This is a very well written, well researched, based on God’s Word study of the topic, “How are darkness and light relevant as a Christian today?” All my thanks and credit to Dr. Richard D. Patterson
Dr. Richard Patterson holds an (A.B., Wheaton College; M.Div., Northwest Baptist Theological Seminary; Th.M. Talbot Theological Seminary; M.A., Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles) In his years of service he has been Professor at Grand Rapids Baptist Theological Seminary, and Northwest Bap… More
Let’s look at the first question. Darkness & Light.
When we think of darkness many of us will say it is the representation of Evil. Is that true? Or is that something we just relate to Satan because He is depicted as dark. But, can we call evening really, dark? After all, God created the moon and the stars, so there is really no complete darkness even at night. So, what was the point?
We have considered biblical themes associated with the morning or evening.1 Today we shall examine a commonly occurring word pair: day and night. Many word pairs are present in the Scriptures such as heaven and earth, light and darkness, parent and child, father and son (etc.). Day and night are part of man’s normal experience and as a word pair is very instructive. It is not surprising, then, that not only in popular songs (e.g., “night and day”) but in well-known hymns this pair can be found. Note for example:
Now the day is over, night is drawing nigh,
shadows of the evening steal across the sky.2
For the beauty of each hour
of the day and of the night,
hill and vale, and tree. and flow’r,
sun and moon and stars of light,
Lord of all to Thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.3
Day is dying in the west,
Heaven is touching earth with rest.4
As I have indicated, such is not altogether strange, for the day-night relationship is a common experience and even more importantly, God is the creator of day and night.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.’ Genesis 1:1-2Genisis 1-2
In what follows we shall examine many occurrences of the scriptural use of day and night, with particular attention to the Psalms, before suggesting some practical applications of this important and well-known biblical theme.
God, the Creator of Day and Night
In Psalm 74, the psalmist Asaph points out that God is the One who set in order the features of the earth, including day and night:
Psalm 74 (NLT) ‘O God, why have you rejected us so long? Why is your anger so intense against the sheep of your own pasture? Remember that we are the people you chose long ago, the tribe you redeemed as your own special possession! And remember Jerusalem, your home here on earth. Walk through the awful ruins of the city; see how the enemy has destroyed your sanctuary. There your enemies shouted their victorious battle cries; there they set up their battle standards. They swung their axes like woodcutters in a forest. With axes and picks, they smashed the carved paneling. They burned your sanctuary to the ground. They defiled the place that bears your name. Then they thought, “Let’s destroy everything!” So they burned down all the places where God was worshiped. We no longer see your miraculous signs. All the prophets are gone, and no one can tell us when it will end. How long, O God, will you allow our enemies to insult you? Will you let them dishonor your name forever? Why do you hold back your strong right hand? Unleash your powerful fist and destroy them. You, O God, are my king from ages past, bringing salvation to the earth. You split the sea by your strength and smashed the heads of the sea monsters. You crushed the heads of Leviathan and let the desert animals eat him. You caused the springs and streams to gush forth, and you dried up rivers that never run dry. Both day and night belong to you; you made the starlight and the sun. You set the boundaries of the earth, and you made both summer and winter. See how these enemies insult you, Lord . A foolish nation has dishonored your name. Don’t let these wild beasts destroy your turtledoves. Don’t forget your suffering people forever. Remember your covenant promises, for the land is full of darkness and violence! Don’t let the downtrodden be humiliated again. Instead, let the poor and needy praise your name. Arise, O God, and defend your cause. Remember how these fools insult you all day long. Don’t overlook what your enemies have said or their growing uproar.’ Psalms 74 NLT
Psalms 74:16-17 NLT
‘Both day and night belong to you; you made the starlight and the sun. You set the boundaries of the earth, and you made both summer and winter.’
As Leupold remarks, “Day and Night which go in continual alteration are wholly under His control. Both are His. So, too, are the luminaries and the sun, the greatest of them.”6
In the familiar 136th Psalm, in which the phrase “For his loyal love endures” occurs after each statement, the psalmist confirms the statement of Asaph saying,
(Psalm 136:7-9) NET ‘To the one who made the great lights, …
the sun to rule by day, …
the moon to rule by night…’
PSALMS 136 7-9
‘Give thanks to him who made the heavenly lights— His faithful love endures forever. the sun to rule the day, His faithful love endures forever. and the moon and stars to rule the night. His faithful love endures forever.’ Psalms 136:7-9 https://my.bible.com/bible/116/PSA.136.7-9
One of the most familiar of the Psalms that testify to God as the creator of all things begins by saying,
(Ps. 19:1-2) The heavens declare the glory of God;
the sky displays his handiwork.
