When the Day is Done
by Pastor Gene
‘When the day is done,
Down to earth, then, sinks the sun,
Along with all that’s lost and won –
When the day is done’
A Witness in Our Biology
And so the day is done. Evening is a tender time – a time for offering the day back to my Keeper. What I’ve done this day can never be undone. The moments I’ve spent in it are gone forever. Hopefully, I’ve spent some of it investing in things that will outlast the day: sowing or watering spiritual seeds in the lives of those around me; growing in my devotion to Jesus; letting my light so shine before others that they see my good works and glorify my Father who is in heaven. The Bible considers all of these ‘lasting’ activities under the umbrella of “redeeming the time for the days are evil” (Psalm 121:5a, 1 Corinthians 3:6-7, James 4:8, Matthew 5:16, Ephesians 5:16).
I’ve always been fascinated by sleep. God has created us in such a fearfully wonderful way that He’s written into our biological code the need for rest.
He’s also written the need for rest into the fabric of the divinely-ordained week. “On the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So, God blessed the seventh day and made it holy …” (Genesis 2:2-3a).
Then, when delivering the Law to His people through Moses, He obligated them to observe a rest. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore, the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy” (Exodus 20:8-11).
So, God, the great Creator, made humankind in His own image, but with a need to rest – and He wove a 6-to-1 work/rest ratio into the ‘week’ He established in the very beginning.
I think our need for sleep is a witness in our biology of our life-long need to rest in Him. Without rest we’re disoriented, wearied, irritable, and cloudy of thought. With rest we’re refreshed, sharp, and clear of thought. We need to rest, we just do. And this fundamental biological necessity belies a spiritual one: our souls need to rest in our Creator, the Giver of every good gift (James 1:17).
In his, Confessions, Augustine proclaimed, “Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.” Indeed they are! We find our ultimate rest in our salvation – coming to God with faith alone in Christ alone – and we find progressive, experiential rest in the daily exercise of walking “in the light” and “in the Spirit” and being careful how we walk (1 John 1:6, Galatians 5:16, Ephesians 5:15).
Last Thoughts, First Thoughts
The end of the day is a wonderful time to remember these things, and to confess them back to the Father. Consider this Puritan prayer for the evening …
O lover of Thy people, Thou hast placed my whole being in the hands of Jesus, my redeemer, commander, husband, friend, and carest for me in Him. Keep me holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners; may I … go to Him where He is, and follow where He leads.
Thou hast bathed me once for all in the sin-removing fountain, cleanse me now from this day’s defilement, from its faults, deficiencies of virtue, harmful extremes, that I may exhibit a perfect character in Jesus.
O Master, who didst wash the disciples’ feet, be very patient with me … Go on with me till Thy great work in me is completed …
Keep me humble, dependent, supremely joyful, as calm and quiet as a sucking child, yet earnest and active. I wish not so much to do as to be, and I long to be like Jesus; if Thou dost make me right I shall be right; Lord, I belong to Thee, make me worthy of Thyself.
(The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions, edited by Arthur Bennett, Banner of Truth Trust, 1975).
What a beautiful way to seal the day before drifting back into the fog of sleep! What thoughts to have upon our hearts when we rise again!
I’ve often found that the last thing on my mind when I slipped into sleep was the first thing on my mind when the fog lifted in the morning. Imagine if that thought could be Zephaniah 3:17?
The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness;
He will quiet you by his love;
He will exult over you with loud singing.
What a way to end one day and to begin another! To affirm, ‘God, YOU are in my midst; You are present to deliver me today! You’ll quiet my every anxious thought with your love! And You rejoice over me, despite my many failures! You sing songs over me even though I’m not worthy of being celebrated. You don’t sing over me because I’m good, you sing over me because I’m yours.’
How To Fly
Oh, friends, how we need to rest in Him! When David cried out, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest’ (Psalm 55:6), I know exactly where he was coming from. Do you? Do you ever want to fly away and find rest? Then FLY! Fly to God each evening and you’ll still be with Him when you rise!
The three great enemies of every believer – the world, the flesh and the devil (Ephesians 2:2–3a) – long to keep us from soaring in our spiritual life, but God can deliver us from their snare! Remember what we just read? “The Lord you God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save [deliver]” (Zephaniah 3:17).
The enemy of our souls wants to cage us, but the Keeper of our souls wants us to soar!
I love the story of Ezekiel staring down the false ‘prophetesses’ who sought to ‘cage’ the people of God with their magical thinking (Ezekiel 13:17-23). Interestingly enough, God’s people are metaphorically portrayed as “birds” in this passage – birds that can fly, if they’re not caged!
The dark arts these women practiced had its origin in ancient Babylonian occultic rituals, certainly not in the Word of God. They wore veils of various lengths upon their heads to give the “impression of mystery.” (Yes, good friends and neighbors, religious theater is nothing new!) They used magic charms too, exploiting the gullible with their lies. The Hebrew word translated “magic bands” in Ezekiel 13:18 & 20 is found only here in the Bible and refers to the occult practice of tying “magical knots and bands … bound to various parts of the body to ward off evil spirits or to heal diseases” (Charles Dyer, Ezekiel in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985, Vol. 1, p. 1252).
The means of deception are legion, but the purpose of deception is singular: cage God’s people. Enter Ezekiel: “Behold, I am against your magic charms by which you hunt souls there like birds,” the prophet said speaking for the Lord. “I will tear them from your arms, and will let the souls go, even the souls that ye hunt to make them fly” (Ezekiel 13:20b, KJV).
Oh yes! The enemy of our souls wants to cage us; the Keeper of our souls wants us to soar!
While We Sleep
As I sleep my God is keeping me, watching over me. And while I need to sleep, He does not! Psalm 121:3b: “He who keeps you will not slumber.” I am weak and fragile. I need to rejuvenate my strength. But God does not! He is an eternal reservoir of strength.
And because He does not sleep, I can commit my soul to His safe keeping while I do. I can rest, really rest.
“Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint”
There it is again: God wants His people to fly! “They shall mount up with wings” – the language of spiritual aviation. And how do we learn to fly? By resting in Him, waiting on Him, trusting in Him, confident that our Father will give us every good thing (Matthew 7:11).
So, “when the day is done, and down to earth, then, sinks the sun, along with all that’s lost and won,” we offer the day back to our Keeper. And we rest in the One who gives sleep to His beloved (Psalm 127:2).
After all, we need our sleep: we’ve got some flying to do in the morning.
- How do you end your day with the Lord?
- What do you think it means to offer back the day to your Keeper? (Read Psalm 121)
- Does the fact that God created us with a need for sleep (at least seven hours per night; nearly a third of our lives) tell us anything spiritually?
- The Sabbath/Rest is so important to God that He wrote it into the Law as the Fourth Commandment. Why do you think this is?
What have we lost with respect to this? What is the purpose of the Sabbath/Rest?
It seems as though God is saying, ‘You need to remember this to be fully human.’ Do you agree?
How does this speak to the idea that we are far more than what we do?
- What is your sleep like?
Does Psalm 127:2 speak to you? How does “eating the bread of anxious toil” contrast with “He gives to His beloved sleep”?
- How’s your flying been lately?
Have you been looking to God? Waiting on Him? Renewing your spiritual strength so you can run and not grow weary?
- Is there something you need to speak with Jesus about?
Sermons with Boats in Them #2: ‘Dark Night was the Night and the Sea was a Fury – Tempestuous, Turbulent and Threatening.’
March 29, 2020