The other day, I met with a group of Christians. One of them admitted that he often has a hard time figuring out how God fits into his day.
“Maybe it’s the other way around,” I suggested.
“What do you mean?” he asked, understandably puzzled.
I explained, “Maybe it isn’t about figuring out how God fits into your day, but how you fit into God’s day.”
* * * * *
For Westerners, the day starts in the morning. When we wake up, we observe that “It’s a new day!” The sun comes up and we get a “fresh start.” The day unfolds, the sun goes down, and at day’s end, we fall into bed, anticipating the start of a new day in the morning.
The Hebraic view of the day turns all this on it’s head. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.1 Sundown is the beginning of a new day. When a Jew opens her eyes in the morning, the day is half over!
One might argue, “What difference does it make whether you see the day as starting at 6 am or 6 pm? Neither one starts at the first hour of the day, anyway! And, besides, the day will progress in both instances exactly the same.” But, the difference between the Western and the Hebraic perceptions of “a day” is hardly trivial, and how we choose between the two is not arbitrary. The choice we make betrays how we view God’s role in the world, how we relate to Him on a moment-by-moment basis, and how we define and discern God’s will.
In the typical Western view, the day begins in the morning. We get out of bed, and make preparations to tackle the tasks of the day. “Carpe diem!” we exclaim. We head off to work or go shopping or work in the garden. We check items off our to-do lists, and add more items as the day goes by. We make a distinction between day and night, where day is the productive part of a 24-hour period and night is the portion reserved for sleep, a segment of the day that we, Americans in particular, minimize as much as possible. If we are religious, we invite God into our day, asking Him for help with this or wisdom for that. In this sense, we walk with Him through our day. More accurately, He walks with us, as our companion, “a very present help in trouble.” At the end of the day, we take satisfaction in all we have done, and thank God for His help.
In accordance with the Hebraic view, one approaches the day quite differently.
In the evening, my day begins. Considering that I will soon be asleep, carpe diem seems rather comical, does it not? During the night, while I am unconscious, God will be at work, for “He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” All night long, while I am utterly unaware, God is preparing the daylight hours. (He does this for seven billion other people, too!) He puts together everything that I will need as I walk through the day. By morning, He has finished His project. There was evening and now there is morning. If I awaken at all, I will awaken into His world, not my world. My waking is His invitation into His day.
I have yet to think through all the implications of seeing “the day” in this way. There is one obvious implication, though. In the Western view, I am the prominent personality. My agenda and my concerns are front-and-center. God is present in my day for me. In the Hebraic version, God is all-important and His agenda is all that matters. Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. God is present during the day for His glory. Indeed, He is not present in my day; I am present in His day.
This is the day that the Lord has made. (Ps 118:24)
By morning, God has made a new day. His plans are transparent to me except as the day unfolds moment by moment. If I so choose, I will live in grateful response to all that He has placed in this day. Alternatively, because I have a free will, I may choose to rebel, and live according to my own agenda. Regardless, it is God’s day, and He will promote His Kingdom through and around me, accomplishing His will by virtue of His great power. All that transpires during the day will happen to His glory, not mine. For thine is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.
1 Genesis 1:5. Also, note the order of Psalm 3 (an evening prayer) and Psalm 4 (a morning prayer).