Day after day it speaks out;
night after night it reveals his greatness.
Psalms 19:1-2 NLT
‘The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known.’ Psalms 19:1-2 https://my.bible.com/bible/116/PSA.19.1-2
As Perowne remarks, the psalmist declares, “The magnificence and the order of Creation…” and the glory of God as seen in the heavens as well as in the set order of day and night all testify to the fact that, “these things are not the offspring of Chance; they are not the evolution of some blind spirit enchained within the mass which it vivifies.”7 Perowne’s remarks find corroboration and amplification by Geisler in his explanation of creation ex niliho:
Time is not eternal. The space-time universe was brought into existence. … To say that creation had a beginning is to point out that it came into being out of nothing. First, it did not exist, and then it did. It was not and then it was. The cause of that coming to be was God. … God, and utterly nothing else, existed. God created the universe, and then alone did something else exist.8
What a pleasure and joy it is to look at the created heavens and to marvel at its magnificence, its many appearances, and beauty, and to realize that someone of unparalleled power and artistry has created all of this! It is no accident; it is God’s design and reflects his concern for mankind. It is he who controls the pattern of day and night even as the hymn writer puts it:
I sing the mighty power of God that made the mountains rise,
that spread the flowing seas abroad and built the lofty skies.
I sing the wisdom that ordained the sun to rule the day;
the moon shines bright at His command,
and all the stars obey.9
Moreover, day and night help mark the seasons of the year and provide for the needs of man and the animal world (Ps 104:19-23). Thus when the psalmist considers all of these things as well as all that God has created and provided, he cannot help but rejoice:
Psalms 104:19-22 NLT
‘You made the moon to mark the seasons, and the sun knows when to set. You send the darkness, and it becomes night, when all the forest animals prowl about. Then the young lions roar for their prey, stalking the food provided by God. At dawn they slink back into their dens to rest.’
I will sing to the LORD as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I exist!
May my thoughts be pleasing to him!
I will rejoice in the LORD. (Ps. 104:33-34)
Psalms 104:33-34 NLT
‘I will sing to the Lord as long as I live. I will praise my God to my last breath! May all my thoughts be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the Lord .’
As Futato comments, The psalmist’s will is to “praise my God.” The transcendent Creator King is the immanent “my God” (Ps. 104: 1, 33) who personally made me and personally takes care of me. So, “I will sing to the LORD as long as I live. I will praise my God to my last breath!” (Ps. 104:33).”10
Psalms 104:1,33 NLT
‘I will sing to the Lord as long as I live. I will praise my God to my last breath! Let all that I am praise the Lord . O Lord my God, how great you are! You are robed with honor and majesty.
God’s Availability Day or Night
The psalmist David pleads with God to bring an end to the violence he sees all around him:
Confuse them, O LORD!
Frustrate their plans!
For I see violence and conflict in the city.
Day and Night they walk around on its walls,
while wickedness and destruction are in it. (Ps. 55:9-10)
Psalms 55:9-10 NLT
‘Confuse them, Lord, and frustrate their plans, for I see violence and conflict in the city. Its walls are patrolled day and night against invaders, but the real danger is wickedness within the city.’
Indeed, it is an evil condition that knows no bounds as it goes on day and night. Even David’s friends appear to be against him (vv. 12-13). “David said that he could have borne the oppression of an enemy or could have hidden from a foe but far worse was the fact that he was betrayed by a close friend.”11 What a painful experience! What a travesty! Yet to David’s credit is the fact that his trust remains in the Lord, who he is certain is well aware of all that is happening:
But you, O God, will bring them down to the deep Pit.
Violent and deceitful people will not live even half a normal lifespan.
But as for me, I trust in you (v. 23).12
In an earlier psalm, a Korahite psalmist expresses his deep longing for the Lord and those fond days when at the time of an annual festival he walked with many others to worship God in his Temple. Now he finds himself cut off from all of this by tormentors who even ridicule and question the nature of his God: “All day long they say to me, ‘Where is your God?’” (Ps 42:3; cf. vv. 9-10). Does God not see his plight? Does God not care? Has he abandoned him? (cf. v.2). Yet despite the psalmist’s present disappointing circumstances, deep within his heart he feels certain that he will again be restored to his former place of service and experience the Lord’s abiding presence (cf. Ps 42:5,11; 43:5).13
In yet another Korahite psalm, the psalmist pours out his heart to God concerning the desperate plight he is experiencing:
Psalms. 88:1-2 NET O LORD God who delivers me!
