a day already spoken into creation and we did nothing to make it happen.
As we see the simple rhythm of evening and morning, we begin to position ourselves into the reality of who we are and who God is. We also see how merciful God is, daily. Additionally, as we begin to see that God gives us rest every day--even letting us enter the day with rest rather then earning rest after a long, hard day's work--we should begin to see the necessity of this rest pattern in the week. When we rest, God is working. When we take a day to Sabbath, to stop and rest, we must see that God is in action. This keeps us in right thinking. And we aught to see this rhythm is the same for the month, and year, short and long seasons.
The day begins at night. We're sleeping, resting, and in dreamland while God is speaking new mercies, speaking a new day into creation for us. We do nothing to start the day; we only get to enter into what God has created for us. And there was evening and morning, a new day!
1. Peterson, Eugene. Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity. Grand Rapids, Mich: Eerdmans Publishing, 1987.
* Photo of the Sunrise was taken by Henry Mühlpfordt and is registered under a Creative Commons License.