A HYMN OF GLORY LET US SING
Our lives consist of periods of work followed by periods of rest. We finish our shift or complete our daily tasks, and then we go home to get a night’s sleep. But all the while that we are sleeping, our God is awake and active. “He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.” (Psalm 121:3-4) God’s providential care for His world never ceases, not even for a moment. He upholds all of creation and keeps the cycles of days and seasons running. In this way He makes the earth fruitful and provides food for all His creatures. At all hours He hears and answers the prayers of us, His children, who call to Him in the name of Jesus. He constantly observes our lives and causes all things to work together for our good.
The hymn “Evening and Morning” teaches this ongoing, never-ceasing care of God for His children. It reminds us that the good things we enjoy are the works of God. He gives “wealth, peace, and gladness, comfort in sadness.” He continues to give these and other good things all our days. He watches over us and protects us whether we are awake or asleep. “Times without number, We wake or we slumber, Your eye observes us, From danger preserves us, Shining upon us a love that is true.”
This hymn also reminds us that God gives blessings greater than providing for the needs of the body. The author prays for the forgiveness of his sins and for freedom from guilty fear. He prays, “Father, oh, hear me, Pardon and spare me; Calm all my terrors, Blot out my errors.” He prays also that God would order and direct his life. He is content to commit his life into God’s “fatherly hand,” trusting Him to determine what is best for him.
The author expresses the confidence that through all the changing circumstances of life in this world, the believer in Jesus Christ can expect increasing joy and never-ending peace. Trusting in Christ’s atoning death and His promise of eternal life, the Christian looks forward to the end of all earthly trouble and sorrow.
Ills that still grieve me Soon are to
Though billows tower And winds
After the storm the fair sun shows its face.
My joys increasing, My peace
These I shall treasure And share in
When in His mansions God grants
me a place.
“Evening and Morning” is the work of Paul Gerhardt (1607-1676), the author of many of the best of our Lutheran hymns, including such treasures as “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded” (TLH 172) and “If God Himself Be for Me” (TLH 528). The cheerful confidence and humble thanksgiving expressed in Gerhardt’s hymns, including the one before us, is remarkable in view of the many trials that marked his life. During his childhood and youth he experienced the troubles of the Thirty Years War. As a pastor he was persecuted for refusing to compromise on the teachings of Scripture; at one point he was removed from his office as pastor. Disease took from him his wife and four of his children.
At the time of his sixty-ninth (and last) birthday, Gerhardt wrote a testament to his only surviving child, a young son. In spite of his difficult life as a pastor, Gerhardt urged his son to become a preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to remain in this work “and not turn away from it, even if he has only few good days in it. For the good Lord knows how to handle it and how sufficiently to replace external troubles with internal happiness of the heart and joy of the spirit.”
To Paul Gerhardt, the hardest trials of earthly life were nothing when compared to the blessings of peace with God and the hope of eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ. Through all his troubles and sorrows, he saw how God was blessing him, evening and morning, day after day.
John Klatt is pastor of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Loveland, Colorado.