By day I cry out and at night I pray before you.
Listen to my prayer!
Pay attention to my cry for help! ()
Psalms 86:1-2 NLT
‘Bend down, O Lord , and hear my prayer; answer me, for I need your help. Protect me, for I am devoted to you. Save me, for I serve you and trust you. You are my God.’
The psalmist feels so helpless that he fears that death is near (vv.3-4). Indeed, he feels that he may be a walking dead man. Yet, on a more positive note it may be observed that he does cling to God as he prays for relief. One is reminded of Paul’s testimony as to his many sufferings during his ministry for the Lord (2 Cor. 11:23-33).
2 Cor. 11:23-33
‘ Are they servants of Christ? (I am talking like I am out of my mind!) I am even more so: with much greater labors, with far more imprisonments, with more severe beatings, facing death many times. Five times I received from the Jews forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with a rod. Once I received a stoning. Three times I suffered shipwreck. A night and a day I spent adrift in the open sea. I have been on journeys many times, in dangers from rivers, in dangers from robbers, in dangers from my own countrymen, in dangers from Gentiles, in dangers in the city, in dangers in the wilderness, in dangers at sea, in dangers from false brothers, in hard work and toil, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, many times without food, in cold and without enough clothing. Apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxious concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not burn with indignation? If I must boast, I will boast about the things that show my weakness. In Damascus, the governor under King Aretas was guarding the city of Damascus in order to arrest me, but I was let down in a rope-basket through a window in the city wall, and escaped his hands.’
For example, on three separate occasions he “suffered shipwreck. A night and a day I spent adrift in the open sea”(v. 25). Nevertheless, Paul could testify that like Christ, who suffered crucifixion but “lives because of God’s power…. we also are weak with him, but we live together with him, because of God’s power toward you” (2 Cor. 13:4). As Hughes remarks,
2 Corinthians 13:4 NET
‘ For indeed he was crucified by reason of weakness, but he lives because of God’s power. For we also are weak in him, but we will live together with him, because of God’s power toward you. ‘
Paul is able to say to the Corinthians, as their apostle by the will of God, that he will live with Christ through the power of God in his approach to them; that is to say, as with the risen Saviour all weakness is laid aside so he will come to them with the irresistible power and authority of the living Christ.14
In another New Testament account, Luke tells of the case of a persistent widow (Luke 18:1-8). ‘ Then Jesus told them a parable to show them they should always pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected people. There was also a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but later on he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor have regard for people, yet because this widow keeps on bothering me, I will give her justice, or in the end she will wear me out by her unending pleas.’” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unrighteous judge says! Won’t God give justice to his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he delay long to help them? I tell you, he will give them justice speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”’
The widow stood in need of justice but her repeated pleas went unheeded by the judge. Eventually, however, he grew weary of her persistence and decided to give her justice, even though he was more concerned about his own relief than for her situation (vv. 1-6). With this background in mind, Jesus challenged his disciples to understand that unlike that judge, “Won’t God give justice to his chosen ones who cry out to him day and night? Will he delay long to help them? I tell you, that he will give them justice speedily.” (vv.7-8).
Jesus’ a fortiori argument indicates that God will indeed answer the prayers of his faithful people, even in cases where they need to be vindicated.15 “To the elect it may seem to be a long time before he answers, but afterwards they will realise that it was in fact short.”16 The further point is, then, that in a future day Christ will return in accordance with God’s plan to vindicate the elect. Therefore, he challenges his hearers to be faithful on their part, confident in God as the dispenser of true justice. As Gooding expresses it, “One day God will avenge his elect. Christ stakes his truthfulness on it (18:8). God will intervene: the Son of man will come. Justice will be done.”17
Earlier, in the Psalms, the Psalmist clearly stated that God is aware of all that happens to a person, knows all that he does, and even understands his motives for doing so (Ps. 139:1-6). Moreover, the omniscient and omnipresent God sees him no matter where he is (vv. 7-10). The psalmist thus realizes that it would be impossible to hide from the Lord:
‘ O Lord , you examine me and know. You know when I sit down and when I get up; even from far away you understand my motives. You carefully observe me when I travel or when I lie down to rest; you are aware of everything I do. Certainly my tongue does not frame a word without you, O Lord , being thoroughly aware of it. You squeeze me in from behind and in front; you place your hand on me. Your knowledge is beyond my comprehension; it is so far beyond me, I am unable to fathom it.’
