The Jewish day does not begin at midnight, as ours does, but at sunset, based on the Biblical account of creation: ‘and there was evening, and there was morning’, a phrase repeated throughout the six days of creation (Gen 1:3, 8, 13,19, 23,31). We might find this unusual and even puzzling, so accustomed are we to thinking of evening as the time for rest from all our work. Why rest at the start of a 24-hour period?
I think the Biblical order is a reminder to us that God wants us to focus on Him and on our relationship with Him before we launch into activity. Being is more important than doing, and this is something we find difficult to grasp. We believe we’re at the centre of everything, but the truth is that God is at the centre. This Jewish order of evening before day firmly puts God at the heart of each 24-hour period of time and frees us from our compulsive, obsessive need to do.Ps 127:1-2 reflects on this compulsion and reminds us that God provides rest for those He loves, that He provides for us even while we sleep.
We often think of rest as the ‘reward’ for a hard day’s work, and in some ways, it is! But I think perhaps rest is more God’s gift to people, allowing them to see life from a spiritual perspective first and foremost.
Today is the first back at work for many people. As we start back, we can be gratefu for the Biblical order and learn that taking time with God in thankfulness for the rest He provides is never a waste of time.