If I were to say, “Certainly the darkness will cover me,
and the light will turn to night all around me,”
even the darkness is not too dark for you to see,
and the night is as bright as day;
darkness and light are the same to you. (vv. 11-12)
Whether day or night, God does see all that comes to pass. As Leupold remarks, “Even the thickest gloom is penetrated by God’s penetrating gaze. Before Him who is light everything is continually light.”18 Applying this to today’s believers, Futato declares, “In Christ, I know his presence to be that of a shepherd who guides and supports me wherever I am. I find great peace and comfort knowing that the whole of my life is enveloped by the God who is always with me.”19
To be sure, the Scriptures often tell of problems that plague a person day and night. Thus Mark records the incident of a powerful man who had an unclean spirit who lived among the tombs (Mark 5:1-4). “Each night and every day among the tombs and in the mountains, he would cry out and cut himself with stones” (v. 5). Upon seeing Jesus coming, he bowed at Jesus feet and tried to dissuade him from interfering with his life (vv. 6-8). Because he was clearly severely demon possessed, Jesus commanded the demonic forces to leave the man. And so they did. They were sent into a herd of pigs, which subsequently ran into a lake (i.e., The Sea of Galilee) and were drowned (vv. 8-13). One sure application of this is, whatever or how great the problem or whatever the time, whether day or night, God is aware of the difficulty and is fully capable of rectifying the situation. As Brooks points out,
The destruction of the pigs also had a definite purpose, to dramatically symbolize the ability of Jesus to destroy the demonic in human beings. To say the least, the restoration of the demoniac and the destruction of the demons were more important than the pigs.20
Mark records an event in the preceding account (Mark 4:35-41) that after a day of teaching, that evening Jesus delivered his disciples from a powerful force of nature in the midst of the Sea of Galilee, Although the disciples feared for their lives in that windstorm, “Jesus rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Be Quiet! Calm down!’ Then the wind stopped and it was dead calm” (v. 39). As might be expected the disciples were amazed and overcome with fear in the presence of one who could perform such a miracle. “Jesus’ companions were in the boat were experienced Galilean fisherman, and to them it was not a matter of natural causes but of authority and obedience (v. 41).”21 Jesus is thus master of natural causes and events and can controlthem, whether day of night.
Indeed, the Lord is not the only sovereign over all natural forces, but overall matters including our daily lives and is available to help. Thus faithful believers may be encouraged, for as the psalmist David says, “One may experience sorrow during the night but joy arrives in the morning” (Ps. 30:5). Similarly Thomas Fuller once said, “It is always darkest just before the day dawneth.”22 Indeed, the psalmist understood that God would deliver him from his difficulties and so it happened:
Then you turned my lament into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and covered me with joy.
So now my heart will sing to you and not be silent;
O LORD my God, I will always give thanks to you. (vv. 11-12)
As Ross challenges his readers in commenting on this psalm, “Every deliverance a believer experiences should likewise prompt a full expression of praise.”23
Psalm 121 adds clear testimony to the truth of God’s sovereign oversight and availability. The psalm itself is the second in a series of psalms marked as, “A Song of Ascents” (Pss. 120-34). Such songs were most likely sung during those pilgrimage festival seasons: Passover, First Fruits, and Tabernacles. Apparently, during the journey to Jerusalem the psalmist has been gazing at the hills surrounding his destination. In so doing the question has arisen in his mind as to the source of his help (i.e., his protection and guidance). The answer was clear: Yahweh (the LORD) alone provides his help (vv. 1-2). Yes, not only for himself but for Israel, God’s people, The LORD is the true source of real help. He is the one who gives protection (vv.3-5). Therefore, the psalmist can declare: “The sun will not harm you by day or the moon by night” (v.6).
It is simply true. Whether by day (the sun) or by night (the moon) the Lord’s care is at work guiding and protecting his own from whatever danger might lie ahead:
The LORD will protect you from all harm;
He will protect your life.
The LORD will protect you in all that you do,
now and forever more. (vv. 7-8)
As Futato observes with regard to today’s believers, “As we walk by faith in him, the mountains of life are not barriers to his presence but places where we experience his watchful care until we arrive in the new Jerusalem, where we will enjoy him forever.”24
The mention of God’s protective presence whether day or night is reminiscent of Moses’ report that during Israel’s exodus experience the LORD went before his people in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, “so that they could travel day or night” (Exod. 13:21). Stuart points out carefully that the pillar going ahead of them,
represented God’s leadership as the moved through unknown territory. … That was the main function of the pillar—a way of allowing the Israelites to look at God so as to be able to follow him without actually seeing him in his very person. The pillar-cloud was a manifestation of Yahweh himself, not merely something he sent to them.25
Thus the Israelites had visible proof that God had not just secured their exodus from Egypt but was yet near them to lead them on to the land of promise. Interestingly, Ezekiel prophesies that in a future day,
As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so I will look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. (Ezek. 34:12; NIV)
Along these same lines, the imagery of clouds is associated with Christ’s return for his own “on the clouds of the heavens” (Matt. 24:30) and his angels “will gather his elect from the four winds from one end of heaven to the other” (Matt. 24:31).
Truly God is very near to believers and longs to fellowship with his faithful servants. Perhaps in a far more intimate way than the Israelites at the time of the exodus and those who made the trek to Jerusalem at festival times, the Lord is present and available to help, guide, and protect his own. Accordingly, the psalmist of Psalm 73 could praise the Lord and say confidently, “As for me, God’s presence is all I need” (Ps. 73:28).26
Praising the Lord is rendered well by yet another psalmist who declares:
It is fitting to thank the LORD
and to sing praises to your name, O sovereign One!
It is fitting to proclaim your loyal love in the morning,
and your faithfulness during the night. (Ps. 92:1-2)
The psalmist is pointing out that singing psalms to praise the name of the Lord is quite appropriate for it is he who is sovereign over all the affairs of earth’s history. His very name indicates that he is “Most High”–the one who is eminent and unequaled. The term “name” often stands for all that a person is, his attributes and his character. This term “came to be substituted for God himself (Dan 9:18-19; Amos 2:7; 9:12), became applied to Christ in the NT (e.g., Acts 4:12; 5:4; 3 Jn 7), and was so used by the apostolic fathers.”27 Very commonly “name” is associated with God’s personal name, “Yahweh,” the self existent eternal creator of all, who is also Israel’s personal Lord (cf. Hos. 12:5-6). In our psalm, his absolute sovereignty is being emphasized.
Moreover, this sovereign one is to be praised for his “loyal love” (especially in his loving-kindness and care for his people) and his “faithfulness.” In several translations into English the term rendered in the NET “loyal love” call attention to such other qualities as “loving-kindness,” “steadfast love,” or “unfailing love.” In many ways the older translation “loving-kindness’ remains very appropriate, for he treats his people “kindly, that is” as “kin” on the basis of his covenant with them. In any case, “The acts of God are not to be separated from his nature (‘love,’ ‘faithfulness’; cf. v.2), for his ‘deeds’ express his nature (cf. Ps 89:1).”28 The second term, “faithfulness,” also contains not only an active but a passive force. Not only is the Lord to be praised for his essential integrity but for conduct that corresponds with his divine character.
Because of God’s loving-kindness and faithfulness, the psalmist could render praise to the Lord daily, whether morning or night. Delitzsch suggests that,
Loving-kindness is designedly connected with the dawn of the morning, for it is morning light, itself, which breaks through the night (xxx. 6; lix.17), and faithfulness with the nights, for in the perils of the loneliness of the night it is the best companion, and nights of affliction are the “foil of its verification.”29
In this regard although the third-century hymn by Bishop Hilary of Poitiers has been titled and regarded as a morning hymn, one particular stanza makes it clear that the resultant praise of God is also to be reflected in the believer’s nighttime experience:
Sed toto sole clarior, But clearer than the sun may shine,
Lux ipse totus et dies, All light and day in Thee I find,
Interna nostri pectoris To fill my night with glory fine,
Illuminans praecordia: And purify my inner mind.30
May we as believers so begin the day with the Lord, that the sense of our God’s presence in his loving-kindness and faithfulness will continue into and throughout the night hours! May we also realize that the Lord is always available to us. Thus Jeremiah assures us:
When you call out to me and come to me in prayer, I will hear your prayers.
When you seek me in prayer and worship, you will find me available to you.
If you seek me with all your heart and soul,
I will make myself available to you. (Jer. 29:12-14a)
Indeed, the wise believer will seek him often, whatever the hour of day or night.
The Proper use of Day and Night
Similar qualities of loving-kindness and faithfulness are expected of believers in their relations with God and with their fellow man (cf. Gal 5:22). Thus the apostle Paul is remembered as a faithful servant of the Lord who labored day and night for the sake of the gospel. Because of his effort, Paul could write to the church at Thessalonica and commend them for their response to the gospel (cf. Acts 17:4) and their own desire for Christ (cf. 1Thess. 1:9-10). Paul reminded them also of his prior concern for them and how he had labored for them:
With such affection for you, we were happy to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us. For you recall, brothers and sisters, our toil and drudgery: by working night and day so as not to impose a burden on any of you, we preached to you the gospel of God (1 Thess. 2:8-9; cf. 2 Thess. 3:7-8).
Paul could also share with the Thessalonian believers his continued concern for them and his regular praying for them, as well as his strong desire to see them once more: “For how can we thank God enough for you, for all the joy we feel for you because of you before our God? We pray earnestly night and day to see you in person and make up what may be lacking in your faith!” (1 Thess. 3:9-10). He went on to encourage them to live faithfully before God and to serve him blamelessly as they await the return of Christ Jesus (1 Thess. 4:13–5:11).
Paul’s words to the Thessalonian believers are exemplary for today’s believers. For God has made us to be ready to serve him faithfully night and day, rather than living selfish lives. Moreover, we must so live as to reflect his standards (cf. 1Thess 4:1-12) as we, too, await the sure hope of our Lord’s return.
Day and Night and the Future
As we have noticed, Paul’s words to the Christian believers at Thessalonica also contained an encouraging message concerning the future. Jesus himself had set such an example by telling his hearers of an amazing sign: “Just as Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish for three days and three nights, so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights” (Matt. 12:40; bold type in NET). Such a sign was to prove to embody a crucial truth — that of Christ’s resurrection. Not only do the New Testament’s canonical writings and the church itself owe their existence and authority to Christ’s resurrection, but still further, but “These very Scriptures attest several post-Resurrection appearances by the risen Christ. Five distinct instances are documented on the day of the Resurrection itself. He also appeared on five other occasions before his ascension.”31
Thus a message of hope can accompany the theme of day and night. As W.W. How expresses it:
The golden evening brightens in the west;
Soon to faithful warriors cometh rest;
Sweet is the calm of paradise the blest.
But lo! There breaks a more glorious day;
The saints triumphant arise in bright array;
The King of glory passes on his way.
It must also be pointed out that not only in connection with Christ’s resurrection and the message of the gospel in the New Testament, but in several Old Testament texts a hope for the future is found linked with the theme of day and night. For example, Jeremiah conveys God’s declarations that,
The LORD has made a promise to Israel.
He promises it as the one who fixed the sun to give light by day
and the moon to give light by night.
The LORD affirms, “The descendants of Israel
will not cease forever to be a nation in my sight.” (Jer. 31:35, 36)
I, LORD, have made the following promise: “I have made a covenant with the day and with the night that they will always come at their proper times. Only if you people could break that covenant could my covenant with my servant David … ever be broken.” …
“I have made a covenant governing the coming of day and night. I have established the fixed laws governing heaven and earth. Just as surely as I have done this, so surely will I never reject the descendants of Jacob. Nor will I ever refuse to choose one of my servant David’s descendants to rule over the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Indeed, I will restore them and show mercy to them.” (Jer. 33:20, 25-26).
The point here is not that the above texts necessarily deal with the eternal future, but nevertheless they do associate a future hope with God, the controller of day and night. Yet there is a distinct note of importance in Jeremiah’s messages: “Just as surely as are fixed by the covenant word of the Lord, so the permanence of a descendant of David on the throne of God’s kingdom is determined (Jer. 33:20-21, 25-26)….Not without reason did Jeremiah connect exile and restoration in Judah closely to the fortunes of the line of David, for it is through this line that the chosen messiah ultimately would come.”33
Isaiah conveyed God’s sure promise of a restored—even revitalized—Israel (Isa. 60:10). So vitally reconstructed will they be that, “Your Gates will remain open at all times; they will not be shut during the day or at night, so that the wealth of the nations may be delivered, with their kings leading the way” (Isa. 60:11). Even more thrilling is the spectacular news that,
The sun will no longer supply light for you by day,
nor will the moon’s brightness shine on you;
the LORD will be your permanent source of light–
the splendor of your God will shine upon you.
Your sun will no longer set,
your moon will not disappear;
The LORD will be your permanent source of light;
your time of sorrow will be over. (Isa. 60:19-20)
As Smith indicates, “The glory of God’s presence will be so bright that the sun and moon will not be needed “again, any longer.” 34Thus Isaiah looks far beyond Israel’s historic restoration to a time of God’s eschatological settling of earth’s affairs. Moreover, “This assurance to every believer is an encouragement to faithfully persevere each day, but it also provides hope that soon God will come for the righteous people and end the misery that is associated with this sinful world.”35
In many ways, then, Isaiah’s prophecy forms a solid background for the grand final messages of the New Testament book of Revelation and the heaven-sent New Jerusalem:
I saw no temple in the city, because the Lord God—the All-Powerful—and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, because the glory of the Lord lights it up, and the lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light and the kings of the earth will bring their grandeur into it. Its gates will never be closed during the day (and there will be no night there).” (Rev. 21:22-25)
So in that grand eschatological future,
The throne of God and the Lamb will be in the city. His servants will worship him, and they will see his face and his name will be on their foreheads. Night will be no more, and they will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, because the Lord God will shine on them and they will reign forever and ever. (Rev. 22:3b-5)
As Walvoord expresses it, “Of major importance are the facts that John actually saw a city, that this city was inhabited by saints of all ages, and that God Himself was present in it….Christ continues for all eternity as King of kings and Lord of lords.”36 What a blessed eternity lies ahead! By way of application, it can be said that John’s vision gives us a powerful picture of God’s new realm of being, New Jerusalem, as the context in which Christians should live their daily lives. The absence of the temple [cf. Rev 21:22] is a forceful reminder that all of life is lived in the presence and worship of God.37
We have noted above that God is the creator of day and night. Such is affirmed not only in the original creation account (Gen. 1:1-5) but in several psalms testifying to the fact that God is the creator of all things (e. g., Pss. 19:1-2; 104:19-23).
One grand feature of all of this is that God is present and available for the needs of his creation, especially for mankind in whatever situation they may find themselves. In times of great difficulty and hardship –even temptations (Heb 4: 15-16) –believers may come to him and experience his presence to handle their needs. Such is comforting in light of the potentially dangerous political and economic crises that may lie ahead. The sovereign God is ever ready to aid faithful believers (cf. Psalms. 121; 139). Indeed, he is available at any time, whether day or night.
Every day the Lord Himself is near me
with a special mercy for each hour;
All my cares He fain would bear and cheer me,
He whose name is Counsellor and Pow’r.
The protection of his child and treasure
is a charge that on Himself He laid.
“As your days, your strength shall be in measure,”
this the pledge to me He made.38
We also noted that the theme of day and night at times is employed in contexts dealing with the future, whether the historical or eschatological future. In the latter case, it will be a situation so wondrous that when God sets up his eternal kingdom in the New Jerusalem, there will be no night! Indeed, the glory of the Lord will shine so glowingly that it will be an endless day.
As John Clements envisioned it,
In the land of fadeless day, lies the city foursquare.
It shall never pass away and there is “no night there.”
God shall “wipe away all tears” there’s no death no pain, no fears;
And they count not time by years, for there is “no night there.”39
(Look! I am coming soon, and my reward is with me to pay each one according to what he has done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end!)…. “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and descendant of David, the bright and morning star!” And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” (Rev. 22:12-13, 16-17a; cf. v. 20)
In light of all of this, which culminates in the blessed hope of Christ’s soon return, it is imperative for us who are believers to make proper use of each day and night that the Lord has given us to steward. That we can do so is possible because the risen Christ has taken us into vital union with himself: “I have been crucified with Christ, and it is longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me “ (Gal 2:20). This should inspire us to live and work for Christ day and night (cf. John 9:4), as we have seen in the life of the apostle Paul. Moreover, we should reflect his personality and standards in holy living (cf. Phil 2:5-13), hunger for God’s word each day (Ps. 1:1-2), and be ready to share the gospel message (1 Pet. 3:15).
As we do so, we can look forward anxiously, and with deep and heartfelt longing to that grand future, which the Lord has prepared for those who love him (cf. Tit. 2:11-13). What a day that will be!40 And in accordance with Jesus’ own promise — “Yes, I am coming soon!”—we may eagerly say, “Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20).
1 See Richard D. Patterson, “In the Morning,”; “Singing Songs in the Night,” Biblical Studies press, 2011, 2015.
2 Sabine Baring-Gould, “Now the Day is Over.”
3 Folliot S. Pierpoint, “For the Beauty of the Earth.”
4 Mary A. Lathbury, “Day is Dying in the West.” Note also the pair: heaven and earth.
5 Unless otherwise noted, all scriptural citations will be taken from the NET.
6 H. C. Leupold, Exposition of the Psalms (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1969), 539.
7 J.J. Stewart Perowne, The Book of Psalms (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976; 2 vols. in one) 1:222-23.
8 Norman L. Geisler, “Creation, Views of,” in Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999), 176, 177.
9 Isaac Watts, “I Sing the Mighty Power of God.”
10 Mark D. Futato, “The Book of Psalms,” Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, ed, Philip W. Comfort (Carol Stream: Tyndale House, 2009). 176. Interestingly, Futato goes on to remark concerning the final verse of the psalm: “How fitting it is, then, that at the end of this glorious psalm about God’s glorious creation is the first occurrence in the book of Psalms of that heartfelt cry of the soul, ‘Hallelujah!’”
11 Allen P. Ross, “Psalms,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, eds. John F. Walvoord and Roy G. Zuck (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1985), 835.
12 For the use of David’s closing phrase, see Richard D. Patterson, “As For me,” Biblical Studies Press, 2013.
13 See further, Richard D. Patterson, “Singing Songs in the Night,” Biblical Studies Press, 2015.
14 Philip E. Hughes, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1962), 479. See also, Charles Hodge, An Exposition of The Second Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, [n.d.]), 302-305.
15 See further, Alfred Plummer, Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to S. Luke, The International Critical Commentary (Edinburgh: T. &T. Clark,1922), 413-14.
16 I. Howard Marshall, Commentary on Luke, The New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978), 676.
17 David Gooding, According to Luke: A New Exposition of the Third Gospel (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), 293.
18 Leupold, The Psalms, 946.
19 Futato, The Book of Psalms, 415.
20 James A. Brooks, Mark, The New American Commentary, ed. David S. Dockery (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1991), 91.
21 R.T. France, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), 225.
22 Thomas Fuller, “Pisgah Sight” in Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, eds. John Bartlett and Justin Kaplan (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 16th ed. 1992), 250.
23] Ross, “Psalms,” Bible Knowledge Commentary, 817.
24 Futato, The Book of Psalms, 377.
25 Douglas K. Stuart, Exodus, The New American Commentary, ed. E. Ray Clendenen (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2006), 327-28.
26 See further, Richard D. Patterson, “The Pleasure of His Presence,” Biblical Studies Press, 2010.
27 Richard D. Patterson, “Joel,” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, eds. Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland, 13 vols. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, rev. ed., 2008) 8: 335.
28 Willem A. VanGemeren, “Psalms,” Expositor’s Bible Commentary, 5: 703.
29 Franz Delitzsch, Biblical Commentary on the Psalms, 3 vols. in Keil and Delitzsch, Commentaries on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1955) 3: 67.
30 Bishop Hilary of Poitiers, Hymnus Matutinus, ‘A Morning Hymn,” in Mrs. Perceval Mackrell, Hymns of the Christian Centuries (London: George Allen, 1903), 16-17.
31 Richard D. Patterson, ‘Jonah,” in Minor Prophets, Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, ed. Philip W. Comfort (Carol Stream: Tyndale House, 2008), 273.
32 William Walsham How, “For All the Saints.”
33 O. Palmer Robertson, The Christ of the Prophets (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: R&R Publishers, 2004), 468, 469.
35 Smith, ibid., 628.
36 John F. Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus (Chicago: Moody press, 1966), 320, 332.
37 M. Robert Mulholland, Jr., “Revelation,” Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, ed. Philip W. Comfort (Carol Stream: Tyndale House, 2011), 598.
38 Lina Sandell Berg, “Day by Day,” Trans. by Andrew L. Skoog.
39 John R. Clements, “No Night There.”
40 As he hymn writer, Jim Hill expressed it in his hymn, “What a Day That Will Be,”: “What a day that will be, when my Jesus I shall see. And I look upon his face—the one who saved me by His grace.”